The best books on the real Middle Ages

R.I. Moore Author Of The War on Heresy
By R.I. Moore

The Books I Picked & Why

Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe

By Judith Herrin

Book cover of Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe

Why this book?

Between antiquity and the middle ages, between Byzantium and the West, between Christendom and Islam... For four hundred years Ravenna sat at the tipping points of all the great transitions that together shaped Europe. Judith Herrin tells its fascinating history and presents a parade of forceful and creative characters with great insight and a wonderfully light touch, in a book as beautifully produced as it is profoundly researched.


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The Silk Road: A New History

By Valerie Hansen

Book cover of The Silk Road: A New History

Why this book?

The Silk Road is a nineteenth-century invention, but the movements of people, things, and ideas in and through the immense and often terrifying space between modern Iran and China generated change in every sphere and engaged an astonishing variety of people. Valerie Hansen’s exploration of seven places along the imagined route and what has been found in them offers a lucid and lively introduction to a wider medieval world and how we know about it. 


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Clothing the Clergy: Virtue and Power in Medieval Europe, C. 800 1200

By Maureen C. Miller

Book cover of Clothing the Clergy: Virtue and Power in Medieval Europe, C. 800 1200

Why this book?

By exploring how their sumptuous ritual vestments were designed, manufactured, and cared for, Maureen Miller shines powerful new light on the key social transformation of the European middle ages - how the clergy emerged as a distinct and dominant order of society in the eleventh and twelfth centuries - and how the process was shaped by their essential, intimate and contradictory relationships with the women who discharged these tasks.  


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Monodies and on the Relics of Saints: The Autobiography and a Manifesto of a French Monk from Thetime of the Crusades

By Guibert Of Nogent, Joseph McAlhany

Book cover of Monodies and on the Relics of Saints: The Autobiography and a Manifesto of a French Monk from Thetime of the Crusades

Why this book?

The same transformation is vividly described, along with the enormities of archetypically immoral barons and revolting peasants, the murder of a scandalous bishop, and much else, in the memoirs of an abbot from northern France at a time of violent social upheaval and intense personal rivalries, often played out on the stage of religious piety. This is one of the liveliest and most revealing of the many sources translated from this period, excellently introduced by Jay Rubenstein.   


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The Hanged Man: A Story of Miracle, Memory, and Colonialism in the Middle Ages

By Robert Bartlett

Book cover of The Hanged Man: A Story of Miracle, Memory, and Colonialism in the Middle Ages

Why this book?

In 1307 the pope charged three commissioners to decide whether the survival of a Welshman hanged for murder some years previously had or had not been a miracle. Bartlett’s masterly and compulsively readable microhistory draws from their report a brilliantly illuminated miniature (less than 200 pages) of an entire world, from the family life of the highest nobility to the grisly details of hanging and what they symbolised, and of the struggle for power in many forms, from the marches of Wales to central Italy.


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