Good nonfiction books about Medieval England?
December 13, 2018 10:33 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have any good nonfiction book suggestions about the Normans, Henry III's reign, or the Wars of the Roses?

Are there any good non-fiction, popular history books about:

> The Normans (starting with Rollo, continuing to consolidation of Norman power in England)
> Henry III's reign, including Simon de Montfort
> Wars of the Roses (ideally would include a focus on Margaret of Anjou)

I generally prefer non-fiction histories that are well-written, with a strong sense of narrative and that like to discuss politics. Vanished Kingdoms does a great job at this, I think.

There are a ton of books out there for any of these topics, and I'm hoping AskMe has some suggestions!

For the Wars of the Roses, Conn Iggulden's trilogy seems to be recommended, but it's fiction and I'm looking for something a bit different. Alison Weir has a non-fiction history, but it was first published in 1995 and I wonder if it's a bit dated. Kathryn Warner also has a book but it has few reviews.

I can't recall if Bernard Cornwell writes about any of these, but while he has a fantastic eye for period detail, I find his plots and character somewhat clunky and formulaic.

Any help would be appreciated!
posted by JamesBay to Society & Culture (9 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Possibly a side trip out of England? John Julius Norwich's first two books, later gathered into a single volume, are/is The Normans in Sicily, a phenom often overlooked. Call him a translator of historian's work into readable prose. Dated? He lays out the stories, which haven't changed all that much.
posted by BWA at 11:03 AM on December 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

Monitoring this thread. As I have been sick for a few days I have been watching many documentaries on many of the people and events you have referenced.
posted by terrapin at 11:03 AM on December 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

History of England podcaster David Crowther has a list of materials he referenced when he got to the Wars of the Roses. He is not a historian, but does take a clear-eyed view of his resources and says what he found useful about them. He's generally up-front about what books he used when researching, but I've not been able to find a similar reading list for the Normans or Henry III (IIRC, he does not skimp on the de Montfort).
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:31 AM on December 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh, cool, that's awesome. Thanks!
posted by JamesBay at 12:08 PM on December 13, 2018

Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century is a fantastic book whose time-line falls between Henry III (13th Century) and the WotR (15th Century). It's worth reading no matter what, but in this case might help you with the transition between the two periods.
posted by ubiquity at 12:14 PM on December 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

I just finished Dan Jones' the Plantagenets which was riveting, omg so good, and am starting his Wars of the Roses. The timelines are aaalmost continguous -- Plantagenets goes up til the deposition of Richard II by Henry IV, and WotR starts with Henry V, briefly looking back at Henry IV.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:03 PM on December 13, 2018 [5 favorites]

If you want someone who is a legitimately well-regarded professional historian of this period and extremely readable, you want Robert Bartlett. The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change 950 - 1350 is a great general overview which includes the Normans. His book focussing on the Normans is massive, at over 800 pages, but it's still really readable if you want to get properly into it - England Under The Norman And Angevin Kings, 1075-1225.
posted by Vortisaur at 1:55 PM on December 13, 2018 [5 favorites]

Seconding Dan Jones' The Plantagenets -- very well written. Haven't gotten to his Wars of the Roses, but plan to read it soon.

Also, check out Marc Morris's The Norman Conquest and Helen Castor's Blood and Roses. Ian Mortimer is another good choice for well-written popular nonfiction about this period.

J. R. Maddicott's biography of Simon de Montfort is the standard scholarly work but is reputedly accessible to the general reader; I have it but haven't read it yet so I can't vouch for its readability.
posted by demonic winged headgear at 2:13 PM on December 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Queens of the Conquest, by Alison Weir, may be a bit early, but it's both readable and informative. It was surprising to find Elinor of Aquitaine outdone by her mother-in-law, the Empress Matilda.
posted by SereneStorm at 5:41 PM on December 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

« Older Personal accounting + irregular creative income   |   Are massive unexpected legal fees in a divorce... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.