|Books - Middle Ages
Offa and the Mercian Wars - the Rise & Fall of the First Great English Kingdom, Chris Peers. Looks at the rise and fall of Mercia, the dominant English power of the Eighth Century, first emerging under the pagan Penda, before reaching its greatest power under Offa, one of the greatest of the Anglo-Saxon kings. Does a good job of dealing with the more obscure corners of Mercian history, and tells the interesting story of a kingdom that might have formed the nucleus of a united England (Read Full Review)
Fixer & Fighter - The Life of Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent, 1170-1243, Brian Harwood. Follows the turbulent career of one of the key figures during the reign of King John and Henry III, and one of the victors in the war that established the infant Henry on the throne after the death of his father. A self made man, Hubert suffered several periods of out favour, and even had to go on the run for a period late in his career, despite his constant support for John and Henry Read Full Review
The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England, Hilda Ellis Davidson. One of the first serious studies of the Anglo-Saxon sword, comparing the literary and archaeological records, examining the physical nature of the swords and their accessories in some detail, and including an early example of experimental archaeology, a successful attempt to recreate the pattern welded swords of the period, a lost technique until then. Does a really good job of linking the surviving swords to their literary cousins, suggesting that the language used to describe swords was accurate [read full review]
Warfare in Tenth-Century Germany, David S. Bachrach. A look at warfare under Henry I and Otto I, two of the most successful of the medieval Kings of Germany, and argues convincingly that warfare during their reign was both more professional and carried out on a larger scale than many historians are willing to admit. Makes an excellent use of a wide range of sources to paint a picture of a sophisticated kingdom, capable of maintaining large armies, and carrying out operations across much of central and southern Europe, including a series of expeditions across the Alps. [read full review]
The Vikings and their Enemies: Warfare in Northern Europe 750-1100, Philip Line. Looks at who the Vikings were, how and why their fought and how they compared to their neighbours and victims. Does a good job of dealing with the limited sources, which were either written by the Viking's victims, or produced in Scandinavia centuries after the events they portray. Makes good use of contemporary accounts of warfare elsewhere in Europe, and the limited reliable sources for the Vikings, to produce a detailed picture of their military world [read full review]
The Vikings, R Chartrand, K Durham, M Harrison & I Heath. A nicely organised overview of the Vikings, looking at Viking society, the Hersirs (medium ranked men who played a key part in early raids), the Vikings in battle and finally Viking ships. More than an introduction to the topic, there are some excellent sections, in particular on the various types of ships used by the Vikings and on their voyages to North America [read full review]
The Norman Campaigns in the Balkans 1081-1108, Georgios Theotokis . Having established themselves in the south of Italy and on Sicily, the Normans then turned east and began a series of attacks on the Byzantine Empire. This book traces their land campaigns in the Balkans, where they came up against Alexius I Comnenus. Over several campaigns both sides showed an impressive ability to adapt to circumstances and their opponents. [read full review]
Swords of the Viking Age, Ian Peirce. Combines a catalogue of key surviving Viking blades with an explanation of the types of blade and hilt and the methods used to construct them. A valuable reference work on the Viking Sword, with enough supporting information to give it more general interest. The heart of the book is the heavily illustrated catalogue of swords, which includes some in amazing condition. [read full review]
Records of the Medieval Sword, Ewart Oakeshott. A detailed study of hundreds of surviving Medieval swords, looking at their physical form, known history and any surviving decoration, almost all supported with a photo of the weapon. Invaluable if you are interested the Medieval Sword, useful if you are interested in Medieval Warfare or weaponry, perhaps a bit specialised otherwise. [read full review]
Edgar: King of the English, 959-975, ed. Donald Scragg. A series of articles that use the limited available evidence to look into the reign of King Edgar, one of the more obscure Anglo-Saxon monarchs. Shows how much can be learned from sources such as coins or lists of charter witnesses in a period when the chronicles don't provide much evidence. [read full review]
Medieval Maritime Warfare, Charles D Stanton. Mainly a narrative history of the main periods of naval warfare during the Middle Ages, covering the slow decline of Byzantine naval power, the brief Norman dominance of the central Mediterranean, the Crusades, the clashes between Genoa and Pisa and Venice and Genoa, the War of the Sicilian Vespers, the Vikings, Normans and the Hanse and the battles of the Hundred Years War. [read full review]
The Knight who Saved England, Richard Brooks. A biography of William Marshal, the most famous English knight of his day and a key figure in the chaos at the end of the reign of King John. Starting as a famous competitor in tournaments, Marshal married a major heiress and moved into the top rank of Medieval society, where he played an important role in securing the throne for the infant Henry III. [read full review]
Forces of the Hanseatic League 13th-15th Centuries, David Nicolle . Looks at the very varied armed forces that served the network of trading cities that formed the Hanseatic League, at its peak a powerful naval force capable of taking on major European powers and on land of fighting off its aristocratic neighbours. Covers both land and sea forces, so has a lot of ground to cover. [read full review]
England's Medieval Navy 1066-1509: Ships, Men & Warfare, Susan Rose. An excellent detailed examination of the early days of English naval power, the period before the establishment of a permanent Royal Navy, when most warships were impressed merchant ships taken over for the duration of a campaign. Excellent material on the men, their ships, skills, weapons and the battles they fought. [read full review]
The Anglo Saxon Age - An Alternative History of Britain, Timothy Venning. Contains a huge number of possible alternative histories, covering the period from the early Anglo-Saxon settlement or conquest period to the dramatic events of 1066, with each chapter starting from a genuine historical point in time and working forward. A fun read and a valuable reminder of how little we really know about the early stages of the Anglo-Saxon period and how big a part chance played in the events of the period. [read full review]
The Book of the Order of Chivalry, Ramon Llull, trans. Noel Fallows. A translation of a popular thirteenth century guide to chivalry, intended to be read by squires on their way to knighthood to explain their duties and establish a single united Order of Chivalry. A fascinating guide to the late Medieval view of knighthood, as represented by one of the most popular contemporary guides to chivalry. [read full review]
The Portuguese in the Age of Discovery, c.1340-1665, David Nicolle. Looks at the military organisations that allowed the Portuguese to create and then hold onto a world-wide empire despite a forced merger with Spain and a length war with the Dutch. An interesting examination of what became one of the most integrated and multi-racial armies of its time, and a key element in the long-term success of Portugal [read full review]
The Longbow, Mike Loades. A super look at the longbow as a military weapon, covering the development of the bow, how it might have been used in battle (taking into account the number of arrows we know to have been available, physical stamina etc), and the way in which the multi-level armour of the period coped with the threat. An excellent guide to this iconic English weapon and its role in battle. [read full review]
Italian Rapier Combat: Capo Ferro's 'Gran Simalcro', ed. Jared Kirby. A translation of a classic Italian manual on fighting with the rapier, complete with reproductions of a mix of illustrations from two early editions of this famous work. Most technical terms have been left in Italian, with clear explanations at the start, so the book is best suited to someone with an interest in fencing or authentic period fighting methods. [read full review]
Knight: The Warrior and the World of Chivalry, Robert Jones. A study of the Knight, from their humble origins in the 11th century through their dominance of society and battlefield in the high Middle Ages to their decline in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Looks at their arms and armour, role on the battlefield, place in society and eventual decline. An excellent overview of a complex issue. [read full review]
Norman Naval Operations in the Mediterranean, Charles D. Stanton. Based around a narrative history of the Norman's maritime empire in the central Mediterranean, this interesting book looks at the naval operations involved in the Norman conquest of a kingdom in southern Italy and Sicily, in the maintenance of that kingdom and during increasingly grandiose campaigns in the eastern Mediterranean. [read full review]
The Teutonic Knights - A Military History, William Urban. Traces the Teutonic Knights from their origins in the Holy Land, through a brief period in Transylvanian and on to the area they are most famously associated with, Prussia and Livonia, where they fought against Pagans, Orthodox Russians, Tatars and eventually Catholic Poles and Lithuanians. [read full review]
Cross and Crescent in the Balkans - the Ottoman Conquest of Southeastern Europe, David Nicolle. Partly chronological and partly thematic, this book looks at the Ottoman conquest and retention of the Balkans, overcoming the remnants of Byzantium, a number of powerful Balkan states, before recovering from the devastation caused by Tamerlane. Looks at Ottoman culture, architecture, urban and rural life as well as the military campaigns that established an empire that lasted into the Twentieth Century. [read full review]
War for the Throne: The battle of Shrewsbury 1403, John Barratt. A military history of the turbulent early years of the reign of Henry IV, including his seizure of the throne, early conflicts with Scotland, the Glyn Dwr revolt in Wales and the rebellions by Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland, and his son Hotspur, with a special focus on the battle of Shrewsbury [read full review]
The Medieval Soldier, Vesey Norman. A solid but now somewhat dated look at the fighting men of Medieval Europe, from the early Lombards and Franks to the Crusaders. Well researched at the time, and written by a respected expert on medieval arms and armour, this is now best seen as a starting point for further reading, especially in the sections on chivalry, a subject on which views have changed significantly over the last forty years [read full review]
Galloglass 1250-1600: Gaelic Mercenary Warrior, Fergus Cannan. An account of the life, equipment and battlefield experience of these mercenaries of Scottish descent who fought in Ireland between the mid 13th and early 17th centuries, taking part in battles between Irish lords and fighting both for and against the English. [read full review]
A History of the Art of War in the Middle Ages:.378-1278 , Sir Charles Oman, a great two volume history of war covering over a millenium. While his conclusions may have been challenged, the level of detail in these two volumes is invaluable.
A History of the Art of War in the Middle Ages: 1278-1485 , the second volume of Sir Charles Oman's great work on medieval warfare.
English Longbowman 1330-1515 , Clive Bartlett A very detailed book covering a long period of history. Contains information on all aspects of the bowman including weapons, training , equipment and pay. Good colour plates fill the centre pages and good black and white photographs and illustrations are contained throughout the book.
Bradbury, Jim, The Medieval Siege , Boydell Press, 2002, 378 pages. A much needed survey of the most important form of warfare in the middle ages, a period that saw far more sieges than battles.