100 books like Making a Living in the Middle Ages

By Christopher Dyer,

Here are 100 books that Making a Living in the Middle Ages fans have personally recommended if you like Making a Living in the Middle Ages. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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

Marion Turner Author Of Chaucer: A European Life

From my list on medieval life.

Why am I passionate about this?

Marion Turner is a Professor of English Literature at Oxford University where she teaches medieval literature. Her critically-acclaimed biography of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer was picked as a Book of the Year by the Times, the Sunday Times, the New Statesman, and the TLS, and has been hailed as ‘an absolute triumph,’ and a ‘masterpiece.’ It won the British Academy Rose Mary Crawshay Prize and the English Association Beatrice White Prize, and was shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize.

Marion's book list on medieval life

Marion Turner Why did Marion love this book?

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.

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…


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

Hana Videen Author Of The Deorhord: An Old English Bestiary

From my list on books with a unique perspective of the medieval past.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in medieval history comes from a love of language. My favourite Old English word is wordhord, which refers to a poet’s mental stockpile of words and phrases. My word hoarding (and sharing) started with tweeting the Old English word of the day in 2013. This spread to other social media platforms, a blog, an app, and now two books. I have a PhD in English from King’s College London (my thesis was on blood in Old English, even though blood actually makes me squeamish). I enjoy histories that make me think about the past from a different perspective.

Hana's book list on books with a unique perspective of the medieval past

Hana Videen Why did Hana love this book?

This book is filled with fascinating facts about medieval medicine, surgery, humoural theory, disease, and diagnosis. But what is surprising is how many other aspects of the Middle Ages are covered through the theme of bodies.

We learn about strange creatures like blemmyae (who have no heads and faces in their chests) and cynocephali (dog-headed people), saints and relics, race relations and politics, manuscript manufacture, religion, literature, travel, eating habits, love, sexuality, and gender identity.

I love how the chapters are organized by body part, from head to feet, a clever approach I have never seen in a history book before. Hartnell demonstrates how the medieval past is "an uncanny place at once startlingly different from and strangely familiar to our own."

By Jack Hartnell,

Why should I read it?

3 authors 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…


Book cover of Growing Up in Medieval London: The Experience of Childhood in History

Marion Turner Author Of Chaucer: A European Life

From my list on medieval life.

Why am I passionate about this?

Marion Turner is a Professor of English Literature at Oxford University where she teaches medieval literature. Her critically-acclaimed biography of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer was picked as a Book of the Year by the Times, the Sunday Times, the New Statesman, and the TLS, and has been hailed as ‘an absolute triumph,’ and a ‘masterpiece.’ It won the British Academy Rose Mary Crawshay Prize and the English Association Beatrice White Prize, and was shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize.

Marion's book list on medieval life

Marion Turner Why did Marion love this book?

I learnt so much from this book when I was writing my biography of Chaucer. It is hard to find out information about childhood in history, and yet it is impossible to try to understand a society if we don’t know how children were brought up, what games they played, how they were educated, what adolescence was like. This book tells us about all those things. You can find out about how children learnt to read, what happened to orphans, the opportunities for pre-marital sex. Looking at a wide range of historical records and literary texts, Hanawalt pieces together a remarkably complete picture of medieval childhood. Looking at causes of death, for example, tells her where male and female children spent their time and what they were likely to be doing (boys were more likely to be outside). And archaeological finds reveal what kinds of toys children played with. Fascinating…

By Barbara A. Hanawalt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Barbara Hanawalt's acclaimed history The Ties That Bound first appeared, it was hailed for its unprecedented research and vivid re-creation of medieval life. David Levine, writing in The New York Times Book Review, called Hanawalt's book "as stimulating for the questions it asks as for the answers it provides" and he concluded that "one comes away from this stimulating book with the same sense of wonder that Thomas Hardy's Angel Clare felt [:]
'The impressionable peasant leads a larger, fuller, more dramatic life than the pachydermatous king.'"
Now, in Growing Up in Medieval London, Hanawalt again reveals the larger,…


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

David Horspool Author Of Richard III: A Ruler and his Reputation

From my list on to show you why medieval isn’t an insult.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been fascinated by medieval history ever since I played hide and seek around Welsh castles as a boy. At university – a medieval invention, of course – I was able to sit at the feet of some of the finest historians of the Middle Ages, experts like Maurice Keen and Patrick Wormald. As a writer, I have tackled medieval subjects like Alfred the Great and Richard III, as well as the history of English rebellion. I have come to realise that the Middle Ages could be cruel and violent, just like our own time, but that they were also a time of extraordinary achievements that form the foundations of the world we live in.

David's book list on to show you why medieval isn’t an insult

David Horspool Why did David love this book?

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.

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,…


Book cover of The Medieval Machine: The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages

Richard G. Lipsey Author Of Economic Transformations: General Purpose Technologies and Long-Term Economic Growth

From my list on how technologies have transformed our societies.

Why am I passionate about this?

In spite of many setbacks, living standards have trended upwards over the last 10,000 years. One of my main interests as an economist has been to understand the sources of this trend and its broad effects. The key driving force is new technologies. We are better off than our Victorian ancestors, not because we have more of what they had but because we have new things, such as airplanes and indoor plumbing. However, these new technologies have also brought some unfortunate side effects. We need to understand that dealing with these successfully depends, not on returning to the use of previous technologies, but on developing newer technologies such as wind and solar power.

Richard's book list on how technologies have transformed our societies

Richard G. Lipsey Why did Richard love this book?

When we began our research on our book, we were surprised to read challenges to the conventional view we had been taught that the Middle Ages were a time of largely stagnant Western societies. The source of this new view is in several books, including the one recommended here. Gimpel challenges the traditional view writing instead: “The Middle Ages introduced machinery into Europe on a scale no civilization had previously known.” He goes on to chronicle the ingenuity that architects, engineers, and other technicians devoted to innovations in agriculture, light industry, construction, and mining ̶ innovations that anticipated, and were often credited to, later figures of the Renaissance.

By Jean Gimpel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A close examination of the industrial life and institutions of the Middle Ages and of that inventiveness that laid the foundations for our present technologically oriented society


Book cover of Before European Hegemony: The World System AD 1250-1350

Mayssoun Sukarieh Author Of A Global Idea: Youth, City Networks, and the Struggle for the Arab World

From my list on cities and travelling ideas.

Why am I passionate about this?

My name is Mayssoun Sukarieh. I teach in London( King’s College) and I live in many places, physically at different times of the year, and mentally all the time. This made me fascinated on how ideas translate in different places according to contexts, and what people do with ideas they hear, create, or adopt. I am passionate about the study of power, whether studying elites- but in relation to their effects on other classes, or power of ideas and thoughts specifically ones that are connected to capitalism as an ideology.

Mayssoun's book list on cities and travelling ideas

Mayssoun Sukarieh Why did Mayssoun love this book?

In this important study, Abu-Lughod presents a groundbreaking reinterpretation of global economic evolution, arguing that the modern world economy had its roots not in the sixteenth century, as is widely supposed, but in the thirteenth-century economy—a system far different from the European world system which emerged from it.

Using the city as the working unit of analysis, Before European Hegemony provides a new paradigm for understanding the evolution of world systems by tracing the rise of a system that, at its peak in the opening decades of the 14th century, involved a vast region stretching between northwest Europe and China.

Writing in a clear and lively style, Abu-Lughod explores the reasons for the eventual decay of this system and the rise of European hegemony.

By Janet L. Abu-Lughod,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this important study, Janet Abu-Lughod presents a groundbreaking reinterpretation of global economic evolution and provides a new paradigm for understanding the evolution of world systems by tracing the rise of a system that, at its peak in the opening decades of the fourteenth century, involved a vast region stretching between northwest Europe and China. Writing in a clear and lively style, Abu-Lughod explores the reasons for the eventual decay of this system
and the rise of European hegemony. She concludes with a provocative analysis of our current world economy, suggesting that we may be moving towards a pluralistic world…


Book cover of Between Two Cultures: An Introduction to Economic History

Thomas D. Conlan Author Of Weapons & Fighting Techniques of the Samurai Warrior 1200-1877 AD

From my list on medieval European history to Japanese literature.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated with history in general, and the history of Japan, since I was in junior high when I read a book on the samurai. After attending summer school at Harvard in 1985, I resolved to devote myself to the study of Japan. Since then, I have studied at Michigan, Stanford, and Kyoto before teaching Japanese history at first Bowdoin College and now, Princeton University. Although I primarily research Japanese history, I find scholarship pertaining to medieval and early modern Europe to be fascinating as well. 

Thomas' book list on medieval European history to Japanese literature

Thomas D. Conlan Why did Thomas love this book?

Cipolla, a brilliant author, shows in this study how economic history and economic concepts can be used to study the past even when they did not exist at the time. Cipolla engagingly explains how economic concepts, even when unrecognized, can be useful tools of analysis. In order to demonstrate this principle, for example, he memorably explains how the clothes used to prevent plague in medieval Europe were effective for reasons totally different than contemporaries realized. Mistaken understandings could still lead to effective actions.  

By Carlo M. Cipolla, Christopher Woodall (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this wise and witty work, a world-renowned economic historian takes us behind the scenes to observe a small band of scholars reconstructing the past with the tools of economic analysis and the narrative power of the traditional historian.


Book cover of Making Money in the Early Middle Ages

David Woodman Author Of Edward the Confessor: The Sainted King

From my list on early medieval Britain.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an Associate Professor of medieval history at Robinson College in the University of Cambridge. One exciting aspect of research about early medieval Britain is that there is always more to discover and understand, whether from artefacts being uncovered in archaeological excavations (like the Staffordshire Hoard), or from manuscripts that languish in archives and libraries across Britain without a modern translation and commentary. The books on this list—which offer insights into different aspects of early British life—are some of those that have captivated me most over my years of reading.

David's book list on early medieval Britain

David Woodman Why did David love this book?

It is electrifying to handle a coin from the early medieval period.

A typical coin from late tenth-century England will be made of silver, will have the king’s name, title, and bust imprinted on one side, and the name of the moneyer and of the mint on the other. These details alone raise questions: how was the coin used and by how many people? Where was it accepted and what kind of goods could it buy?

Rory Naismith, a leading historian and numismatist, provides answers to these questions and illuminates the development of the coinage system from the fall of Rome in the fifth century right through to the twelfth century. And his focus is exceptionally broad, taking in much of north-western Europe. It is an invaluable account that transforms our understanding of how money was actually used in the early medieval period.   

By Rory Naismith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An examination of coined money and its significance to rulers, aristocrats and peasants in early medieval Europe

Between the end of the Roman Empire in the fifth century and the economic transformations of the twelfth, coined money in western Europe was scarce and high in value, difficult for the majority of the population to make use of. And yet, as Rory Naismith shows in this illuminating study, coined money was made and used throughout early medieval Europe. It was, he argues, a powerful tool for articulating people's place in economic and social structures and an important gauge for levels of…


Book cover of Women, Work, and Life Cycle in a Medieval Economy: Women in York and Yorkshire C.1300-1520

Candace Robb Author Of The Riverwoman's Dragon

From my list on medieval York.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been writing the Owen Archer mysteries, set in and around the city of York in the late 14th century, for 30 years, ever since falling in love with the city of York on a visit. As I studied medieval literature and culture in graduate school, with a special interest in Chaucer, I’ve focused my research on the period in which he lived. I’ve spent months walking the streets of the city, hiking through the countryside, and meeting with local historians. Besides the 13 Owen Archer mysteries I’ve also published 3 Kate Clifford mysteries covering Richard II’s downfall, both series grounded in the politics and culture of medieval York and Yorkshire. 

Candace's book list on medieval York

Candace Robb Why did Candace love this book?

A classic cited in every title on my list, Goldberg’s book provides a glimpse into the lives of women in the area, both rural and urban. The book grew out of the question, How far was marriage a necessity for medieval women? His focus is on women in the north, with its unique labor issues. To answer the question he examines the economy and how women participated in it, with an emphasis on the changes brought on by the decline in population after the Black Death in the later 14th century.

He covers tradeswomen, servants, prostitutes, farm laborers, with glimpses into the lives they led and how the different groups made choices about marriage. Women in York and Yorkshire chose to enter the workforce, often delaying marriage until it offered a clear advantage, and their economic independence offered them an advantage in making decisions about their future. Gives a…

By P.J.P. Goldberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women, Work, and Life Cycle in a Medieval Economy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is an innovative analysis of the relationship between women's economic opportunity and marriage in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It is based on an intensive study of York and Yorkshire, but also utilizes evidence from other parts of England and continental Europe.

P. J. P. Goldberg explores the role of women in the economy and the part that marriage played in their lives. Importantly, he challenges the Wrigley and Schofield thesis of nuptiality: his analysis of the demography of marriage demonstrates that in late medieval Yorkshire, women participated strongly in the labour force, deferring marriage or avoiding it entirely.…


Book cover of Gentry Culture in Late Medieval England

ffiona Perigrinor Author Of Life in a Medieval Gentry Household: Alice de Bryene of Acton Hall, Suffolk, C.1360-1435

From my list on medieval life and widows who prefer independence to remarriage.

Why am I passionate about this?

I didn’t enjoy my first degree in Modern History and Political Science and it took twenty-five years and another MA in Women’s History, Gender, and Society, before my enthusiasm was rekindled. I’ve always believed it’s important to know where we come from, as well as the history of our country, and I don’t just mean wars, laws, and politics – but the lives of ordinary people, men, women, and children, because finally, we discover that our hopes, aspirations, and challenges are not so very different to the people who lived 500 years ago. I’m also passionate about the reality of women’s lived experience in all periods of history.

ffiona's book list on medieval life and widows who prefer independence to remarriage

ffiona Perigrinor Why did ffiona love this book?

I found this study of gentry culture, with essays on political influence, education, social networks, religious activities, and the display of ‘gentility,’ a useful guide to a social class that was evolving in the period of my research. It also helped me understand why Dame Alice was so successful in running her own household and did not remarry – she was secure in the knowledge that she could exercise power and influence as an independent woman. Many of the other books I read about medieval households focused on the aristocracy, their sumptuous lifestyles, lavish entertainment, ostentatious festivities, opulent recreations, and itinerant households, but were not relevant to the subject of my book about a sedentary fifty-year-old widowed gentlewoman running her estates and giving hospitality to her neighbours and agricultural workers.

By Raluca Radulescu (editor), Alison Truelove (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gentry Culture in Late Medieval England as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Essays in this fascinating and important collection examine the lifestyles and attitudes of the gentry in late medieval England. They consider the emergence of the gentry as a group distinct from the nobility, and explore the various available routes to gentility. Through surveys of the gentry's military background, administrative and political roles, social behaviour, and education, the reader is provided with an overview of how the group's culture evolved, and how it was disseminated. Studies of the gentry's literacy, creation and use of literature, cultural networks, religious activities and their experiences of music and the visual arts more directly address…


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