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SlowRain
02-13-2007, 04:59 PM
Iíve looked back through the threads for several months, but I couldnít find anything on researching medieval life. Iím particularly interested in non-fiction books that deal with life, food, housing, clothing, transportation & travel, weapons & military strategy, et cetera in medieval times. Iíd appreciate it if someone could post a link to any discussions youíve had on the subject, or recommend any books or websites that may help.

Thanks,

SlowRain

Marlys
02-13-2007, 05:50 PM
Try your local library. Here are some to get you started:

The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the Middle Ages--Sherrilyn Kenyon. Very basic, but a starting place.

Daily Life in Chaucer's England--Jeffrey L. Singman

A number of books by Frances Gies:
Daily life in medieval times : a vivid, detailed account of birth, marriage and death; food, clothing and housing; love and labor in the middle ages
A medieval family : the Pastons of fifteenth-century England

Cathedral, forge, and waterwheel : technology and invention in the Middle Ages

Women in the Middle Ages

Life in a medieval village

Marriage and the family in the Middle Ages

The knight in history

by Joseph and Frances Gies:
Life in a medieval city

Life in a medieval castle

Food in medieval times--Melitta Weiss Adamson

Medieval Costume and Fashion--Herbert Norris

A Distant Mirror--Barbara Tuchman (highly recommended)

Ancient and Medieval Siege Weapons--K. Nosov

Barbarians, marauders, and infidels : the ways of medieval warfare--Antonio Santosuosso

Medieval armies and weapons in western Europe : an illustrated history--Jean-Denis Lepage

alleycat
02-13-2007, 05:54 PM
Medievalist should be along shortly . . .

C.bronco
02-13-2007, 06:03 PM
http://www.sca.org/misc.html

Here you go!

badducky
02-13-2007, 06:12 PM
The scattershot method of getting a bunch of books that differ from each other is fine, and I do it, too.

However, nothing beats a good old fashioned history class at your local university. Also, middle english - or medieval - literature courses are a great way to learn this stuff.

It may not help you in Taiwan... but wait!

Find an expert in the field, do a google search for their course notes and syllabus (many are on-line, these days) and you'll find lots of experts with guided radings of the texts listed.

Another great place to look after you've done some research in the field and noticed a few experts that really seem to help you make sense of the world is that professor's personal website.

Take, for instance, my favorite valued medieval mentor from my undergraduate and graduate days at the University of Houston, to whom
I owe a huge debt of gratitude for all the knowledge I got that was subsequently applied to writing that I have sold for money:

http://www.class.uh.edu/English/faculty/stock_l.asp

Now, I can go through these pages, and locate her articles, her tv appearances, and any books she's worked or working on. I can also drop her a line now and then, when I'm discovering a gap in the research materials that bothers me and e-mail her briefly for her advice as a scholar. We are scholars in our own way.

Anyway, just something that isn't done enough, I think.

Med will be here momentarily.

Shadow_Ferret
02-13-2007, 07:01 PM
Marlys recommended some excellent books. I especially like the books by Joseph Gies and Frances Gies, such as "Life in a Medieval City" "Life in a Medieval Village" "Life in a Medieval Castle" and "Women in the Middle Ages."

Using those as a base and adding to it with specific searches either on the web or the reference library should give you a good handle on how life was back then.

zornhau
02-13-2007, 07:03 PM
Medievalist should be along shortly . . .

Well, untill she trundles up, I'll add my knightly groat's worth (I'm also a Medievalist by academic background, but a bit rusty).

Thing is - the original question is too vague.

Everyday life - i.e. culture, technology, custom and law - is very different depending on where and when in the Middle Ages you land.

At one end of the period, you have mailed knights, feudalism and lo-tech, at the other, plate armour, mercenaries, indentures and early modern technology.

Geographically, Christendom encompasses the Celtic Fringe of semi-barbs in the extreme west, through to the sophisticated cities of the Med.

The period is also punctuated by huge and dramatic transitions and traumas, such as the Hundred Years War and the Black Death.

So, what you have to do is pick a period and an area, and read very specifically around that, and not get sidetracked. (A scattershot approach will drive you insane, or at least plunge you into 4 years of research.)

If the issue is gathering enough information to make that decision in the first place, then you need the general histories covering the whole period.

If you let us know more precisely what you're after, I'm sure we can come up with some focussed reading for you.

waylander
02-13-2007, 07:31 PM
Excellent list of books so far to which I would add another - The Medieval Traveller - Norbert Ohler

Medievalist
02-13-2007, 07:56 PM
You wanna maybe narrow "medieval" down a bit in terms of era and place?

Medieval in Europe, alone, covers roughly a thousand years . . .

And the books folks have posted look super to me.

ink wench
02-13-2007, 08:37 PM
I'll throw in one more book rec: Daily Life in the Middle Ages by Paul B. Newman. Any of the books by Frances and Joseph Gies are also great.

batgirl
02-13-2007, 09:03 PM
Umm, in the cities, in the villages, during war, during peace, during famine, during plague, in the convents, in the armies, among the nobility, among the peasantry, among the artisans, guilds, confraternities, beggars, ...?

Lost Country Life by the Hartleys is a good one, and includes most of Thomas Tusser's calendar, which is otherwise hard to find.
The Singman book is useful for the high middle ages, but won't help if you're earlier or later.
Medieval Rural Life in the Luttrell Psalter, by Janet Backhouse (hm, my focus is starting to show, isn't it?)
-Barbara

zornhau
02-13-2007, 09:05 PM
Not that I am complaining...

MattW
02-13-2007, 09:48 PM
Medieval Underworld by Andrew McCall

While it isn't the greatest read, it was informative about attitudes toward certain fringe groups. Certainly not a detailed study of any.

Medievalist
02-13-2007, 09:48 PM
How many Medievalist?

We are legion.

Simon Woodhouse
02-13-2007, 10:05 PM
When I needed to do a bit of medieval research, I went to the children's section in the local bookshop. I bought one of those books that shows everything as a cut-away diagram, you know the sort of thing – a castle with one wall removed so you can see inside. I found this really useful. It was full of helpful little snippets of info, as well as being very visual.

Higgins
02-13-2007, 10:14 PM
When I needed to do a bit of medieval research, I went to the children's section in the local bookshop. I bought one of those books that shows everything as a cut-away diagram, you know the sort of thing Ė a castle with one wall removed so you can see inside. I found this really useful. It was full of helpful little snippets of info, as well as being very visual.

A lot of those "cut-away" books are pretty informative. The only possible problem with them is if you don't have other sources to give you an idea of how typical or prevalent what they pick for their depictions are...of course that is true for detailed reconstructions in general; you often have only a few good cases (eg, shipwrecks, Beowulf, Venetian armor buried accidently by the Turks) and you have to work out how to generalize them.

SlowRain
02-13-2007, 10:49 PM
Thanks everyone for your replies. Keep them coming if you have more.

TheIT
02-13-2007, 10:53 PM
On AW, be sure to look at the Historical Writing forum, especially the stickied Resources thread at the top. Lots of links there. Also search through the Story Research forum for more specific questions.

C.bronco
02-13-2007, 10:56 PM
Tidbits: They had open sewers. No one used forks- just spoons and knives. People commonly used cloves for fresh(er) breath. Ah, the memories...

Medievalist
02-13-2007, 11:47 PM
Tidbits: They had open sewers. No one used forks- just spoons and knives. People commonly used cloves for fresh(er) breath. Ah, the memories...

Well . . . forks were used for cooking. There are very specific laws about fork-management in Irish (really! it has to do with rank and class and communal cooking pots . . . )

ColoradoGuy
02-14-2007, 12:32 AM
So Eileen Power's venerable Medieval People is now passe. God, I feel old.

Medievalist
02-14-2007, 01:44 AM
No, it's still used as a text for undergrads, but, well, it's awfully fictionalized.

I tend to point people towards the Paston letters (http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/PasLett.html), from 1425-1496.

jpsorrow
02-14-2007, 03:22 AM
And I thought I'd be able to contribute, but all of the books I used for research have already been mentioned. That's what happens when you step into a thread with 20 comments already. *grin*

SlowRain
02-14-2007, 06:35 AM
And I thought I'd be able to contribute, but all of the books I used for research have already been mentioned. That's what happens when you step into a thread with 20 comments already. *grin*
Don't worry if the book or website you like has already been listed. If you mention it again, that will give it more weight when I come to choose. I'm not only looking for suggestions, I'm also wondering which ones are the best and most comprehensive. All comments and opinions are welcome.

Thanks everyone for the replies.

batgirl
02-14-2007, 09:36 AM
Well . . . forks were used for cooking. There are very specific laws about fork-management in Irish (really! it has to do with rank and class and communal cooking pots . . . )
And the laws about how to wear those big shoulder brooches so no one was stabbed while embracing.
-Barbara

zornhau
02-14-2007, 02:59 PM
When I needed to do a bit of medieval research, I went to the children's section in the local bookshop. I bought one of those books that shows everything as a cut-away diagram, you know the sort of thing Ė a castle with one wall removed so you can see inside. I found this really useful. It was full of helpful little snippets of info, as well as being very visual.

Yes, but it's always the same ##### castle with 4-towered square keep and inner and outer wards, isn't it? Strangely, there aren't a lot of those about, and when they do exist, they usually have an odd shape due to the builders exploiting the ground.

There's also a big distinction between castles thrown up to a grand plan in one semi-continous building campaign, e.g. Carnarvon (http://www.castleuk.net/castle_lists_wales/115/caernarfoncastle.htm), and more intimate castles bodged together organically over several generations, e.g. Direlton (http://www.castleuk.net/castle_lists_scotland/66/dirletoncastle.htm).

LeslieB
02-14-2007, 04:52 PM
Tidbits: They had open sewers. No one used forks- just spoons and knives. People commonly used cloves for fresh(er) breath. Ah, the memories...


Of course, nothing says that things have to be that way in our stories. After all, this is the SF/F forum, so medieval information serves as a jumping off point rather than a set of rules. But I have been doing the same sort of research, and just added some books to my 'must read' list. Thanks, everyone!

Higgins
02-14-2007, 06:02 PM
Don't worry if the book or website you like has already been listed. If you mention it again, that will give it more weight when I come to choose. I'm not only looking for suggestions, I'm also wondering which ones are the best and most comprehensive. All comments and opinions are welcome.

Thanks everyone for the replies.

This is a sort of paradoxical recommendation: the not-too-general overview. Such as:


http://www.amazon.co.uk/France-Middle-Ages-987-1460-History/dp/0631189459

Higgins
02-14-2007, 06:44 PM
Yes, but it's always the same ##### castle with 4-towered square keep and inner and outer wards, isn't it? Strangely, there aren't a lot of those about, and when they do exist, they usually have an odd shape due to the builders exploiting the ground.

There's also a big distinction between castles thrown up to a grand plan in one semi-continous building campaign, e.g. Carnarvon (http://www.castleuk.net/castle_lists_wales/115/caernarfoncastle.htm), and more intimate castles bodged together organically over several generations, e.g. Direlton (http://www.castleuk.net/castle_lists_scotland/66/dirletoncastle.htm).

Loved the castle index. But what is up with how little missenden is missing?

http://www.castleuk.net/castle_lists_midlands/165/missendencastlepicture2.htm


And here at Leppington, assaulting (unattested*) Proto-Indo-europeans were held off by a muddy road and the thought of future barbed wire:

http://www.castleuk.net/castle_lists_north/100/leppington1.htm

Medievalist
02-14-2007, 08:01 PM
And the laws about how to wear those big shoulder brooches so no one was stabbed while embracing.
-Barbara

Ah yes, those were the days . . . good times, good times.

zornhau
02-14-2007, 09:10 PM
Loved the castle index. But what is up with how little missenden is missing?

http://www.castleuk.net/castle_lists_midlands/165/missendencastlepicture2.htm


And here at Leppington, assaulting (unattested*) Proto-Indo-europeans were held off by a muddy road and the thought of future barbed wire:

http://www.castleuk.net/castle_lists_north/100/leppington1.htm

Found the index via google, so take no responsibility for it. In truth, what really matters is that some general books, esp. those for children, generalise until all texture is lost. There's no subsitute for looking at real castles.

badducky
02-14-2007, 09:18 PM
Also, appreciating medieval cities is difficult until one actually walks among them. a.k.a. what i'm doing right now!

Even relatively recent towns such as Erbenheim is an exercise in the otherworldly. The street design is so organic, and the buildings are so strange, yet familiar. They have dining rooms and bathrooms and all that, but no architect in your suburban city would think to make them just so.

Building materials create a fundamental difference in historical housing that must be seen to truly verstehen.

Higgins
02-14-2007, 09:26 PM
Found the index via google, so take no responsibility for it. In truth, what really matters is that some general books, esp. those for children, generalise until all texture is lost. There's no subsitute for looking at real castles.

The past is even more diverse than the present, but much harder to observe very well.

In the castle index, I found the locations that are now just lumps in the field to be the most interesting in some ways. I'm glad the index includes sites where you just see grassy features in the countryside.

batgirl
02-14-2007, 10:28 PM
Bod (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-bodiamcastle.htm)iam (http://www.villagenet.co.uk/esussex-iron/villages/bodiam.php) is the best castle ever. You can keep War (http://www.castleuk.net/castle_lists_midlands/151/warwickcastle.htm)wick (http://johnsmilitaryhistory.com/warwick.html), even if it does show the whole evolution from motte and bailey onwards.
And Bayleaf (http://www.wealddown.co.uk/bayleaf-tudor-timber-framed-hall-house.htm) is the best timber frame house ever. Although the Merchant (http://www.theyorkcompany.co.uk/) Adventurer's (http://www.britainexpress.com/cities/york/merchanthall.htm) Hall in York is pretty cool.
Medieval London was fairly small. We walked the City from one side to the other in a few hours. The walking tour from the MoL isn't very long either, but well worth doing.
-Barbara

Evaine
02-19-2007, 10:01 PM
Another thing that was different about medieval cities was the sheer volume of churches! I used to live in Norwich, and there were over 40 medieval flint churches packed into the city, including the home of Julian of Norwich, of course, the first woman to write a book in English - and she wasn't the only anchoress in the city. There were several, both male and female, attached to different churches.
Now, many of those churches have different uses, as antique centres, arts centres, and even a gym.

M. K. McWilliams
02-26-2007, 01:17 PM
Holy cow what a broad spectrum! Well two people beat me too it. The SCA site as well as those kids books about Castle Life and all that. Really cool.
You want medieval history I'd be glad to share. Not only am I in the SCA I do heraldry. I have lots of medieval history research but I can't dig into all of it right this moment, feel free to send me a private message, I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

In the meantime think of SPECIFIC questions rather than "What was medieval life like?" It was hard, it was cruel and it was cold. There's the answer for that. Want to know the Knight's Code? It varies from country to country. Everyone had a different sense of honor and chivalry but it was there. Why were Templar Knights executed? What were Hospitlar Nuns? Who were the first pirates? Ooooh the questions, the answers... I can hear the drums of war now and smell the fires. Yummy. :)

Mel

Irysangel
02-28-2007, 04:41 AM
Kind of an odd question, but I'm setting my next novel in the court of Edward III.

Now here's the thing. I originally wanted to focus on a character that's one of a set of triplets (the mother died at birth). Problem is, I can't find any records of multiple births in medieval times. Is this believable? Not believable?

Thanks!

Medievalist
02-28-2007, 04:55 AM
They did in fact happen, but the children rarely survived; moms would breastfeed, and the lower class women sometimes just couldn't, because of their own poor nutrition, keep the babies fed. There are references to multiple births . .. they weren't generally seen a good things.

Irysangel
02-28-2007, 06:13 AM
Good point. It did seem fairly far-fetched for all three to be adult and healthy. I'll stick with the safer alternative (I.E. siblings).

Thank you!

SlowRain
03-04-2007, 07:28 AM
Thanks to everyone who posted a reply. I wasn't looking for anything specific, I just wanted a good, well-rounded starting place. I don't have a great selection of English books here, but I did pick up Life in a Medieval City, Life in a Medieval Castle, and Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel, all by Frances & Joseph Gies.

Once again, thanks to everyone, and, by all means, keep the recommendations coming. I think everyone has benefitted from these suggestions.

waylander
09-28-2009, 12:34 AM
A new book that looks well worth reading for anyone writing fantasy in a medieval style world - "The Time Travellers Guide to Medieval England"

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Time-Travellers-Guide-Medieval-England/dp/1845950992/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1254083167&sr=8-2

Fenika
09-28-2009, 12:55 AM
Oh, awesome. Cheers for that :)

Smiling Ted
09-28-2009, 05:45 AM
Tidbits: They had open sewers. No one used forks- just spoons and knives. People commonly used cloves for fresh(er) breath. Ah, the memories...

Forks reappeared in Byzantium in the 10th Century, IIRC, and Italy in the 11th.

mscelina
09-28-2009, 05:56 AM
How many Medievalist?

We are legion.

Oh my. That's a bit too Lorraine Warren for me, Medi.

And yes--by all means, don't forget the Eastern Roman Empire inthe early medieval period. Look to Byzantium for innovation and Rome for conventions.

t.c.laing
09-28-2009, 06:34 AM
Definitely try the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) it's a non-profit educational corp. We not only research the middle ages, but recreate them; just like US Revolutionary War, Civil War reenactors and Renn Faire people.

Here is a link to one of the subgroups (the SCA is divided into Kingdoms) that includes Japan and the Pacific Rim. Not sure exactly where Taiwan would fall in this grouping. Members are usually more than willing to help you with research sources. They may even be able to point you to someone who may be researching the specific time/place you are interested in or can point you to other local resources. Armor and weapons are typically part of every group - you can get a hands on perspective too.

http://www.westkingdom.org/wk_marchesmain.htm

And here is a link to a medieval names archive

http://www.s-gabriel.org/names/