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Recommended Books on Medieval Warfare

If you have navigated this far in, you probably share an interest in this period of history, and are always on the lookout for some worthwhile books to read.
I have collected some of the works which I particularly enjoyed reading into this page.  It's not so much a review, as a mark of approval, since it would take far too long to go back and re-read enough of all of them to make a decent review.
There is no particularly order, and some will prompt me to add a few words, while others will not, but do not take that as any particular measure of quality.  Presence here indicates a book worth looking out for, according to me.
Here are some of my favourite books on medieval warfare.
Many of the books in my collection were recommended to me by Roy Boss, who knows one heck of a lot about the period.  I'm about half way through his list of where to start just now.

 J.F. Verbruggen

The Art of Warfare in Western Europe During the Middle Ages

 The opening salvo in the revision of the notion that the Middle Ages were a period of no tactical interest. Step one in overcoming Oman on this period is to read Verbruggen.


 Clifford J Rogers

War Cruel and Sharp

An absolute cracker of a history book.  A brilliant book which details the strategy behind Edward III's campaigns in the 100 Years War and the lessons he drew from his experiences against the Scots before embarking on his wars in France.  It also, I now see, signals the other main protagonist in an interesting debate about the effectiveness of the longbow.

This also reminds those of us who live in Scotland now of what came after Bannockburn - remember Halidon Hill, young Nationalist, and forget not the Balliol.

Highly Recommended


 Steven Runciman

The Sicilian Vespers

Runciman is one of those major names which dominate a period - his owrk on the early middle ages is still the benchmark.  I passed on a copy of this in favour of a clubmate, and was extremely happy to then find another copy in a second hand bookshop not long after.

Not light reading, but worth the effort every time.


 Steven Runciman

A history of the Crusades

The first thing anyone interested in this period should read.  Absolutely essential, you should not even think of looking at another book on the Crusades until you have read Runciman.


 Tom Holland


Another fantastic book from Tom Holland.  Encompasing the Vikings through the Normans and the later Carolingians to the start of the Crusades, he puts them all into context and makes a fantastic read while doing so.  In many ways thisis the beginners guide to the causes of the Crusades, but that distracts from the many other areas of this period of change which he covers.

He is worth buying on any subject simply on the basis of past offerings.


 George Ostrogorsky

History of the Byzantine State

I acquired a large number of books a while ago covering the Dark Ages, the Fall of the West and the beginnings and middle period of the Byzantine state.  This was one of three which I kept after reading, (one was Runciman on Romanus Lecapenus because its an early edition, and the third is listed in my renaissance books.)

If you want a place to start on the Byzantines, then this is my recommnendation.


 Matthew Bennett (et al)

Fighting Techniques of the Medieval World AD 500 to AD 1500: Equipment, Combat Skills and Tactics

The best in this series I have found, it has a plethora of useful information for new and old hands ot the period.


Jim Bradbury

The Medieval Archer

A brief book - the sort you might pass over in a museum shop, but to do so would be a loss, this neatly put the archer into context for me, without the usual nonesense the subject can attract, and thankfully, a book which is not pitched at the anorakish pull-weights and what-nots of some other tomes.


 Philippe Contamine

War in the Middle Ages

Another in the Verbruggen school of dispelling the Omanisms which have been allowed to cover this period in the past.

Very readable, and worth knowing about.


 Matthew Bennett (et al)

The Medieval World at War

For me, not as good as Fighting Techniques, but this one has a chapter by Roy, so I'm going to specifically mention it as well.


 Kelly DeVries

Infantry Warfare in the Early Fourteenth Century

I finally got around to completing this, and am now intrigued by the debate between DeVries and Rodgers on the effectiveness of the longbow. The basics of this book are pretty well understood - infantry got better and cavalry and knights could not beat them as easily as they previously had.

But the really interesting stuff kicks in toward the end with Crecy and the longbow.  DeVries argues that the longbow as used in the same was as a field emplacement or ditch, funnelling the cavalry attack into a smaller frontage, so that the infantry could hold them at a controllable point in the battle.  central to this is an acceptance that while unarmoured men and unarmoured horses were highly vulnerable to the longbow; fully armoured and or well protected men (such as pavaisers) were pretty much safe unless they were extremely unlucky - but they were quite likely to become disorganised under the arrow storm, and this disorganisation was the main factor in the longbow victories, not the longbow kills themselves.

I shall read more on this before reaching my own conclusion, but I do like these sort of debates.

Subpages (1): Medieval Books