,

Best Medieval History Books

This list is for non-fiction books covering the Middle Ages, c.406-1492.

General histories, social histories, political/military histories, and biographies are all good. Historical fiction is not. :)
1

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4.03 avg rating — 38,808 ratings
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2

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3.99 avg rating — 22,164 ratings
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3

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4.21 avg rating — 16,062 ratings
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4

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3.91 avg rating — 16,025 ratings
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5

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3.97 avg rating — 1,382 ratings
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6

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4.23 avg rating — 5,327 ratings
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7

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3.87 avg rating — 5,409 ratings
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8

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3.83 avg rating — 11,412 ratings
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9

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4.02 avg rating — 7,272 ratings
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10

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3.98 avg rating — 8,101 ratings
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11

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3.72 avg rating — 8,154 ratings
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12

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3.81 avg rating — 43,375 ratings
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13

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4.09 avg rating — 4,809 ratings
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14

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3.83 avg rating — 4,273 ratings
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15

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4.12 avg rating — 1,002 ratings
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16

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3.87 avg rating — 815 ratings
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17

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4.13 avg rating — 1,119 ratings
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18

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3.95 avg rating — 463 ratings
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19

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4.05 avg rating — 4,120 ratings
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20

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3.86 avg rating — 6,924 ratings
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21

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4.14 avg rating — 875 ratings
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22

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3.82 avg rating — 2,161 ratings
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23

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3.98 avg rating — 1,321 ratings
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24

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3.83 avg rating — 3,445 ratings
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25

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3.82 avg rating — 199 ratings
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26

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3.78 avg rating — 626 ratings
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27

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3.87 avg rating — 1,487 ratings
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28

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3.81 avg rating — 563 ratings
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29

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3.96 avg rating — 1,878 ratings
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30

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4.30 avg rating — 1,275 ratings
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31

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4.02 avg rating — 2,752 ratings
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32

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4.14 avg rating — 3,834 ratings
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33

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3.77 avg rating — 1,019 ratings
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33

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3.92 avg rating — 3,148 ratings
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35

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4.10 avg rating — 1,328 ratings
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36

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4.40 avg rating — 1,091 ratings
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37

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really liked it 4.00 avg rating — 1,104 ratings
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38

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3.72 avg rating — 2,689 ratings
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39

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3.44 avg rating — 4,906 ratings
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40

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3.87 avg rating — 583 ratings
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41

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3.82 avg rating — 4,371 ratings
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42

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3.92 avg rating — 2,304 ratings
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43

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4.12 avg rating — 1,449 ratings
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44

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4.14 avg rating — 3,794 ratings
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45

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3.73 avg rating — 321 ratings
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46

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4.26 avg rating — 8,946 ratings
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47

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3.96 avg rating — 436 ratings
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48

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4.01 avg rating — 1,514 ratings
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49

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3.83 avg rating — 5,380 ratings
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50

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4.06 avg rating — 786 ratings
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51

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4.12 avg rating — 1,809 ratings
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52

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3.94 avg rating — 937 ratings
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53

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4.02 avg rating — 532 ratings
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54

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3.87 avg rating — 1,014 ratings
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55

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3.89 avg rating — 123 ratings
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56

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4.36 avg rating — 753 ratings
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57

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3.49 avg rating — 184 ratings
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58

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3.62 avg rating — 152 ratings
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59

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4.38 avg rating — 182 ratings
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60

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4.13 avg rating — 298 ratings
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61

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4.33 avg rating — 304 ratings
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62

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3.88 avg rating — 8,692 ratings
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63

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3.57 avg rating — 6,188 ratings
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64

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4.09 avg rating — 2,271 ratings
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65

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3.84 avg rating — 94 ratings
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66

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3.83 avg rating — 1,055 ratings
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67

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3.59 avg rating — 270 ratings
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68

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4.38 avg rating — 582 ratings
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69

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really liked it 4.00 avg rating — 228 ratings
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70

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4.16 avg rating — 1,007 ratings
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71

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4.22 avg rating — 418 ratings
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72

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3.76 avg rating — 451 ratings
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73

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3.83 avg rating — 3,678 ratings
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74

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3.61 avg rating — 127 ratings
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75

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4.13 avg rating — 230 ratings
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76

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4.27 avg rating — 1,559 ratings
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76

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4.06 avg rating — 137,203 ratings
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78

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3.93 avg rating — 137 ratings
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79

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3.88 avg rating — 1,038 ratings
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80

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3.57 avg rating — 120 ratings
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81

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3.99 avg rating — 243 ratings
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82

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4.03 avg rating — 3,758 ratings
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83

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3.82 avg rating — 158 ratings
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84

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3.87 avg rating — 1,469 ratings
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85

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3.89 avg rating — 45 ratings
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86

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4.14 avg rating — 3,797 ratings
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87

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3.95 avg rating — 39 ratings
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88

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4.04 avg rating — 957 ratings
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89

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4.02 avg rating — 130 ratings
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89

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3.90 avg rating — 1,606 ratings
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91

by
4.20 avg rating — 121 ratings
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92

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3.95 avg rating — 867 ratings
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93

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4.14 avg rating — 78 ratings
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94

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3.59 avg rating — 90 ratings
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94

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3.87 avg rating — 1,778 ratings
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96

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3.86 avg rating — 15,777 ratings
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97

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3.74 avg rating — 46 ratings
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98

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3.88 avg rating — 7,575 ratings
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99

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4.14 avg rating — 342 ratings
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100

by
3.69 avg rating — 500 ratings
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781 books · 289 voters · list created March 16th, 2011 by Catelyn May (votes) .
345 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Catelyn 643 books
34 friends
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads 3291 books
870 friends
Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) 545 books
375 friends
Bettie 15664 books
19 friends
Donnahensley 1076 books
22 friends
Melisende 3562 books
981 friends
Romy 2105 books
24 friends
Rebecca 1591 books
129 friends

More voters…


Comments Showing 1-28 of 28 (28 new)

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message 1: by Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) (last edited Mar 17, 2011 11:30AM) (new)

Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) I notice a few primary source texts from the Middle Ages are beginning to sneak in, as well as at least one novel (Scott's "Ivanhoe"). I take it the novel will have to go ... but what is your take on primary texts from the era?


message 2: by Catelyn (new)

Catelyn May I created the list specifically for histories & biographies, excluding fiction.

I think non-fiction work from the era is fine (I see Aquinas' Summa Theologica up there, and I imagine someone might add the letters of Abelard and Heloise). Those are fine. I'd prefer the list didn't turn into primarily source material, though. There are two other lists: "Best Medieval Literature" which is fiction from the period, and "Medieval Books and Classical Writings..." which is primarily source material, fiction and non.

I wish there was some way I could remove the historical fiction though.


Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) I removed "Ivanhoe" (and added, with pleasure, the letters of Abelard and Heloise ... had been tempted but didn't want to add anything you'd rather not see on this list).

What about "The Death of King Arthur" and "The Song of Roland"?


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads What about Marco Polo?


message 5: by Catelyn (new)

Catelyn May I'd say yes to all three, The Death of King Arthur, The Song of Roland, and Marco Polo.


message 6: by Bryce (new)

Bryce Themis-Athena wrote: "I notice a few primary source texts from the Middle Ages are beginning to sneak in, as well as at least one novel (Scott's "Ivanhoe"). I take it the novel will have to go ... but what is your take..."

Primary sources are fairly safe here given that they represent the real world perspective of medieval people - the genre does not make the source any less valid. The whole of idea of 'non' fiction is reductionist in that it only labels what a publication is not - rather than describing what is other than fiction. Richard McKeon's 'Truth and the History of Ideas' is illuminating here...


message 7: by Dorothy (new)

Dorothy Thomas Costain's books are historical fiction and probably should not be on this list.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Mr. Costain was a historical novelist, yes, but the works of his in question on this list are straight non-fiction.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads A biography of Alexander the Great? (#184)


message 10: by Waldo (new)


message 11: by Waldo (new)


message 12: by Waldo (new)


message 13: by Waldo (new)


message 14: by Waldo (new)


message 15: by Waldo (new)


message 16: by Waldo (new)


message 17: by Waldo (new)

Waldo Varjak The Four Branches of the Mabinogi Celtic Myth and Medieval Reality by Will Parker
Just thought I would add a few titles I have acquired in my library that are missing here. Not sure why they are on the list or not but they definitely make it into my list for researching the period. Good money spent; though I have not read through them all I did compare them to what books are extant on their subject. I find the want of books representing the study of medicine to be rather appalling for the ambitions of a list such as this.

While I am careful with my choices to equip my personal reference library, I would not consider myself a scholar or even a finder of rare books.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads You add books at the top of the list, at the tab next to "all votes."


message 19: by Andronikos (new)

Andronikos YESS! Norwich! How about some Ammianus Marcellinus, by the way? True, one could lump him in with the "classical era", but still, if you're looking for primary sources...

Also: Peter Heather's Fall of the Roman Empire? How about Ian Mortimer's "Time Traveller's Guide to the Medieval World", or Marc Morris's "The Norman Conquest." Also another delightful book that's practically only sold in Scotland: "James IV" by Norman MacDougall. EPIC biography of the king that anticipated Machiavelli almost to the letter...

Anyway, just some suggestions. Really good list- some of these books look positively mouthwatering...


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Ian Mortimer's guide to 14th century England is in 2nd place.

You can add books to the list at the top of the list, at the tab next to "all votes."


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads I combined duplicates, which should have gotten it.


message 22: by BookLovingLady (last edited Jul 04, 2019 09:10AM) (new)

BookLovingLady The Decameron is not 'non-fiction' as the description says (This list is for non-fiction books) and has been removed.


message 23: by Waldo (new)

Waldo Varjak Booklovinglady wrote: "The Decameron is not 'non-fiction' as the description says and has been removed."

Is The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri non-fiction?
I mean, we've likely all gone through hell for our art, but not literally....


message 24: by BookLovingLady (new)

BookLovingLady Waldo wrote: "Is The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri non-fiction?..."

Nope.


message 25: by Waldo (last edited Jul 04, 2019 09:16PM) (new)

Waldo Varjak Booklovinglady wrote: "Waldo wrote: "Is The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri non-fiction?..."

Nope."


That explains why it is at #66 (whoops! Missing one point on The Star)

Looking further up, and though I have not read the book, I also draw attention to the fact that "King Arthur" is a character of fiction...


message 26: by BookLovingLady (last edited Jul 05, 2019 12:16AM) (new)

BookLovingLady Waldo wrote: "Looking further up, and though I have not read the book, I also draw attention to the fact that "King Arthur" is a character of fiction... ..."

Votes are out on whether King Arthur was a real person or a 'character of fiction' 😉

#226 (The Song of Roland) is definitely not 'non-fiction', #275 (Sweeney Astray) is not either.

#337 (Gods and Myths of Northern Europe) is non-fiction alright, but I'm not sure it covers the Middle Ages specifically, although mention is made of the period occasionally.


message 27: by Waldo (last edited Jul 05, 2019 07:41AM) (new)

Waldo Varjak Booklovinglady wrote: "Waldo wrote: "Looking further up, and though I have not read the book, I also draw attention to the fact that "King Arthur" is a character of fiction... ..."

Votes are out on whether King Arthur w..."


History records that the tales of a courtly Arthur are, in deed, as non-fiction as The Decameron. Whether the kernel of truth is a Britain-Roman soldier of the late "Dark Ages" to Early Middle Ages, the idea of chivalry and so forth is straight out of a Miss Manners Handbook of the times the story was being told. The comparisons to the Welsh Merlin as the Odin/Woden of Norse belief are apt. So if the book is about knights in shinning armour rather than the discussion of "the real" King Arthur, then it has no more claim to be on the list than The Decameron or The Divine Comedy (still hanging on at #66).

Excellent documentaries on the subject include "Arthur King Of The Britons", and "King Arthur's Britain" as well as another documentary by Michael Wood, the name of which escapes me.

I highly recommend the non-fiction book by Guy Halsall "Worlds of Authur". Worlds of Arthur by Guy Halsall

I wryly note the name Arthur in all those titles, but they are there for marketing value rather than for historical verification. At best, the story of Aurthur is inspired by real events and is thus a fiction, and historical fiction at best.


message 28: by Waldo (new)

Waldo Varjak PS: Is there a way to search this list for a title? Once upon a time I went through the whole list - even posting about books that were not listed without adding them.

I would like to use such community efforts to create an accurate list for my own research purposes. Searching would make the act of verification much easier.


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