Click here for the Bibliography
I am often asked to recommend books about various aspects of the Middle Ages, so I think this might be a useful addition to my website. Eventually I hope to add sections for all of my books, one for 13th century England, one for the Wars of the Roses, etc. For now, though, I have to content myself with the 12th century and my current novel, Devil’s Brood. The following books would be a good starting point for those interested in learning more about the improbable lives of the first Plantagenets.
The definitive biography of Henry II is W.L. Warren’s Henry II, and it is one I recommend highly. Another excellent study of Henry was written by John Schlight, Henry II Plantagenet; this is sadly out of print, but well worth the search. Kate Norgate’s England Under The Angevin Kings was originally printed in the 19th century, but much of it has stood the test of time.
There are books beyond counting about Eleanor of Aquitaine. I think one of the best is Eleanor of Aqutaine; Lord and Lady, edited by Bonnie Wheeler and John Carmi Parsons. This is a collection of essays by various historians, covering most aspects of Eleanor’s life.
Like Eleanor, Thomas Becket has attracted more than his share of biographers. In my opinion, the best one is Frank Barlow’s Thomas Becket. A dramatic, riveting, detailed account of his murder was written by William Urry in Thomas Becket; His Last Days.
The most recent and the best biography of William Marshal is William Marshal by David Crouch.
An excellent account of daily life, politics, religion, and culture in the 12th century is Robert Bartlett’s England Under The Norman and Angevin Kings 1075-1225.
I have some more books to recommend. Unfortunately,
I cannot offer recommendations for my earlier books, as I did not keep up
with new scholarship. For example, I know there have been subsequent
biographies of Richard III and Simon de Montfort, but by the time they came
out, I’d turned the page and moved on. But as I’ve spent over fifteen years
living with the Angevins, I can make numerous recommendations about Henry,
Eleanor, and the Devil’s Brood.
There is no way I could list all of the books I’ve
consulted over the years; I tend to be obsessive-compulsive about research!
The books I recommend here are a few that I found very useful for my
purposes, books that are also well-written, offering an enjoyable entry into
the world of the Angevins.
In addition to Dr. Warren’s biography about Henry, I
recommend two recent books, Henry II, New Interpretations, edited by
Nicholas Vincent and Christopher Harper-Bill, and Henry II, A Medieval
Soldier at War, 1147-1189, by John D. Hosler.
For those interested in Henry and Eleanor’s son
Geoffrey and his wife, Constance, I highly recommend J. A. Everard’s
excellent history, Brittany and the Angevins; her book was invaluable to me
in writing Devil’s Brood. Dr. Everard is also the editor of The Charters of
Duchess Constance of Brittany and her Family, 1171-1221. I have already
recommended Dr. David Crouch’s biography of William Marshal; I would suggest
looking for the revised edition, published in 2002. Dr. Crouch has also
provided the historical notes for S. Gregory’s wonderful translation,
History of William Marshal, three volumes published by the Anglo-Norman Text
There are books beyond counting about Eleanor of
Aquitaine. In addition to Dr. Wheeler’s book, mentioned above, I also
recommend the following books: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Courtly Love, and the
Troubadours, by Ffiona Swabey, The World of Eleanor of Aquitaine, edited by
Marcus Bull and Catherine Leglu, and Eleanor of Aquitaine, Patron and
Politician, edited by William W. Kibler. There is a new biography, Eleanor
of Aquitaine, by the British historian Ralph Turner, which I recommend.
Other biographies include the French historian Regine Pernoud’s Eleanor of
Aquitaine and Marion Meade’s Eleanor of Aquitaine; recent scholarship has
discredited the notion that Eleanor ever presided over “courts of love,” but
the book is so well-written that it is still a pleasure to read. If my
French-speaking readers will e-mail me, I can provide additional reading
material by French historians.
The definitive biography of Richard Lionheart is the
one by John Gillingham, published in 1999. I also recommend his collection
of essays, Richard Coeur de Lion, Kingship, Chivalry, and War in the Twelfth
Century. For readers primarily interested in Richard’s military career, look
no further than Geoffrey Regan’s Lionhearts, Richard I, Saladin, and the Era
of the Third Crusade. Another book that offers a detailed account of
Richard’s crusading exploits is David Miller’s Richard the Lionheart. Kate
Norgate’s biography is long out of print, published in 1924, but still worth
reading. Ralph Turner, author of the newest biography of Eleanor, has also
written one about Richard; unfortunately it does not deal with the pivotal
event of Richard’s life—the Third Crusade—but it is admirably dispassionate,
no small feat when dealing with so controversial a king as Richard, and its
conclusion, titled “Richard in Retrospect,” is nothing less than brilliant.
I also recommend the series of essays edited by Janet Nelson, titled Richard
Coeur de Lion in History and Myth. And for readers who’d like to know more
about medieval warfare, do check out Matthew Strickland’s fascinating War
and Chivalry, the Conduct and Perception of War in England and Normandy,
For readers interested in medieval Sicily, I highly
recommend John Julius Norwich’s The Normans in Sicily and The Kingdom in the
Sun. For those who’d like to know more about the culture that bred Eleanor
and Richard, an ideal beginning would be Fredric Cheyettes’ Ermengard of
Narbonne and the World of the Troubadours; Ermengard was a contemporary of
Eleanor’s and Dr. Cheyette’s history is a masterful recreation of a doomed
world. Unfortunately there have been no English biographies of the Counts of
Toulouse, but I can recommend two excellent books for my French-speaking
For an overview of the crusades, I recommend Kenneth
Setton’s The Crusades, Volume Two, and Jonathon Riley Smith’s The World of
the Crusades, and Bernard Hamilton’s The Leper King and His Heirs. I will
have many more “crusader” books to recommend in the future, as I plan to
write about the “real” Balian of Ibelin after I complete Lionheart. It is
often difficult to find translations of medieval chronicles, but I am happy
to report that the chroniclers of Richard’s crusade are all available for
curious readers. The Crusade of Richard Lion-heart, written by a French
troubadour named Ambroise, who accompanied Richard to the Holy Land, was
translated from Old French in 1941 by John La Monte; unfortunately this book
is rather rare, but might still be found in libraries. And there are two
recent translations that can be purchased without difficulty, Peter Edbury’s
The Conquest of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade, Sources in Translation, and
Helen Nicholson’s The Chronicle of the Third Crusade, the Itinerarium
Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi.
I will be adding to this list from time to time. And
please feel free to e-mail me if you have questions about any of my
inclusions or omissions.