project: Whirlwind (retired)

 I confess, I can really skip most introductory daily-life books because I spent so much time studying it as a re-enactor from the Crusader kingdoms, including quarter-staving and heavy armoured combat, besides becoming an expert in narrow-loom square-cut clothing, and learning the food, the music, and all the rest. It's not like everyone has a rebec in their music collection. However, it always pays to check dates and leaders, and make sure you didn't pick up mythology from someone sounding authoritative in your re-enactor group. Sometimes the baloney is knee-deep, and not maliciously: your informant was authoritatively misinformed by someone who was misinformed by someone who intensely believed Hollywood movies on the period are the best authority. One also needs to stay up to date on research: Victorian romanticism and Cold War disdain both die hard.

This list is filled, but it's weak, which may explain why the project is simmering, but not ready to write. I need more books I haven't read before.

Dec. 2014: If you read my blog at WordPress, you know I've been going through project cards and retiring some projects. This was one, for reasons best summed up as "historical fantasy, needs probably another dozen books of research, which is not bad by my criteria, since a book only takes a day or two to read. But the plot remains terribly foggy beyond what I have written, and I just don't feel like many people would even like it." In short, it no longer appeals enough for me to do the work when there are so many other projects clamouring for my time.

I hope this list helps out your project.


The lack of one like this may have been my problem in getting this project beyond the opening five chapters.

 1). A general history of the time, not over 200 pages.
George Fox Mott & Harold M. Dee; An Outline History of the Middle Ages: From the Decline of the Roman Empire through the Reformation; 1933-1950; B&N, NY; which covers European history from 395-1564 CE.

2.) An "everyday life" book of the period.
Paul Lacroix; Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period; 1876; PG & IA. This covers so much it fills several book needs. This is the difference between the usual YA Everyday Life and one for adults by a specialist.

3.) General transportation
Ohler, Norbert, trans. by Caroline Hilleir; The Medieval Traveller; 1986; trans 1989; Artemis Verlag; Boydell Press, Woodbridge, UK. This lets you examine several possibilities of the time.

4.) General costume
Boucher, François, 20,000 Years of Fashion: The History of Costume and Personal Adornment Harry N. Abrams, NY. (this is usually my #4). In this case, Boucher proves his worth because he covers the Mideast, not just Western Europe. You still can use the Costumers Manifesto.

5.) Specific transportation
Since my centerpoint is a lance or six of wandering warriors -- Hyland, Ann; The Medieval Warhorse: From Byzantium to the Crusades; 1994; Sutton Books, Thrupp, Stroud, Gloucestershire.

6.) Etiquette
Still not found and while the lack is annoying, it's probably due to no one writing it down. The closest I can get is The Book of the Knight of La Tour-Landry from the 1200s. I'm picking behavior out of other reading. Lacroix does point out that ceremonial was not recorded until pretty much the Renaissance, so this is a gap the novelist gets to plaster over with educated guesswork.

7.) Spectator entertainments
Paul Lacroix; Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period; 1876; PG & IA.

8.) Self-entertainments
Paul Lacroix; Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period; 1876; PG & IA.

9.) Food and dining, including what sort of public dining was available.
Paul Lacroix; Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period; 1876; PG & IA.

Aha! You see, sometimes one book will do for four or five - and this one is big, as is usually the case with the multi-use ones. But I would prefer something oriented to Outre-Mer rather than France.

10.) Recipes for period food.
There is a book I have yet to get my hands on, Tastes of Byzantium: The Cuisine of a Legendary Empire by Andrew Dalby.

11.) Marriage and family.
Frances & Joseph Gies, Marriage and the Family in the Middle Ages; 1987; Harper & Row, NY

12) Specific costume, for your decade, including specialty costumes for clerics.
Paul Lacroix; Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period; 1876; PG & IA. "Dress" is part of the title. I also used Dresses and Decorations of the Middle Ages, from the Seventh to the Seventeenth Century by Henry Shaw (1843; London, William Pickering), which is very Anglo-centric rather than Franco-centric. For Germano-centric, there's A History of Costume by Carl Köhler, edited and augmented by Emma von Sichart, and translated by Alexander K. Dallas (1930; New York, G. Howard Watt).

13.) Religion for the time and place.
; a good English translation. But wait! We have two religions to cover, for a change: Paul LaCroix, a different book: Military and Religious Life in the Middle Ages and at the Period of the Renaissance

14) A fat history book of the area and century.
Will Durant; The Age Of Faith: A History Of Medieval Civilization, Christian, Islamic, and Judaic from Constantine to Dante AD 325-1300 (The Story of Civilization v. IV), 1950.

15) A history of the most influential country at the time (country A = Roman/Byzantine Empire).
Norwich, John Julius; A Short History of Byzantium; Knopf; 431 pgs. Covers from 330 to 1453.

16) A history of its rival (country B = Crusader kingdoms).
Steven Runciman; A History of the Crusades: The First Crusade and the Foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem; 1951; Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. This isn't just fat, it's three volumes

17) A biography of the leader of country A
Anna Comnena, trans. Elizabeth A. S. Dawes; The Alexiad; 1120. This is what I mean by primary sources. Now, a modern book will give you more unbiased scope, but it won't put you in the head of a period Byzantine princess somewhat horrified by the "Franks" who have come on Crusade.

18) A biography of the leader of country B
Guibert of Nogent-sous-Coucy; The Deeds of God through the Franks; 1106-1109, 1997 translation by Robert Levine; PG. This is the flip side of Princess Anna, the Crusaders and their opinion of the perfidius Byzantines.

19) A history of the country you are setting in, general.
Boyd, James P. (James Penny), 1836-1910; Story of the crusades: with a magnificent gallery of one hundred full-page engravings by the world-renowned artist, Gustave Doré (1892: Philadelphia : P.W. Ziegler). Okay, this is all the Crusades, which actually let me check for incidents I might want to borrow. And OMG 100 engravings by Gustave Doré!

19) A history of the country you are setting in, general.
Francesco Gabrieli, trans E J Costello; Arab Historians of the Crusades; 1957, 1969; Routledge & Kegan Paul ltd; B&N, NY. I've read so many books based on the other viewpoint that I thought this a necessary corrective.

21) A biography of the leader of the country of your setting.
Substituting Castles: Their Construction and History (Dover Architecture, 1985) by Sidney Toy gives you the basics of how castles work as weapons of war, including especially Crusader castles.

22) An everyday life for the commoner
Everyday Life in Byzantium
(Barnes & Noble, NY) by Tamara Talbot Rice

23.) An everyday life for the upper classes
Byzantine Civilization
(Meridian Books, London) by Sir Steven Runciman

24) An everyday life for the middle class of your time and place.
Truly the middle class: A History of Business in Medieval Europe 1200-1550

25.) An everyday life for women
Frances & Joseph Gies, Women in the Middle Ages

26.) An auto/biography of someone like your protagonist, or a book as much as possible focused on people like that.
Newark, Tim; Women Warlords: An Illustrated Military History of Female Warriors; 1989; Blandford, Cassell Artillery House, London. Also Jessica Amanda Salmonson, The Encyclopedia of Amazons: Women Warriors from Antiquity to the Modern Era, 1991 Paragon House, NY.

27) A book on houses and furnishings.
Illustrated History of Furniture from the Earliest to the Present Time
by Frederick Litchfield (1903; London: Truslove & Hanson Limited; New York:; illustrated by John Lane 1892-1903). With LaCroix, Arts in the Middle Ages, and at the Period of the Renaissance, this was enough. Furniture is simple and sparse, and except for stools, takes two or more people to move.

28) A book about courting, romance, and sex.
One reads poems.

29.) A book for naming historical characters properly.
Holly Ingraham, People's Names: A Cross-Cultural Reference Guide to the Proper Use of Over 40000personal and Familial Names in Over 100 Cultures, 1997, McFarland. Because when it comes to names, I wrote the book, I only had to pull up those chapters out of my files. That's the same as you flipping to the right chapter (Byzantine, Arabic, Medieval French, Medieval English, Norman, Medieval Spanish, &c.), or going to the Academy of St. Gabriel. These people get quoted as a scholarly source.

30.) Medicine of the time and place.
A History of Medicine
, 1945 Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd;. London, Edinburgh, Paris, Melbourne, New York. Also the relevant chapters in Paul Lacroix, Science and literature in the Middle Ages and at the Period of the Renaissance (1878, London, Bickers & Son).

31) Climate: The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations by Brian Fagan (Bloomsbury Press; 2008) is aimed at 800-1300.

Period Maps

The Crusader kingdoms can usually be found in any historical atlas; that is, any atlas showing parts of the world in a modern way but back in historical times. Asia Minor and the States of the Crusaders in Syria, about 1140 (329K) From A Classical Atlas of Ancient Geography by Alexander G. Findlay, 1849

This is different than the period atlas, from the period, because medieval maps are primitive and built on conventions unlike those you learn in school. Of course, close-in maps are difficult to find. Runciman includes some. The best are at a site called Historic Cities, which has maps of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. But remember that maps before 1600 are usually views, not plans of the streets, and before 1400, really heavily abstract. That being said, if no one knows which street the goldsmiths were on, you can pick any one not totally illogical (they won't be under the walls, they won't be next to the cattle market).

 32) Byzantine armies, not Franks: Heath, Ian; plates by Angus McBride; Byzantine Armies 886-1118 (Men-at-Arms); 1979, 1997; Osprey Publishing Ltd., London. In military matters you can always load up on Osprey books. It's like trying to stop reaching for another chip.

33) On the Water: just in case I needed it, though I don't think I will. Rodgers, William Ledyard, vice admiral, USN, ret.; Naval Warfare Under Oars, 4th to 16th Centuries. A Study of Strategy, Tactics and Ship Design; 1940, 1967; Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD. This has special chapters on Greek fire and crossbow ballistics, which are very useful in land battles.

34) Costume, Furniture, Tents, Armour, Weapons, Jewelry, et al: Emmanuel Viollet-le-duc; Dictionnaire raisonné de mobilier Français de l'époque Carlovingienne a la Renaissance; Paris, Morel, 1874 (multi-volume). t. 1. Meubles (furnishings, and the tents) t. 2. Ustensiles. Orfèvrerie [sic] Instruments de musique. Jeux, passe-temps. Outils. Outillages (games, pastimes, musical instruments, various utensils) t. 3 & 4. Vêtements, bijoux de corps, objets de toilette(costume) t. 5 & 6. Armes de guerre offensives et défensives (weapons & armour) So you don't read French. So didn't most of the people I've known who owned a set, but the illos are so good you often don't need to. F'rinstance, how to dress your head to wear a hennin and all the parts thereof: the pictures were enough for the ladies of the SCA. What's worse is he frequently describes things by quoting old sources in Latin, Old French, or Middle French, so actually reading it can be a bit of a headache. But you'll do fine with pictures of chairs and swords, as long as you can read the dates. Most of the Crusaders worth noting are Norman French.

35) All Crafts and Artisanry: Paul Lacroix; Arts in the Middle Ages, and at the Period of the Renaissance which you can also get in the original French as long as you have your parlez on from Viollet-le-duc.

36) Government: Mediavel Feudalism (1942: Cornell University Press) by Carl Stephenson was published as a standard text on the subject through the 1970s (and may be yet). It is a brief and pointed essay: he does not go on for 400 pages on intricacies and hundreds of examples and exceptions. Instead, he lays it out in what came to about 40 pages in my compressed text version (8.5 x 11, single-space, no index). Having learned to write before obfustication in academia became the norm, it's really understandable. Sydney Painter once said that the government of Outre-Mer was considered by the people of the time to be perfect feudalism because the king's power was reduced to a minimum.

37) General Culture: Ross, James Bruce & Mary Martin McLaughlin, editors; The Portable Medieval Reader (Portable Library); 1949; Viking Press, NY. This is a selection of primary sources, and the battle sections showed that the armies of this time do not use scouts, nor do warriors ride around armoured, but armour up when trouble arrives. This occurs in a specific account of the First Crusade, so it's what my Crusaders will do.

38) Eastern Costumes: Okay, so Max Tilke's Oriental Costumes, Their Designs and Colors (1922; Berlin; Ernst Wasmuth Ltd, translated by L. Hamilton) is often those of the 19th century. It tells you what's going on in the 11th and 12th when you get the idea of layering and narrow-loom square-cut clothing. However, "Our illustrations of costumes, which are to be continued, only present a part of all the former and present types worn in the orient." So you can hunt out the historical. Persian miniatures give me my base type. You only have to give a general look for the reader to visualize, not describe them in detail enough to cut them.

39) Islamic warriors: Simon MacDowall; plates by Christa Hook; Saracen Faris AD 1050-1250 (Warrior); 1994; Osprey Publishing Ltd., London. These are thin books, but densely informative and well illustrated, often on topics impossible to find otherwise. Once you are on their mailing list, you may be doomed.

40) Islamic furnishings: David Talbot Rice; Islamic Art (World of Art), rev. ed.; 1965-1975; Oxford U Press, NY

41) Warfare: Delbrück, Hans; Medieval Warfare; History of the Art of War, volume III; University of Nebraska Press, 1990, trans. Walter J. Renfroe, Jr.; orig. 1923; 711 pg, index. Extremely cogent dissection of the concept of the "peasant levy," showing it a means of raising cash (taxation not being well-developed) as the troops it would have raised if actually used would have been herds of inefficient mouths, given unsuitably insubordinate ideas, when the peasant was otherwise being ground down into passive and unarmed serfdom. Begins with a list of the cost of Carlovingian war-gear in cows, and proceeds to do a lot of rational analysis and myth-busting, rather than gulping poetic accounts thoughtlessly, as if they were modern objective reports. Viewpoint is that of the sources (Frankish and Anglo-Saxon) but he is an early discrediter of body counts, so that you will not have hordes of 20,000 when you should have bands of 300. Explains period military concepts like "The Golden Bridge" that no rational modern person would imagine ever could exist.

42) Warfare: Smail, R. C.; Crusading Warfare: 1097-1193; Barnes & Noble, NY. Especially good for its coverage of 1129-1187 in Outre-Mer, when most authors mentally sit home in Europe. Also for the use of castles, which are big static weapons of war.

43) Science: History of Science: Ancient and Medieval Science from the Beginnings to 1450 (1957): Taton, Rene: Presses Universitaires de France

44) Warfare for Free: The Art of War in the Middle Ages, A.D. 378-1515 by Sir Charles William Chadwick Oman (1860-1946) (Oxford : Blackwell, 1885). He also gave us, in 1898, A History of the Art of War, the Middle Ages from the Fourth to the Fourteenth Century ( G.P. Putnam's Sons) which covers a bit less time. We would say it was more definitely medieval rather than shading into the Renaissance.

45) Weapons & Armour The Archaeology of Weapons, Arms and Armor From Prehistory to the Age of Chivalry $ (New York, Barnes & Noble Books, 1994, illustrated by the author) Ewart Oakeshott uses period manuscript illustrations, analysis of extant weapons, and his own illustrations to show how weapons were used. A trifle weak in the ancient world, but gets more than solid for the medieval.

46) Culture: Anonymous; The Lay of the Cid, translated by R. Selden Rose and Leonard Bacon, and published in Berkeley, California, by the University of California Press in the year 1919 as part of the series entitled Semicentennial Publications of the University of California: 1868-1918. Available at OMACL, too, (see below) but theirs is flawed. The best of the versions of the grand legend of Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar, relating events from his exile from Castile in 1081 until shortly before his death in 1099. I have Iberians as major characters.

47) Biography: Abbot Suger; Life of King Louis the Fat, full text, trans. Jean Dunbabin. After Charlemagne, there tends to be a deathly silence about continental monarchs in English-language books. This will fill in some of this blankness, in the period voice, of the monarch who faced off against the invasion of William II Rufus from England and contained the Normans in France, helped launch the First Crusade, and otherwise had an interesting life.

48) Setting: Daniel; The Pilgrimage of the Russian Abbot Daniel in the Holy Land, 1106-1107 A.D. Annotated by Sir C. W.Wislon (London, 1895) [At Traveling to Jerusalem from the University of South Colorado]

49) Setting: Anonymous; Guide-book to Palestine. (c. 1350). Translated by. J. H. Barnard. London: Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society, 1894.  [At Traveling to Jerusalem from the University of South Colorado] Apparently a compostite from several sources.

50) Music: Oh, dear. My favorites are all transferred from vinyl from back when. For all that, I often use soundtracks for writing music. To hear what your characters did may require some work. Modern Middle Eastern music is not the music of a thousand years ago. Their classical music is no more from 1100 than Beethoven is. But if it gets you in the mood, it's fine. Just be really wary of using descriptions in your text, like you wouldn't put a Baroque orchestra in.

If you need something else for your particular story around this time, maybe Historical Novelists Center can help with their Crusades pages.

copyright Holly Ingraham




50 Books for:

The Peloponnese, 396 BC

 Early Viking, c. 850

The First Crusade, Outre-Mer 1098 

 The Hundred Years War, France, 1352

Richelieuan France, 1630

Pirate Caribbean, 1670 

 Napoleonic London Highlife 1803

Regency London Highlife 1817

Mexico, 1846-8

 London Low-Life 1870

 Gilded Age New York 1898

Check the Near History sample guides. There's more to read, but mostly lighter stuff, as well as lots more in video. A few appropriate movies from a year are much easier to get through than a detail biography of a president and will tell you more about ordinary life.

Return to introduction.