10 books like Growing Up in Medieval London

By Barbara A. Hanawalt,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Growing Up in Medieval London. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Blood and Roses

By Helen Castor,

Book cover of Blood and Roses: One Family's Struggle and Triumph During the Tumultuous Wars of the Roses

This book tells the story of the wars of the Roses through the lens of one family – the Pastons. This family left an extraordinary archive of letters, and it included many fascinating characters, especially women. The Paston women fought off sieges on their houses, wrote Valentine letters to their husbands, ran off with servants, and managed complicated household finances. As a family, the Pastons were social climbers, who tried to get on at court and to improve their position. Through them, we hear about high politics, but also about the domestic life and loves of the gentry in the fifteenth century. In this book, Helen Castor writes a kind of family biography, expansive, gripping, and detailed. It is both first-class research and a great story.

Blood and Roses

By Helen Castor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Blood and Roses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A gripping family saga. . . . Page-turners are rarely written by scholars of the 15th century, but Castor wears her learning admirably lightly. Blood and Roses is nothing less than a ripping yarn.” —The Indepedent (London)

The Wars of the Roses tore England asunder. Over the course of thirty years, four kings lost their thrones, countless men lost their lives on the battlefield or their heads on the block, and others found themselves suddenly flush with gold. Yet until now, little has been written about the ordinary people who lived through this extraordinary time.

Blood and Roses is a…


Medieval Bodies

By Jack Hartnell,

Book cover of Medieval Bodies: Life, Death and Art in the Middle Ages

Jack Hartnell anatomises the Middle Ages in a very real sense: the book is divided up into parts of the body. It is a brilliant and innovative approach, allowing him to bring together the history of medicine, artistic objects, political thought, cartography, metaphor, and the medieval imagination, among other things. Importantly, he looks far beyond Western Europe, so the book also includes Jewish and Islamic approaches to the body, explores the Byzantine world, and analyses objects and ideas from, for instance, North Africa and the Middle East. The book focuses on the Mediterranean world in its broadest sense, ranging widely across sources and disciplines but staying rooted in the question of how medieval people thought about and experienced their bodies. As you might expect from an art historian, he has lavishly illustrated the book, and it gives readers a great sense of the beauty and weirdness of the art and…

Medieval Bodies

By Jack Hartnell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Medieval Bodies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Just like us, medieval men and women worried about growing old, got blisters and indigestion, fell in love, and had children. And yet their lives were full of miraculous and richly metaphorical experiences radically different from our own, unfolding in a world where deadly wounds might be healed overnight by divine intervention, or where the heart of a king, plucked from his corpse, could be held aloft as a powerful symbol of political rule.

In this richly illustrated and unusual history, Jack Hartnell uncovers the fascinating ways in which people thought about, explored, and experienced their physical selves in the…


Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts

By Christopher De Hamel,

Book cover of Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts: Twelve Journeys into the Medieval World

One of the great thrills of researching medieval history is getting the chance to handle original documents up close, as I have had the good fortune to do a few times. Christophe de Hamel is a palaeographer, a manuscripts expert who has travelled the world to examine some of the most precious handwritten works that still survive. As his title hints, De Hamel treats these artefacts as personalities, and his no-nonsense decipherment of priceless treasures is like listening in on a wise and witty conversation.

Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts

By Christopher De Hamel,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An extraordinary and beautifully illustrated exploration of the medieval world through twelve manuscripts, from one of the world's leading experts.

Winner of The Wolfson History Prize and The Duff Cooper Prize.

A San Francisco Chronicle Holiday Book Gift Guide Pick!

Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts is a captivating examination of twelve illuminated manuscripts from the medieval period. Noted authority Christopher de Hamel invites the reader into intimate conversations with these texts to explore what they tell us about nearly a thousand years of medieval history - and about the modern world, too.

In so doing, de Hamel introduces us to kings,…


Making a Living in the Middle Ages

By Christopher Dyer,

Book cover of Making a Living in the Middle Ages: The People of Britain 850-1520

For me, this isn’t a book that I read cover to cover; it is a book that I very frequently refer to when I want information. This is my go-to book when I want to check how much a labourer was paid, and what that money would buy, for example. It is an economic history and, as such, helps you to understand the fundamentals of how medieval society worked and was put together. So you can find out not only about the life of an aristocrat, but about the life of a peasant, free or unfree, and about life in the countryside as well as life in towns or in great households. It covers almost 700 years of history, so it also demonstrates how much changed across this long and varied period – starting hundreds of years before the Norman Conquest, and ending in the reign of Henry VIII, when…

Making a Living in the Middle Ages

By Christopher Dyer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Making a Living in the Middle Ages as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dramatic social and economic change during the middle ages altered the lives of the people of Britain in far-reaching ways, from the structure of their families to the ways they made their livings. In this masterly book, preeminent medieval historian Christopher Dyer presents a fresh view of the British economy from the ninth to the sixteenth century and a vivid new account of medieval life. He begins his volume with the formation of towns and villages in the ninth and tenth centuries and ends with the inflation, population rise, and colonial expansion of the sixteenth century.

This is a book…


Royal Bastards

By Sara McDougall,

Book cover of Royal Bastards: The Birth of Illegitimacy, 800-1230

For much of Western history, birth out of wedlock has been a serious barrier to inheritance and succession. It is often assumed that this attitude arrived alongside Christianity: yet, McDougall explains that the medieval world actually cared very little about the circumstances of one’s birth until the thirteenth century. What historians have consistently misinterpreted as concern for legitimate birth was instead dogged insistence that a legitimate marriage existed only when husband and wife were of equivalent status. This is particularly relevant when it comes to an heir’s “throneworthiness.” It was not sufficient for a king to be the son of a great man with a remarkable patriline; the matriline had to be every bit as impressive to qualify him for the throne.

McDougall’s eminently readable and thought-provoking book reveals how the misogynistic assumptions of modern-day historians have gotten in the way of understanding medieval dynasties. Historians have preferred to see…

Royal Bastards

By Sara McDougall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Royal Bastards as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The stigmatization as 'bastards' of children born outside of wedlock is commonly thought to have emerged early in Medieval European history. Christian ideas about legitimate marriage, it is assumed, set the standard for legitimate birth. Children born to anything other than marriage had fewer rights or opportunities. They certainly could not become king or queen. As this volume demonstrates, however, well into the late twelfth century, ideas of what made a child a
legitimate heir had little to do with the validity of his or her parents' union according to the dictates of Christian marriage law. Instead a child's prospects…


York

By Sarah Rees Jones,

Book cover of York: The Making of a City 1068-1350

This is a masterful work covering the period from the Norman conquest to the Black Death. Sarah Rees Jones is one of my go-to scholars for medieval York, as well as an engaging writer. I particularly appreciate her looking beyond the importance of the royal government in the city’s development to include the strong influence of the Minster and other ecclesiastical institutions in the city as well as the significance of the people of York—merchants and craftspeople.

Check here first if you want a feel for how the city grew, who were the makers and shakers, how the neighborhoods developed, where the influential people lived. Every time I dip into this book I learn something new. With 18 useful maps and an extensive bibliography.

York

By Sarah Rees Jones,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked York as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

York was one of the most important cities in medieval England. This original study traces the development of the city from the Norman Conquest to the Black Death. The twelfth and thirteenth centuries are a neglected period in the history of English towns, and this study argues that the period was absolutely fundamental to the development of urban society and that up to now we have misunderstood the reasons for the development of York and its significance within our
history because of that neglect.

Medieval York argues that the first Norman kings attempted to turn the city into a true…


Citadel of the Saxons

By Rory Naismith,

Book cover of Citadel of the Saxons: The Rise of Early London

In my own writing I’ve recently ventured into the Anglo-Saxon period, so I know how hard it is to conjure the history of these early medieval centuries from the meagre source material that survives. Rory Naismith manages this brilliantly in his highly engaging history of London in the centuries between the end of Roman Britain and the Norman Conquest. Naismith’s earlier books are on coins and coinage, but he does not allow his specialism to pull the book off balance. It’s a comparatively short volume, but it provides a comprehensive overview of the emerging capital, and it wears its considerable learning lightly.

Citadel of the Saxons

By Rory Naismith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Citadel of the Saxons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With a past as deep and sinewy as the famous River Thames that twists like an eel around the jutting peninsula of Mudchute and the Isle of Dogs, London is one of the world's greatest and most resilient cities. Born beside the sludge and the silt of the meandering waterway that has always been its lifeblood, it has weathered invasion, flood, abandonment, fire and bombing. The modern story of London is well known. Much has been written about the later history of this megalopolis which, like a seductive dark star, has drawn incomers perpetually into its orbit. Yet, as Rory…


London

By Roy Porter,

Book cover of London: A Social History

An interesting but idiosyncratic overview of the history and the resultant growth of London. The result is a book full of interesting insights, amusing anecdotes, and historical highlights. A vivid celebration of the city, but also an elegy for its decline, bubbling with statistics and anecdotes, from Boadicea to Betjeman.

London

By Roy Porter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked London as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This dazzling and yet intimate book is the first modern one-volume history of London from Roman times to the present. An extraordinary city, London grew from a backwater in the Classical age into an important medieval city, a significant Renaissance urban center, and a modern colossus. Roy Porter paints a detailed landscape--from the grid streets and fortresses of Julius Caesar and William the Conqueror to the medieval, walled "most noble city" of churches, friars, and crown and town relationships. Within the crenelated battlements, manufactures and markets developed and street-life buzzed.

London's profile in 1500 was much as it was at…


Necropolis

By Catharine Arnold,

Book cover of Necropolis: London and Its Dead

London is basically built over layer upon layer of graves. I was thoroughly fascinated by the Bronze Age tumulus on Parliament Hill, which Arnold calls one of the oldest burial grounds in the city, predating Highgate Cemetery by over 4000 years.

The book really grabbed me when it explored the plague pits of the Middle Ages. I could have read much more about those centuries, although so little seems to be left above ground to mark them. The Tudor chapters were equally fascinating.

Once the book moves into the exquisite Victorian-era graveyards, Arnold hits her stride. If you are new to the study of all things dead in London, this is crucial material.

Necropolis

By Catharine Arnold,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Necropolis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Roman burial rites to the horrors of the plague, from the founding of the great Victorian cemeteries to the development of cremation and the current approach of metropolitan society towards death and bereavement -- including more recent trends to displays of collective grief and the cult of mourning, such as that surrounding the death of Diana, Princess of Wales -- NECROPOLIS: LONDON AND ITS DEAD offers a vivid historical narrative of this great city's attitude to going the way of all flesh. As layer upon layer of London soil reveals burials from pre-historic and medieval times, the city is…


The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting

By Daniel V. Thompson,

Book cover of The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting

It’s hard to express the depths of my excitement when I discovered this book. This title allowed me to take research for my novel’s heroine to a whole new level. Should she use parchment or vellum, what was the difference, and when should she use one over the other? (Did you know the most sumptuous parchments were died purple? I didn’t until I read this book!) What was the difference between natural and artificial pigments as understood by medieval artists? And how did they create all those brilliant reds, blues, greens, yellows, purples, and more in their paintings? How did they make paint out of gold or apply gold leaf to their art? All these details and much, much more are laid out here. Everything a medieval artist, in life or in fiction, could possibly need to know! (This book also touches on other forms of medieval painting, like painting…

The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting

By Daniel V. Thompson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Medieval painters built up a tremendous range of technical resources for obtaining brilliance and permanence. In this volume, an internationally known authority on medieval paint technology describes these often jealously guarded recipes, lists of materials, and processes. Based upon years of study of medieval manuscripts and enlarged by laboratory analysis of medieval paintings, this book discusses carriers and grounds, binding media, pigments, coloring materials, and metals used in painting.
It describes the surfaces that the medieval artist painted upon, detailing their preparation. It analyzes binding media, discussing relative merits of glair versus gums, oil glazes, and other matters. It tells…


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