The most recommended books on Medieval warfare

Who picked these books? Meet our 7 experts.

7 authors created a book list connected to Medieval warfare, and here are their favorite Medieval warfare books.
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Book cover of The Tale of the Heike

Stephen Morillo Author Of War and Conflict in the Middle Ages: A Global Perspective.

From my list on about medieval warfare globally.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with medieval military history in high school, and have been studying and writing about it as an undergraduate at Harvard, as a graduate student at Oxford, and as a professor of history ever since, eventually bringing the comparative methods and urge to generalize of a world historian to the task. I’ve written ten books and numerous articles. Good history gives me the thrill of time travel without the risk of the bubonic plague, and it has spawned related interests in sword and sorcery fantasy lit and wargaming, alongside my interests in painting, cartooning, and cooking the food of my native New Orleans. My motto: Have fun!

Stephen's book list on about medieval warfare globally

Stephen Morillo Why did Stephen love this book?

So if you want to get away from academic historians and go straight to the sources, this is a great place to start. The Tale of the Heike is the epic story, developed over centuries by Japanese storytellers, of the great war between the Taira clan and the Minamoto clan for dominance in Japan in the Genpei War of 1180-1185, the war from which emerged the first samurai-centered government in Japanese history, the Kamakura. Full of colorful characters, dramatic battle scenes, and betrayal-soaked politics, it gives an authentic window onto medieval warfare.

By Helen Craig McCullough (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Tale of the Heike is one of the masterworks of Japanese literature, ranking with The Tal of Genji in quality and prestige. This new translation is not only far more readable than earlier ones, it is also much more faithful to the content and style of the original. Intended for the general audience as well as the specialist, this edition is highly annotated.


Book cover of The Last Great War of Antiquity

David Alan Parnell Author Of Belisarius & Antonina: Love and War in the Age of Justinian

From my list on introducing yourself to the early Byzantine Empire.

Why am I passionate about this?

Many students are still taught that the Roman Empire ended in 476 AD. To the contrary, the Roman Empire survived and flourished through the Middle Ages up to the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. The Roman state was incredibly long-lived and resilient. Modern historians often call its medieval incarnation the Byzantine Empire. I have devoted my professional life to studying these medieval Romans (or Byzantines) and to telling others about them. I teach courses at my university, write books, consult for documentaries, appear on podcasts, and engage on Twitter. The early Byzantine period was a time of both continuity and immense change and I find it endlessly fascinating.

David's book list on introducing yourself to the early Byzantine Empire

David Alan Parnell Why did David love this book?

Between 602 and 628 AD, the Byzantine Empire fought a long and grueling war with their neighbors and rivals to the east, the Sassanian Persian Empire.

The Byzantines were on the back foot for most of the war and lost a majority of their territory to the Persian onslaught. But at the eleventh hour, the emperor Heraclius led a daring counterattack deep into the Persian heartland. This is the best and most comprehensive account of one of the most dramatic wars of the entire early Byzantine period.

Howard-Johnston makes brilliant use of difficult and scattered sources to tell the story. His account of the war showcases the resilience of Byzantine institutions. I couldn’t put it down.

By James Howard-Johnston,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Last Great War of Antiquity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The last and longest war of classical antiquity was fought in the early seventh century. It was ideologically charged and fought along the full length of the Persian-Roman frontier, drawing in all the available resources and great powers of the steppe world. The conflict raged on an unprecedented scale, and its end brought the classical phase of history to a close. Despite all this, it has left a conspicuous gap in the history of warfare. This book aims to finally
fill that gap.

The war opened in summer 603 when Persian armies launched co-ordinated attacks across the Roman frontier. Twenty-five…


Book cover of The Medieval Archer

Sean McGlynn Author Of Blood Cries Afar: The Magna Carta War and the Invasion of England 1215-1217

From my list on medieval warfare (if you love knights and castles).

Why am I passionate about this?

A boyhood fascination with knights and castles, plus the inevitable influence of Tolkien’s world, drew me into medieval history, especially its warring side. An MA and a PhD in medieval warfare consolidated my enthusiasm, with my first three books being on that topic (what I call my Blood and Guts trilogy). I remain fascinated by the all-encompassing influence of medieval warfare on society and its unforgiving impact on warriors and non-combatants alike. Writing, lecturing, and public talks on these have led me into other interesting fields, including two TV documentaries.

Sean's book list on medieval warfare (if you love knights and castles)

Sean McGlynn Why did Sean love this book?

The controversial topic of the English longbow continues to haunt medieval warfare studies today. I was delighted to read this robust book which convinced me with its clear argument that the “long” bow was not itself a revolutionary new weapon of the later Middle Ages, but a bow that had evolved over time and which had always been significant in medieval warfare. Throughout there are lots of absorbing accounts of battles.

By Jim Bradbury,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It is a delight to read a book which recognises the importance of warfare in medieval times...also...discusses the changing role of the archer in medieval society. SIR STEVEN RUNCIMAN

This book traces the historyof the archer in the medieval period, from the Norman Conquest to the Wars of the Roses. From a close study of early evidence, the author shows that the archer's role before the time of Edward I was an important but rarely documented one, and that his new prominence in the fourteenth century was the result of changes in development of military tactics rather than the introduction…


Book cover of Victory in the East: A Military History of the First Crusade

John D. Hosler Author Of The Siege of Acre, 1189-1191: Saladin, Richard the Lionheart, and the Battle That Decided the Third Crusade

From my list on crusading warfare.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m just a guy who once obsessed over Forgotten Realms novels as a kid and, now, teaches history to military officers at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. In between, I got married, earned a PhD at the University of Delaware, and spent 12 years teaching in Baltimore. I’m very interested in cross-cultural warfare—as the crusades are a window into not only western and eastern warfare but also facets of cultural, literary, political, religious, and social history, studying them is endlessly fascinating and infinitely rewarding. My next book, Jerusalem Falls: Seven Centuries of War and Peace, continues my interest in the subject.

John's book list on crusading warfare

John D. Hosler Why did John love this book?

The subtitle gives it away—this is my (and, I’m guessing, most other medieval military historians’) go-to book for that most famous of crusades. France masterfully combines a captivating narrative with abundant historical detail, keen tactical/operational/strategic analyses, and expert interpretation. Each chapter is a delight, but not to be missed is France’s discussion of medieval generalship, his close study of army sizes, and especially the three full chapters on the fighting in and around Antioch in 1097-1098—which still constitute the best scholarly treatment of the events there. Despite a rash of newer works on the First Crusade over the last three decades, this remains the standard treatment for those interested in the war’s martial contours.

By John France,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Victory in the East as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The success of the First Crusade, and its capture of Jerusalem in 1099, has been conventionally explained in terms of its ideological and political motivation. This book looks at the First Crusade primarily as a military campaign and asks why it was so successful. Modern writing about the crusade has tended to emphasise the moral dimension and the development of the idea of the crusade, but its fate was ultimately decided on the field of battle. Victory in the East looks at the nature of war at the end of the eleventh century and the military experience of all the…


Book cover of Under the Hog: A Novel of Richard III

Stephen Morillo Author Of War and Conflict in the Middle Ages: A Global Perspective.

From my list on about medieval warfare globally.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with medieval military history in high school, and have been studying and writing about it as an undergraduate at Harvard, as a graduate student at Oxford, and as a professor of history ever since, eventually bringing the comparative methods and urge to generalize of a world historian to the task. I’ve written ten books and numerous articles. Good history gives me the thrill of time travel without the risk of the bubonic plague, and it has spawned related interests in sword and sorcery fantasy lit and wargaming, alongside my interests in painting, cartooning, and cooking the food of my native New Orleans. My motto: Have fun!

Stephen's book list on about medieval warfare globally

Stephen Morillo Why did Stephen love this book?

Academic books too dry? Primary sources too intimidating? Find a copy of Under the Hog, a historical novel set in the War of the Roses in 15th century England that is perhaps the best historical novel ever — certainly the best written by a pseudonymous author! It gives a variety of close-up views of medieval combat, politics, and culture, and is a favorite among folks who think that king Richard III of England (yes, the evil hunchback of Shakespeare’s depiction) got a reputational raw deal from the Bard. 

By Patrick Carleton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

‘This is still one of the best novels on the life of Richard III’ - The Richard III Society

England, 1471.

In a kingdom rent by civil strife Richard, Duke of Gloucester, is determined to keep the Royal House of York on the throne and bring peace to England.

His unswerving support of his brother, Edward IV, against the conspiracies of both their turncoat brother George, Duke of Clarence, and the powerful Lancastrian claimants, wins him many enemies.

And when fate destines him to take the throne, he is forced to quell the rebellions of Lord Rivers and the Duke…


Book cover of Historical Sketch of the Second war Between the United States of America and Great Britain

Jane Hampton Cook Author Of The Burning of the White House: James and Dolley Madison and the War of 1812

From my list on the War of 1812.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a writer of ten mostly historical nonfiction books, I tried to rely on the original writings of the people that I wrote about rather than third-hand accounts. What I love about reading people's own words is that letters allow you to see a person's humanity and their emotional reactions to their circumstances. I also love the cinematic qualities of the story of the burning of the White House. Both Dolley and James Madison went through an authentic, organic character change in the aftermath, much like characters in a movie. I also loved the revival of patriotism that took place in the aftermath, which is similar to the aftermath of  9/11.

Jane's book list on the War of 1812

Jane Hampton Cook Why did Jane love this book?

A congressman during the War of 1812, Charles Ingersoll took on the role of journalist and historian in the years that followed. He interviewed key players during the lead-up and aftermath of the burning of the White House. Though his sketch is dense, he provides some of the most important details not covered in other accounts from the era. Ingersoll also provides some of the most inspirational, cinematic quotes coming out of the burning of the U.S. Capitol. 

"The smoldering fires of the Capitol were spices of the phoenix bed, from which a rose offspring more vigorous, beautiful and long-lived," Ingersoll wrote. "The immediate and enthusiastic effect of the fall of Washington was electric revival of national spirit and universal energy."

By Charles Jared Ingersoll,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Historical Sketch of the Second war Between the United States of America and Great Britain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

About the Book

Military history texts discuss the historical record of armed conflict in the history of humanity, its impact on people, societies, and their cultures. Some fundamental subjects of military history study are the causes of war, its social and cultural foundations, military doctrines, logistics, leadership, technology, strategy, and tactics used, and how these have developed over time. Thematic divisions of military history may include: Ancient warfare, Medieval warfare, Gunpowder warfare, Industrial warfare, and Modern warfare. About us

Leopold Classic Library has the goal of making available to readers the classic books that have been out of print for…


Book cover of The Wars of the Roses

Sean McGlynn Author Of Blood Cries Afar: The Magna Carta War and the Invasion of England 1215-1217

From my list on medieval warfare (if you love knights and castles).

Why am I passionate about this?

A boyhood fascination with knights and castles, plus the inevitable influence of Tolkien’s world, drew me into medieval history, especially its warring side. An MA and a PhD in medieval warfare consolidated my enthusiasm, with my first three books being on that topic (what I call my Blood and Guts trilogy). I remain fascinated by the all-encompassing influence of medieval warfare on society and its unforgiving impact on warriors and non-combatants alike. Writing, lecturing, and public talks on these have led me into other interesting fields, including two TV documentaries.

Sean's book list on medieval warfare (if you love knights and castles)

Sean McGlynn Why did Sean love this book?

Prof Gillingham was my first PhD supervisor. (I got through a couple or more!) I have always tried to emulate not only the clarity of his writing but also his dry touches of humour and his eminent common sense; not for him the clever-silliness of many academics. All these virtues are on display here in this highly readable account of The Wars of the Roses, in which a complex conflict is rendered enjoyably accessible.

By John Gillingham,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Frequently remembered as a period of military history which both saw the French beat the English and then the English fight amongst themselves, traditional military historians have tended to pass over the period hastily, regarding it as an episode that wrecked England's military greatness. John Gillingham's highly readable history separates the myth from the reality. He argues that, paradoxically, the Wars of the Roses demonstrate how peaceful England in fact was. From the accession of the infant Henry VI to the thrones of England and France in 1422 to the accession of Henry VII following the Battle of Bosworth in…


Book cover of The Worm Ouroboros

John Triptych Author Of Visitor

From my list on cult sci-fi and fantasy you may not have heard of before.

Why am I passionate about this?

The reasons I’ve chosen these particular books is because of my penchant for reading offbeat stuff, and unearthing little-known works that I feel deserves more attention. My tastes are eclectic, and I’ve done a lot of research when it comes to finding the true origins of pop culture. Having written and published more than forty books that range from science fiction to crime thrillers, I’ve wanted to share my findings in the hopes that others will notice something new and exciting as well. 

John's book list on cult sci-fi and fantasy you may not have heard of before

John Triptych Why did John love this book?

Even though The Lord of the Rings is recognized as the classic of high fantasy, Tolkien himself was deeply influenced by Eddison’s book. It is here that the first concepts of the hero’s journey, while encased in a thrilling saga of protagonists against impossible odds are sown, and of the great worldbuilding that encapsulates such an epic.

Even though the story itself (a never-ending war between the honorable demon princes and an immortal witch king) is pure simplicity, Eddison added an amazing twist: he wrote it in 16th-century English. If you can imagine William Shakespeare writing Lord of the Rings, then this is it.

Some people may get turned off by the archaic prose, but once you get into it, the novel becomes a highly enjoyable romp, filled with action and adventure.

By E.R. Eddison, Keith Henderson (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Worm Ouroboros as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"An eccentric masterpiece" — Ursula K. LeGuin
"A new climate of the imagination" — C. S. Lewis
"A masterpiece" — James Stephens
This is the book that shaped the landscape of contemporary science fiction and fantasy. When The Lord of the Rings first appeared, the critics inevitably compared it to this 1922 landmark work. Tolkien himself frankly acknowledged its influence, with warm praise for its imaginative appeal. The story of a remote planet's great war between two kingdoms, it ranks as the Iliad of heroic fantasy.
In the best traditions of Homeric epics, Norse sagas, and Arthurian myths, author E.…


Book cover of War in the Middle Ages

Sean McGlynn Author Of Blood Cries Afar: The Magna Carta War and the Invasion of England 1215-1217

From my list on medieval warfare (if you love knights and castles).

Why am I passionate about this?

A boyhood fascination with knights and castles, plus the inevitable influence of Tolkien’s world, drew me into medieval history, especially its warring side. An MA and a PhD in medieval warfare consolidated my enthusiasm, with my first three books being on that topic (what I call my Blood and Guts trilogy). I remain fascinated by the all-encompassing influence of medieval warfare on society and its unforgiving impact on warriors and non-combatants alike. Writing, lecturing, and public talks on these have led me into other interesting fields, including two TV documentaries.

Sean's book list on medieval warfare (if you love knights and castles)

Sean McGlynn Why did Sean love this book?

This book was my “bible” during my days as an MA student of medieval warfare. Contamine convinced me that medieval warfare was truly at the heart of medieval society and thus deserving of dedicated study and research. While densely packed with facts and figures that can be daunting in their quantity, it is full of fascinating revelations, such as the bugler on the battlefield who died from over-exertion!

By Philippe Contamine,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Covering the ten centuries following the fall of Rome, War in the Middle Ages engages all aspects of its subject, including the military customs and conditions of the various Western European states; armor and weaponry recruitment; and rules of combat developed to limit bloodshed. Philippe Contamine writes with an awareness that, in both theory and fact, medieval warfare was constantly evolving. He opens with a chapter on Roman military disintegration and the practice of warfare in the barbarian kingdoms erected on the empirea s ruins. He then shows how feudalization multiplied conflicts, and describes the resulting growth of the "great…


Book cover of War and the Medieval World

Stephen Morillo Author Of War and Conflict in the Middle Ages: A Global Perspective.

From my list on about medieval warfare globally.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with medieval military history in high school, and have been studying and writing about it as an undergraduate at Harvard, as a graduate student at Oxford, and as a professor of history ever since, eventually bringing the comparative methods and urge to generalize of a world historian to the task. I’ve written ten books and numerous articles. Good history gives me the thrill of time travel without the risk of the bubonic plague, and it has spawned related interests in sword and sorcery fantasy lit and wargaming, alongside my interests in painting, cartooning, and cooking the food of my native New Orleans. My motto: Have fun!

Stephen's book list on about medieval warfare globally

Stephen Morillo Why did Stephen love this book?

This is a superb example of what a multi-author compilation can achieve: wide coverage, specialist knowledge of a variety of topics and approaches, and thus fascinating details from around the world of medieval warfare. And what it lacks (in coherent overview and broad comparative approach) is supplied by my own book! I think of this as a good companion to my own more global, comparative, and theory-based account of medieval war and conflict.

By David A. Graff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Volume II of The Cambridge History of War covers what in Europe is commonly called 'the Middle Ages'. It includes all of the well-known themes of European warfare, from the migrations of the Germanic peoples and the Vikings through the Reconquista, the Crusades and the age of chivalry, to the development of state-controlled gunpowder-wielding armies and the urban militias of the later middle ages; yet its scope is world-wide, ranging across Eurasia and the Americas to trace the interregional connections formed by the great Arab conquests and the expansion of Islam, the migrations of horse nomads such as the Avars…