The first Plantagenet kings inherited a blood-soaked realm from the Normans and transformed it into an empire that stretched at its peak from Scotland to Jerusalem. In this epic narrative history of courage, treachery, ambition, and deception, Dan Jones resurrects the unruly royal dynasty that preceded the Tudors. They produced England’s best and worst kings: Henry II and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, twice a queen and the most famous woman in Christendom; their son Richard the Lionheart, who fought Saladin in the Third Crusade; and his conniving brother King John, who was forced to grant his people new rights under the Magna Carta, the basis for our own bill of rights. Combining the latest academic research with a gift for storytelling, Jones vividly recreates the great battles of Bannockburn, Crécy, and Sluys and reveals how the maligned kings Edward II and Richard II met their downfalls. This is the era of chivalry and the Black Death, the Knights Templar, the founding of parliament, and the Hundred Years’ War, when England’s national identity was forged by the sword.
Nicknamed ‘The Anarchy' for its unprecedented levels of chaos and disorder, the succession crisis that followed the death of King Henry I in 1135 resulted in England's first civil war.
‘The Medieval Anarchy: History in an Hour’ neatly covers all the major facts and events giving you a clear and straightforward overview of the plots and violence that ensued during the the nineteen-year conflict. ‘The Medieval Anarchy: History in an Hour’ is engagingly written and accessible for all history lovers.
This, in an hour, is the story of ‘The Medieval Anarchy’ through the personalities, context, events and aftermath of England's first, and often forgotten, civil war.
Love your history? Find out about the world with History in an Hour...
The fourteenth century reflects two contradictory images: on the one hand, a glittering age of crusades, cathedrals, and chivalry; on the other, a world plunged into chaos and spiritual agony. In this revelatory work, Barbara W. Tuchman examines not only the great rhythms of history but the grain and texture of domestic life: what childhood was like; what marriage meant; how money, taxes, and war dominated the lives of serf, noble, and clergy alike. Granting her subjects their loyalties, treacheries, and guilty passions, Tuchman re-creates the lives of proud cardinals, university scholars, grocers and clerks, saints and mystics, lawyers and mercenaries, and, dominating all, the knight—in all his valor and “furious follies,” a “terrible worm in an iron cocoon.”
Praise for A Distant Mirror
“Beautifully written, careful and thorough in its scholarship . . . What Ms. Tuchman does superbly is to tell how it was. . . . No one has ever done this better.”—The New York Review of Books
“A beautiful, extraordinary book . . . Tuchman at the top of her powers . . . She has done nothing finer.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Wise, witty, and wonderful . . . a great book, in a great historical tradition.”—Commentary
NOTE: This edition does not include color images.
‘Il Duce’, Benito Mussolini, was one of the key figures in the creation of fascism. Famed for his dictatorial style, his political cunning and admired – initially – by Hitler, Mussolini led the National Fascist Party and ruled Italy as Prime Minister from 1922 until his ousting in 1943. In so doing, he paved the way towards Italy’s defeat in World War Two, and some of the 20th century’s most destructive ideologies and practices.
Following expulsion from Italian Socialist Party, Mussolini denounced all efforts of class conflict, and instead later commanded a Fascist March on Rome to become the youngest Prime Minister in Italian history. Thereafter he set about dismantling the apparatus of democracy and initiated what would become known as the one-party totalitarian state. With World War II came defeat, humiliation and his bloody deposing. Explaining his ideologies, policies, actions and flaws, ‘Mussolini: History in an Hour’ is the concise life of the man whose ideas helped create some of the worst horrors of the modern history.
Love history? Know your stuff with History in an Hour...
Saviano tells of huge cargoes of Chinese goods that are shipped to Naples and then quickly distributed unchecked across Europe. He investigates the Camorra's control of thousands of Chinese factories contracted to manufacture fashion goods, legally and illegally, for distribution around the world, and relates the chilling details of how the abusive handling of toxic waste is causing devastating pollution not only for Naples but also China and Somalia. In pursuit of his subject, Saviano worked as an assistant at a Chinese textile manufacturer, a waiter at a Camorra wedding, and on a construction site. A native of the region, he recalls seeing his first murder at the age of fourteen, and how his own father, a doctor, suffered a brutal beating for trying to aid an eighteen-year-old victim who had been left for dead in the street.
Gomorrah is a bold and important work of investigative writing that holds global significance, one heroic young man's impassioned story of a place under the rule of a murderous organization.
Terry Jones and Alan Ereira are your guides to this most misrepresented and misunderstood period, and they point you to things that will surprise and provoke. Did you know, for example, that medieval people didn't think the world was flat? That was a total fabrication by an American journalist in the 19th century. Did you know that they didn't burn witches in the Middle Ages? That was a refinement of the so-called Renaissance. In fact, medieval kings weren't necessarily merciless tyrants, and peasants entertained at home using French pottery and fine wine.
Terry Jones' Medieval Lives reveals Medieval Britain as you have never seen it before - a vibrant society teeming with individuality, intrigue and innovation.
This is your guidebook.
A time machine has just transported you back to the fourteenth century. What do you see? How do you dress? How do you earn a living and how much are you paid? What sort of food will you be offered by a peasant or a monk or a lord? And more important, where will you stay?
The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England is not your typical look at a historical period. This radical new approach shows us that the past is not just something to be studied; it is also something to be lived. All facets of everyday life in this fascinating period are revealed, from the horrors of the plague and war to the ridiculous excesses of roasted larks and medieval haute couture.
Through the use of daily chronicles, letters, household accounts, and poems of the day, Morti-mer transports you back in time, providing answers to questions typically ignored by traditional historians. You will learn how to greet people on the street, what to use as toilet paper, why a physician might want to taste your blood, and how to know whether you are coming down with leprosy.
From the first step on the road to the medieval city of Exeter, through meals of roast beaver and puffin, Mortimer re-creates this strange and complex period of history. Here, the lives of serf, merchant, and aristocrat are illuminated with re-markable detail in this engaging literary journey. The result is the most astonishing social history book you're ever likely to read: revolutionary in its concept, informative and entertaining in its detail, and startling for its portrayal of humanity in an age of violence, exuberance, and fear.
Historians have only recently awakened to the importance of the family, the basic social unit throughout human history. This book traces the development of marriage and the family from the Middle Ages to the early modern era. It describes how the Roman and barbarian cultural streams merged under the influence of the Christian church to forge new concepts, customs, laws, and practices. Century by century it follows the development -- sometimes gradual, at other times revolutionary -- of significant elements in the history of the family:The basic functions of the family as production unit, as well as its religious, social, judicial, and educational roles.
The shift of marriage from private arrangement between families to public ceremony between individuals, and the adjustments in dowry, bride-price, and counter-dowry.
The development of consanguinity rules and incest taboos in church law and lay custom.
The peasant family in its varying condition of being free or unfree, poor, middling, or rich.
The aristocratic estate, the problem of the younger son, and the disinheritance of daughters.
The Black Death and its long-term effects on the family.Sex attitudes and customs: the effects of variations in age of men and women at marriage.
The changing physical environment of noble, peasant, and urban families.
Arrangements by families for old age and retirement.
During the year 1066, England had three different kings and fought three huge battles in defence of the realm, including the bloody Battle of Hastings. The result was the Norman Conquest which defined England during the Middle Ages.
1066 in an Hour will guide you through the politics and personalities of the Norman invasion. It will help you understand why William the Conqueror was victorious and introduce you to the new king and subsequent ancestor to the Plantagenets and Tudors.
Know your stuff: read about 1066 in just one hour.
Caught on the wrong side of an English civil war and condemned by his father to the gallows at age five, William Marshal defied all odds to become one of England’s most celebrated knights. Thomas Asbridge’s rousing narrative chronicles William’s rise, using his life as a prism to view the origins, experiences, and influence of the knight in British history.
In William’s day, the brutish realities of war and politics collided with romanticized myths about an Arthurian “golden age,” giving rise to a new chivalric ideal. Asbridge details the training rituals, weaponry, and battle tactics of knighthood, and explores the codes of chivalry and courtliness that shaped their daily lives. These skills were essential to survive one of the most turbulent periods in English history—an era of striking transformation, as the West emerged from the Dark Ages.
A leading retainer of five English kings, Marshal served the great figures of this age, from Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine to Richard the Lionheart and his infamous brother John, and was involved in some of the most critical phases of medieval history, from the Magna Carta to the survival of the Angevin/Plantagenet dynasty. Asbridge introduces this storied knight to modern readers and places him firmly in the context of the majesty, passion, and bloody intrigue of the Middle Ages.
The Greatest Knight features 16 pages of black-and-white and color illustrations.
The Norman Conquest was the most significant military—and cultural—episode in English history. An invasion on a scale not seen since the days of the Romans, it was capped by one of the bloodiest and most decisive battles ever fought. Language, law, architecture, and even attitudes toward life itself —from the destruction of the ancient ruling class to the sudden introduction of castles and the massive rebuilding of every major church—were altered forever by the coming of the Normans. But why was this revolution so total?
Reassessing original evidence, acclaimed historian and broadcaster Marc Morris goes beyond the familiar story of William the Conqueror, an upstart French duke who defeated the most powerful kingdom in Christendom. Morris explains why England was so vulnerable to attack; why the Normans possessed the military cutting edge though they were perceived as less sophisticated in some respects; and why William’s hopes of a united Anglo-Norman realm unraveled, dashed by English rebellions, Viking invasions, and the insatiable demands of his fellow conquerors.
Named one of the best books of the year by the Kansas City Star, who called the work “stunning in its action and drama,” and the Providence Journal, who hailed it “meticulous and absorbing,” this USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller is a tale of gripping drama, epic clashes, and seismic social change.
The inspiration for the Channel 5 series Britain's Bloody Crown
The crown of England changed hands five times over the course of the fifteenth century, as two branches of the Plantagenet dynasty fought to the death for the right to rule. In this riveting follow-up to The Plantagenets, celebrated historian Dan Jones describes how the longest-reigning British royal family tore itself apart until it was finally replaced by the Tudors.
Some of the greatest heroes and villains of history were thrown together in these turbulent times, from Joan of Arc to Henry V, whose victory at Agincourt marked the high point of the medieval monarchy, and Richard III, who murdered his own nephews in a desperate bid to secure his stolen crown. This was a period when headstrong queens and consorts seized power and bent men to their will. With vivid descriptions of the battles of Towton and Bosworth, where the last Plantagenet king was slain, this dramatic narrative history revels in bedlam and intrigue. It also offers a long-overdue corrective to Tudor propaganda, dismantling their self-serving account of what they called the Wars of the Roses.
“Sprezzatura,” or the art of effortless mastery, was coined in 1528 by Baldassare Castiglione in The Book of the Courtier. No one has demonstrated effortless mastery throughout history quite like the Italians. From the Roman calendar and the creator of the modern orchestra (Claudio Monteverdi) to the beginnings of ballet and the creator of modern political science (Niccolò Machiavelli), Sprezzatura highlights fifty great Italian cultural achievements in a series of fifty information-packed essays in chronological order.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
The Medici Bank was the most powerful banking house of the 15th century. Headquartered in Florence, Italy, it established branches in Rome, Venice, Geneva, Lyons, Bruges, London, and many other cities. The bank served as financial agent of the Church, extended credit to monarchs, and facilitated international trade in Western Europe. By their personal influence and the use of their profits, the owners and administrators of the bank contributed significantly to the development of Florence as the greatest center of the Renaissance.
AS A RECON SCOUT IN WORLD WAR II.
From Africa’s Sahara Desert, where he met Churchill, to the plains of Tunisia, where he served under Patton, Fred Salter executed daring nightly solo missions, risking his life to gather the vital intelligence the U.S. Army desperately needed. After the battlefields of Sicily came the long, grueling effort to wrench Italy from the grip of the Nazis, and the bloody nightmare of Monte Cassino, the longest battle Americans fought during the war.
Salter spares no one, least of all himself, in this tough, clear-eyed account. Refusing to shy away from the horrors and fears of combat, he shares experiences–tragic and glorious–that will haunt him forever.
From the Paperback edition.
Between the ninth and fourteenth centuries, Arab travellers such as Ibn Fadlan journeyed widely and frequently into the far north, crossing territories that now include Russia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Their fascinating accounts describe how the numerous tribes and peoples they encountered traded furs, paid tribute and waged wars. This accessible new translation offers an illuminating insight into the world of the Arab geographers, and the medieval lands of the far north.
“With scrupulous scholarship based on a profound knowledge of the Hebrew, Latin, and Spanish sources, Roth sets out to shatter all existing preconceptions about late medieval society in Spain.”—Henry Kamen, Journal of Ecclesiastical History
“Scholarly, detailed, researched, and innovative. . . . As the result of Roth’s writing, we shall need to rethink our knowledge and understanding of this period.”—Murray Levine, Jewish Spectator
“The fruit of many years of study, investigation, and reflection, guaranteed by the solid intellectual trajectory of its author, an expert in Jewish studies. . . . A contribution that will be particularly valuable for the study of Spanish medievalism.”—Miguel Angel Motis Dolader, Annuario de Estudios Medievales
Founded on Christmas Day 1119 in Jerusalem, the Knights Templar was a religious order dedicated to defending the Holy Land and its Christian pilgrims in the decades after the First Crusade. Legendary for their bravery and dedication, the Templars became one of the wealthiest and most powerful bodies of the medieval world—and the chief defenders of Christian society against growing Muslim forces.
In The Tragedy of the Templars: The Rise and Fall of the Crusader States, Haag masterfully details the conflicts and betrayals that sent this faction of powerful knights spiraling from domination to condemnation.
This stirring and thoroughly researched work of historical investigation includes maps and full-color photographs of important cultural sites, many of which doubled as battlefields during the Crusades.
O'Callaghan divides his story into five compact historical periods and discusses political, social, economic, and cultural developments in each period. By treating states together, he is able to put into proper perspective the relationships among them, their similarities and differences, and the continuity of development from one period to the next. He gives proper attention to Spain's contacts with the rest of the medieval world, but his main concern is with the events and institutions on the peninsula itself. Illustrations, genealogical charts, maps, and an extensive bibliography round out a book that will be welcomed by scholars and student of Spanish and Portuguese history and literature, as well as by medievalists, as the fullest account to date of Spanish history in the Middle Ages.
They burst out of obscurity in Spain not only to capture the great prize of the papacy, but to do so twice. Throughout a tumultuous half-century—as popes, statesmen, warriors, lovers, and breathtakingly ambitious political adventurers—they held center stage in the glorious and blood-drenched pageant known to us as the Italian Renaissance, standing at the epicenter of the power games in which Europe’s kings and Italy’s warlords gambled for life-and-death stakes.
Five centuries after their fall—a fall even more sudden than their rise to the heights of power—they remain immutable symbols of the depths to which humanity can descend: Rodrigo Borgia, who bought the papal crown and prostituted the Roman Church; Cesare Borgia, who became first a teenage cardinal and then the most treacherous cutthroat of a violent time; Lucrezia Borgia, who was as shockingly immoral as she was beautiful. These have long been stock figures in the dark chronicle of European villainy, their name synonymous with unspeakable evil.
But did these Borgias of legend actually exist? Grounding his narrative in exhaustive research and drawing from rarely examined key sources, Meyer brings fascinating new insight to the real people within the age-encrusted myth. Equally illuminating is the light he shines on the brilliant circles in which the Borgias moved and the thrilling era they helped to shape, a time of wars and political convulsions that reverberate to the present day, when Western civilization simultaneously wallowed in appalling brutality and soared to extraordinary heights.
Stunning in scope, rich in telling detail, G. J. Meyer’s The Borgias is an indelible work sure to become the new standard on a family and a world that continue to enthrall.
Praise for The Borgias
“A vivid and at times startling reappraisal of one of the most notorious dynasties in history . . . If you thought you knew the Borgias, this book will surprise you.”—Tracy Borman, author of Queen of the Conqueror and Elizabeth’s Women
“The mention of the Borgia family often conjures up images of a ruthless drive for power via assassination, serpentine plots, and sexual debauchery. . . . [G. J. Meyer] convincingly looks past the mythology to present a more nuanced portrait.”—Booklist
“Meyer brings his considerable skills to another infamous Renaissance family, the Borgias [and] a fresh look into the machinations of power in Renaissance Italy. . . . [He] makes a convincing case that the Borgias have been given a raw deal.”—Historical Novels Review
“Fascinating . . . a gripping history of a tempestuous time and an infamous family.”—Shelf Awareness
From the Hardcover edition.
From Harald Bluetooth to Cnut the Great, the feared seamen and plunderers of the Viking Age ruled Norway, Sweden, and Denmark but roamed as far as Byzantium, Greenland, and America. Raiders and traders, settlers and craftsmen, the medieval Scandinavians who have become familiar to history as Vikings never lose their capacity to fascinate, from their ingeniously designed longboats to their stormy pantheon of Viking gods and goddesses, ruled by Odin in Valhalla. Robert Ferguson is a sure guide across what he calls "the treacherous marches which divide legend from fact in Viking Age history." His long familiarity with the literary culture of Scandinavia with its skaldic poetry is combined with the latest archaeological discoveries to reveal a sweeping picture of the Norsemen, one of history's most amazing civilizations.
Impeccably researched and filled with compelling accounts and analyses of legendary Viking warriors and Norse mythology, The Vikings is an indispensable guide to medieval Scandinavia and is a wonderful companion to the History Channel series.
You don't have to don armour and cross deserts to relive the Crusades! 'The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Crusades' shows you why these wars began, why they continued for so long, and how their impact on the world still resonates. This 'Complete Idiot's Guide' gives you:
-An introduction to the Dark Ages and the Renaissance, and why Pope Urban II would grant absolution to anyone who reclaimed the Holy Land for Christianity.
-The origins of such Holy Orders as the Knights Templar, the Hospitallers, and the Teutonic Knights and the roles they played during the Crusades.
Reaching deep into the archives' letters, ledgers, and records from both inside and outside the home, he slowly pieces together the tragic story. The Casa welcomed girls in bad health and with little future, hoping to save them from an almost certain life of poverty and drudgery. Yet this "safe" house was cruelly dangerous. Victims of Renaissance Florence’s sexual politics, these young women were at the disposal of the city’s elite men, who treated them as property meant for their personal pleasure.
With scholarly precision and journalistic style, Terpstra uncovers and chronicles a series of disturbing leads that point to possible reasons so many girls died: hints of routine abortions, basic medical care for sexually transmitted diseases, and appalling conditions in the textile factories where the girls worked.
Church authorities eventually took the Casa della Pietà away from the women who had founded it and moved it to a better part of Florence. Its sordid past was hidden, until now, in an official history that bore little resemblance to the orphanage’s true origins. Terpstra’s meticulous investigation not only uncovers the sad fate of the lost girls of the Casa della Pietà but also explores broader themes, including gender relations, public health, church politics, and the challenges girls and adolescent women faced in Renaissance Florence.
THE CITY OF LADIES provides positive images of women, ranging from warriors and inventors, scholars to prophetesses, and artists to saints. The book also offers a fascinating insight into the debates and controversies about the position of women in medieval culture.
"Brundage's book is consistently learned, enormously useful, and frequently entertaining. It is the best we have on the relationships between theological norms, legal principles, and sexual practice."—Peter Iver Kaufman, Church History
The New York Times bestselling author of Empires of the Sea charts Venice’s astounding five-hundred-year voyage to the pinnacle of power in an epic story that stands unrivaled for drama, intrigue, and sheer opulent majesty. City of Fortune traces the full arc of the Venetian imperial saga, from the ill-fated Fourth Crusade, which culminates in the sacking of Constantinople in 1204, to the Ottoman-Venetian War of 1499–1503, which sees the Ottoman Turks supplant the Venetians as the preeminent naval power in the Mediterranean. In between are three centuries of Venetian maritime dominance, during which a tiny city of “lagoon dwellers” grow into the richest place on earth. Drawing on firsthand accounts of pitched sea battles, skillful negotiations, and diplomatic maneuvers, Crowley paints a vivid picture of this avaricious, enterprising people and the bountiful lands that came under their dominion. From the opening of the spice routes to the clash between Christianity and Islam, Venice played a leading role in the defining conflicts of its time—the reverberations of which are still being felt today.
“[Crowley] writes with a racy briskness that lifts sea battles and sieges off the page.”—The New York Times
“Crowley chronicles the peak of Venice’s past glory with Wordsworthian sympathy, supplemented by impressive learning and infectious enthusiasm.”—The Wall Street Journal
The Vikings are infamous for taking no prisoners, relishing cruel retribution, and priding themselves on their bloodthirsty skills as warriors. But their prowess in battle is only a small part of their story, which stretches from their Scandinavian origins to America in the West and as far as Baghdad in the East.
As the Vikings did not record their own history, we have to discover it for ourselves, and their tale, as Neil Oliver reveals, is an extraordinary story of a stalwart people who came from the brink of destruction to develop awesome seafaring power that reached a quarter of the way around the globe, building an empire that lasted nearly two hundred years.
Drawing on discoveries that have only recently come to light, Oliver follows the Vikings’ trail to uncover what drove them to embark on such extraordinary voyages more than 1,000 years ago.
An epic tale of one of the world’s great empires, The Vikings will fascinate all history buffs interested in finding out more about these real-life adventurers.
On the lady who sees her knight honored: "All of this makes the noble lady rejoice greatly within herself at the fact that she has set her mind and heart on loving and helping to make such a good knight or good man-at-arms."
On the worthiest amusements: "The best pastime of all is to be often in good company, far from unworthy men and from unworthy activities from which no good can come."
Enter the real world of knights and their code of ethics and behavior. Read how an aspiring knight of the fourteenth century would conduct himself and learn what he would have needed to know when traveling, fighting, appearing in court, and engaging fellow knights.
Composed at the height of the Hundred Years War by Geoffroi de Charny, one of the most respected knights of his age, A Knight's Own Book of Chivalry was designed as a guide for members of the Company of the Star, an order created by Jean II of France in 1352 to rival the English Order of the Garter.
This is the most authentic and complete manual on the day-to-day life of the knight that has survived the centuries, and this edition contains a specially commissioned introduction from historian Richard W. Kaeuper that gives the history of both the book and its author, who, among his other achievements, was the original owner of the Shroud of Turin.
Previous scholars have occasionally noted the various phenomena in isolation from each other and have sometimes applied modern medical or psychological theories to them. Using materials based on saints' lives and the religious and mystical writings of medieval women and men, Caroline Walker Bynum uncovers the pattern lying behind these aspects of women's religiosity and behind the fascination men and women felt for such miracles and devotional practices. She argues that food lies at the heart of much of women's piety. Women renounced ordinary food through fasting in order to prepare for receiving extraordinary food in the eucharist. They also offered themselves as food in miracles of feeding and bodily manipulation.
Providing both functionalist and phenomenological explanations, Bynum explores the ways in which food practices enabled women to exert control within the family and to define their religious vocations. She also describes what women meant by seeing their own bodies and God's body as food and what men meant when they too associated women with food and flesh. The author's interpretation of women's piety offers a new view of the nature of medieval asceticism and, drawing upon both anthropology and feminist theory, she illuminates the distinctive features of women's use of symbols. Rejecting presentist interpretations of women as exploited or masochistic, she shows the power and creativity of women's writing and women's lives.
Combining a nuanced history with a unique counternarrative concerning stereotypes of the immigrant, Salvatore Lupo, a leading historian of modern Italy and a major authority on its criminal history, has written the definitive account of the Sicilian Mafia from 1860 to the present. Consulting rare archival sources, he traces the web of associations, both illicit and legitimate, that have defined Cosa Nostra during its various incarnations. He focuses on several crucial periods of transition: the Italian unification of 1860 to 1861, the murder of noted politician Notarbartolo, fascist repression of the Mafia, the Allied invasion of 1943, social conflicts after each world war, and the major murders and trials of the 1980s.
Lupo identifies the internal cultural codes that define the Mafia and places these codes within the context of social groups and communities. He also challenges the belief that the Mafia has grown more ruthless in recent decades. Rather than representing a shift from "honorable" crime to immoral drug trafficking and violence, Lupo argues the terroristic activities of the modern Mafia signify a new desire for visibility and a distinct break from the state. Where these pursuits will take the family adds a fascinating coda to Lupo's work.
In the three decades since Morgan Llyweyln wrote the bestselling novel Lion of Ireland, she has studied the legendary life of Brian Boru, High King of Ireland. Often dismissed as a mythical figure, as all the known facts about him are contained within the several Irish annals. But thirty years of research have led Llyweyln to conclude with certainty that Brian Boru actually lived, a great battle took place in 1014: and Ireland won.
Read about the life of Brian Boru and the battle that changed the course of Irish history in this exciting and accessible account.
The Pastons were members of the English gentry—a tiny group of roughly 1,000 households sandwiched between the ruling nobility and the peasants, and a rough analog for the contemporary “middle class.” Their existence was fairly typical, but for the fact that it was recorded in an extraordinary collection of nearly 1,000 letters which have survived to this day. Through these letters, which cover the years from 1421 to 1484, and the lives of three generations of Pastons, bestselling historians Frances and Joseph Gies provide a rare window into the day-to-day life of this family, and the broader political and social goings-on of medieval England.
A Medieval Family first tells the story of Judge William Paston (1378-1444), the patriarch of the family, a lawyer and judge who bought up land in Norfolk and left his son a sizeable estate, which was later forcibly seized by a neighboring baron. We then follow the family through its ups and downs over several generations, learning of their feuds with neighbors, the frequent instability of 15th century England, and significant historical events, such as the Siege of Caister and the Battle of Barnet. There are also many letters of more personal significance, including a series of Valentines sent to John Paston III.
The work of acclaimed historians Frances and Joseph Gies has been used by George R.R. Martin in his research for Game of Thrones. In A Medieval Family, they have woven a compelling intergenerational saga that is essential reading for anyone seeking insight into the medieval period.
“The Gieses, who specialize in making the Middle Ages accessible to nonspecialists, have done a wonderful job of linking and amplifying the Pastons’ words.” –New Yorker
Drawing on a variety of canonical and other sources, Fallen Bodies examines a wide-ranging set of issues generated by fears of pollution, sexuality, and demonology. To maintain their purity, celibate clerics combated the stain of nocturnal emissions; married clerics expelled their wives onto the streets and out of the historical record; an exemplum depicting a married couple having sex in church was told and retold; and the specter of the demonic lover further stigmatized women's sexuality. Over time, the clergy's conceptions of womanhood became radically polarized: the Virgin Mary was accorded ever greater honor, while real, corporeal women were progressively denigrated. When church doctrine definitively denied the physicality of demons, the female body remained as the prime material presence of sin.
Dyan Elliott contends that the Western clergy's efforts to contain sexual instincts—and often the very thought and image of woman—precipitated uncanny returns of the repressed. She shows how this dynamic ultimately resulted in the progressive conflation of the female and the demonic, setting the stage for the future persecution of witches.
Starting on a personal note, Hughes takes us to the Rome he first encountered as a hungry twenty-one-year-old fresh from Australia in 1959. From that exhilarating portrait, he takes us back more than two thousand years to the city's foundation, one mired in mythologies and superstitions that would inform Rome's development for centuries.
From the beginning, Rome was a hotbed of power, overweening ambition, desire, political genius, and corruption. Hughes details the turbulent years that saw the formation of empire and the establishment of the sociopolitical system, along the way providing colorful portraits of all the major figures, both political (Julius Caesar, Marcus Aurelius, Nero, Caligula) and cultural (Cicero, Martial, Virgil), to name just a few. For almost a thousand years, Rome would remain the most politically important, richest, and largest city in the Western world.
From the formation of empire, Hughes moves on to the rise of early Christianity, his own antipathy toward religion providing rich and lively context for the brutality of the early Church, and eventually the Crusades. The brutality had the desired effect—the Church consolidated and outlasted the power of empire, and Rome would be the capital of the Papal States until its annexation into the newly united kingdom of Italy in 1870.
As one would expect, Hughes lavishes plenty of critical attention on the Renaissance, providing a full survey of the architecture, painting, and sculpture that blossomed in Rome over the course of the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries, and shedding new light on old masters in the process. Having established itself as the artistic and spiritual center of the world, Rome in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries saw artists (and, eventually, wealthy tourists) from all over Europe converging on the bustling city, even while it was caught up in the nationalistic turmoils of the Italian independence struggle and war against France.
Hughes keeps the momentum going right into the twentieth century, when Rome witnessed the rise and fall of Italian Fascism and Mussolini, and took on yet another identity in the postwar years as the fashionable city of "La Dolce Vita." This is the Rome Hughes himself first encountered, and it's one he contends, perhaps controversially, has been lost in the half century since, as the cult of mass tourism has slowly ruined the dazzling city he loved so much. Equal parts idolizing, blasphemous, outraged, and awestruck, Rome is a portrait of the Eternal City as only Robert Hughes could paint it.
From the Hardcover edition.