|This project was unusual because I knew I would be avoiding any historical personages, and dealing briefly with cities before heading into an invented area in southern France. Between the wars and the Black Death, Europe had a remarkable amount of uninhabited land. So I didn't need much on the politics and bigwigs except to see how they might reflect in my less-than-exalted band. So I skipped the usual political history and bios of leaders. On the other hand, my core group was a band of warriors so I went very heavily into personal combat.|
As Gadifere reminded me, I really need to note that I can work from ancient texts like this because I have been a medievalist since high school. I automatically recognize, and laugh, when this guy is a century and a half out of date, or the experts he consulted are making use of the era's uncontrolled narcotics (like when they think a sideless surcote is a gown with a kind of external corset, despite all pictures and literary descriptions to the contrary). When Lacroix has mined the written sources himself, he's a good compiler of information on France, rather than the usual glut of information on England; hits all sorts of odd customs and bits of behavior; and stuffs his pages full of period illustrations.
1). A general history of the time,
not over 200 pages.
2.) An "everyday life" book of
3.) General transportation
4.) General costume
5.) Specific transportation
7.) Spectator entertainments
9.) Food and dining, including what sort
of public dining was available.
10.) Recipes for period food.
11.) Marriage and family.
12.) Specific dress styles, for your decade
13.) Religion for the time and place.
14) A fat history book of the area and
Because politics play no part, and as a medievalist and former re-enactor I'm fairly solid on this, I did not need:
So I substituted --
23.) An everyday life for the upper classes
24.) An everyday life for the middle class
25.) An everyday life for women
26.) An auto/biography of someone like
your protagonist, or a book as much as possible focused on people
27) A book on houses and furnishings.
28) A book about courting, romance, and
29.) A book for naming historical characters
30.) Medicine of the time and place.
31.) Climate, weather, and seasons.
I had a few simple ones of the period lying around, and they were enough to orient me. Really, an historical atlas is one of those reference books any histfi author who changes periods needs like they need the other introductory references.
32) Cities: Saalman, Howard; Medieval Cities; 1968; George Braziller, NY, because they do travel through them.
33) General Culture: Ashley, Roscoe Lewis; Early European Civilization, A Textbook for Secondary Schools; 1916; Macmillan Co, NY; this is a general intro, really. Think of it as filling out the Outline.
34) Sumpter Beasts: US Army. Quartermaster Corps; Daly, Henry W.; Manual of Pack Transportation (1917: Washington, D.C.: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.) Of course the practices are much too late, but it let me in on what I could expect of the beasts.
35) Home Crafts: Simmons, Paula; Spinning and Weaving with Wool; 1977; Pacific Search Press, Seattle; because wool is what peasants spin and weave.
36) Arts & Crafts: Lacroix, Arts in the Middle Ages, and at the Period of the Renaissance which includes all the crafts, from carpentry to armouring.
37) Everyday Life: Tilley, Arthur Augustus, 1851-1942; Medieval France: A Companion to French studies; Cambridge [Eng.]: The University Press, 1922. This is an excellent basic source.
38) Heraldry: Franklyn, Julian; Heraldry; 1965; A. S. Barnes & Co, So.Brunswick, NY. This was the great age of heraldry, with people wearing their arms on their clothing. No one, though, needs a multi-volume encyclopedia on the subject, when so much is late, or the whole thing is British, not even including Scottish. For free, try Heraldry, Ancient and Modern: Including Boutell's Heraldry, by Charles Boutell & S. T. Aveling (1890: London ; New York : F. Warne)
39) Woman Warriors: Because I wanted a period when women warriors were fairly common, I let my choice be guided by Salmonson, Jessica Amanda; The Encyclopedia of Amazons,; 1991; Paragon House, NY. This was actually the first book I read to settle my period. Otherwise, I would have had to have created a soft-sf world, or maybe gone to fantasy for my setting.
40) Lowlife: McCall, Andrew; The Medieval Underworld; 1979; A. M. Heath & Co., Ltd, because I have bandits to deal with.
41) Judicial Combat: ffoulkes, Charles; The Armourer & His Craft from the XIth to the XVth Century; 1922; for real armour, not armour myths. This almost counts as a costume book with so many armoured warriors. However, he includes the surviving part of a description of a judicial combat.
42) Costume, Furniture, Tents, Armour, Weapons, Jewelry, et al: Viollet-le-duc, Emmanuel; Dictionnaire raisonné de mobilier Français de l'époque Carlovingienne a la Renaissance; Paris, Morel, 1874 (multi-volume). t. 1. Meubles (furnishings, and the tents) t. 2. Ustensiles. Orfèvrerie [sic] Instruments de musique. Jeux, passe-temps. Outils. Outillages (games, pastimes, musical instruments, various utensils) t. 3 & 4. Vêtements, bijoux de corps, objets de toilette (costume) t. 5 & 6. Armes de guerre offensives et défensives (weapons & armour) So you don't read French. So didn't most of the people I've known who owned a set, but the illos are so good you often don't need to. F'rinstance, how to dress your head to wear a hennin and all the parts thereof: the pictures were enough for the ladies of the SCA. What's worse is he frequently describes things by quoting old sources in Latin, Old French, or Middle French, so actually reading it can be a bit of a headache. But you'll do fine with pictures of chairs and swords, as long as you can read the dates. This is perfect for my setting.
43) Government: Mediavel Feudalism (1942: Cornell University Press) by Carl Stephenson was published as a standard text on the subject through the 1970s (and may be yet). It is a brief and pointed essay: he does not go on for 400 pages on intricacies and hundreds of examples and exceptions. Instead, he lays it out in what came to about 40 pages in my compressed text version (8.5 x 11, single-space, no index). Having learned to write before obfustication in academia became the norm, it's really understandable.
44) Warfare for Free: The Art of War in the Middle Ages, A.D. 378-1515 by Sir Charles William Chadwick Oman (1860-1946) (Oxford : Blackwell, 1885). He also gave us, in 1898, A History of the Art of War, the Middle Ages from the Fourth to the Fourteenth Century ( G.P. Putnam's Sons) which covers a bit less time. We would say it was more definitely medieval rather than shading into the Renaissance.
45) Weapons & Armour The Archaeology of Weapons, Arms and Armor From Prehistory to the Age of Chivalry $ (New York, Barnes & Noble Books, 1994, illustrated by the author) Ewart Oakeshott uses period manuscript illustrations, analysis of extant weapons, and his own illustrations to show how weapons were used. A trifle weak in the ancient world, but gets more than solid for the medieval.
46) Warfare: Delbrück, Hans; Medieval Warfare; History of the Art of War, volume III; University of Nebraska Press, 1990, trans. Walter J. Renfroe, Jr.; orig. 1923; 711 pg, index. Extremely cogent dissection of the concept of the "peasant levy," showing it a means of raising cash (taxation not being well-developed) as the troops it would have raised if actually used would have been herds of inefficient mouths, given unsuitably insubordinate ideas, when the peasant was otherwise being ground down into passive and unarmed serfdom. Begins with a list of the cost of Carlovingian war-gear in cows, and proceeds to do a lot of rational analysis and myth-busting, rather than gulping poetic accounts thoughtlessly, as if they were modern objective reports. Viewpoint is that of the sources (Frankish and Anglo-Saxon) but he is an early discrediter of body counts, so that you will not have hordes of 20,000 when you should have bands of 300. Explains period military concepts like "The Golden Bridge" that no rational modern person would imagine ever could exist. Thoroughly discredits the "peasant levy" myth and the anachronism of the long charge at a gallop (projection of modern cavalry behavior on to knights).
47) Arms & Armour: Oakeshott, R. Ewart; The Archaeology of Weapons, Arms and Armor From Prehistory to the Age of Chivalry; 1960; Lutterworth Press, London; for a better look at swords and styles..
48) Setting: Page, Jake; Forest (Planet Earth); 1983; Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA. Because you need to know your surroundings. Alternate from Gadifere: "For getting to grips with the antics of late medieval warfare, you can read Maurice Keen, The Laws of War in the Late Middle Ages (reprinted in 1993). Be warned though, the book is dense, especially the first chapters. You might not need it, unless you're completely bewildered by the practices of hostage taking, ransoms, free passings, etc. and you'd want to know to the last detail how it worked."
49) General Life and History: France in the Middle Ages (1963 reprint Frederick Ungar Publishing Co.) by Paul Lacroix. Do I use this guy a lot? Like the Gieses, he's useful all over, if you remember to check him against more modern concepts.
50) Music: If nothing else, you may want period music to write to. I already had just a few sources (several albums). There is a lot out there and it's better quality that we used to be able to get. Look for "Early Music" (which includes Baroque and Renaissance, which is too late), as well as medieval music (mediaeval music in the UK). My "entry" here would be a whole sub-list. Les Musiciens de Provence, Instruments Antiques, still rules. If you go to 8tracks, you can find many medieval playlists (so you don't have commercial interruptions the way you do at Pandora or Live 365). You can also find a ton of soundtrack playlists to get you wound up for big-screen action.
|If you need something else for your particular story around this time, maybe Historical Novelists Center can help with their Medieval European pages.|
Check the Near History sample guides. There's more to read, but mostly lighter stuff, as well as lots more in video. A few appropriate movies from a year are much easier to get through than a detail biography of a president and will tell you more about ordinary life.