English history from the Conquest to the early 15th century

thaddeus6th

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Hey, kids.

I happened to see that Brian had recently acquired A Great and Terrible King, an Edward I bio by Marc Morris, and he suggested a thread on some books I have that form a more or less continuous historical narrative might be a reasonable thread.

I should stress these are mostly biographies and there are a few light or skipped spots (most notably, the reigns of William Rufus and Henry I, with a little on Henry III). However, enough information is given to understand broadly what happens during those periods.

The order below is chronological.

The Norman Conquest, by Marc Morris - This is a great book that gives background information leading up to the Conquest (fragmented and warring, essentially), and for the entirety of William the Conqueror's reign. As such, it includes some Saxon history, and pre-Conquest Norman history.

The Greatest Knight, by Thomas Asbridge - There are several biographies of William Marshal, and I very much enjoyed this one. Spanning a period from the tumultuous 'reign' of King Stephen in the first middle of the 12th century to the early years of Henry III's reign in the 13th, with Henry II, Richard the Lionheart, and John Softsword in between, the biography charts the rise and rise of a fascinating knight's life.

King John, by Marc Morris - There's a deal of overlap with the previous book, but this provides more detail on John's misrule, as well as the reign of his beloved (ahem) brother Richard. Almost certainly the worst king since the Conquest.

A Great and Terrible King, by Marc Morris - A biography of the imperious Edward I (as an aside, a Game of Thrones DVD extra indicated George RR Martin considered Edward I something of an inspiration behind Tywin Lannister). Edward was a strong king for most of his reign, succeeding his weak father and enjoying success until age diminished his judgement and prowess. Covers the latter part of the 13th and early part of the 14th century.

The Greatest Traitor, by Ian Mortimer - When you read this bio of Sir Roger Mortimer you'll probably be as surprised as I was that it hasn't been made into a film or TV series. Once a friend of Edward II, Mortimer had a falling out, which ended with Edward losing his throne and the usurpation of regal authority by Mortimer, who was also having a romantic affair with Edward II's wife.

The Perfect King, by Ian Mortimer - Edward III reigned for 50 years in the 14th century. It was a time of great change, as the early form of Parliament became more important, the Hundred Years' War began, and the Black Death killed huge numbers.

The Fears of Henry IV, by Ian Mortimer - This begins as, effectively, a dual biography of Richard II (a manipulative, insecure, but intelligent king) and Henry Bolingbroke, both grandsons of Edward III. Covering the period from the end of that king's reign to the end of Henry IV's, with Richard II's in between, it paints an intriguing picture, as Henry seems to have been both scholar and warrior.

I only got into medieval history a few years ago, but the above set are very engaging and form a more or less continuous narrative over a period of about 350 years.
 

The Big Peat

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I've only read Asbridge's out of that list, but it is very readable.

I'd suggest Maddicott's Simon de Montfort as a good way to bridge that gap between William Marshal and Edward I, but I've just seen the price on Amazon and ouuuuch. Also, I think I gave copy to charity, and now OUCH OUCH OUCH. I see one Darren Baker has a book on both de Montfort and Henry III at more reasonable prices, don't know about his rep but might be worth looking at.
 

svalbard

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I would like to put forward 2 books that have not being written by Marc Morris(a superb writer BTW).

1066, The Year of 3 Battles by Frank Mclynn
.

An outstanding analysis of that fateful year and the key players.

Lionheart and Lackland, King Richard and King John and the Wars of Conquest by Frank Mclynn.

An a long winded title for an excellent book. Mclynn argue's that King John displayed some autistic traits which although impossible to prove would be an interesting view on his actions.

It does look like Mclynn and Morris are trying to corner the market on well, writen medieval history books.
 

thaddeus6th

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Svalbard, those look good, if (the former, certainly) a bit pricey.

Not an Ian Mortimer fan?

I could be wrong but I have vague memories of autistic people not being very good at lying, which John did rather a lot of.
 

svalbard

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Good point l, although my understanding is that the autism spectrum now covers quite a lot.

I must admit I had never heard of Ian Mortimer and a quick check reveals some interesting looking books. Another one for the list :)
 

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