100 books like The Autumn of the Middle Ages

By Johan Huizinga, Rodney J. Payton (translator), Ulrich Mammitzsch (translator)

Here are 100 books that The Autumn of the Middle Ages fans have personally recommended if you like The Autumn of 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 Feudal Society

Mark Koyama Author Of How the World Became Rich: The Historical Origins of Economic Growth

From my list on politics and economics in preindustrial societies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've always been fascinated with history. The study of economic history allows me to combine my passion for understanding the past with a rigorous and systematic set of analytical tools. In my own work I'm interested in understanding the economic, political, and institutional transformations that have created the modern world. The books I've selected here help us better understand quite how different the past and they have proven to be invaluable to me as inspirations. 

Mark's book list on politics and economics in preindustrial societies

Mark Koyama Why did Mark love this book?

Marc Bloch was one of the greatest historians of the 20th century. He was also hero of the French Resistance, tortured and executed by the notorious Nazi Klaus Barbie. Feudal Society (2 volumes) is perhaps his best book. 

It is often said that the past is a foreign country, and it is true that the world of the Middle Ages is alien to us in many respects. What Bloch does is to provide a systematic examination of all aspects of that world, that is he examines it it from a legal, a sociological, an anthropological, an economic, and a political perspective. 

In so doing, he paints a remarkable portrait of a coherent, self-contained society. The economy was basic, laws and politics were personalized, but it was a social and political order that made sense in its own terms. More recent historians have criticized specific aspects of Bloch's vision of feudalism…

By Marc Bloch,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Feudal Society as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Marc Bloch said that his goal in writing Feudal Society was to go beyond the technical study a medievalist would typically write and 'dismantle a social structure.' In this outstanding and monumental work, which has introduced generations of students and historians to the feudal period, Bloch treats feudalism as living, breathing force in Western Europe from the ninth to the thirteenth century. At its heart lies a magisterial account of relations of lord and vassal, and the origins of the nature of the fief, brought to life through compelling accounts of the nobility, knighthood and chivalry, family relations, political and…


Book cover of The Making of the Middle Ages

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?

This was the first book to open my eyes to the strangeness and sophistication of medieval life. To an English reader, its focus on the European Middle Ages is revelatory, as is its concentration on writers and travellers rather than kings and knights. At the time he wrote the book, the brilliant Richard Southern was hospitalized with tuberculosis. The book seems to be a distillation of a lifelong passion, which, fortunately, he was able to pursue for another four decades.

By R.W. Southern,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Making of the Middle Ages as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A distinguished Oxford historian presents an absorbing study of the main personalities and the influences that molded the history of Western Europe from the late tenth to the early thirteenth century, describing the chief forms of social, political, and religious organization.
"A book of rare value."-Sidney Painter, American Historical Review


Book cover of Sainthood in the Later Middle Ages

Robert Bartlett Author Of Blood Royal: Dynastic Politics in Medieval Europe

From my list on a look at medieval Europe as a whole.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have had an interest in the Middle Ages as long as I can remember. In boyhood, this took the form of model knights, trips to castles, and a huge body of writing about an imaginary medieval country called Rulasia. Later it was disciplined by the study of the real medieval world, in particular by finding an ideal subject for my doctoral dissertation in Gerald of Wales, a prolific and cantankerous twelfth-century cleric, whose writings on Ireland and Wales, on saints and miracles, and on the Angevin kings (Henry II, Richard the Lionheart and John), were the ultimate inspiration for my own books on medieval colonialism, the cult of the saints and medieval dynasties.

Robert's book list on a look at medieval Europe as a whole

Robert Bartlett Why did Robert love this book?

One of the most exciting areas of research and publication in medieval history over the last few generations has been the cult of the saints. A landmark was Peter Brown’s slim but fundamental The Cult of the Saints (1981), an effervescent essay on the origins of the veneration of saints in the Late Antique period. In the same year a very different book appeared, the French original of Vauchez’s enormous and comprehensive study of Christian saints in Latin (western) Christendom, the heart of which was an analysis of the 71 people who were proposed for papal canonization in the period 1198-1431 (only half of them made it). By limiting himself in this way, Vauchez was able to ask statistical questions, demonstrating that as time went on, canonized saints became more female and more lay, as well as pointing out the geography and chronology of sanctity. A monumental achievement.

By André Vauchez, Jean Birrell (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a standard work of reference for the study of the religious history of western Christianity in the later middle ages which, since its original publication in French in 1981, has come to be regarded as one of the great contributions to medieval studies of recent times. Hagiographical texts and reports of the processes of canonisation - a mode of investigation into saints' lives and their miracles implemented by the popes from the end of the twelfth century - are here used for the first time as major source materials. The book illuminates the main features of the medieval…


Book cover of Kingdoms and Communities in Western Europe 900-1300

Robert Bartlett Author Of Blood Royal: Dynastic Politics in Medieval Europe

From my list on a look at medieval Europe as a whole.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have had an interest in the Middle Ages as long as I can remember. In boyhood, this took the form of model knights, trips to castles, and a huge body of writing about an imaginary medieval country called Rulasia. Later it was disciplined by the study of the real medieval world, in particular by finding an ideal subject for my doctoral dissertation in Gerald of Wales, a prolific and cantankerous twelfth-century cleric, whose writings on Ireland and Wales, on saints and miracles, and on the Angevin kings (Henry II, Richard the Lionheart and John), were the ultimate inspiration for my own books on medieval colonialism, the cult of the saints and medieval dynasties.

Robert's book list on a look at medieval Europe as a whole

Robert Bartlett Why did Robert love this book?

Susan Reynolds was renowned for speaking her mind, never rudely but always forthrightly. If she considered that a generally accepted view or term was wrong or misleading or ill-defined, she said so. In a later work of hers, Fiefs and Vassals, she questioned the very value of the term “feudalism” when analyzing the Middle Ages. In Kingdoms and Communities, a rather less polemical work, she argued for the importance of self-organizing lay communities (parishes, guilds, even “the community of the realm”) as contrasted with the traditional focus on kings and the Church. Susan was in the line of a long tradition of female medievalists at Oxford and Cambridge, going back even before female students were allowed to take degrees. Eileen Power (1889-1940), author of Medieval People (1924, still in print) would be a precursor.

By Susan Reynolds,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kingdoms and Communities in Western Europe 900-1300 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This study is an exploration of the collective values and activities of lay society in Western Europe between the tenth century and the thirteenth. Arguing that medieval attitudes and behaviour have too readily been defined in terms of hierarchical structures of government, clerical thought, or narrow notion of kinship, the author instead places new emphasis on the horizontal bonds of collective association which permeated society in medieval England, France and
Burgundy, Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy.
By refocusing on the social and political values that characterized lay collective activity, this book offers a stimulating new approach to the history of…


Book cover of The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age

Geoffrey Parker Author Of Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century

From my list on the 17th Century.

Why am I passionate about this?

I teach history at The Ohio State University. This project began when I listened in 1976 to a radio broadcast in which Jack Eddy, a solar physicist, speculated that a notable absence of sunspots in the period 1645-1715 contributed to the “Little Ice Age”: the longest and most severe episode of global cooling recorded in the last 12,000 years. The Little Ice Age coincided with a wave of wars and revolution around the Northern Hemisphere, from the overthrow of the Ming dynasty in China to the beheading of Charles I in England. I spent the next 35 years exploring how the connections between natural and human events created a fatal synergy that produced human mortality on a scale seldom seen before – and never since.

Geoffrey's book list on the 17th Century

Geoffrey Parker Why did Geoffrey love this book?

I first met Simon Schama in 1963, when he joined me as an undergraduate reading History at Christ’s College Cambridge. Both of us decided to undertake research on the Low Countries, but in an international context: in my case, Spain and the Netherlands between 1550 and 1650; in Simon’s case, France and the Netherlands between 1770 and 1815, leading to his brilliant first book, Patriots and Liberators (a study of what the expansion of Revolutionary France meant for an occupied country.) This led him to analyse the social and cultural history of the country before occupation, using visual as well as written sources to recreate the mental state of a complex society. The embarrassment of Riches tells of bloody uprisings and beached whales, of the cult of hygiene and the plague of tobacco, of thrifty housewives and profligate tulip-speculators. It shows how the Dutch celebrated themselves and how they were…

By Simon Schama,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the book that made Simon Schama's reputation when first published in 1987. A historical masterpiece, it is an epic account of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age of Rembrandt and van Diemen.

In this brilliant work that moves far beyond the conventions of social or cultural history, Simon Schama investigates the astonishing case of a people's self-invention.

He shows how, in the 17th-century, a modest assortment of farming, fishing and shipping communities, without a shared language, religion or government, transformed themselves into a formidable world empire - the Dutch republic.


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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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 Book of Chivalry of Geoffroi de Charny: Text, Context, and Translation

David Green Author Of The Hundred Years War: A People's History

From my list on the late medieval crisis: war and plague in Britain and France.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was drawn into the study of medieval history through an interest in chivalry and this led to a PhD and various publications on the career and household of Edward the Black Prince (1330-76). He lived through the heart of what’s become known as the late medieval crisis: a period which many contemporaries thought was a prelude to the apocalypse. I’ve been teaching and writing about this period for more than 20 years now and remain fascinated by the contrasts between creativity and utter devastation that characterise the later middle ages.

David's book list on the late medieval crisis: war and plague in Britain and France

David Green Why did David love this book?

Often said to have been in decline in the later middle ages, this treatise, by a French knight, written for King John II’s Company of the Star, shows that chivalry, although under great pressure, remained a hugely powerful ethos which continued to shape aristocratic life in the fourteenth century. The work details the trials and travails of a life in arms and the ‘worth’ of various military enterprises. Rather poignantly, Charny died at the battle of Poitiers (1356) while bearing the Oriflamme, the French banner.

By Richard W. Kaeuper (editor), Elspeth Kennedy (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Book of Chivalry of Geoffroi de Charny as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Book of Chivalry is the most pragmatic of all surviving chivalric manuals. Written at the height of the Hundred Years War, it includes the essential commonplaces of knighthood in the mid-fourteenth century and gives a close-up view of what one knight in particular absorbed of the medieval world of ideas around him, what he rejected or ignored, and what he added from his experience in camp, court, and campaign.
Geoffroi de Charny was one of the quintessential figures of his age, with honors and praise bestowed upon him from both sides of the English Channel. He prepared the Book…


Book cover of Faring to France on a Shoe

Beth Haslam Author Of Fat Dogs and French Estates, Part 1

From my list on set in France to inspire and excite the imagination.

Why am I passionate about this?

My love affair with France began years ago with a holiday to St Malo. Since then, it’s been hard to stay away. Luckily, my husband felt the same way and eventually, we decided to buy a country estate in the rural southwest. Today, I write about our wacky lives here, how we refurbished our home and came to live with so many animals. We’re immersed in a quirky farming community that lives in harmony with the seasons. Honestly? Nothing much has altered for the past thirty years. It’s magical. Oh, and when we have time, we’ll explore our locality. We still have so much here to discover.

Beth's book list on set in France to inspire and excite the imagination

Beth Haslam Why did Beth love this book?

We live close to the Canal du Midi and regularly enjoy blissful dog walks on the towpath. Spotting this memoir about faring to France immediately piqued my interest. 

The author’s colourful descriptions gently transported me to her watery world. Through Val’s narrative, I admired the scenery, both industrial and pastoral, and I could almost hear the wavelets lapping against the bows of her beloved barge, the Hennie H. 

Throughout Val and her partner’s trip, the reader is given fascinating history snippets. And, as with all great writers, there’s drama and fun, too. Val made me giggle, especially with her vignettes about their simple living arrangements aboard.  

This book contains both humour and depth, it is a celebration of this author’s excellent writing.

By Valerie Poore,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Faring to France on a Shoe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A travelogue about a dream come true. After seven years of owning their barge, Hennie-Ha, seven years involving catastrophe and crisis, Val and her partner finally go 'faring' to France for the first time. This travelogue is about the places they visit and the people they meet along the canals on their route from the Netherlands, through Belgium and into northern France. It tells a gentle story about how they experience their life on board during the four weeks they spend cruising. Written as a journal, the reader joins them on their travels through rain and shine and reveals how…


Book cover of Lions Roaring Far From Home: An Anthology by Ethiopian Adoptees

Carol LaHines Author Of Distant Flickers: Stories of Identity & Loss

From my list on themed anthologies.

Why am I passionate about this?

The anthology form unites diverse voices around a common theme—in the case of Distant Flickers, identity and loss. The stories in the anthology explore intense personal relationships—of mother and child, old lovers, etc. Some of the stories are in the moment and some recounted with the perspective of time, some are fable-like, some formal, and others more colloquial. Reading them the reader is struck by the variety of approaches a writer might take to a subject. The device of the contributor’s notes enables the reader to see the story behind the story and how life informs art—life furnishing the raw material or day residue of the story.  

Carol's book list on themed anthologies

Carol LaHines Why did Carol love this book?

The prevailing narrative regarding adoption, at least in the U.S., is crafted by adoption professionals and adoptive parents and largely overlooks the experiences of the parties directly impacted—the adoptees themselves. As an adoptee—one who undertook a search for and was reunited with my first family, reassuming the name I was given at birth—I am always on the lookout for the work of other adoptees. Only we truly understand what it is like to be “split” between two families, to lose our roots and culture, and—perhaps most devastating—not to have our losses acknowledged. These stories, by Ethiopian adoptees, challenge traditional narratives that cast adoption as a benevolent practice, revealing the racist, classist, and colonialist roots that give rise to the modern institution. The stories speak to themes of displacement, bewilderment, and what it is like to grow up estranged from one’s culture, identity, and roots.

By Aselefech Evans (editor), Kassaye Berhanu-MacDonald (editor), Maureen McCauley (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lions Roaring Far From Home as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lions Roaring Far From Home: An Anthology by Ethiopian Adoptees includes the essays and poems of 33 writers, ages 8 to over 50, raised in six countries (the US, Canada, Sweden, France, the Netherlands, and Australia). It is the first ever anthology by Ethiopian adoptees.

This anthology shares Ethiopian adoptees’ wide range of experiences, from childhood into adulthood, through the voices of the adoptees themselves. There is more than one mention of grief, confusion, and loss. The writers also talk about their strengths, hopes, happiness, and love for family. Along with sadness and anger, there is also compassion, grace, and…


Book cover of Paris: The Biography of a City

Katrina Lawrence Author Of Paris Dreaming: What the City of Light Taught Me About Life, Love & Lipstick

From my list on the history of Paris (and Parisians).

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been obsessed with Paris since the age of five. For most of my life I’ve travelled there regularly and read every book on the subject I could find. After working as a beauty editor, I decided to try to make my passion my day job. That inspired me to write Paris Dreaming: What the City of Light Taught Me About Life, Love & Lipstick, and launch a travel consultancy business, Paris for Dreamers. I work with like-minded lovers of Paris, who constantly yearn for the city’s beguiling beauty and fascinating history, and who are always planning their next trip—or visiting Paris virtually, through the pages of a book!

Katrina's book list on the history of Paris (and Parisians)

Katrina Lawrence Why did Katrina love this book?

If you’re new to the history of Paris, this is an ideal book to start with. It’s a sweeping account of this fabled city’s story, from Roman times to the turn of the twenty-first century, but while lofty in aim it’s charmingly fun to read, the author being adept at packaging wide-ranging information into a fast-paced narrative. One neat feature is the way Jones highlights certain Parisians or Paris locations, giving them breakout sections that allow readers to delve deeper into the likes of Madame de Sévigné, Rose Bertin, and Josephine Baker. You realise that Paris is so much more than the sum of its stones. Yes, it’s about beautiful monuments, but just as much about the people who have breathed such life into Paris that their spirit lives on to this day.

By Colin Jones,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Paris as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the Roman Emperor Julian, who waxed rhapsodic about Parisian wine and figs, to Henry Miller, who relished its seductive bohemia, Paris has been a perennial source of fascination for 2,000 years. In this definitive and illuminating history, Colin Jones walks us through the city that was a plague-infested charnel house during the Middle Ages, the bloody epicenter of the French Revolution, the muse of nineteenth-century Impressionist painters, and much more. Jones's masterful narrative is enhanced by numerous photographs and feature boxes-on the Bastille or Josephine Baker, for instance-that complete a colorful and comprehensive portrait of a place that has…


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Interested in France, medieval society, and the Netherlands?

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