project: War Women

 This project was unusual because I knew I would be avoiding any historical personages, and dealing briefly with cities before heading into an invented area in southern France. Between the wars and the Black Death, Europe had a remarkable amount of uninhabited land. So I didn't need much on the politics and bigwigs except to see how they might reflect in my less-than-exalted band. So I skipped the usual political history and bios of leaders. On the other hand, my core group was a band of warriors so I went very heavily into personal combat.

 THE ONE BOOK I USED CONSTANTLY

Lacroix, Paul; Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period

As Gadifere reminded me, I really need to note that I can work from ancient texts like this because I have been a medievalist since high school. I automatically recognize, and laugh, when this guy is a century and a half out of date, or the experts he consulted are making use of the era's uncontrolled narcotics (like when they think a sideless surcote is a gown with a kind of external corset, despite all pictures and literary descriptions to the contrary). When Lacroix has mined the written sources himself, he's a good compiler of information on France, rather than the usual glut of information on England; hits all sorts of odd customs and bits of behavior; and stuffs his pages full of period illustrations.

 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.
Lacroix, Paul; Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period; 1876; PG; This is big and detailed enough to cover others, too.

3.) General transportation
Norbert Ohler, trans. by Caroline Hilleir; The Medieval Traveller; 1986; trans 1989; Artemis Verlag; Boydell Press, Woodbridge, UK. See? I didn't even bring in Transport through the Ages.

4.) General costume
Boucher, François 20,000 Years of Fashion: The History of Costume and Personal Adornment Harry N. Abrams, NY.( this is always my #4). There's also Costumers Manifesto, whose pages can get pretty specific.

5.) Specific transportation
Mike Stamm; The Mule Alternative: The Saddle Mule in the American West; 1992; Medicine Wolf Press, Kingman, AZ. This isn't on period by a long shot, but it covers mule behavior and incidents in mountain paths, which is where the pack mules are going. For free, Riley, Harvey, The Mule, A Treatise on the Breeding, Training, and Uses to Which He May Be Put; New York, Dick & Fitzgerald,1867, which is geared to harness mules as well as pack mules.

6.) Etiquette
The Book of the Knight of La Tour-Landry
. If I hadn't had a noble in the crew, I would have skipped this. Even so, you need to have a feeling for the class differences, and how much louting gets done when a warrior looks sidelong at a peasant.

7.) Spectator entertainments
Lacroix, Paul; Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period; 1876; PG; because this is a minor matter in this novel, and he has a chapter or two on it.

8.) Self-entertainments
Lacroix, Paul; Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period; 1876; PG; because this is a minor matter in this novel.

9.) Food and dining, including what sort of public dining was available.
Hazlitt, William Carew; Old Cookery Books and Ancient Cuisine; 1902; London; PG; British, but close enough after Lacroix and Ohler.

10.) Recipes for period food.
Forme of Cury, available at Internet Archive, for a professional chef, but Lacroix and Hazlitt will cover the peasant dishes I need.

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

12.) Specific dress styles, for your decade
Houston, Mary G., Medieval Costume in England and France: The 13th, 14th and 15th Centuries (Dover Fashion and Costumes) 1939, 1996; Adam & Charles Black, London; Dover. This is dead on to period, though a little heavy on the Luttrell Psalter, which is British, for the peasantry. I'm not sure that smocked apron is period all over or just a British folk fad.

13.) Religion for the time and place.
Lacroix, a different book: Military and Religious Life in the Middle Ages and at the Period of the Renaissance If you aren't Catholic but need to reconstruct what life was like in a Church-controlled society, this is excellent. It also reminds the Catholics how different the religion was back then. On the other hand, his grasp of medieval military and combat can be read aloud for big laughs to the right audience.

14) A fat history book of the area and century.
Durant, Will; 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,

Because politics play no part, and as a medievalist and former re-enactor I'm fairly solid on this, I did not need:

15) A history of the most influential country at the time (country A = England). Durant
16) A history of its rival (country B = the rump state of France). Durant
17) A biography of the leader of country A.
18) A biography of the leader of country B. Jehan le Bel, mod. Jean le Bel or John the Good. Raymond Cazelles, Société politique, noblesse et couronne sous Jean le Bon et Charles V (Memoires Et Documents Publies Par L'ecole Des Chartes) (French Edition) (1982)
19) A history of the country you are setting in, general. France, so this would be substitute anyway.
20) A history of the country you are setting in, that era. France, so this would be substitute anyway.
21) A biography of the leader of the country of your setting. France, so this would be substitute anyway.

So I substituted --

 14) Ciba Review; The Spinning Wheel; 1939; Ciba Review, Basle; because most women spend their lives spinning whenever something else doesn't tie up their hands. This is hand-spindle/drop-spindle period. Even if the Luttrell Psalter does show a jacked-up version of a walking wheel (probably based on something the artist heard about), peasants don't have this, but middle-class dames.

15) ffoulkes, Charles; Armour and Weapons; Oxford Clarendon press, 1909. Most of the volume is on armour development, including one chapter on horse armour. One chapter only goes to weapons. It's a simple explanation: while you can get all ob-com about details of pommels on swords and the snaggles on polearms, for the most part there is only a limited development of weapons, with variations in size: the sword, the mace, the flail, the spear and lance, the polearm. Here they are considered mostly vis-a-vis their effectiveness against various forms of armour--which in this book strongly considers that of the ordinary man-at-arms, wearing leather or quilted linen, rather than just the knight in iron. Great reference to get away from expensive metallic armour. This is as much as you actually need on the subject of armour. Everything else starts overwhelming you with metal and collector details.

16) Agriculure! This is about peasant farmers. Allen, William Francis; Agriculture in the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, this is anglocentric

17) Hyland, Ann; The Warhorse, 1250-1600; 1998; Sutton Books, Thrupp, Stroud, Gloucestershire; because that's what the warriors ride.

18) Podhajsky, Alois, trans. Melvin Powers; Complete Training of Horse and Rider in the Principles of Classical Horsemanship; 1965; Wilshire Book Co, N. Hollywood, CA; because this is the martial art of warhorses that survived from the Middle Ages.

19) Hardy, Robert; Longbow: a Social and Military History; 1976, 1986, 1990, 1992 rev & enlarged; Bois d'Arc Press -- just to see its effect on warriors of the time, though I wound up not having an archer. Again, in the 50 you can count the books you read on the period even if you don't use their topic: you wouldn't know you shouldn't have it or don't need it unless you do.

20) Clements, John; Medieval Swordsmanship: Illustrated Methods and Techniques; 1998; Paladin Press, Boulder CO -- because the book is about a whole lotta violence, and I couldn't agree with him more about a certain re-enactor group's "heavy weapons" rules as malarkey (saith an armiger).

21) Gravett, Christopher; plates by Angus McBride; Knights at Tournament; 1988, 2001; Osprey Publishing Ltd., London -- this is fancy fussy upper class stuff, but I wanted to have it in the back of some peoples' minds.

22) An everyday life for the commoner
Gies, Joseph & Frances; Life in a Medieval Village, as well as G. G. Coulton The Medieval Village.

23.) An everyday life for the upper classes
Gies, Joseph & Frances; Life in a Medieval Castle; 1974; Harper & Row, NY. But we should also add Chivalry (Yale Nota Bene) by Maurice Keen to see what the gentlefolk of the castle are thinking, or Geoffroy de Charny's A Knight's Own Book of Chivalry (The Middle Ages Series). ed. Richard W. Kaeuper & Elspeth Kennedy (2005 trans).

24.) An everyday life for the middle class
Gies, Joseph & Frances; Life in a Medieval City; 1969; Thomas Y. Crowell, NY; Harper Colophon. Add Guilds in the Middle Ages by Renard, Cole & Terry: London : G. Bell and sons,, ltd., 1918. as well as Le ménagier de Paris, traité de morale et d'économie domestique composé vers 1393 (1846; Paris, Impr. de Crapelet) by Albertano, da Brescia, 13th cent; Bruyant, Jean, 14th cent; Renault, de Louens, 14th cent., tr; Société des bibliophiles françois (Paris, France).

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

 Yes, I live on the work of the Gieses, bless them. But I also read all four volumes of Lacroix to eke out 22-25 and took copious notes. The book I have on Anglo-Saxon women, for example, while it's "medieval," would actually be for the wrong time and place. There's a limit to how far you can spread information out of its proper sphere.

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; Blandford, Cassell Artillery House, London.

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 the Gies books and LaCroix, this was enough.

I hope you're starting to see that fifty is a round number, and not always literal.

28) A book about courting, romance, and sex.
I confess I didn't really look for one. It was minor in my story and my years of reading old sagas and epics and Chaucer and such left me with as much as I really needed to know. The Canterbury Tales will show you high and low in their courting or chasing.

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 that chapter out of my files. That's the same as you flipping to the right chapter in People's Names, or going to the Academy of St. Gabriel. I needed Medieval French and Provençal, and Italian for a mercenary captain.

30.) Medicine of the time and place.
Walsh, James Joseph, Old-Time Makers of Medicine: The Story of The Students And Teachers of the Sciences Related to Medicine During the Middle Ages covers Great physicians in early Christian times -- Great Jewish physicians -- Maimonides -- Great Arabian physicians -- The medical school at Salerno -- Constantine Africanus -- Medieval women physicians -- Mondino and the medical school of Bologna -- Great surgeons of the medieval universities -- Guy de Chauliac -- Medieval dentistry: Giovanni of Arcoli -- Cusanus and the first suggestion of laboratory methods in medicine -- Basil Valentine, last of the alchemists, first of the chemists -- Appendices: St. Luke, the physician. Science at the medieval universities. Medieval popularization of science. Also the relevant chapters in Lacroix, Paul, Science and Literature in the Middle Ages and at the Period of the Renaissance (1878, London, Bickers & Son).

31.) Climate, weather, and seasons.
The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850
by Brian M. Fagan (2001, Basic Books)

Period Maps

I had a few simple ones of the period lying around, and they were enough to orient me. Really, an historical atlas is one of those reference books any histfi author who changes periods needs like they need the other introductory references.

 Now we get into the free-form stuff. For all that, consider the general usefulness of these books for the period.

32) Cities: Saalman, Howard; Medieval Cities; 1968; George Braziller, NY, because they do travel through them.

33) General Culture: Ashley, Roscoe Lewis; Early European Civilization, A Textbook for Secondary Schools; 1916; Macmillan Co, NY; this is a general intro, really. Think of it as filling out the Outline.

34) Sumpter Beasts: US Army. Quartermaster Corps; Daly, Henry W.; Manual of Pack Transportation (1917: Washington, D.C.: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.) Of course the practices are much too late, but it let me in on what I could expect of the beasts.

35) Home Crafts: Simmons, Paula; Spinning and Weaving with Wool; 1977; Pacific Search Press, Seattle; because wool is what peasants spin and weave.

36) Arts & Crafts: Lacroix, Arts in the Middle Ages, and at the Period of the Renaissance which includes all the crafts, from carpentry to armouring.

37) Everyday Life: Tilley, Arthur Augustus, 1851-1942; Medieval France: A Companion to French studies; Cambridge [Eng.]: The University Press, 1922. This is an excellent basic source.

38) Heraldry: Franklyn, Julian; Heraldry; 1965; A. S. Barnes & Co, So.Brunswick, NY. This was the great age of heraldry, with people wearing their arms on their clothing. No one, though, needs a multi-volume encyclopedia on the subject, when so much is late, or the whole thing is British, not even including Scottish. For free, try Heraldry, Ancient and Modern: Including Boutell's Heraldry, by Charles Boutell & S. T. Aveling (1890: London ; New York : F. Warne)

39) Woman Warriors: Because I wanted a period when women warriors were fairly common, I let my choice be guided by Salmonson, Jessica Amanda; The Encyclopedia of Amazons,; 1991; Paragon House, NY. This was actually the first book I read to settle my period. Otherwise, I would have had to have created a soft-sf world, or maybe gone to fantasy for my setting.

40) Lowlife: McCall, Andrew; The Medieval Underworld; 1979; A. M. Heath & Co., Ltd, because I have bandits to deal with.

41) Judicial Combat: ffoulkes, Charles; The Armourer & His Craft from the XIth to the XVth Century; 1922; for real armour, not armour myths. This almost counts as a costume book with so many armoured warriors. However, he includes the surviving part of a description of a judicial combat.

42) Costume, Furniture, Tents, Armour, Weapons, Jewelry, et al: Viollet-le-duc, Emmanuel; 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. This is perfect for my setting.

43) 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.

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) 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. Thoroughly discredits the "peasant levy" myth and the anachronism of the long charge at a gallop (projection of modern cavalry behavior on to knights).

47) Arms & Armour: Oakeshott, R. Ewart; The Archaeology of Weapons, Arms and Armor From Prehistory to the Age of Chivalry; 1960; Lutterworth Press, London; for a better look at swords and styles..

48) Setting: Page, Jake; Forest (Planet Earth); 1983; Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA. Because you need to know your surroundings. Alternate from Gadifere: "For getting to grips with the antics of late medieval warfare, you can read Maurice Keen, The Laws of War in the Late Middle Ages (reprinted in 1993). Be warned though, the book is dense, especially the first chapters. You might not need it, unless you're completely bewildered by the practices of hostage taking, ransoms, free passings, etc. and you'd want to know to the last detail how it worked."

49) General Life and History: France in the Middle Ages (1963 reprint Frederick Ungar Publishing Co.) by Paul Lacroix. Do I use this guy a lot? Like the Gieses, he's useful all over, if you remember to check him against more modern concepts.

50) Music: If nothing else, you may want period music to write to. I already had just a few sources (several albums). There is a lot out there and it's better quality that we used to be able to get. Look for "Early Music" (which includes Baroque and Renaissance, which is too late), as well as medieval music (mediaeval music in the UK). My "entry" here would be a whole sub-list. Les Musiciens de Provence, Instruments Antiques, still rules. If you go to 8tracks, you can find many medieval playlists (so you don't have commercial interruptions the way you do at Pandora or Live 365). You can also find a ton of soundtrack playlists to get you wound up for big-screen action.

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

copyright Holly Ingraham

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 50 Books for:

The Peloponnese, 396 BC 

 Early Viking, c. 850

The First Crusade, Outre-Mer 1098 

 The Hundred Years War, France1352

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.

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