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Title: The World of the Troubadours: Medieval Occitan Society, c.1100-c.1300
Author: Linda M Paterson
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Cambridge University Press, 1995
This is a book of lists which concentrates on the topics of:
- the nature of feudalism and vassalage in Languedoc and Provence
- medieval medicine and surgery and their Arabic influences
- the place and role of women in society which contrasts sharply to the north of France
- religion and heresy, especially the reasonably well-known Albigensian Crusade and the Gregorian Reforms
Scholarship in English on the south of France in the high medieval […]
Title: A Canticle for Leibowitz
Author: Walter M Miller, Jr
Paperback: 368 pages
A wholly remarkable book but not for the reasons usually trotted out by its fans:
- it is not about Catholicism or the benefits bestowed by religion,
- it is not about trite clichés such as ‘those who do not listen to history are doomed to repeat it’ or ‘with great power comes great responsibility’,
- it is not about power of faith in the face of destruction.
The novel outlines a thesis which describes humanity as fundamentally and irredeemably broken. Humanity, after global nuclear war brought […]
I saw a great French coming-of-age movie called MaRock over the weekend. It’s the story of a teenage Moroccan Arab girl who falls deeply in love with a Jewish boy and although it was billed as a Romeo and Juliet story it really isn’t.
It has plenty to recommend it as a version of the classic star-crossed lovers: Jews versus Arabs, street car racing through Casablanca instead of public duelling, a radicalised Muslim brother who would make a very good Tybalt, nightclubs, a guy whose homosexuality is an open secret who makes a perfect Friar Lawrence and post-sundown family feasting […]
Title: The Trial of the Templars
Author: Malcolm Barber
Paperback: 408 pages
Publisher: Cambridge University Press, 1978 (Second edition 2006)
Although the Trial of the Templars is now more than thirty years old, it is still the best study of the period written in English. This is a period, a long with the Crusade against the Cathars, which is well known and studied in French but for which very little English material of any quality exists.
In this book, Barber has presented documentary and other first hand evidence of the arrest, trial and […]
Title: The Hound of the Baskervilles
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Penguin Classics (2010)
Language: The finest English
A great novel or the Greatest Novel?
So far this year, I’ve read the book again, listened to an audio dramatisation and watched a couple of versions on video. This book hits all my buttons. It’s got a murder, hints of the supernatural, the relentless march of scientific logic and is possibly the best Scooby Doo mystery ever.
Here is a quick list of the aspects of it which tickle my fancy. Below […]
This book fills me with nerd rage. It's such an arrogant and ill-informed Victorian age view of the history of fencing. The author is so thoroughly caught up with the nineteenth century idea of progress that he cannot see anything beyond what he wants to see. Sadly, the book is still the best history of fencing from the Middle Ages to the present day. Here's a sample:
Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea by Christine Garwood is at once incredibly interesting and hopelessly broken. It is seriously let down by its misleading subtitle and back cover blurb as well as by meandering aimlessly through its subject matter. Nevertheless, it's a fascinating look at the development of science and the persistence of belief in the cold hard light of fact.
Title: The Knight in History
Author: Frances Gies
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial, 2011
Any one with an interest in the middle ages should read this book. It’s definitely not a masterpiece of literature but it clearly outline the development of the concept of knighthood from its origins in the eighth and ninth centuries until its slow, sad decline around the sixteenth century. The unstated aim of the work appears to be to counter the dreadful notions of knighthood we’ve inherited from the the Victorian era.
Professor Gies covers history of knighthood […]
Title: Pegasus Bridge
Author: Stephen E Ambrose
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster 2002
Ambrose book is a great read for anyone with even a passing interest in the event but it is not without its faults. It’s purpose should be thought of as an introduction to this amazing event in military history rather than a definitive or in-depth history of the action.
Growing up on war movies and historical miniatures gaming, I’ve pretty much always been aware of the efforts of Johnny Howard‘s lads to take and hold the bridges over […]
I figured that since we’re at the end of the year I’d better have a look at how this little blog has performed. None of the stats about which posts and pages were the most popular match what I expected so see. Hmmm….. Perhaps I should change what I’m doing here.
The first surprise is the number of people who read my blog. On average, there’s 730 page views here per month with a daily average rising steadily from 20 per day in January to 35 per day in November. I must be doing something right even though it appears […]
Title: On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society
Author: Lt. Col. Dave Grossman
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Back Bay Books (revised) 2009
This is a fascinating read which ultimately tries to cram too much into too small a book. Depending on which of its many and sometimes conflicting aims you are considering, it either succeeds marvellously or fails dismally. At its heart, however, the book explores what happens to men on the battlefield, what it takes to make them kill and how they live with the knowledge […]
Title: A Model Victory: Waterloo and the Battle for History
Author: Malcolm Balen
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: HarperPerennial (2006)
I was looking for a small and accessible history of the Napoleonic Wars or of Waterloo (most books on the subject are neither) when I found this gem. It’s not so much a history of Waterloo, as I originally thought, but a description of how of the Battle for the Battle of Waterloo in which various force vie to be the one who writes the history of that fateful day — a much more interesting subject as it turns […]
Author: Edward Peters
Paperback: 362 pages
Publisher: University of California Press, 1989
This brilliant study is immensely valuable to the amateur historian on three levels. The least of these is how it shows the Inquisition as the outcome of the legal system of Ancient Rome. It also examines in detail the organization, procedures, process and results of the various inquisition throughout an 800+ year history based on the notoriously meticulous records recently released from the Vatican Archive. More importantly, it compares the process of the inquisition to that of secular courts […]
Title: D-Day 6 June 1944
Author: Stephen E Ambrose
Paperback: 656 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
D-Day is one of the few truly momentous events of the twentieth century. Ambrose book captures the experience from the recollections and memories of the poor bastards who lived through it. In this, he has created a wonderful record of the build up, execution and aftermath of the event which should be read by everyone. The book’s only fault is that it’s written by an American.
The strategy of the book is to start at the widest possible scale then narrow in […]
Niccolo Machiavelli is the odd man out on my Italian Renaissance reading list in that he is a political theorist rather than a poet and lived around 150-200 years are the other three authors on the list: Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch. He’s also completely misunderstood by people who have only read his other famous book, The Prince.
Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy (1517) is Machiavelli’s reactions in essay form to reading the Roman author’s history of the great Republic and looking at the political world of his own day and, in particular, of his home town, […]