The ideas we tend to have about the Middle Ages are mostly based on how the time period has been interpreted through fantasy fiction and games, and the romanticizing of the era by intellectuals, scholars, politicians, and artists in the nineteenth century.
These interpretations have given rise to a view of the Middle Ages as an entirely Christian society in western Europe, populated only by white people, and with few influences coming from outside.
This view is inaccurate.
Moreover, the Middle Ages as a time period is in itself an after-the-fact construct. The Middle Ages got its name because in early history writing there was a time period of approximately one thousand years in between the collapse of the Roman Empire in the west and the Renaissance, and this time period needed a name. It was given the name the Middle Ages because it was located in the middle of Rome and the Renaissance, two supposedly superior and more sophisticated time periods.
Yes, the Middle Ages was a time period of repression, oppression, persecution, warfare, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, sexism, and misogyny. But so is our time period.
Therefore, it bears repeating that:
The Middle Ages was an age of diversity.
The Middle Ages was an age of cultural exchange.
The Middle Ages was an age of progress in science, architecture, medicine, philosophy, legislation, and theology.
The European Middles Ages was a society dominated by the Catholic Church, but with several other religions represented under that umbrella, such as Judaism, Islam, and various forms of Paganism.
Here are 100 must-read titles about the Middle Ages in all its colorful, contradictory, and mind-bending splendor.
The blurbs for the books about the Middle Ages have been taken, whole or in part, from amazon.com, except when noted.
1. Anna Sapir Abulafia, Christian-Jewish Relations, 1000–1300: Jews in the Service of Medieval Christendom
The history of relations between Jews and Christians has been a long, complex and often unsettled one; yet histories of medieval Christendom have traditionally paid only passing attention to the role played by Jews in a predominantly Christian society. This book provides an original survey of medieval Christian-Jewish relations encompassing England, Spain, France, and Germany, and sheds light in the process on the major developments in medieval history between 1000 and 1300.
2. Janet Abu-Lughod, Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D. 1250–1350
In this important study, Janet Abu-Lughod presents a groundbreaking reinterpretation of global economic evolution, arguing that the modern world economy had its roots not in the sixteenth century, as is widely supposed, but in the thirteenth century economy—a system far different from the European world system which emerged from it. Before European Hegemony provides a new paradigm for understanding the evolution of world systems by tracing the rise of a system that, at its peak in the opening decades of the 14th century, involved a vast region stretching between northwest Europe and China.
This book presents a critical look at historical events during the time of two key figures in the history of Islam: firstly Caliph Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, who played a critically important role in the birth and spread of Islam. Secondly Sultan Salah al-Din, the legendary “Saladdin” of Western Crusader lore. This pioneering study uses extensive original research to explore Muslim treatment of non-Muslims in the 7th century and in the Middle Ages.
4. Soheil Muhsin Afnan, Avicenna: His Life and Works
This book is an attempt to present to the general reader the life and works of Avicenna, or Ibn Sina, who is beyond doubt the most provocative figure in the history of thought in the East.
5. Suzanne C. Akbari, Idols in the East: European Representations of Islam and the Orient, 1100–1450
This book contributes to the recent surge of interest in European encounters with Islam and the Orient in the pre-modern world. Focusing on the medieval period, Suzanne C. Akbari examines a broad range of texts including encyclopedias, maps, medical and astronomical treatises, chansons de geste, romances, and allegories to paint an unusually diverse portrait of medieval culture.
6. Anonymous & Robert Cook, Njal’s Saga
Written in the thirteenth century, Njal’s Saga is a story that explores perennial human problems—from failed marriages to divided loyalties, from the law’s inability to curb human passions to the terrible consequences when decent men and women are swept up in a tide of violence beyond their control. Full of dreams, strange prophecies, violent power struggles, and fragile peace agreements, Njal’s Saga tells the compelling story of a fifty-year blood feud in medieval Iceland that, despite its distance from us in time and place, is driven by passions familiar to us all.
7. Anonymous & Eva Österberg (Erik Carlquist & Peter C. Hogg, transl.), The Chronicle of Duke Erik: A Verse Epic from Medieval Sweden
Written in the 14th century and enjoying a Swedish national status similar to the English Beowulf, this fascinating tale with many levels of meaning reflects the ideals of politics and aesthetics typical of the age of chivalry. The rhyming verses are accompanied by prose renditions and commentary, making the work enjoyable reading for anyone with an interest in medieval texts. This genuine piece of Scandinavian history contains intriguing dichotomies between center and periphery, male and female, and Christian and heathen.
8. Anonymous & Burton Raffel, The Song of the Cid: A Dual-Language Edition with Parallel Text
Venture into the heart of Islamic Spain in this vibrant, rollicking new translation of The Song of the Cid, the only surviving epic from medieval Spain. Banished from the court of King Alfonso, the noble warrior Rodrigo Diaz, know as the Cid, sets out from Castile to restore his name. In a series of battles, he earns wealth and honor for his men and his king, as well as fame and admiration for himself. But it is in rescuing his daughters from their ill-suited marriages that the Cid faces the ultimate challenge to the medieval heroic ideal.
9. Anthony Bale, Feeling Persecuted: Christians, Jews, and Images of Violence in the Middle Ages
Anthony Bale explores the medieval Christian attitude toward Jews, which included a pervasive fear of persecution and an imagined fear of violence enacted against Christians. As a result, Christians retaliated with expulsions, riots, and murders that systematically denied Jews the right to religious freedom and peace. Through close readings of a wide range of sources, Bale exposes the perceived violence enacted by the Jews and how the images of this Christian suffering and persecution were central to medieval ideas of love, community, and home. The images and texts explored by Bale expose a surprising practice of recreational persecution and show that the violence perpetrated against medieval Jews was far from simple anti-Semitism and was in fact a complex part of medieval life and culture.
10. Anthony Bale, The Jew in the Medieval Book: English Antisemitisms, 1350–1500
This interdisciplinary study explores images of Jews and Judaism in late medieval English literature and culture. Anthony Bale demonstrates how varied and changing ideas of Judaism coexisted within well-known anti-Semitic literary and visual models, depending on context, authorship and audience. He examines the ways in which English writers, artists and readers used and abused the Jewish image in the period following the Jews’ expulsion from England in 1290. This important work opens up fresh texts, sources and approaches for understanding medieval anti-Semitism and shows how anti-Semitic stereotypes came to be such potent images which would endure far beyond the Middle Ages.
11. James H. Barrett (eds.), Contact, Continuity, Collapse: The Norse Colonization of the North Atlantic
This collection of ten papers investigates the Norse colonization of the North Atlantic region, starting with Viking expansion in Arctic Norway and ending with a discussion of the long term implications of medieval Scandinavian exploration of the New World. In sequence, the chapters focus on North Norway, the Faeroes, Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, the Inuits of Smith Sound, L’Anse aux Meadows, and Vinland, together with introductory and concluding chapters.
12. Molly H. Bassett & Vincent W. Lloyd (eds.), Sainthood and Race: Marked Flesh, Holy Flesh
Sainthood and Race: Marked Flesh, Holy Flesh explores the complicated
relationship between sainthood and race by examining two distinct characteristics of the saint’s body: the historicized, marked flesh and the universal, holy flesh. Additionally, the book’s group of emerging and established religion scholars enhances this discussion of sainthood and race by integrating topics such as gender, community, and colonialism across a variety of historical, geographical, and religious contexts. This volume raises provocative questions for scholars and students interested in the intersection of religion and race today.
Ibn Battutah—ethnographer, biographer, anecdotal historian, and occasional botanist—was just 21 when he set out in 1325 from his native Tangier on a pilgrimage to Mecca. He did not return to Morocco for another 29 years, traveling instead through more than 40 countries on the modern map, covering 75,000 miles and getting as far north as the Volga, as far east as China, and as far south as Tanzania. With this edition by Tim Mackintosh-Smith, Ibn Battutah’s Travels takes its place alongside other indestructible masterpieces of the travel-writing genre.
14. Elisheva Baumgarten, Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz: Men, Women, and Everyday Religious Observance
Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz provides a social history of religious practice in context, particularly with regard to the ways Jews and Christians, separately and jointly, treated their male and female members. By depicting a dynamic interfaith landscape and a diverse representation of believers, Elisheva Baumgarten offers a fresh assessment of Jewish practice and the shared elements that composed the piety of Jews in relation to their Christian neighbors.
15. Cordelia Beattie & Kirsten A. Fenton (eds.), Intersections of Gender, Religion, and Ethnicity in the Middle Ages
This collection of essays focuses attention on how medieval gender intersects with other categories of difference, particularly religion and ethnicity. It treats the period c. 800–1500 with a particular focus on the era of the Gregorian reform movement, the First Crusade, and its linked attacks on Jews at home.
16. Katharine Scarfe Beckett, Anglo-Saxon Perceptions of the Islamic World
In this book, Katharine Scarfe Beckett is concerned with representations of the Islamic world prevalent in Anglo-Saxon England. Using a wide variety of literary, historical and archaeological evidence, she argues that the first perceptions of Arabs, Ismaelites, and Saracens, which derived from Christian exegesis, preconditioned western expressions of hostility and superiority towards peoples of the Islamic world, and that these received ideas prevailed even as material contacts increased between England and Muslim territory.
17. Adam H. Becker & Annette Yoshiko Reed, The Ways that Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages
In this first paperback edition of a volume originally published by Mohr Siebeck in 2003, stellar international scholars question whether there in fact was a “parting of the ways” between Judaism and Christianity. Includes a new preface by the editors discussing scholarship since 2003.
18. Judith M. Bennett & Ruth Mazo Karas, The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe
The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe provides a comprehensive overview of the gender rules encountered in Europe in the period between approximately 500 and 1500 C.E. The essays collected in this volume speak to interpretative challenges common to all fields of women’s and gender history—i.e., how best to uncover the experiences of ordinary people from archives formed mainly by and about elite males, and how to combine social histories of lived experiences with cultural histories of gendered discourses and identities. The collection focuses on Western Europe in the Middle Ages but offers some consideration of medieval Islam and Byzantium.
19. Francisco Bethencourt, Racisms: From the Crusades to the Twentieth Century
Demonstrating that there is not one continuous tradition of racism, Francisco Bethencourt shows that racism preceded any theories of race and must be viewed within the prism and context of social hierarchies and local conditions. Bethencourt argues that in its various aspects, all racism has been triggered by political projects monopolizing specific economic and social resources. Racisms focuses on the Western world, but opens comparative views on ethnic discrimination and segregation in Asia and Africa.
From the Demonic Threat to the Incarnation of Sainthood, written largely by noted French scholar Jean Devisse, has established itself as a classic in the field of medieval art. It surveys as never before the presence of black people, mainly mythical, in art from the early Christian era to the fourteenth century. The extraordinary transformation of Saint Maurice into a black African saint, the subject of many noble and deeply touching images, is a highlight of this volume. The new introduction by Paul Kaplan provides a fresh perspective on the image of the black in medieval European art and contextualizes the classic essays on the subject.
21. David Bindman & Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (eds.), The Image of the Black in Western Art, vol. II. From the Early Christian Era to the “Age of Discovery.” Part 2. Africans in the Christian Ordinance of the World. New Edition
Africans in the Christian Ordinance of the World, written by a small team of French scholars, has established itself as a classic in the field of medieval art. The most striking development in this period was the gradual emergence of the black Magus, invariably a figure of great dignity, in the many representations of the Adoration of the Magi by the greatest masters of the time. The new introduction by Paul Kaplan provides a fresh perspective on the image of the black in medieval European art and contextualizes the classic essays on the subject.
22. Lisa M. Bitel & Felice Lifshitz (eds.), Gender and Christianity in Medieval Europe: New Perspectives
In Gender and Christianity in Medieval Europe, six historians explore how medieval people professed Christianity, how they performed gender, and how the two coincided. Many of the daily religious decisions people made were influenced by gender roles, the authors contend. The authors also argue that medieval Europeans chose how to be women or men (or some complex combination of the two), just as they decided whether and how to be religious. In this sense, religious institutions freed men and women from some of the gendered limits otherwise imposed by society.
23. Giovanni Bocaccio & G.H. McWilliam, The Decameron.
In the summer of 1348, as the Black Death ravages their city, ten young Florentines take refuge in the countryside. They amuse themselves by each telling a story a day for the ten days they are destined to remain there—a hundred stories of love, adventure and surprising twists of fate. The result is a towering monument of European literature and a masterpiece of imaginative narrative. This is the second edition of G. H. McWilliam’s acclaimed translation of The Decameron. His introduction illuminates the worlds of Boccaccio and of his storytellers, showing Boccaccio as a master of vivid and exciting prose fiction.
24. John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century
John Boswell’s National Book Award–winning study of the history of attitudes toward homosexuality in the early Christian West was a groundbreaking work that challenged preconceptions about the Church’s past relationship to its gay members—among them priests, bishops, and even saints—when it was first published thirty-five years ago. The historical breadth of Boswell’s research (from the Greeks to Aquinas) and the variety of sources consulted make this one of the most extensive treatments of any single aspect of Western social history. Now in this thirty-fifth anniversary edition with a new foreword by leading queer and religious studies scholar Mark D. Jordan, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality is still fiercely relevant. This landmark book helped form the disciplines of gay and gender studies, and it continues to illuminate the origins and operations of intolerance as a social force.
25. Rémi Brague (Lydia G. Cochrane, transl.), The Legend of the Middle Ages: Philosophical Explorations of Medieval Christianity, Judaism, and Islam
This volume explores key intersections of medieval religion and philosophy. With characteristic erudition and insight, Rémi Brague focuses less on individual Christian, Jewish, and Muslim thinkers than on their relationships with one another. Brague’s portrayal of this misunderstood age brings to life not only its philosophical and theological nuances, but also lessons for our own time.
26. Michael Camille, Mirror in Parchment: The Luttrell Psalter and the Making of Medieval England
What is the status of visual evidence in history? Can we actually see the past through images? Where are the traces of previous lives deposited? Mirror in Parchment is a lively, searching study of one medieval manuscript, its patron, producers, and historical progeny. The richly illuminated Luttrell Psalter was created for the English nobleman Sir Geoffrey Luttrell (1276–1345). In the conviction that medieval images were not generally intended to reflect daily life but rather to shape a new reality, Michael Camille analyzes the Psalter’s famous pictures as representations of the world, imagined and real, of its original patron. Addressed are late medieval chivalric ideals, physical sites of power, and the boundaries of Sir Geoffrey’s imagined community, wherein agricultural laborers and fabulous monsters play a similar ideological role. The Luttrell Psalter thus emerges as a complex social document of the world as its patron hoped and feared it might be.
27. Bruce M.S. Campbell, The Great Transition: Climate, Disease, and Society in the Late-Medieval World
In the fourteenth century, the Old World witnessed a series of profound and abrupt changes in the trajectory of long-established historical trends. Transcontinental networks of exchange fractured and an era of economic contraction and demographic decline dawned from which Latin Christendom would not begin to emerge until its voyages of discovery at the end of the fifteenth century. In a major new study of this “Great Transition,” Bruce Campbell assesses the contributions of commercial recession, war, climate change, and eruption of the Black Death to a far-reaching reversal of fortunes from which no part of Eurasia was spared. The book synthesizes a wealth of new historical, paleo-ecological and biological evidence, including estimates of national income, reconstructions of past climates, and genetic analysis of DNA extracted from the teeth of plague victims, to provide a fresh account of the creation, collapse and realignment of Western Europe’s late medieval commercial economy.
28. Robert Chazan, Reassessing Jewish Life in Medieval Europe
This book reevaluates the prevailing notion that Jews in medieval Christian Europe lived under an appalling regime of ecclesiastical limitation, governmental exploitation and expropriation, and unceasing popular violence. Robert Chazan argues that, while Jewish life in medieval Western Christendom was indeed beset with grave difficulties, it was nevertheless an environment rich in opportunities.
The “Northern Crusades,” inspired by the Pope’s call for a Holy War, are less celebrated than those in the Middle East, but they were also more successful: vast new territories became and remain Christian, such as Finland, Estonia, and Prussia. Newly revised in the light of the recent developments in Baltic and Northern medieval research, this authoritative overview provides a balanced and compelling account of a tumultuous era.
30. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Of Giants: Sex, Monsters, and the Middle Ages
A psychoanalytic look at the representation of monsters, giants, and masculinity in medieval texts. The phenomenon of giants and giant-slaying appear in various texts from the Anglo-Saxon to late Middle English period, including Beowulf, The Knight and the Lion, History of the Kings of Britain and several of Chaucer’s books.
31. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen & Mikael Uebel (eds.), The Postcolonial Middle Ages
An increased awareness of the importance of minority and subjugated voices to the histories and narratives, which have previously excluded them, has led to a wide-spread interest in the effects of colonization and displacement. This collection of essays is the first to apply postcolonial theory to the Middle Ages, and to critique that theory through the excavation of a distant past.
32. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Hybridity, Identity, and Monstrosity in Medieval Britain: On Difficult Middles
This study examines the monsters that haunt twelfth-century British texts, arguing that in these strange bodies are expressed fears and fantasies about community, identity, and race during the period. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen finds the origins of these monsters in a contemporary obsession with blood, both the literal and metaphorical kind.
33. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (ed.), Cultural Diversity in the British Middle Ages: Archipelago, Island, England
Through close readings of both familiar and obscure medieval texts, the contributors to this volume attempt to read England as a singularly powerful entity within a vast geopolitical network. The contributors to this volume seek moments of cultural admixture and heterogeneity within texts that have often been assumed to belong to a single, national canon, discovering moments when familiar and bounded space erupt into unexpected diversity and infinite realms.
34. Christine Ekholst, A Punishment for Each Criminal: Gender and Crime in Swedish Medieval Law
Christine Ekholst provides the first in-depth analysis of how gender influenced Swedish medieval legislation. The book explores the important legislative changes that took place when women were made personally responsible for their own crimes.
35. Miriam Eliav-Feldon, Benjamin Isaac & Joseph Ziegler (eds.), The Origins of Racism in the West
Is it possible to speak of western racism before the eighteenth century? The term “racism” is normally only associated with theories, which first appeared in the eighteenth century, about inherent biological differences that made one group superior to another. Here, however, leading historians argue that racism can be traced back to the attitudes of the ancient Greeks to their Persian enemies and that it was adopted, adjusted and re-formulated by Europeans right through until the dawn of the Enlightenment. In so doing this book offers a major reassessment of the place of racism in pre-modern European thought.
36. Jonathan Elukin, Living Together, Living Apart: Rethinking Jewish-Christian Relations in the Middle Ages
Jonathan Elukin traces the experience of Jews in Europe from late antiquity through the Renaissance and Reformation, revealing how the pluralism of medieval society allowed Jews to feel part of their local communities despite recurrent expressions of hatred against them.
37. Steven Epstein, Purity Lost: Transgressing Boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean, 1000–1400
Purity Lost investigates the porous nature of social, political, and religious boundaries prevalent in the eastern Mediterranean—from the Black Sea to Egypt—during the Middle Ages. Drawing on examples from daily life and interstate politics, Steven Epstein takes a close look at the renegades and rule-breakers of this era. Epstein reveals the modern view of cultural, ethnic, and religious purity in the early modern Mediterranean as a mirage, and he offers new insights into how present-day conceptions about creed, color, ethnicity, and language originated.
Between the ninth and fourteenth centuries, Arab explorers journeyed widely and frequently into the far north, crossing territories that now include Russia, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. Ibn Fadlan’s chronicles of his travels are one of the most important documents from the period, and this illuminating new translation offers insight into the world of the Arab geographers and the medieval lands of the far north. Based on an expedition to the upper Volga River in 922 AD, Ibn Fadlan and the Land of Darkness provides a rare and valuable glimpse of Viking customs, dress, table manners, religion, and sexual practices, including the only eyewitness account ever written of a Viking ship cremation.
39. Ahmad Ibn Fadlan, Ibn Fadlan’s Journey to Russia: A Tenth Century Traveler from Baghdad to the Volga River
This is the first English translation of the famous risala, letters by the tenth-century traveler Ibn Fadlan. Ibn Fadlan was an Arab missionary sent by the Caliph in Baghdad to the king of the Bulghars. He journeyed from Baghdad to Bukhara in Central Asia and then continued across the desert to the town of Bulghar, near present Kazan. He describes the tribes he meets on his way and gives an account of their customs. His is the earliest account of a meeting with the Vikings, called Rus, who had reached the Volga River from Sweden. His description of the Rus, or Rusiya as he calls them, has produced much discussion about their origins, shockingly free sexual morals standards, customs, treatment of slaves and women, burial traditions, and trading habits, all explained in detail by Ibn Fadlan. The story of his travels has fascinated scholars and even prompted Michael Crichton to write the popular novel Eaters of the Dead, which was made into a film entitled The 13th Warrior.
40. Dario Fernandez-Morera, The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain
In this groundbreaking book, Northwestern University scholar Darío Fernández-Morera tells the story of Islamic Spain. The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise shines light on hidden history by drawing on an abundance of primary sources that scholars have ignored, as well as archaeological evidence only recently unearthed.
41. Jerold C. Frakes (ed.), Contextualizing the Muslim Other in Medieval Christian Discourse
This book broadens the perspective of recent work on the discourse of the Muslim Other in medieval Christendom by investigating pertinent texts, art, and artifacts, situating these local discourses of the Muslim Other in the larger cultural context of proto-Eurocentric discourse.
42. Andrew Gillett (ed.), On Barbarian Identity: Critical Approaches to Ethnicity in the Early Middle Ages
Ethnicity has been central to medieval studies since the Goths, Franks, Alamanni, and other barbarian settlers of the Roman empire were first seen as part of Germanic antiquity. The authors in this volume explore new ways to understand barbarians in the early Middle Ages, and to analyze the images of the period constructed by modern scholarship.
43. Guy Halsall, Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376–568
This is a major survey of the barbarian migrations and their role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the creation of early medieval Europe. Unlike previous studies it integrates historical and archaeological evidence and discusses Britain, Ireland, mainland Europe and North Africa, demonstrating that the Roman Empire and its neighbors were inextricably linked. Guy Halsall reveals that the creation and maintenance of kingdoms and empires was impossible without the active involvement of people in the communities of Europe and North Africa. He concludes that, contrary to most opinions, the fall of the Roman Empire produced the barbarian migrations, not vice versa.
44. Stephen J. Harris, Race and Ethnicity in Anglo-Saxon Literature
What makes English literature English? This question inspires Stephen Harris’s wide-ranging study of Old English literature. From Bede in the eighth century to Geoffrey of Monmouth in the twelfth, Harris explores the intersections of race and literature before the rise of imagined communities. Harris demonstrates how King Alfred adapted Bede in the ninth century; how both exerted an effect on Archbishop Wulfstan in the eleventh; and how Old English poetry speaks to images of race. (Abstract from Research Gate)
45. Geraldine Heng, Empire of Magic. Medieval Romance and the Politics of Cultural Fantasy.
Drawing on feminist and gender theory, as well as cultural analyses of race, class, and colonialism, this provocative book revises our understanding of the beginnings of the nine hundred-year-old cultural genre we call romance, as well as the King Arthur legend. Geraldine Heng argues that romance arose in the twelfth century as a cultural response to the trauma and horror of taboo acts—in particular the cannibalism committed by crusaders on the bodies of Muslim enemies in Syria during the First Crusade. From such encounters with the East, Heng suggests, sprang the fantastical episodes featuring King Arthur in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s chronicle The History of the Kings of England, a work where history and fantasy collide and merge, each into the other, inventing crucial new examples and models for romances to come.
46. David Herlihy, The Black Death and the Transformation of the West
In this small book, David Herlihy makes subtle and subversive inquiries that challenge historical thinking about the Black Death. Looking beyond the view of the plague as unmitigated catastrophe, Herlihy finds evidence for its role in the advent of new population controls, the establishment of universities, the spread of Christianity, the dissemination of vernacular cultures, and even the rise of nationalism. This book, which displays a distinguished scholar’s masterly synthesis of diverse materials, reveals that the Black Death can be considered the cornerstone of the transformation of Europe.
In this unique book, Judith Herrin unveils the riches of a quite different civilization. Avoiding a standard chronological account of the Byzantine Empire’s millennium-long history, she identifies the fundamental questions about Byzantium—what it was, and what special significance it holds for us today. Herrin argues that Byzantium’s crucial role as the eastern defender of Christendom against Muslim expansion during the early Middle Ages made Europe—and the modern Western world—possible.
48. Cordelia Heß & Jonathan Adams (eds.), Fear and Loathing in the North: Jews and Muslims in Medieval Scandinavia and the Baltic Region
Due to the scarcity of sources regarding actual Jewish and Muslim communities and settlements, there has until now been little work on either the perception of, or encounters with, Muslims and Jews in medieval Scandinavia and the Baltic Region. This volume provides the reader with the possibility to appreciate and understand the complexity of Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations in the North.
49. Jonathan Hsy, Trading Tongues: Merchants, Multilingualism, and Medieval Literature
Trading Tongues offers fresh approaches to the multilingualism of major early English authors like Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower, Margery Kempe, and William Caxton, and lesser-known figures like French lyricist Charles d’Orléans. Juxtaposing literary works with contemporaneous Latin and French civic records, mixed-language merchant miscellanies, and bilingual phrasebooks, Jonathan Hsy illustrates how languages commingled in late medieval and early modern cities.
50. Sylvia Huot, Outsiders: The Humanity and Inhumanity of Giants in Medieval French Prose Romance
Focusing on medieval French prose romance and drawing on aspects of postcolonial theory, Sylvia Huot examines the role of giants in constructions of race, class, gender, and human subjectivity. Huot argues that the presence of giants allows for fantasies of ethnic and cultural conflict and conquest, and for the presentation—and suppression—of alternative narrative and historical trajectories that might have made Arthurian Britain a very different place.
51. Anthony Kaldellis, Streams of Gold, Rivers of Blood: The Rise and Fall of Byzantium, 955 A.D. to the First Crusade
In the second half of the tenth century, Byzantium embarked on a series of spectacular conquests: first in the southeast against the Arabs, then in Bulgaria, and finally in the Georgian and Armenian lands. By the early eleventh century, the empire was the most powerful state in the Mediterranean. Yet this imperial project came to a crashing collapse fifty years later, when political disunity, fiscal mismanagement, and defeat at the hands of the Seljuks in the east and the Normans in the west brought an end to Byzantine hegemony. Streams of Gold, Rivers of Blood offers new interpretations of key topics relevant to the medieval era. This briskly paced and thoroughly investigated narrative vividly brings to life one of the most exciting and transformative eras of medieval history.
52. Margery Kempe & Barry Windeatt, The Book of Margery Kempe
The story of the eventful and controversial life of Margery Kempe—wife, mother, businesswoman, pilgrim and visionary—is the earliest surviving autobiography in English. Here Kemp recounts in vivid, unembarrassed detail the madness that followed the birth of the first of her fourteen children, the failure of her brewery business, her dramatic call to the spiritual life, her visions and uncontrollable tears, the struggle to convert her husband to a vow of chastity, and her pilgrimages to Europe and the Holy Land. Margery Kempe could not read or write, and dictated her remarkable story late in life. It remains an extraordinary record of human faith and a portrait of a medieval woman of unforgettable character and courage.
53. Hugh Kennedy, Muslim Spain and Portugal: A Political History of al-Andalus
This is the first study in English of the political history of Muslim Spain and Portugal, based on Arab sources. It provides comprehensive coverage of events across the whole of the region from 711 to the fall of Granada in 1492. Hugh Kennedy raises the profile of this important area, bringing the subject alive with vivid translations from Arab sources. This will be fascinating reading for historians of medieval Europe and for historians of the Middle East drawing out the similarities and contrasts with other areas of the Muslim world.
54. Aisha Khan, Avicenna (Ibn Sina): Muslim Physician and Philosopher of the Eleventh Century
This book presents the life and accomplishments of the medieval philosopher and scientist Ibn Sina, who made monumental contributions to the fields of medicine, natural history, metaphysics, and religion.
55. Shirin A. Khanmohamadi, In Light of Another’s Word: European Ethnography in the Middle Ages
Challenging the traditional conception of medieval Europe as insular and even xenophobic, Shirin A. Khanmohamadi’s In Light of Another’s Word looks to early ethnographic writers who were surprisingly aware of their own otherness, especially when faced with the far-flung peoples and cultures they meant to describe. Poised at the intersection of medieval studies, anthropology, and visual culture, In Light of Another’s Word is an innovative departure from each, extending existing studies of medieval travel writing into the realm of poetics, of ethnographic form into the pre-modern realm, and of early visual culture into the realm of ethnographic encounter.
56. Keechang Kim, Aliens in Medieval Law: The Origins of Modern Citizenship
In this original reinterpretation of the legal status of foreigners in medieval England, Keechang Kim proposes a radically new understanding of the genesis of the modern legal regime and the important distinction between citizens and noncitizens. Making full use of medieval and early modern sources, the book examines how feudal legal arguments were transformed by the political theology of the Middle Ages to become the basis of the modern legal outlook.
This authoritative biography of Moses Maimonides, one of the most influential minds in all of human history, illuminates his life as a philosopher, physician, and lawgiver. A biography on a grand scale, it brilliantly explicates one man’s life against the background of the social, religious, and political issues of his time. Joel Kraemer draws on a wealth of original sources to re-create a remarkable period in history when Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions clashed and mingled in a setting alive with intense intellectual exchange and religious conflict.
58. Steven Kruger, The Spectral Jew: Conversion and Embodiment in Medieval Europe
Medieval European culture encompassed Judaic, Christian, Muslim, and pagan societies, forming a complex matrix of religious belief, identity, and imagination. Through incisive readings of a broad range of medieval texts and informed by post-structuralist, queer, and feminist theories, The Spectral Jew traces the Jewish presence in Western Europe to show how the body, gender, and sexuality were at the root of the construction of medieval religious anxieties, inconsistencies, and instabilities. By putting the conversion narrative at the center of this analysis, Kruger exposes it as a disruption of categories rather than a smooth passage and reveals the prominent role Judaism played in the medieval Christian imagination.
59. Miriamne Krummel, Crafting Jewishness in Medieval England: Legally Absent, Virtually Present
Miriamne Krummel challenges the accepted history of the English Middle Ages as a monolithic age of Christian faith. By cataloguing and explicating the complex depictions of semitisms to be found in medieval literature and material culture, this volume argues that Jews were always present in medieval England.
60. Carolyne Larrington (transl.), The Poetic Edda
After the terrible conflagration of Ragnarok, the earth rises serenely again from the ocean, and life is renewed. The Poetic Edda begins with The Seeress’s Prophecy which recounts the creation of the world, and looks forward to its destruction and rebirth. In this great collection of Norse-Icelandic mythological and heroic poetry, the exploits of gods and humans are related. The one-eyed Odin, red-bearded Thor, Loki the trickster, the lovely goddesses and the giants who are their enemies walk beside the heroic Helgi, Sigurd the Dragon-Slayer, Brynhild the shield-maiden, and the implacable Gudrun. New in this revised translation are the quest-poems The Lay of Svipdag and The Waking of Angantyr, in which a girl faces down her dead father to retrieve his sword.
61. Kathy Lavezzo, The Accommodated Jew: English Antisemitism from Bede to Milton
England during the Middle Ages was at the forefront of European anti-Semitism. It was in medieval Norwich that the notorious “blood libel” was first introduced when a resident accused the city’s Jewish leaders of abducting and ritually murdering a local boy. England also enforced legislation demanding that Jews wear a badge of infamy, and in 1290, it became the first European nation to expel forcibly all of its Jewish residents. In The Accommodated Jew, Kathy Lavezzo rethinks the complex and contradictory relation between England’s rejection of “the Jew” and the centrality of Jews to classic English literature. Drawing on literary, historical, and cartographic texts, she charts an entangled Jewish imaginative presence in English culture.
62. Yuen-Gen Liang, Family and Empire: The Fernandez de Cordoba and the Spanish Realm
In the medieval and early modern periods, Spain shaped a global empire from scattered territories spanning Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Historians either have studied this empire piecemeal—one territory at a time—or have focused on monarchs endeavoring to mandate the allegiance of far-flung territories to the crown. For Yuen-Gen Liang, these approaches do not adequately explain the forces that connected the territories that the Spanish empire comprised. In Family and Empire, Liang investigates the horizontal ties created by noble family networks whose members fanned out to conquer and subsequently administer key territories in Spain’s Mediterranean realm.
63. Benjamin Liu, Medieval Joke Poetry: The Cantigas d’Escarnho e de Mal Dizer
Medieval Joke Poetry examines the intersection of jokes, laughter, insults, and poetry in a collection of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century medieval Iberian songs known as the Cantigas d’escarnho e de mal dizer. Written in Galician-Portuguese, these “songs of mockery and insult” make up a heterogeneous corpus whose witticisms are by turns funny and vicious, crudely obscene and exquisitely sophisticated, playful and deadly serious. Benjamin Liu’s readings disentangle the complex verbal strategies of these joke-poems in order to reveal the latent cultural tensions that underlie their humor.
64. Hyam Maccoby, Judaism on Trial: Jewish-Christian Disputations in the Middle Ages
Hyam Maccoby’s now classic study focuses on the major Jewish-Christian disputations of medieval Europe: those of Paris (1240), Barcelona (1263), and Tortosa (1413–14). It examines the content of these theological confrontations with a sense of present-day relevance, while also discussing the use made of scriptural proof-texts. A new introduction reviews the relevant literature that has been published since the original edition appeared.
65. Ruth Melinkoff, Outcasts: Signs of Otherness in Northern European Art of the Late Middle Ages (2 vols.)
In this beautifully illustrated two-volume study, Ruth Mellinkoff has assembled and analyzed an extraordinary compilation of pictorial signs (motifs, attributes, and other artistic devices) used by medieval artists to identify and denigrate those figures deemed outcasts, such as Jews, heretics, Muslims, blacks, executioners, prostitutes, lepers, gamblers, foot soldiers, entertainers, and peasants. Mellinkoff focuses on art from northern Europe, with examples culled principally from the thirteenth into the middle of the sixteenth century.
Widely hailed as a revelation of a “lost” golden age, this history brings to vivid life the rich and thriving culture of medieval Spain where, for more than seven centuries, Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived together in an atmosphere of tolerance, and literature, science, and the arts flourished.
67. Haruko Momma & Michael Matto, Companion to the History of the English Language
A Companion to the History of the English Language addresses the linguistic, cultural, social, and literary approaches to language study. The first text to offer a complete survey of the field, this volume provides the most up-to-date insights of leading international scholars.
68. Robert I. Moore, The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Authority and Deviance in Western Europe, 950–1250
The tenth to the thirteenth centuries in Europe saw the appearance of popular heresy and the establishment of the Inquisition, the expropriation and mass murder of Jews, and the propagation of elaborate measures to segregate lepers from the healthy and curtail their civil rights. In this stimulating book, first published in 1987 and now widely regarded as a classic in medieval history, Robert I. Moore argues that the coincidences in the treatment of these and other minority groups cannot be explained independently, and that all are part of a pattern of persecution which now appeared for the first time to make Europe become, as it has remained, a persecuting society. In this new edition, R. I. Moore updates and extends his original argument with a new, final chapter, “A Persecuting Society”. Here, and in a new preface and critical bibliography, he considers the impact of a generation’s research and refines his conception of the “persecuting society” accordingly, addressing criticisms of the first edition.
69. Paul Moses, The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam, and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace
The Saint and the Sultan captures the lives of St. Francis and Sultan al-Kamil and illuminates the political intrigue and religious fervor of their time. In the process, it reveals a startlingly timely story of interfaith conflict, war, and the search for peace. More than simply a dramatic adventure, though it does not lack for colorful saints and sinners, loyalty and betrayal, and thrilling Crusade narrative, The Saint and the Sultan brings to life an episode of deep relevance for all who seek to find peace between the West and the Islamic world.
70. Aman Y. Nadhiri, Saracens and Franks in the 12th–15th Century European and Near Eastern Literature: Perceptions of Self and the Other
This book examines the construction of an image of the Other for Muslims in the Eastern Mediterranean and for Christians in Western Europe in works of literature, particularly in the works produced in the centuries preceding the Crusades; and it explores the ways in which both Muslim and Christian writers depicted the Enemy in historical accounts of the Crusades. In its analysis of the medieval Mediterranean Muslim and European Christian approaches to difference, this book interrogates the premises underlying the concept of the Other, challenging formulations of binary opposition such as the West versus Islam/Muslims.
71. David Nirenberg, Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages
In this provocative book, David Nirenberg focuses on specific attacks against minorities in fourteenth-century France and the Crown of Aragon (Aragon, Catalonia, and Valencia). He argues that these attacks—ranging from massacres to verbal assaults against Jews, Muslims, lepers, and prostitutes—were often perpetrated not by irrational masses laboring under inherited ideologies and prejudices, but by groups that manipulated and reshaped the available discourses on minorities. Nirenberg shows that their use of violence expressed complex beliefs about topics as diverse as divine history, kinship, sex, money, and disease, and that their actions were frequently contested by competing groups within their own society.
72. Joseph F. O’Callaghan, Reconquest and Crusade in Medieval Spain
Drawing from both Christian and Islamic sources, Reconquest and Crusade in Medieval Spain demonstrates that the clash of arms between Christians and Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula that began in the early eighth century was transformed into a crusade by the papacy during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Joseph F. O’Callaghan clearly demonstrates that any study of the history of the crusades must take a broader view of the Mediterranean to include medieval Spain.
73. Pamela A. Patton, Art of Estrangement: Redefining Jews in Reconquest Spain
At its peak in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the so-called Spanish Reconquest transformed the societies of the Iberian Peninsula at nearly every level. Among the most vivid signs of this change were the innovative images developed by Christians to depict the subjugated Muslims and Jews within their vastly expanded kingdoms. In Art of Estrangement, Pamela Patton traces the transformation of Iberia’s Jews in the visual culture of Spain’s Christian-ruled kingdoms as those rulers strove to affiliate with mainstream Europe and distance themselves from an uncomfortably multicultural past.
74. Christophe Picard (Nicholas Elliott, transl.), Sea of the Caliphs: The Mediterranean in the Medieval Islamic World
As early as the seventh century, Muslim sailors competed with Greek and Latin seamen for control of this far-flung route of passage. Christophe Picard recreates these adventures as they were communicated to admiring Muslims by their rulers. Sea of the Caliphs returns Muslim sailors to their place of prominence in the history of the Islamic caliphate.
75. Kim M. Philips, Before Orientalism: Asian Peoples and Cultures in European Travel Writing, 1245–1510
A distinct European perspective on Asia emerged in the late Middle Ages. Early reports of a homogeneous “India” of marvels and monsters gave way to accounts written by medieval travelers that indulged readers’ curiosity about far-flung landscapes and cultures without exhibiting the attitudes evident in the later writings of aspiring imperialists. Mining the accounts of more than twenty Europeans who made—or claimed to have made—journeys to Mongolia, China, India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia between the mid-thirteenth and early sixteenth centuries, Kim Phillips reconstructs a medieval European vision of Asia that was by turns critical, neutral, and admiring. Placing medieval writing on the East in the context of an emergent “Europe” whose explorers sought to learn more than to rule, Before Orientalism complicates our understanding of medieval attitudes toward the foreign.
The pioneering Book of the City of Ladies begins when, feeling frustrated and miserable after reading a male writer’s tirade against women, Christine de Pizan has a dreamlike vision where three virtues—Reason, Rectitude, and Justice—appear to correct this view. Christine de Pizan’s spirited defense of her sex was unique for its direct confrontation of the misogyny of her day, and offers a telling insight into the position of women in medieval culture. The Book of the City of Ladies provides positive images of women, ranging from warriors and inventors, scholars to prophetesses, and artists to saints.
77. Marco Polo & Sharon Kinoshita, The Description of the World
Composed in a prison cell in 1298 by Venetian merchant Marco Polo and Arthurian romance writer Rustichello of Pisa, The Description of the World relates Polo’s experiences in Asia and at the court of Qubilai, the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire. In addition to a new translation based on the Franco-Italian “F” manuscript of Polo’s text, this edition includes genealogies of the Mongol rulers and nine maps of Polo’s journey, as well as thorough annotation and an extensive bibliography.
78. Lynn T. Ramey, Black Legacies: Race and the European Middle Ages
Bringing far-removed time periods into startling conversation, this book argues that certain attitudes and practices present in Europe’s Middle Ages were foundational in the development of the western concept of race. Lynn Ramey demonstrates how mapmakers and travel writers of the colonial era used medieval lore of “monstrous peoples” to question the humanity of indigenous New World populations and how medieval arguments about humanness were employed to justify the slave trade. She also analyzes how race is portrayed in films set in medieval Europe, ultimately revealing an enduring fascination with the Middle Ages as a touchstone for processing and coping with racial conflict in the West today.
79. Chase F. Robinson, Islamic Civilization in Thirty Lives: The First 1000 Years
In Islamic Civilization in Thirty Lives, the distinguished historian of Islam Chase F. Robinson draws on the long tradition in Muslim scholarship of commemorating in writing the biographies of notable figures, but he weaves these ambitious lives together to create a rich narrative of Islamic civilization, from the Prophet Muhammad in the seventh century to the era of the world conqueror Timur and the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in the fifteenth.
80. E.M. Rose, The Murder of William of Norwich: The Origins of the Blood Libel in Medieval Europe
In 1144, the mutilated body of William of Norwich, a young apprentice leather worker, was found abandoned outside the city’s walls. The boy bore disturbing signs of torture, and a story spread that it was a ritual murder, performed by Jews in imitation of the Crucifixion as a mockery of Christianity. The outline of William’s tale eventually gained currency far beyond Norwich, and the idea that Jews engaged in ritual murder became firmly rooted in the European imagination. E.M. Rose’s engaging book delves into the story of William’s murder and the notorious trial that followed to uncover the origin of the ritual murder accusation—known as the “blood libel”—in Western Europe in the Middle Ages.
81. Nina Rowe, The Jew, the Cathedral, and the Medieval City: Synagoga and Ecclesia in the Thirteenth Century
In the thirteenth century, sculptures of Synagoga and Ecclesia—paired female personifications of the Synagogue defeated and the Church triumphant—became a favored motif on cathedral façades in France and Germany. In this book, Nina Rowe examines the sculptures as defining elements in the urban Jewish-Christian encounter. Ultimately, she demonstrates that royal and ecclesiastical policies to restrain the religious, social, and economic lives of Jews in the early thirteenth century found a material analog in lovely renderings of a downtrodden Synagoga, placed in the public arena of the city square.
82. Miri Rubin, Gentile Tales. The Narrative Assault on Late Medieval Jews.
Beginning in Paris in the year 1290, Jews were accused of abusing Christ by desecrating the Eucharist—the manifestation of Christ’s body in the communion service. Over the next two centuries, this tale of desecration spread throughout Europe and led to violent anti-Jewish activity in areas from Catalonia to Bohemia. Drawing on sources ranging from religious tales and poems to Jews’ confessions made under torture, Miri Rubin explores the frightening power of one of the most persistent anti-Jewish stories of the Middle Ages and the violence that it bred. In exploring the character, nature, development, and eventual decay of this fantasy of host desecration, Rubin presents a vivid picture of the mental world of late medieval Europe and of the culture of anti-Judaism.
83. Matteo Salvadore, The African Prester John and the Birth of Ethiopian-European Relations, 1402–1555.
From the 14th century onward, political and religious motives led Ethiopian travelers to Mediterranean Europe. For two centuries, their ancient Christian heritage and the myth of a fabled eastern king named Prester John allowed the Ethiopians to engage the continent’s secular and religious elites as peers. Meanwhile, back home the Ethiopian nobility came to welcome European visitors and at times even co-opted them by arranging mixed marriages and bestowing land rights. Matteo Salvadore’s narrative takes the reader on a voyage of reciprocal discovery that climaxed with the Portuguese intervention on the side of the Christian monarchy in the Ethiopian-Adali War. Thereafter, the arrival of the Jesuits at the Horn of Africa turned the mutually beneficial Ethiopian-European encounter into a bitter confrontation over the souls of Ethiopian Christians.
84. Peter Sarris, Byzantium: A Very Short Introduction
After surviving the fifth century fall of the Western European Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire flourished as one of the most powerful economic, cultural, and military forces in Europe for a thousand years. In this Very Short Introduction, Peter Sarris introduces the reader to the unique fusion of Roman political culture, Greek intellectual tradition and Christian faith that took place in the imperial capital of Byzantium under the emperor Constantine and his heirs.
Shenoute of Atripe led the White Monastery, a community of several thousand male and female Coptic monks in Upper Egypt, between approximately 395 and 465 C.E. In Monastic Bodies, Caroline Schroeder offers an in-depth examination of the asceticism practiced at the White Monastery using diverse sources, including monastic rules, theological treatises, sermons, and material culture. Schroeder details Shenoute’s arduous disciplinary code and philosophical structure, including the belief that individual sin corrupted not only the individual body but the entire “corporate body” of the community. Thus the purity of the community ultimately depended upon the integrity of each individual monk.
86. Housni Alkhateeb Shehada, Mamluks and Animals: Veterinary Medicine in Medieval Islam
In this book, Housni Alkhateeb Shehada offers the first comprehensive study of veterinary medicine, its practitioners, and its patients in the medieval Islamic world, with special emphasis on the Mamluk period (1250–1517).
87. Liz Sonnebom, Averroës (Ibn Rushd): Muslim Scholar, Philosopher, and Physician of 12th c. Al-Andalus
This book presents the life and accomplishments of the Muslim scholar Averroës, or Ibn Rushd, who is considered to be one of the greatest interpreters of Aristotle’s philosophy, and is largely responsible for introducing Europe to Greek philosophy.
88. Robert S. Sturges, Law and Sovereignty in the Middle Ages and Renaissance
This volume offers an interdisciplinary collection of original essays by both new and established scholars that surveys the complex relationships between law and sovereign power in medieval and early modern Europe. The thirteen contributions investigate theories, fictions, contestations, and applications of sovereignty and law from the Anglo-Saxon period to the seventeenth century, and from England across Western Europe to Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.
89. Snorri Sturluson & Jesse L. Byock, The Prose Edda: Norse Mythology
Written in Iceland a century after the close of the Viking Age, The Prose Edda is the source of most of what we know of Norse mythology. Its tales are peopled by giants, dwarves, and elves, superhuman heroes, and indomitable warrior queens. Its gods live with the tragic knowledge of their own impending destruction in the cataclysmic battle of Ragnarok. Its time scale spans the eons from the world’s creation to its violent end. This robust new translation captures the magisterial sweep and startling psychological complexity of the Old Icelandic original.
90. Catherine Walker-Meikle, Medieval Cats
This delightful and informative gift book presents a wealth of cat imagery from a variety of medieval sources and is peppered with fascinating facts about the medieval view of cats and many stories of people and their pets in the Middle Ages.
91. Catherine Walker-Meikle, Medieval Dogs
This charming gift book presents images of dogs from medieval manuscripts alongside fascinating, strange, and humorous stories. The stories are drawn from a wealth of medieval sources, and the book also features wonderful images of dogs from bestiaries, astrological treatises, travel accounts, and many other rare and beautiful manuscripts.
92. Catherine Walker-Meikle, Medieval Pets
Animals in the Middle Ages have often been discussed—but usually only as a source of food, as beasts of burden, or as aids for hunters. This book takes a completely different angle, showing that they were also beloved domestic companions to their human owners, whether they were dogs, cats, monkeys, squirrels, and parrots. It offers a full survey of pets and pet-keeping: from how they were acquired, kept, fed, exercised, and displayed, to the problems they could cause. It also examines the representation of pets and their owners in art and literature; the many charming illustrations offer further evidence for the bonds between humans and their pets, then as now. A wide range of sources, including chronicles, letters, sermons and poems, are used in what is both an authoritative and entertaining account.
93. Jacqueline de Weever, Sheba’s Daughters: Whitening and Demonizing the Saracen Woman in Medieval French Epic
By applying the theories of postcolonial criticism, Jacqueline de Weever attempts to make clear the racist and imperialist biases of medieval epic poets. In so doing she both puts in relief the culturally loaded treatment of the Saracen princess in the works studied and raises important questions about the danger of projecting modern cultural concepts onto an ancient poetic form. (Abstract from Speculum)
94. Elie Wiesel (Catherine Temerson, transl.), Rashi
From Elie Wiesel, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, comes a magical book that introduces us to the towering figure of Rashi—Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki—the great biblical and Talmudic commentator of the Middle Ages. Wiesel brilliantly evokes the world of medieval European Jewry, a world of profound scholars and closed communities ravaged by outbursts of anti-Semitism and decimated by the Crusades. The incomparable scholar Rashi, whose phrase-by-phrase explication of the oral law has been included in every printing of the Talmud since the fifteenth century, was also a spiritual and religious leader: His perspective, encompassing both the mundane and the profound, is timeless.
95. Charity Cannon Willard, Christine de Pizan: Her Life and Works
A biography of France’s first woman of letters, who lived from 1364 to 1429. Among her works is the classic defense of women, The Book of the City of Ladies.
The Vikings maintain their grip on our imagination, but their image is too often distorted by myth. The Age of the Vikings tells the full story of this exciting period in history. Drawing on a wealth of written, visual, and archaeological evidence, Anders Winroth captures the innovation and pure daring of the Vikings without glossing over their destructive heritage. The Age of the Vikings sheds new light on the complex society, culture, and legacy of these legendary seafarers.
97. Anders Winroth, The Conversion of Scandinavia: Vikings, Merchants, and Missionaries in the Remaking of Northern Europe
In this book, Anders Winroth argues for a radically new interpretation of the conversion of Scandinavia from paganism to Christianity in the early Middle Ages. Overturning the received narrative of Europe’s military and religious conquest and colonization of the region, Anders Winroth contends that rather than acting as passive recipients, Scandinavians converted to Christianity because it was in individual chieftains’ political, economic, and cultural interests to do so. Through a painstaking analysis and historical reconstruction of both archeological and literary sources, and drawing on scholarly work that has been unavailable in English, Winroth opens up new avenues for studying European ascendancy and the expansion of Christianity in the medieval period.
98. Helen Young, Constructing “England” in the Fourteenth Century: A Post-Colonial Interpretation of Middle English Romance
This work explores how narratives aided in the construction of a national identity in England in the late Middle Ages. Throughout the Middle Ages, England was the site of confluent cultures, English, Scandinavian, and Continental, and this work examines how social, cultural and political encounters, particularly in the centuries following the Norman Conquest, influenced constructions of Englishness.
99. Samantha Zacher, Rewriting the Old Testament in Anglo-Saxon Verse: Becoming the Chosen People
The Bible played a crucial role in shaping Anglo-Saxon national and cultural identity. However, access to Biblical texts was necessarily limited to very few individuals in Medieval England. In this book, Samantha Zacher explores how the very earliest English Biblical poetry creatively adapted, commented on, and spread Biblical narratives and traditions to the wider population. Systematically surveying the manuscripts of surviving poems, the book shows how these vernacular poets commemorated the Hebrews as God’s “chosen people” and claimed the inheritance of that status for Anglo-Saxon England.
100. Samantha Zacher (ed.), Imagining the Jew in Anglo-Saxon Literature and Culture
Most studies of Jews in medieval England begin with the year 1066, when Jews first arrived on English soil. Yet the absence of Jews in England before the conquest did not prevent early English authors from writing obsessively about them. Using material from the writings of the Church Fathers, contemporary continental sources, widespread cultural stereotypes, and their own imaginations, their depictions of Jews reflected their own politico-theological experiences. The thirteen essays in Imagining the Jew in Anglo-Saxon Literature and Culture examine visual and textual representations of Jews, the translation and interpretation of Scripture, the use of Hebrew words and etymologies, and the treatment of Jewish spaces and landmarks. By studying the “imaginary Jews” of Anglo-Saxon England, they offer new perspectives on the treatment of race, religion, and ethnicity in pre- and post-conquest literature and culture.