100 books like Seeing Justice Done

By Paul Friedland,

Here are 100 books that Seeing Justice Done fans have personally recommended if you like Seeing Justice Done. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century

Una McIlvenna Author Of Singing the News of Death: Execution Ballads in Europe 1500-1900

From my list on the history of capital punishment.

Who am I?

When I started researching the history of early modern public execution, I read a few eyewitness accounts in which people behaved so strangely that I realised I understood nothing about the realities of this once-common historical practice. By reading the books on this list, I quickly discovered that the ceremony of capital punishment was a performance in which the entire community participated, filled with rituals and behaviours that had enormous emotional and spiritual significance for everyone involved, not just the ‘poor sinner’ on the scaffold. I also discovered that music and singing were crucial parts of the performance, with ballads being sung about the event for years afterwards. 

Una's book list on the history of capital punishment

Una McIlvenna Why did Una love this book?

What must it have been like to be an executioner? In this detailed and moving study, Harrington explores the extraordinary diary of Meister Franz Schmidt, the 16th-century executioner of Nuremberg, who kept notes on every one of the 394 people he executed, as well as the countless others he tortured, whipped, and disfigured according to the law's demands. This book is therefore essential for understanding exactly how this mysterious craft was carried out, but the surprising twist in the tale is how Schmidt spent his entire life seeking to have his family's honour restored in a period when executioners were believed to be able to ritually 'pollute' another human simply by touch. Harrington's real achievement here is explaining how dishonour was the central force within public punishment—something we too easily forget today.

By Joel F. Harrington,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In a dusty German bookshop, the noted historian Joel F. Harrington stumbled upon a remarkable document: the journal of a sixteenth-century executioner. The journal gave an account of the 394 people Meister Frantz Schmidt executed, and the hundreds more he tortured, flogged, or disfigured for more than forty-five years in the city of Nuremberg. But the portrait of Schmidt that gradually emerged was not that of a monster. Could a man who practiced such cruelty also be insightful, compassionate - even progressive?

In The Faithful Executioner, Harrington teases out the hidden meanings and drama of Schmidt's journal. Deemed an official…


Book cover of The Art of Executing Well: Rituals of Execution in Renaissance Italy

Una McIlvenna Author Of Singing the News of Death: Execution Ballads in Europe 1500-1900

From my list on the history of capital punishment.

Who am I?

When I started researching the history of early modern public execution, I read a few eyewitness accounts in which people behaved so strangely that I realised I understood nothing about the realities of this once-common historical practice. By reading the books on this list, I quickly discovered that the ceremony of capital punishment was a performance in which the entire community participated, filled with rituals and behaviours that had enormous emotional and spiritual significance for everyone involved, not just the ‘poor sinner’ on the scaffold. I also discovered that music and singing were crucial parts of the performance, with ballads being sung about the event for years afterwards. 

Una's book list on the history of capital punishment

Una McIlvenna Why did Una love this book?

It’s not often I’m moved to tears by an academic book, but this book did it for me by putting me in the shoes of a Florentine patrician trying to comfort his friend the night before his execution. The main historical source of the book is an extraordinary ‘how-to’ manual: the one used by the ‘comforting confraternities’ of 16th-century Bologna, men who volunteered to spiritually prepare condemned criminals for their final moments on earth and, in so doing, hopefully increase their chances of salvation. The book explains the various methods and tools that the comforter could use, including prayers, songs, and pictures, and reveals the complex rituals of execution that began long before the prisoner’s arrival at the scaffold. A moving account of the realities of historical capital punishment.

By Nicholas Terpstra (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Renaissance Italy a good execution was both public and peaceful―at least in the eyes of authorities. In a feature unique to Italy, the people who prepared a condemned man or woman spiritually and psychologically for execution were not priests or friars, but laymen. This volume includes some of the songs, stories, poems, and images that they used, together with first-person accounts and ballads describing particular executions. Leading scholars expand on these accounts explaining aspects of the theater, psychology, and politics of execution.

The main text is a manual, translated in English for the first time, on how to comfort…


Book cover of Tyburn's Martyrs: Execution in England, 1675-1775

Una McIlvenna Author Of Singing the News of Death: Execution Ballads in Europe 1500-1900

From my list on the history of capital punishment.

Who am I?

When I started researching the history of early modern public execution, I read a few eyewitness accounts in which people behaved so strangely that I realised I understood nothing about the realities of this once-common historical practice. By reading the books on this list, I quickly discovered that the ceremony of capital punishment was a performance in which the entire community participated, filled with rituals and behaviours that had enormous emotional and spiritual significance for everyone involved, not just the ‘poor sinner’ on the scaffold. I also discovered that music and singing were crucial parts of the performance, with ballads being sung about the event for years afterwards. 

Una's book list on the history of capital punishment

Una McIlvenna Why did Una love this book?

McKenzie looks at the extraordinary phenomenon of the 'last dying speech' that condemned prisoners in Britain got to give from the scaffold. In particular, she explores events at Tyburn, London's most notorious execution site, in the 18th century, exploring how this period saw an explosion of printed literature that featured the criminal as an Everyman from whom everyone could learn a harsh lesson in morality. It's a fantastic exploration of the reality of the gallows versus what one could read in print: from the 'game' highwayman who refused to bow to society's expectations to the fearful, trembling prisoner who begged for mercy. Totally fascinating. 

By Andrea McKenzie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tyburn's Martyrs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The public execution at Tyburn is one of the most evocative and familiar of all eighteenth-century images. Whether it elicits horror or prurient fascination - or both - the Tyburn hanging day has become synonymous with the brutality of a bygone age and a legal system which valued property over human life.But, as this fascinating cultural and social history of the gallows reveals, the early modern execution was far more than just a debased spectator sport. The period between the Restoration and the American Revolution witnessed the rise and fall of a vast body of execution literature - last dying…


Book cover of The Thief, the Cross and the Wheel: Pain and the Spectacle of Punishment in Medieval and Renaissance Europe

Una McIlvenna Author Of Singing the News of Death: Execution Ballads in Europe 1500-1900

From my list on the history of capital punishment.

Who am I?

When I started researching the history of early modern public execution, I read a few eyewitness accounts in which people behaved so strangely that I realised I understood nothing about the realities of this once-common historical practice. By reading the books on this list, I quickly discovered that the ceremony of capital punishment was a performance in which the entire community participated, filled with rituals and behaviours that had enormous emotional and spiritual significance for everyone involved, not just the ‘poor sinner’ on the scaffold. I also discovered that music and singing were crucial parts of the performance, with ballads being sung about the event for years afterwards. 

Una's book list on the history of capital punishment

Una McIlvenna Why did Una love this book?

An art history book might not seem like the most obvious choice for a list like this, but this one is a revelation: we often forget that Crucifixion paintings are scenes of capital punishment. Merback looks at crucifixion images of northern European masters of the late medieval and early modern period, and reveals that the often mangled positions of the limbs of the two thieves on either side of Christ are depictions of the kinds of mutilations that spectators regularly witnessed on the bodies of those broken on the wheel (where the limbs were smashed and then 'woven' through the spokes of a cartwheel - no, really). This study is important not only for understanding the physical practices of execution on the Continent, but also for exploring the profound religious significance of the entire execution ritual. 

By Mitchell B. Merback,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Thief, the Cross and the Wheel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This text reconstructs the religious, legal and historical context of the Crucifixion and of other images of public torture. The result is an account of a time when criminal justice and religion were entirely interrelated and punishment was a visual spectacle devoured by a popular audience. Mitchell Merback compares the images of Christ's Crucifixion with those of the two thieves who met their fate beside Jesus. In paintings by well-known Northern European masters and provincial painters alike, Merback finds the two thieves subjected to incredible cruelty, cruelty that artists could not depict in their scenes of Christ's Crucifixion because of…


Book cover of The Ebony Tower

Rosalind Brackenbury Author Of The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier

From my list on set in France with themes to match.

Who am I?

I’m fascinated by these themes – love, France, mystery, women’s lives, war, and peace. My parents took me to France when I was 12 and I’ve spent years there in between and go back whenever I can. I started reading in French when sent to be an au pair in Switzerland when I was 17. My own novel, The Lost Love Letters Of Henri Fournier was absorbing to write as it contains all of the above. I found an unpublished novel of Fournier’s in a village in rural France a few years ago and decided I had to write about him and his lover, Pauline, who was a famous French actress. 

Rosalind's book list on set in France with themes to match

Rosalind Brackenbury Why did Rosalind love this book?

Another story that's impossible to forget – actually this is a novella in a collection of stories with this name. Again, about a lost house in a forest in France, an artist, a young man in love, and the two young women who bewitch him in turns. John Fowles is an English writer from the 1960s, whose work I loved when young and still do. He was much influenced by Alain-Fournier.

By John Fowles,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Ebony Tower, comprising a novella, three stories, and a translation of a medieval French tale, echoes themes from John Fowles's internationally celebrated novels as it probes the fitful relations between love and hate, pleasure and pain, fantasy and reality.


Book cover of The Waning of the Middle Ages: A Study of the Forms of Life, Thought and Art in France and The Netherlands in the XIVth and XVth Centuries

Tania Bayard Author Of In The Presence of Evil

From my list on a remarkable medieval woman, Christine de Pizan.

Who am I?

I am an art historian and a horticulturist, specializing in the art, architecture, and gardens of the Middle Ages, and I’ve published a number of books on these subjects. But I’ve always loved mystery stories, and I dreamed of writing one of my own. When I discovered Christine de Pizan, an extraordinary personage who defied all the stereotypes about medieval women, I decided to write a series of mystery novels featuring her as the sleuth.

Tania's book list on a remarkable medieval woman, Christine de Pizan

Tania Bayard Why did Tania love this book?

I love this classic study in which Huizinga vividly portrays the colorful era in which my heroin, Christine de Pizan, lived. Huizinga shows that late medieval society was full of striking contradictions, among them chivalry vs cruelty, courtly love vs vengeance, blissful visions of heaven vs horrific visions of Hell. 

By Johan Huizinga,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Waning of the Middle Ages as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“To the world when it was half a thousand years younger,” Huizinga begins, “the outline of all things seemed more clearly marked than to us.” Life seemed to consist in extremes—a fierce religious asceticism and an unrestrained licentiousness, ferocious judicial punishments and great popular waves of pity and mercy, the most horrible crimes and the most extravagant acts of saintliness—and everywhere a sea of tears, for men have never wept so unrestrainedly as in those centuries.

First published in 1924, this brilliant portrait of the life, thought, and art in France and the Netherlands in the 14th and 15th centuries…


Book cover of The Cloistered Lady

Lee Swanson Author Of Her Dangerous Journey Home

From my list on medieval fiction with fierce female protagonists.

Who am I?

My first recollection of a fascination with medieval history occurred while watching Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood. I soon exhausted our school library’s limited selection of tales of kings and castles. Much later, a history degree and decades spent in Germany and England allowed me to delve deeply into historical research, gaining a specialized knowledge into the areas in which I was most interested. I am particularly fascinated with the lives of women, most of whom medieval chroniclers relegate to a brief mention as wives and mothers. There are clearly stories here yet to be told and I am always excited to learn of new scholarship.

Lee's book list on medieval fiction with fierce female protagonists

Lee Swanson Why did Lee love this book?

Eleanor of Aquitaine is certainly one of the most formidable women of the Middle Ages; not just because she was queen to two kings, but because she had the courage to openly defy them both.

Consequently, I raced to order Coirle Mooney’s first novel in her The Medieval Ladies series, followed quickly by the second, The Cloistered Lady. I absolutely love the author’s ability to craft vivid descriptions of time and place, especially the uncommon setting of the nunnery at Fontrevault. Joanna, Queen Eleanor’s lady-in-waiting, is a delightfully complex character.

Like Christina Kohl in my series, she is wonderfully human; but her fears and shortcomings are balanced out by her sometimes-surprising strength and compassion. I enjoyed all three novels in the series, but this one most of all.

By Coirle Mooney,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An enchanting historical drama set in Medieval France! For fans of Philippa Gregory, Elizabeth Chadwick, Carol McGrath and Anne O’Brien.

Joanna and Alice are forced from dazzling court life to bleak confinement…

1173, France

Eleanor of Aquitaine has been arrested for rebelling against her husband, King Henry II of England.

Her loyal ladies-in-waiting, Alice and Joanna of Agen have fled to the nunnery at Fontrevault, where they are anxiously awaiting news of their queen.

Alice and Joanna struggle to adapt to their cramped new home at the Abbey. Each is secretly nursing a broken heart – and harbouring unholy desires.…


Book cover of French Wine: A History

Mack P. Holt Author Of The Politics of Wine in Early Modern France: Religion and Popular Culture in Burgundy, 1477-1630

From my list on French wine, history, and culture.

Who am I?

I knew nothing about wine and drank it only rarely until I went to Paris as a graduate student in the 1970s. Even then, I couldn’t afford more than basic plonk. It was not until I started doing research in Dijon every summer in the 1980s, making great friends in the process, eating and drinking at their dining tables, and visiting their favorite vignerons with them for dégustations, that I began to appreciate wine, not just as a fantastic beverage, but as a social and cultural creator. And as a historian, I appreciate that drinking wine that comes from vineyards planted in the Middle Ages connects us with our ancestors in the past.

Mack's book list on French wine, history, and culture

Mack P. Holt Why did Mack love this book?

This is the best general survey of French wine in English, from someone who not only teaches the history of modern France at his local university, but who also reviews and writes about wine for his city’s newspaper. As both an academic historian and a journalist, Phillips has written a riveting account of how wine was first introduced to France under the Romans, how many of the vineyards later came under the control of the Catholic church in the Middle Ages, how the French state attempted to control and regulate the production of wine in the nineteenth-century, and how smaller wineries are now trying to cope with the global commercialization of the wine industry. Just a great primer on French wine.

By Rod Phillips,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For centuries, wine has been associated with France more than with any other country. France remains one of the world's leading wine producers by volume and enjoys unrivalled cultural recognition for its wine. If any wine regions are global household names, they are French regions such as Champagne, Bordeaux, and Burgundy. Within the wine world, products from French regions are still benchmarks for many wines. French Wine is the first synthetic history of wine in France: from Etruscan, Greek, and Roman imports and the adoption of wine by beer-drinking Gauls to its present status within the global marketplace. Rod Phillips…


Book cover of Queens, Concubines, and Dowagers: The King's Wife in the Early Middle Ages

Miriam Shadis Author Of Berenguela of Castile (1180-1246) and Political Women in the High Middle Ages

From my list on medieval women’s history.

Who am I?

I am a historian of medieval women, especially women in the Iberian peninsula, and royal women. I became interested in Berenguela of Castile through studying her sister, Blanche, who was queen and regent of France. I learned about Blanche through studying Cistercian architecture – I remain really interested in material culture, memorialization, interpersonal relationships (like motherhood!), and political life in the medieval world, all of which I study primarily through the lens of gender. I still turn to these classic, foundational works on medieval women when I want to teach students how the field developed, and when I want to understand essential premises about Iberia, motherhood, religion, queenship, and historiography. 

Miriam's book list on medieval women’s history

Miriam Shadis Why did Miriam love this book?

Last, but certainly not least, Queens, Concubines, and Dowagers was a book that helped formed the field of queenship studies, now a booming industry. Stafford teaches us how to think about the meaning of queenship, the sources and limits of the queen’s power, and the evolution of her office; she tells the stories of a number of remarkable early medieval women along the way in what is now England, France, and Germany. Deeply influential for me as I sought ways to think about queenship in later periods, this book remains widely available, accessible, and influential.

By Pauline Stafford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A biography of the queens and royal bedfellows of the 6th to the 11th centuries, providing an assessment of their political importance and the many factors that affected their personal lives.


Book cover of The World of Orderic Vitalis

Charity L. Urbanski Author Of Writing History for the King: Henry II and the Politics of Vernacular Historiography

From my list on medieval historians and history writing.

Who am I?

I’m a historian of medieval Europe who specializes in twelfth-century England and France. I’ve been fascinated with history since childhood and distinctly remember being obsessed with a book on English monarchs in my mom’s bookcase when I was young. In college, I took a class on Medieval England with a professor whose enthusiasm for the subject, along with the sheer strangeness of the medieval world, hooked me. I’ve been exploring medieval Europe ever since, and deepening my understanding of how our own world came into being in the process. 

Charity's book list on medieval historians and history writing

Charity L. Urbanski Why did Charity love this book?

Chibnall was a fantastic writer, and she was the authority on Orderic Vitalis, one of the most important historians of the early twelfth century.

I love this book because Chibnall uses Orderic’s history to explore the world he wrote in, a world in which monks mingled with knights and kings, and she examines the rapid social changes taking place in the early twelfth century. This book is at once an examination of Orderic’s work, a biography of a famous chronicler, and an exploration of Anglo-Norman society in the early twelfth century.

It’s a fantastic place to start if you’ve never read anything on Anglo-Norman England, and it’s a great way to deepen your knowledge if you’re already familiar with this corner of the past.

By Marjorie Chibnall,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Monastic life, the royal courts and Norman nobility as depicted by Orderic's medieval chronicle.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in France, capital punishment, and the Middle Ages?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about France, capital punishment, and the Middle Ages.

France Explore 856 books about France
Capital Punishment Explore 22 books about capital punishment
The Middle Ages Explore 401 books about the Middle Ages