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Q: Medieval reference: a simple one ( No Answer,   12 Comments )
Subject: Medieval reference: a simple one
Category: Relationships and Society > Cultures
Asked by: archae0pteryx-ga
List Price: $12.50
Posted: 13 Aug 2005 11:00 PDT
Expires: 12 Sep 2005 11:00 PDT
Question ID: 555340
I'd like a recommendation of a good, reliable textbook and/or
reference book of medieval history.  I'm interested in western Europe;
my areas of concentration are France and the Lowlands, but we can't
talk about them without talking about England, Spain, and other
neighbors.  My period of interest is 1250 to 1450.

Note, I am not asking for "the best."  A solid, comprehensive, and
reasonably detailed book (i.e., not just kings and wars) will do. 
Ideally I'd like a recommendation from someone who is knowledgeable in
(maybe even teaches) history, even if not one who specializes in the
period.  Please do mention your credentials.  The reason for that is
that a recommendation would include some evaluation of the quality of
the resource.  I can go to the library and see an objective display of
alternatives, but I don't know which is out of academic favor, which
theorizes recklessly, which exhibits a bias, etc., so this question
requests an informed judgment and not just a title.

Ny intent is to purchase the book (or books, if there's a reference
work suggested) as a resource for my novel, so it must be something I
can actually obtain in the U.S.  I would like it to have

- some social history as well as political history
- plenty of illustrations, including some maps
- a timeline
- a strong bibliography

Thank you,
There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: Medieval reference: a simple one
From: pafalafa-ga on 13 Aug 2005 11:26 PDT
Are you familiar with Barbara Tuchman's "A Distant Mirror"?  It might
be an awfully good starting point.

Subject: Re: Medieval reference: a simple one
From: archae0pteryx-ga on 13 Aug 2005 11:44 PDT
Hi, paf,

Yes, thanks, I've read it.  Excellent suggestion.  Read it, annotated
it heavily, indexed it to my own topics, and am drawing upon it.  I am
also using Ladurie's "Montaillou," likewise marked, which I learned
about here on GA and which provided me with the crucial starting point
of my research.  But I want a broader perspective.  Tuchman's
narrative uses a focal character and his family, which is a great way
to convey a fascinating account that will hold an audience and sell
copies, but I find myself also wanting something designed to teach and
something organized around various topics so I can zero in on the
aspects that concern me and not just extract them all bit by bit from
a continuous narrative.

Subject: Re: Medieval reference: a simple one
From: myoarin-ga on 13 Aug 2005 18:18 PDT
What about bibliographies or reading lists for courses as a source?
Encyc. Britannica footnotes articles.  I can check tomorrow.

Here is one fairly reputable university site that might help:

You might have to search with the first part:
and then enter   medieval history

You could try Harvard Press too, (and, of course, similar sites of
other  universities).

Regards, Myoarin
Subject: Re: Medieval reference: a simple one
From: archae0pteryx-ga on 13 Aug 2005 19:35 PDT
Hi, Myoarin,

Good ideas, and I thank you, but I do need a book and not a website. 
I have to be able to mark it, write in it, put Post-it stickers on
pages, have my fingers in several pages at a time, flip back and forth
among them, and carry it with me in a form that's readable without any
special equipment other than my glasses.  If books did not exist, it
would be necessary to invent them.

As for lists of books, that's pretty much the same as going to the
library:  I want the guidance of informed judgment to point me to one
that will serve my need and not a selection of hundreds among which I
am not qualified to discriminate.

Subject: Re: Medieval reference: a simple one
From: czh-ga on 14 Aug 2005 02:21 PDT
The Cambridge books on medieval history might be of interest to you.
The New Cambridge Medieval History
There are 9 titles in this series...

[5] The New Cambridge Medieval History
Volume 5, c.1198?c.1300

[6] The New Cambridge Medieval History
Volume 6, c.1300?c.1415

[7] The New Cambridge Medieval History
Volume 7, c.1415?c.1500
The Cambridge Illustrated History of France
A History of Business in Medieval Europe, 1200?1550
Subject: Re: Medieval reference: a simple one
From: myoarin-ga on 14 Aug 2005 08:41 PDT
As often, I didn?t explain myself,  intending that the site be used to
identify books.

But it seems that Czh-ga has found one of the best sources for you. 
Britannica?s bibliography on European History, Middle Ages says:
?The fullest account in English of medieval Europe is found in the
appropriate volumes of the multivolume series Cambridge Medieval
History (1911-  ), a new edition of which is an ongoing publication.
"Accessible later introductions include, in a series, Christopher
Brooke, Europe in the Central Middle Ages, 962-1154, 2nd ed. (1987);
John H. Mundy, Europe in the High Middle Ages, 1150-1309 (1973); Denys
Hay, Europe in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries, 2nd ed. (1989);
and Daniel Waley, Later Medieval Europe:  From Saint Louis to Luther,
2nd ed. (1985).?

There are probably more recent editions of these books.
The bibliography continues with books on special areas, but you
probably have access to it.
This one, however, seems worth mentioning:
?Jacque le Goff, Time, Work, & Culture in the Middle Ages (1980);
originally published in French, provides an introduction to social
 Regards, Myoarin
Subject: Re: Medieval reference: a simple one
From: pafalafa-ga on 14 Aug 2005 10:14 PDT
There's always:

Medeival Europe:  A Short History
by Warren Hollister
Subject: Re: Medieval reference: a simple one
From: archae0pteryx-ga on 20 Aug 2005 20:53 PDT
Thanks, all, for your comments.

czh, I'm sure the Cambridge series is excellent, but each volume is so
expensive that they would be way out of my price range.  Those would
be something I could consult at the library but not lovingly mark up
with my own highlighting and marginalia and idiosyncratic indexing.

paf, your suggestion does look good.  But you haven't added any
information about why you're recommending it.

I don't consider the question answered without a mention of
credentials to support the recommendation and without reference to the
requested criteria.

Subject: Re: Medieval reference: a simple one
From: myoarin-ga on 21 Aug 2005 09:43 PDT
I don?t have any credentials, but Jacques Le Goff seems to be highly
regarded internationally, as the Encyl.Brit. reference and the
awarding of the Heineken Prize in Holland suggests, as well as the
fact that his books have been translated not only into English, but
also German, Italian, and at least one into Czech.  Apparently, from
the mention in the law.pitt site, his international approach to
medieval history is not popular with all historians, but it does seem
the one that would serve you best.

This is just an incomplete bibliography, but the French and German
language links give more information about Le Goff.

Scroll down and click on Le Goff?s book among those that buyers of
this book have also bought.  You can browse the contents and maybe

See no. 30.  about Le Goff.,12084,1394983,00.html

This is a review of Le Goff?s later book, which could also be of interest.

And this review of still another book describes the recognition of Le Goff?s work.

Hope this is a help.  Regards, Myoarin
Hi Tryx,
You are too kind about explaining, thank you.  I wish that I could
claim I use a wrong word just to elicit your response  :), but it
isn?t so. :(   I will keep your remarks in mind.
Subject: Re: Medieval reference: a simple one
From: myoarin-ga on 21 Aug 2005 09:48 PDT
Whoops!  That last bit belongs to another comment.  No matter,
sentiment bears repeating. Myoarin
Subject: Re: Medieval reference: a simple one
From: hedgie-ga on 24 Aug 2005 22:51 PDT

 You say:

"  But this book
will not do it for me.  I have no doubt that it is a work of excellent
quality.  But I am not looking for the story of Europe from prehistory
to the year my car was built..."

OK. My answer, recommending this
 the absolutely best book about history of Europe 
 will be removed. 

   My point, that it is not possible to understand history of Europe 
 by studying the arbitrary sections of Europe, was perhaps missed,
 but you certainly are entitled to your point of view and approach,
 and I wish you luck in your quest.
 You may have to make your selection from the coments, though.

Subject: Re: Medieval reference: a simple one
From: archae0pteryx-ga on 25 Aug 2005 13:14 PDT

Your point was not missed at all.  I quite agree that if I were trying
to understand the history of Europe, I would need a broader approach. 
In fact, I would not presume to think that one book would do it for
me, no matter how fine.  If my aim were to understand the history of
Europe, I would be reading many books and enrolling in college courses
and devoting serious scholarship to the subject.  And even then, I
doubt that I could really have that understanding without having been
born and raised in Europe and steeped in its places, languages, and

But you misread my goal.  I am not trying to understand the history of
Europe.  I explained:  "[M]y intent is to purchase the a
resource for my novel."  In other words, I have a specific set of
needs having to do with setting and contemporaneous events.  I want to
do a reasonably good job of evoking an environment for the action of
my story and not be guilty of glaring anachronisms.  One can ask when
the automobile was invented in the U.S. without studying a history of
the North American continent.  I want to get my times and places right
and include some excellent detail, and not put leather shoes on my
characters' feet if they wore sabots or let anyone die of the plague
before it erupted or misrepresent the tides of the Hundred Years' War
or send people to confession in a cathedral that hadn't been built
yet.  For my purposes, I might indeed buy a 1300-page book, but it
would be 1300 pages about the Middle Ages and not contain less than a
hundred pages for the 200-year span that I am focusing on.

So please take the necessary steps to reopen my question for an
answer, unless it is up to me to put in the request.

Thank you,

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