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Terry Jones' Medieval Lives

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  2,432 ratings  ·  197 reviews
Was medieval England full of knights on horseback rescuing fainting damsels in distress? Were the Middle Ages mired in superstition and ignorance? Why does nobody ever mention King Louis the First and Last? And, of course, those key questions: which monks were forbidden the delights of donning underpants... and did outlaws never wear trousers?

Terry Jones and Alan Ereira
Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 5th 2005 by BBC Books (first published February 1st 2004)
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Description: Famous for lampooning the medieval world in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Terry Jones has a real passion for and detailed knowledge of the Middle Ages. In Terry Jones' Medieval Lives, his mission is to rescue the Middle Ages from moth-eaten cliches and well-worn platitudes. Behind the stereotypes of "damsels in distress" and "knights in shining armor," there are wonderfully human stories that bring the period to life. Terry will start with the medieval archetypes—the Knight, ...more

3.5 stars.

I was expecting this to have a little more comedy thrown in since it is authored by Monty Python's Terry Jones so that was a little disappointing.

The book overall was pretty good but covered too many topics over too long of a period. I wanted more detail and insight as to how life truly was back then and felt I got more or less a lesson in politics.

I felt a little lost from time to time, since I am not a historian.. not even close. There were many references made to things that I
Dana Stabenow
Jan 30, 2015 rated it did not like it
Lots of interesting detail and funny asides, but I fear a careless scholar. On pp 60-61 he talks about Anne Boleyn and the charges of adultery that brought her down, including Anne's alleged affair with minstrel-poet Mark Smeaton. In conclusion Jones writes

And the queen [Elizabeth I] under whose rule they flourished, the daughter of Anne Boleyn, was said (very quietly) to bear more than a passing resemblance to Mark Smeaton.

Two things: One, I've seen many portraits and reproductions of portraits
4.5 really...

For the longest time, everything I ‘knew’ about Medieval England I'd learnt from Monty Python’s Holy Grail.

Now that I’ve discovered that history isn’t the boring list of dates my teachers made it out to be, and lacking the thousands of pounds required to go and get a proper education, it’s only fitting to turn back to a Python for my further education. And what a brilliant education it is – chock full of fascinating facts and humour, and providing a sturdy foundation for further
Oct 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2016
Plenty of interesting (and surprising) facts - the author has obviously done a huge amount of research (the bibliography takes up 10% of the volume!). The writing style was perhaps a little on the dry side for me - it took me quite a while to plough through the book, but it was still worth reading.
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Although Terry’s delightful presentation skills make the BBC series version memorable, I found his writing style to be much more captivating. I enjoyed very much reading the book . I was very well surprised by the elaborate details used to debunk many of the classic popular conceptions associated with the Middle Ages .I liked the most the ‘Damsel’ ( chapter 7) and ‘Peasant’ (chapter 1) – I was fascinated to learn that these people, who in general are perceived to be weak and have limited coping ...more
Jan 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfic, europe
Alright, so my thinking on this book was "Medieval=awesome, Terry Jones=also awesome, I must read this." So, pretty much that's how the book goes as well. A hefty amount of the information was familiar to me, (I even recognized the Christine de Pisan passage from when I read it in Art History,) but some of it was new and those parts were interesting. I also really liked the way that the information was presented, although that isn't very surprising to me. The whole book wasn't laugh out loud ...more
Dec 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011, history
I've seen the Medieval Lives TV series and this is just as good, though each contains information not found in the other. This is serious history, but Terry Jones, being Terry Jones, is able to insert plenty of humor. Highly recommended for high school and college classrooms, and for anyone interested in medieval history.
Pamela Shropshire
3.5 stars.

I found this book interesting for several reasons. First of all, I firmly believe that no two people read the same book; in fact, the same individual can reread a book and take away completely different ideas. This explains why such disparate reviews exist, and I found some really interesting reviews on this book.

Second, I’m a bit of an amateur historian; history was always my favorite subject in school. I took lots of history courses in college, and I regularly read history - both
Martin Ortiz
Jul 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
I was disappointed with this book. I have not seen the television series.

I measure the accuracy of non-fiction by how well it does when it intersects my own knowledge base. I can't comment on whether much of the book was correct but when it talked about how the science of this time was not primitive and gave examples such as leeches were used then and used in microsurgery today, that is insulting to logic. Leeches were used to no good effect back then. Just because they have a use now, doesn't
Jennifer (JC-S)
May 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned

History doesn't have to be boring.

This slender volume contains some neatly presented information about life in the Middle Ages (defined as 1066 to 1536), and introduces humour and colour into the mix. Be warned, though, its real value is in providing a panoramic view of the times rather than a detailed snapshot of the events. If you want or need more detail, you’d be well advised to delve in to the bibliography provided.

Still, it’s hard not to wonder about why nobody ever mentions King Louis
Jul 19, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
This book was not at all what I thought it would be. Well, maybe it was half of what I expected. I came across this book and saw Terry Jones' name attached to it. I'm a history nut and a Monty Python fan. My expectation is that Terry Jones' Medieval Lives would blend some factual details of the way people lived during the medieval era with the lively humor of Monty Python. I was wrong, so very wrong. I indeed got a diatribe of medieval life, which may or may not be 100% factual. It does seem ...more
Asha Stark
Dec 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
- I think this was written for a reader who knows a lot less than I and is looking for an easy intro to the subject
- I did appreciate that attempts were made to clear Richard II's name
- It wasn't awful or full of bullshit, truly. It was perfectly readable and I'm only moaning because I'm a pedant
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Lovely little book that deals with all prejudices we might have about the Middle Ages.
Nov 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017, history
"The phrase 'middle ages' first turns up in English in the seventeenth century, and right from the start it carried a judgement"

Terry Jones, of Monty Python fame, and an accredited satirist of the medieval period behind Spamelot featuring all medieval hilarity. For such a broad book, spanning the entire middle ages in England from the Norman Conquest in 1066 to the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 by Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell, there is an interesting and unique continuity of message
Mary Kate
May 22, 2015 rated it liked it
My main problem with this book is that it never seems to figure out what it wants to be. It's much too biased and flippant to be a trustworthy historical text, and often picks and chooses facts to fit with a preferred narrative (the incidence other reviewers have mentioned about questioning Queen Elizabeth I's parentage is one undermining example). Yet it clearly wants the reader to take historical fact away from it, and while it has wit, isn't particularly funny. It's very difficult to blend ...more
May 26, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to Lori by: Medieval Literature Professor from Stockton
A general overview of the "Middle Ages" divided by categories of occupation. If you like learning about how history is distorted according to who is telling it, this is a nice book. Full of facts like how people in the Middle Ages did not think that the world was flat. Knights were not romantic figures, outlaws were glorified by everyday people, and even though 'trial by jury' was introduced at this time the jury would have included witnesses and the person that accused.
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, humour
Sometimes when people die you think you already knew pretty much all there was to know about them. But then you find out that you actually knew next to nothing at all. Terry Jones from Monty Python is a case in point.

This book was interesting and much better than I was expecting - but then, I wasn't really expecting too much, since I only found out it even existed a couple of weeks ago. Apparently, there is a television series as well, but I have never seen that and am not even sure how I might
Jun 29, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is mostly, above anything else, about how William the Conqueror's invasion from 1066 changed Medieval England. There is very little stuff about anything outside England. As for describing the whole of the middle ages...

Like many other "popular" "modern" history books this one seems to desperately try to avoid simply going chronologically through things. However, it repeatedly fails at, over and over falling back into starting at 1066 and then accelerating until 14-1500 is passed in a blaze
Feb 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
General Overview
An entertaining and educational read, Terry Jones' Medieval Lives is a worthwhile read for the casual medieval historian.

The late Sir Terry Jones, most remembered for his work with Monty Python, puts all the charm and humour we saw in this great show, into this book. It is wonderfully accessible and readable, whilst losing none of its informativeness.

There is a comfortable easy flow to the writing, which leads to a relaxed feel throughout. Perfect for such a bit of light
Koen Crolla
Aug 04, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history
An incoherent mess. Jones sets out to correct various myths and misconceptions about ``Medieval'' (actually post-1066) England, but you're usually left guessing what misconceptions he believes you actually hold, and he ends up perpetuating many more than he could reasonably be said to correct; he presents folk tales (including, spectacularly, Robin Hood) as bare facts, mistakes one-off anecdotes for trends even when the original chroniclers explicitly only relate said anecdote because of its ...more
Madam J
Dec 01, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
What the heck was this book trying to be?

It did provide some insights into some of the misconceptions about the time period, but I fear it perpetuated many more by relying on anecdotes and conclusions that rested on shaking foundations. First there was the parentage of Elizabeth. Then there was the well-fed peasant - based on a single excavation site. Then there was the "we use leeches now after certain very specific surgeries, therefore medieval doctors were on to something!" conclusion. There
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
An excellent short book that details the most common historical inaccuracies of the medieval period. First and foremost Terry Jones breaks down the myth of even the ontology of the period - the so called 'dark ages' between the fall of the Roman Empire and the 'renaissance'. Many of these common perceptions originate from the Victorian period and is just a common historical practice to demonize the past as barbaric without any nuance. It is not meant to be a detailed history - rather than ...more
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've recently watched Terry Jones' Medieval Lives TV series for the first time because I've become interested in the medieval era. (I've also needed to do a lot of research on the era for my own writing.) I decided to watch this because, y'know, Terry Jones! (I do really like Monty Python!) I liked the TV show a lot so decided to get the book - well, I say I got it, but I didn't personally. I was actually gifted the book for my birthday recently, which I was very glad to receive. It's a really ...more
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am on a Dark/Middle Ages history binge this year, and this book was the first on my list. I expected it to be somewhat educational, fun, and easy to read, and it was all of those things. It's not perfect, but it really fired up my imagination and got me thinking differently about the way history is recorded and what defines the way we look to the past. This book is a very different take on the Medieval period of English history. (It only really looks deeply at English history rather than the ...more
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm a sucker for any sort of medieval history book and when the author is a member of the group responsible for one of the greatest films ever made - 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' - well, who could resist?

The surprise was how well written and researched the book was and how much I learned. The book is divided in chapters describing a particular popular myth about the medieval ages and then smashes that myth to bits. For example, the chapter on 'Damsel' debunks the idea that all highborn
Elena Johansen
Stylistically inconsistent. I was drawn in by the first half, which debunked a lot of myths and tropes about the lives of commoners in the Middle Ages, but from the "Philosopher" chapter onwards, I felt like I was reading a different book. It became scattered in topic and tone, reeling from one historical figure to the next with little context given, a string of anecdotes about famous names instead of a systematic investigation of how modern thought is wrong about medieval times and why. I ...more
Rachel Glass
Dec 30, 2018 rated it liked it
An ok ramble through the various facets of Medieval society, though I think I was expecting more of a 'day in the life' of each person. It seemed to me that there was a bit too much self-congratulatory revealing of other historians and common misconceptions as being wrong, sometimes making things seem a little more exaggerated than they should have been. For example, the one chapter on women only mentions a handful of unusual cases of aristocratic ladies - one assumes that daily life for the ...more
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history
I think I picked this up off a 2.99 sale just because it was Terry Jones. Since one of my reading goals this year is more nonfiction, I finally got around to reading it. It's a very quick read and yet full of trope-destroying information each chapter of which could fuel a unique novel in its own right. Did you know monastic orders forbid eating meat except in the infirmary, so all the monks started taking their meals in there? Did you know Shakespeare's Richard III is almost entirely drawn from ...more
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
I picked this up because based on the description, it sounded like it would be a fun & humorous foray into a period of time that I've read a moderate amount about. It was not. While it IS informative, there were a lot of times I just spaced out, my eyes glazed over and/or I just skipped entire sections to get to something that would hold my attention.

It's broken into 8 sections (Peasant, Minstrel, Outlaw, Monk, Philosopher, Knight, Damsel & King) and some of them were moderately
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Terence Graham Parry Jones was a Welsh comedian, screenwriter and actor, film director, children's author, popular historian, political commentator and TV documentary host. He is best known as a member of the Monty Python comedy team.
“The Renaissance invented the Middle Ages in order to define itself; the Enlightenment perpetuated them in order to admire itself; and the Romantics revived them in order to escape from themselves. In their widest ramifications ‘the Middle Ages’ thus constitute one of the most prevalent cultural myths of the modern world. BRIAN STOCK, Listening for the text” 5 likes
“Poetry was alive and dangerous.” 3 likes
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