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Ace Cataphract
HG Alumnus
(id: Ace_Cataphract)
posted 26 February 2006 23:12 EDT (US)         
This thread is essentially a place where you can talk about historical books you are presently reading or ask for book recommendations. You can recommend ANY (good) history book.

I put a dollar in one of those change machines. Nothing changed. ~George Carlin

[This message has been edited by Kor (edited 07-26-2008 @ 10:23 AM).]

AuthorReplies:
Essayons89
Legionary
posted 18 February 2008 06:38 EDT (US)     126 / 212       
I'm currently reading and enjoying Caesar: Life Of A Colossus by Adrian Goldsworthy.

I've read a bunch of books since I last visited:
1776 by David McCullough
The Day of Battle by Rick Atkinson
The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodard
Ivan's War by Catherine Merridale
The Spartans by Paul Cartledge
Thermopylae by Paul Cartledge
Men Of Fire by Jack Hurst
Soldiers and Ghosts JE Lendon (haven't finished this one yet)
Rome's Greatest Defeat by Adrian Murdoch

I think I may be missing a few.

A few I have waiting:
An Army At Dawn by Rick Atkinson
The Guns Of August by Barbara Tuchman
Team Of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Kor
Busschof Happertesch
(id: Derfel Cadarn)
posted 26 July 2008 10:36 EDT (US)     127 / 212       
I recently finished Bolwerk der Nederlanden, a book about the fortifications of Maastricht throughout the centuries. This city is arguably the most fortress-like of Dutch cities, as being a garrison city was its principal purpose from the 1570s and before that the city also had consistently modern defences. Apart from that, rather than replace/modernise the old walls, the citizens/government preferred to build new walls outside the old ones, meaning that in effect pieces of every city wall have survived (apart from the earliest, probably wooden, walls).

The book is very readable and incredibly detailed. I only read the part about the medieval developments as I only need this info for research, and it's surprising how much we know. There's info on almost everything - the way in which the gates and fences were constructed and positioned, the tower roofs, the gatehouses, groundplans of still existing buildings, and pretty much every pre-18th century picture showing (part of) the defences is included (after this period there is an upsure in illustrations, especially in the 19th century).

I now bought Sprookspreker in Holland. Leven en werk van Willem van Hildegaersberch, which is a monography on the life and work of Willem van Hildegaersberch, a Middle Dutch poet who served at the court of the county of Holland approx 1380-1408. He wrote sproken or short poems, often about topical issues. While his poetry was long disliked by literary historians, he is now being viewed more positively. He was, as far as we can make out, the most popular Dutch language poet of his times and is therefore deserving of in-depth study. Also, he was not highly schooled, but mostly self-educated, and so his works and visions reflect an intellectual level attainable by the 14th/15th century common man.

Kor | The Age of Chivalry is upon us!
Wellent ich gugk, so hindert mich / köstlicher ziere sinder,
Der ich e pflag, da für ich sich / Neur kelber, gaiss, böck, rinder,
Und knospot leut, swarz, hässeleich, / Vast rüssig gen dem winder;
Die geben müt als sackwein vich. / Vor angst slach ich mein kinder
Offt hin hinder.
D Furius Venator
HG Alumnus
posted 27 July 2008 11:19 EDT (US)     128 / 212       
I'd thoroughly recommend McLynn's Lionheart and Lackland which does a nice job of explaining exactly why the modern myth of Good King Richard being a gadabout absentee king who lived only for battle is just that. A must read for Gaius... better than Gillingham's Richard the Lionheart because it's newer and includes the more recent scholarship but also because it covers the reigns of both Richard and John (and also a goodly amount of Henry II's reign too of course).

Civile! Si ergo fortibusis in ero.
Wassis inem causan dux?
Gnossis vile demsis trux!

I suggest that before badgering for a translation you take the time to read it out loud. Thankyou.
LordTaeglan
Legionary
posted 27 July 2008 11:30 EDT (US)     129 / 212       
God's War (Christopher Tyerman) Is a great history of the m ain crusades.

Nobody knows exactly where the entity known as Stephen Hill came from. He was found fully formed at the height of a storm and is believed to have come to Earth from a distant world where human qualities of fashion and beauty did not exist, which explains a lot. Constructed mostly of hatred and contempt, wrapped up in a pathetic human shell, Stephen comes fully equipped with his Antarian death coat, his Pen of Rage +2, and a variety of useful headgear
Kor
Busschof Happertesch
(id: Derfel Cadarn)
posted 27 July 2008 12:21 EDT (US)     130 / 212       
Furius, I checked out some reviews on that book (unfortunately no JSTOR ones available) but it doesn't look like an altogether unbiased account.

This review gives a nice overview, concluding that, while the book makes some good points, the author gets too caught in a good king/bad king mindset as well as bringing up completely unrelated subjects (like, apparently, a rant against liberalism).

And this review gives a few examples of basic factual errors by the author. This is another article (in Google cache as it is no longer viewable for free on the page where it was posted) which wipes the floor with the personification of John and Richard, which is apparently based entirely on chroniclers, with no regards to information drawn from charters etc:
An intriguing entry in the surviving records of the Exchequer shows that John possessed a copy of Pliny, which he lent to the abbot of Reading in exchange for Augustine of Hippo's City of God and other improving books. If Roger of Wendover had lived at Reading Abbey, we might today have a very different image of King John.
(...)
King John, although undoubtedly a most unpleasant adversary, looms large in the building of the English state. There is some evidence that this was recognised even at the time. Magna Carta has done for John's historical reputation, but it is a striking fact that for years before it was sealed people had been prepared to pay special fees to have their cases removed to the king's own court, where they obviously thought that they would get better justice.

Kor | The Age of Chivalry is upon us!
Wellent ich gugk, so hindert mich / köstlicher ziere sinder,
Der ich e pflag, da für ich sich / Neur kelber, gaiss, böck, rinder,
Und knospot leut, swarz, hässeleich, / Vast rüssig gen dem winder;
Die geben müt als sackwein vich. / Vor angst slach ich mein kinder
Offt hin hinder.
D Furius Venator
HG Alumnus
posted 27 July 2008 12:53 EDT (US)     131 / 212       
As England was the only kingdom in his collection of lands, the best placed in terms of defence against the rising power of France, and the least rebellious, one might have expected it to be a more major focus of his attention
From the first review completely misses the point I'm afraid. And his concentration on Aquitaine had little to do with him being born there either. Quite simply it was the richest part of his holdings and that most under threat. England was generally quiescent and was largely governed well by his proxies. As McLynn makes clear. To be honest I think this reviewer just takes against McLynn's style. Yes, he does bash the feminists a bit. But only while making arguments against theirs, and he does so in a fair way really (pages 42-44 for instance on the reason Eleanor fomented revolt against Henry II, dismisses not only the two feminist arguments but also the rather patronising 'woman scorned' one).

The second review is better in some respects - but not others. Eleanor is generally (though not always) depicted as having dark hair, though a reddish colour is sometimes shown. but I do not thnk any images draw from contemporary portraits or descriptions, though I could be wrong. McLynn includes two portraits where her hair is distinguishable. One from a manuscript (the Chronique de St Denis), the other from a C12 or C13 fresco. He makes a fair point about the Christian name of William Marshal's father (but not his surname because he was known as both FitzGilbert and Marshal in his lifetime).

However:
I was further astounded to discover that little William himself was threatened with beheading but was saved when King Stephen took pity on him when he saw the lad playing with the headsman's sword. Where does it say this in any of the sources Mr McClynn? I assume you used l'Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal for this detail? William Marshal was actually threatened with hanging and at some point he enjoyed playing with the Earl of Arundel's fancy spear. Nowhere is a headsman or a sword mentioned.


Is just bizarre. McLynn gives the source for his statement - it's in Howden. The reviewer can't even be bothered to read the footnotes...

Primary sources (see above) are mauled, distorted and misquoted throughout
Well, he alleges one. And it turns out he was quite wrong.

As for him 'ignoring' charters etc, that's not really true either. What he says is that he draws the personalities of the protagonists from (various) chroniclers, and he is usually careful to note their bias too). Not that he ignores evidence from pipe rolls and such.

By the way, he cites original source material (from a variety of sources, including pipe rolls and charters) on average about 70 times per chapter. Or say about three times per page on average. Which is good going for popular history I think.

The third review says, amongst other things,

Richard was the better soldier, and John the better administrator.
John as a better administrator was rather exploded by Gillingham in the 70s. It is very hard to see how John was in any way a better administrator than Richard - even if one anachronistically considers England alone.

Civile! Si ergo fortibusis in ero.
Wassis inem causan dux?
Gnossis vile demsis trux!

I suggest that before badgering for a translation you take the time to read it out loud. Thankyou.

[This message has been edited by D Furius Venator (edited 07-27-2008 @ 01:51 PM).]

Kor
Busschof Happertesch
(id: Derfel Cadarn)
posted 27 July 2008 14:01 EDT (US)     132 / 212       
I know the reviews have their flaws, but I couldn't actually find any on JSTOR. The best review among these is the one in google cache, which I think you ignored? It made the most convincing academic points.
It has to be said that I didn't look selectively, either. Apart from positive reviews on Amazon (which were all so bland that I wasn't sure whether the reviewers had any prior knowledge of the subject) I didn't find any other positive reviews, despite looking through a few pages of google search results.

In any case, the writer to me seems a bit like Paul Murray Kendall, who I didn't quite like, yet who is also quite popular with some people. I wrote a review of one of his books, a biography of Louis XI, a while ago. You can read it here.
(Although McLynn clearly has not avoided proper annotation like Murray Kendall did.)

Kor | The Age of Chivalry is upon us!
Wellent ich gugk, so hindert mich / köstlicher ziere sinder,
Der ich e pflag, da für ich sich / Neur kelber, gaiss, böck, rinder,
Und knospot leut, swarz, hässeleich, / Vast rüssig gen dem winder;
Die geben müt als sackwein vich. / Vor angst slach ich mein kinder
Offt hin hinder.

[This message has been edited by Kor (edited 07-27-2008 @ 02:03 PM).]

D Furius Venator
HG Alumnus
posted 27 July 2008 14:12 EDT (US)     133 / 212       
The best review among these is the one in google cache
That was the Spectator one, was it not? The third. He's Anglo-centric as the last paragraphs show - the book's not about Angevin England.
John was just as treacherous, greedy, badtempered and immoral as his brother, and raised as much in taxation, but the same allowances were not made for him. He did not go on crusade and lost all his wars.
Is part of his argument.

Well, I'm not certain Richard was bad tempered (though even John's staunchest defencer, W.L.Warren acknowledges John's temper was egregiously bad) but personality aside, John raised more in taxation - to less effect - and alienated most of his subjects to boot. He also lost most of his inheritance. His modern revisionist reputation rests on his legal and administrative reforms which were, as Warren points out 'remarkable in that they [were] unecessary. the English administration had learnt to run itself' (King John p109). In fact his personal interventions in English administration led to years of unecessary conflict and upheaval.

Civile! Si ergo fortibusis in ero.
Wassis inem causan dux?
Gnossis vile demsis trux!

I suggest that before badgering for a translation you take the time to read it out loud. Thankyou.
Kor
Busschof Happertesch
(id: Derfel Cadarn)
posted 27 July 2008 14:19 EDT (US)     134 / 212       
Okay. I must admit, I know very little about either king and I don't really want to pick the revisionist side here. My knowledge of the English monarchy only comes in full swing from Henry III onwards (and even there mostly from reading about his opponents). I'm just saying that, would I want to find out more about them, I'd prefer to read modern biographies of the men dedicated to only one of the two, as even the more positive reviews on Amazon have pointed out this author seems rather biased from the outset.

Kor | The Age of Chivalry is upon us!
Wellent ich gugk, so hindert mich / köstlicher ziere sinder,
Der ich e pflag, da für ich sich / Neur kelber, gaiss, böck, rinder,
Und knospot leut, swarz, hässeleich, / Vast rüssig gen dem winder;
Die geben müt als sackwein vich. / Vor angst slach ich mein kinder
Offt hin hinder.
D Furius Venator
HG Alumnus
posted 27 July 2008 14:31 EDT (US)     135 / 212       
Richard, so far as we can judge, was a philistine of the first degree
I should add that this is just drivel as a cursory examination of Richard's life shows.

For academic pro-John then Warren's King John (1960) is pretty good. Gillingham's Richard the Lionheart is the best academic pro-Richard bio. Though both of them are pretty readable.

To be honest though McLynn just sets out his stall as: 'I have looked into this and to my surprise I found modern revisionism was bollox' (I paraphrase). Not so much inherent bias as having looked at both sides and found Richard much the better king. Some people don't like that...

What is telling is that even John's most ardent supporters amongst academics have to make considerable excuses for his many failures and humiliations, and even Warren says that his administrative and legal reforms caused centuries of unrest (though of course they were not the exclusive cause). What John's supporters do do is make him seem less of a twit (and that's fair). His great mistake was to think that power lay with the treasury and not in his vassals. That cost him most of his French lands and resulted in civil war against him in England. Richard was wiser in that respect.

Civile! Si ergo fortibusis in ero.
Wassis inem causan dux?
Gnossis vile demsis trux!

I suggest that before badgering for a translation you take the time to read it out loud. Thankyou.
Kor
Busschof Happertesch
(id: Derfel Cadarn)
posted 27 July 2008 15:07 EDT (US)     136 / 212       
Ironically Warren's the one I had in mind as a potential purchase, as it's from a good series on the English monarchs. Still though, as you say, I don't think the King John revisionism has lasted, as we got the 'bad king' story in university, still (and they're fairly quick in going with the times here).

Kor | The Age of Chivalry is upon us!
Wellent ich gugk, so hindert mich / köstlicher ziere sinder,
Der ich e pflag, da für ich sich / Neur kelber, gaiss, böck, rinder,
Und knospot leut, swarz, hässeleich, / Vast rüssig gen dem winder;
Die geben müt als sackwein vich. / Vor angst slach ich mein kinder
Offt hin hinder.
D Furius Venator
HG Alumnus
posted 27 July 2008 15:19 EDT (US)     137 / 212       
It is a very good book (and as you say it's a generally decent series). What I like is the fact that he doesn't overdo the gloss, admitting freely that Richard would likely not have lost Normandy, and even if he had 'Richard would have been urging the citizens of Rouen to arms and parrying the first assault with blows from his great sword.' His next sentence is shattering... 'John stayed in England biting his nails.'

This from an admirer...

I don't think the King John revisionism has lasted
It still seems pretty obstinate in some places, though it is generally modified to 'Oh John may have been bad, but Richard was worse'. As I think you remarked elsewhere, Richard is really damned because the lands he ruled are no longer under a single ruling power and split between two nations, one of which was merely part of his holdings, the other which has subsumed the rest. So the French regard him as an enemy of national unification and the English as an absentee landlord. Perhaps he'd get his due if the 'Angevin Empire' were resurrected...

Civile! Si ergo fortibusis in ero.
Wassis inem causan dux?
Gnossis vile demsis trux!

I suggest that before badgering for a translation you take the time to read it out loud. Thankyou.

[This message has been edited by D Furius Venator (edited 07-27-2008 @ 03:25 PM).]

D Furius Venator
HG Alumnus
posted 30 July 2008 12:42 EDT (US)     138 / 212       
I'm bound to add that the very highly regarded W.L. Warren (whose book certainly would win the approval of some of the reviewers who were so critical of McLynn's work) himself describes Eleanor of Aquitaine as a 'black-eyed beauty' - surely he must be chastised also!

Civile! Si ergo fortibusis in ero.
Wassis inem causan dux?
Gnossis vile demsis trux!

I suggest that before badgering for a translation you take the time to read it out loud. Thankyou.
Kor
Busschof Happertesch
(id: Derfel Cadarn)
posted 31 July 2008 08:53 EDT (US)     139 / 212       
I've just ordered The Book of Deeds of Arms and of Chivalry by Christine de Pisan. It's basically a guide on conducting war, written in 1410. Looking forward to reading it.

Kor | The Age of Chivalry is upon us!
Wellent ich gugk, so hindert mich / köstlicher ziere sinder,
Der ich e pflag, da für ich sich / Neur kelber, gaiss, böck, rinder,
Und knospot leut, swarz, hässeleich, / Vast rüssig gen dem winder;
Die geben müt als sackwein vich. / Vor angst slach ich mein kinder
Offt hin hinder.
LordTaeglan
Legionary
posted 31 July 2008 09:00 EDT (US)     140 / 212       
Anna Comenus/Comena/Komenus/Komena's Alexiad, and a history of the Hashishin By WB Bartlett

Nobody knows exactly where the entity known as Stephen Hill came from. He was found fully formed at the height of a storm and is believed to have come to Earth from a distant world where human qualities of fashion and beauty did not exist, which explains a lot. Constructed mostly of hatred and contempt, wrapped up in a pathetic human shell, Stephen comes fully equipped with his Antarian death coat, his Pen of Rage +2, and a variety of useful headgear

[This message has been edited by LordTaeglan (edited 07-31-2008 @ 09:05 AM).]

D Furius Venator
HG Alumnus
posted 31 July 2008 09:13 EDT (US)     141 / 212       
I've just ordered The Book of Deeds of Arms and of Chivalry
Oooh, oooh, that sounds interesting.

Civile! Si ergo fortibusis in ero.
Wassis inem causan dux?
Gnossis vile demsis trux!

I suggest that before badgering for a translation you take the time to read it out loud. Thankyou.
Kor
Busschof Happertesch
(id: Derfel Cadarn)
posted 31 July 2008 09:35 EDT (US)     142 / 212       
Link
It's a new translation and surprisingly cheap. I ordered it within minutes of finding out about this edition, as I'd heard of it before - and only positively.

Kor | The Age of Chivalry is upon us!
Wellent ich gugk, so hindert mich / köstlicher ziere sinder,
Der ich e pflag, da für ich sich / Neur kelber, gaiss, böck, rinder,
Und knospot leut, swarz, hässeleich, / Vast rüssig gen dem winder;
Die geben müt als sackwein vich. / Vor angst slach ich mein kinder
Offt hin hinder.
D Furius Venator
HG Alumnus
posted 31 July 2008 10:53 EDT (US)     143 / 212       
I've actually ordered it already. It's a snip isn't it?

Civile! Si ergo fortibusis in ero.
Wassis inem causan dux?
Gnossis vile demsis trux!

I suggest that before badgering for a translation you take the time to read it out loud. Thankyou.
Kor
Busschof Happertesch
(id: Derfel Cadarn)
posted 31 July 2008 13:26 EDT (US)     144 / 212       
Yeah. Source text translations are either relatively cheap (in which case they're almost always Penguin classics, which are generally abridged and sometimes far too old) or in fine edition but incredibly expensive. This is a very nice exception to the rule. You'll probably get it before I do, as you're in the UK and all, whereas for some odd reason Amazon always ships to the Netherlands through Deutsche Post, which isn't very fast.

Kor | The Age of Chivalry is upon us!
Wellent ich gugk, so hindert mich / köstlicher ziere sinder,
Der ich e pflag, da für ich sich / Neur kelber, gaiss, böck, rinder,
Und knospot leut, swarz, hässeleich, / Vast rüssig gen dem winder;
Die geben müt als sackwein vich. / Vor angst slach ich mein kinder
Offt hin hinder.
D Furius Venator
HG Alumnus
posted 31 July 2008 14:15 EDT (US)     145 / 212       
Penguin classics, which are generally abridged
Are they? I've got most of the Classical era ones and none of them are as I recall.

Civile! Si ergo fortibusis in ero.
Wassis inem causan dux?
Gnossis vile demsis trux!

I suggest that before badgering for a translation you take the time to read it out loud. Thankyou.
Kor
Busschof Happertesch
(id: Derfel Cadarn)
posted 31 July 2008 14:21 EDT (US)     146 / 212       
True, those that are well known enough (or short) are not abridged, but unfortunately it is impossible to get something like Froissart unabridged. Although translating that would be an incredible task, the version on the market by Penguin is incredibly brief and the selection is somewhat strange; although the most important bits for the British are included, like Crécy, Richard II and the Anglo-Scots wars of Edward III.

Kor | The Age of Chivalry is upon us!
Wellent ich gugk, so hindert mich / köstlicher ziere sinder,
Der ich e pflag, da für ich sich / Neur kelber, gaiss, böck, rinder,
Und knospot leut, swarz, hässeleich, / Vast rüssig gen dem winder;
Die geben müt als sackwein vich. / Vor angst slach ich mein kinder
Offt hin hinder.
D Furius Venator
HG Alumnus
posted 31 July 2008 15:08 EDT (US)     147 / 212       
Indeed. Though as they are (or were) essentially British publisher you can sort of see why. Not much demand in the (relatively) mass market for obscure foreign wars...

Most of the longer classical works don't have a penguin edition and one must generally rely on the rather tedious Loeb. Tedious to read because the print and books are so damn small.

Civile! Si ergo fortibusis in ero.
Wassis inem causan dux?
Gnossis vile demsis trux!

I suggest that before badgering for a translation you take the time to read it out loud. Thankyou.
Kor
Busschof Happertesch
(id: Derfel Cadarn)
posted 31 July 2008 15:19 EDT (US)     148 / 212       
Yes, I suppose it's a miracle altogether that Penguin published Froissart. The most recent select translation of his works into Dutch is from the 19th century and has never had a reprint...

Though I think there are more Middle Dutch texts in publication at present than Middle English, so we're not actually that bad off altogether.

Kor | The Age of Chivalry is upon us!
Wellent ich gugk, so hindert mich / köstlicher ziere sinder,
Der ich e pflag, da für ich sich / Neur kelber, gaiss, böck, rinder,
Und knospot leut, swarz, hässeleich, / Vast rüssig gen dem winder;
Die geben müt als sackwein vich. / Vor angst slach ich mein kinder
Offt hin hinder.
D Furius Venator
HG Alumnus
posted 06 August 2008 09:15 EDT (US)     149 / 212       
I'm just glancing through The Book of Deeds of Arms and Chivalry now.

I just thought Kor might like to know that...

At a quick glance, the best bit seems to be the chapters on 'how to conduct a successful siege' (I paraphrase). There also seem to be some 'legalistic' questions and answers regarding honour, loyalty and so forth which are interesting. for instance, if given a 'safe conduct' for yourself and (say) ten other persons, it is not reasonable to include those of higher rank in the 'ten persons' - they would not be considered as having 'safe conduct' were they recognised.

Civile! Si ergo fortibusis in ero.
Wassis inem causan dux?
Gnossis vile demsis trux!

I suggest that before badgering for a translation you take the time to read it out loud. Thankyou.
Kor
Busschof Happertesch
(id: Derfel Cadarn)
posted 06 August 2008 09:40 EDT (US)     150 / 212       
That's interesting, thanks! As you might have guessed, the book hasn't arrived here yet. I had heard there was a lot in the book about sieges and I am most interested in reading that, especially as many modern general works about the medieval art of war glance over siege warfare. Hopefully this can be of assistance for my novel.

Kor | The Age of Chivalry is upon us!
Wellent ich gugk, so hindert mich / köstlicher ziere sinder,
Der ich e pflag, da für ich sich / Neur kelber, gaiss, böck, rinder,
Und knospot leut, swarz, hässeleich, / Vast rüssig gen dem winder;
Die geben müt als sackwein vich. / Vor angst slach ich mein kinder
Offt hin hinder.
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