Medieval Warfare: A Reader

I want to take a moment to give out some praise to the new book Medieval Warfare: A Reader, edited by Kelly DeVries and Michael Livingston. It just won the 2020 Society for Military History Distinguished Book Award, and deservingly so.

Our readers will be familiar with both Kelly and Michael, as they have written several articles for our magazine. Both are also friends of mine, with Kelly being one of the first people to introduce me to medieval military history. Together they have been doing some great work in the field, and this book is another fine example.

Medieval Warfare: A Reader is a collection of primary sources - the idea to give an introduction and flavour to the various accounts from the Middle Ages that can teach about military matters. Kelly and Michael wanted to produce something different from the standard source collections in the field. In explaining their work, they write:

Too often, the real and horrible human costs of warfare are lost in the focus upon the lauding or demonizing of its leaders and moving of coloured blocks around clean and unbloodied maps. Likewise, a focus on the fighting man can too-frequently neglect his life when returned from war - not to mention the lives left behind back home or buried in foreign soil abroad. Highlighted both within these sections and its conflict core, as well, are rarely illuminated roles of women and the diversity of gender experiences in medieval warfare. These matters, too, are overdue their incorporation into studies of war.

The 139 readings included in this book range from a fifteenth century letter praising soldiers for dying in battle to an account of how a nobleman personally ransomed a gospel book that had been plundered by the Vikings. You read about camp followers and kings, battles and the day-to-day logistics of armies.

We would certainly recommend this book to anyone interested in military history. Medieval Warfare: A Reader, is published by the University of Toronto Press. Click here to learn more.

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