Middle Ages

Alexander, Michael Medievalism: The Middle Ages in Modern England Yale University Press, 2007

The style of the medieval period, which flows through the bloodstream of western culture, was vigorously re-established in post-Enlightenment England. This one-volume history of the Medieval Revival is the first coherent account of it, especially those aspects that are expressed and reflected in literature. The book focuses on the period 1760 to 1971, with an Epilogue on the reverberations of medievalism in the present day.

Bauer, Susan Wise The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010

Bauer (The History of the Ancient World) continues her witty and well-written examination of world history with a volume that is rich in detail and intriguing in anecdotal information. In describing dramatic events (such as the worldwide –impact of the eruption of Krakatoa in 535 C.E., or civil war among the descendants of Charlemagne), near-legendary individuals (like the great general turned mercenary El Cid), and decisive historical movements from the fourth century C.E. to the beginnings of the 12th century, attention is effectively paid not only to western and eastern Europe but to North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, the Far East, South Asia, and the Americas.

Cantor, Norman F The Civilization of the Middle Ages New York: Harper Collins, 1993
Cantor is arguably the leading medieval historian of our day. He is certainly the most published. This is his foundational work on the period, and it stands out among the best single-volume works on the period.

Colish, Marcia L Medieval Foundations of the Western Intellectual Tradition, 400-1400 Yale Intellectual History of the West. Mew Haven: Yale University Press, 1997
This is a weighty and academic tome, and not for the faint of heart, but it would be hard to find a more respected introduction to the intellectual history of the period. Colish lays to rest any doubt that the foundations of the Western intellectual traditions were laid in the Middle Ages.

Evans, G.R Faith in the Medieval World Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002
IVP’s “Histories” series is wonderful, and this installment by Evans provides a highly accessible introduction to the key figures and events. There is a focus on people and stories, and it is full of art and photography.

Gies, Frances and Joseph Life in a Medieval City (1969). Life in a Medieval Castle (1974). Life in a Medieval Village (1990) New York: Harper Perennial
This trilogy of books is simply wonderful, providing social history at its best. It brings history to life and is entertaining in the most complimentary sense of the word. Excellent for children/students as well as for adults.

Huizinga, Johan The Autumn of the Middle Ages Translated by Rodney J. Payton and Ulrich Mammitzsch. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996
This is an acclaimed work of history, giving a portrait of life, thought and art in fourteenth and fifteenth century France and the Netherlands. This book replaces an earlier translation of Huizinga’s work, titled The Waning of the Middle Ages.

Linehan, Peter and Janet L. Nelson The Medieval World New York: Routledge, 2003

A groundbreaking collection that brings the Middle Ages to life, and conveys the distinctiveness of this diverse, constantly changing period. From the contributions of thirty-eight scholars, one medieval world merges from many disparate worlds, stretching from Connacht to Constantinople and from Tynemouth to Timbuktu.

Manchester, William A World Lit Only By Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1992
The late William Manchester, most known for his biographies of John F. Kennedy and Winston Churchill, also penned one of the most popular and accessible introductions to medieval life and thought. Manchester, along with other popular historians such as Barbara Tuchman (see below), writes history as if it were a novel – yet without sacrificing accuracy. In other words, the way history should be written.

Powers, Eileen Medieval People Available in a Dover paperback edition, a Barnes and Noble hardback, as well as a London/Folio Society edition. First published in 1924
Power brings to life six people who lived between the ninth and sixteenth centuries, including a peasant on a country estate in Charlemagne’s time; a Venetian traveler of the 13th century; a prioress and a middle-class Parisian housewife of the 14th century; and a merchant and a cloth maker from the days of Henry VII. This book will be enjoyed by students and teachers, as well as anyone interested in the period.

Russell, Jeffrey Burton A History of Medieval Christianity: Prophecy and Order Arlington Heights: Harlan Davidson, Inc., 1968
This is a lesser-known work, but frequently used in graduate programs. The interest of the work is the approach Russell takes to the study of the era, namely the swing back and forth between the spirit of prophecy and the spirit of order. There can be little doubt that understanding this dynamic is of enormous value in understanding the entire era.

Tuchman, Barbara A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978
Tuchman was one of the most entertaining and engaging historical writers, winning multiple Pulitzer Prizes. While focusing on a single century, and building around the life of one man in particular (Enguerrand de Coucy VII), she offers one of the best windows into the wider medieval world available.

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