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Could You Recommend Good
Medieval History Books?

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Dear Tradition in Action,

I truly appreciate your site. All the information it has to offer really helps me to defend the true Faith. Also, I am a big lover of Medieval history, and love all your essays that you have written about this time period.

Considering how much you have written about this period of history, I wanted to know if you could recommend any good Medieval history books. I want to know as much as I possibly can about the Middle Ages, so I can defend Christendom from all her enemies. Thank you!


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Dr. Horvat responds:

Dear Miss M.U.,

It is good to hear that Medieval History has another aficcionada. Often traditional American and English History books are bent on presenting the Age of Faith as a period where everything was backwards, ugly and dirty, dominated by an unintelligent, superstitious clergy and similarly stupid and rapacious nobility. This is the exact opposite of the truth.

Many of these myths are examined and destroyed in the classic Catholic work by James Joseph Walsh: The 13th - The Greatest of Centuries. Another interesting work, The Renaissance of the 12th Century by Charles Homer Haskins, while not written from that same Catholic perspective, nonetheless demonstrates the great surge in learning and progress began a century earlier.

A work I would highly recommend for those interested in the culture and mentality of the Middle Ages is a book translated by Joyce Emerson from French to English titled The Glory of the Medieval World by Régine Pernoud. Another work on the medieval mentality or spirit, somewhat romantic but very interesting and enthusiastically pro-medieval, is the two-volume work by Henry Osborn Taylor titled The Medieval Mind (NY: The Macmillan Co., 1919). Unlike the previously mentioned books, the Taylor volumes have not been reprinted and may be more difficult to find.

An enthusiastic account of Chivalry is provided in the French work translated to English titled Chivalry by Leon Gautier. His deep and living faith is the hall mark of all his works, especially those on Old France.

As for the Crusades, I would suggest works by Johnathan Riley-Smith, who effectively demonstrated that the Crusaders were largely sincere and motivated by piety, opposing the common accusations that greed was their motivation. He also sustains that the Crusades were fought ultimately as the response of Christendom to the aggression of Islam.

Riley-Smith is a very reputable historian who dares to counter many scholars who portray the Crusades in a negative light. The negative views have their roots in the anti-Catholic writings of the Enlightenment.

To refute the lies spread by the Dutch and English Protestants about the Inquisition, I would suggest a short booklet Why Apologize for the Spanish Inquisition? by Frs. Alphonsus Maria Duran and Paul Mary Vota. The Medieval Inquisition by Bernard Hamilton is a classic work that explains the origin and workings of the Medieval Inquisition founded by Pope Gregory IX and headed by St. Dominic. A more recent scholarly work by Henry Kamen titled The Spanish Inquisition puts to rest many of the fabrications and lies about that venerable institution. The latter is not a pro-Catholic or pro-Inquisition study, which actually increases its value in a serious polemic.

Also for scholars, the work The Black Legends and the Catholic Hispanic Culture by Antonio Caponnetto proves the fallacies of the old Protestant black legends or the new misrepresentations of Liberation Theology trying to soil the glories of the Hispanic culture and the Catholic religion installed in the New World.

One of the best - and most enjoyable - ways to gain an overview and understanding of History is to read good biographies of the medieval Saints. Doing this, one can see how persons who corresponded to their vocations would mark their cities (e.g. St. Rosalia of Palermo or St. Aldalbert of Prague), shape their countries (e.g. St. Edward the Confessor or St. Elizabeth of Hungary), and even have a profound effect on a whole age - like the great Pope St. Gregory VII or St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

I am sure this will give you a start in your reading that will help you become a fine polemist for the Age of Faith.


     Marian T. Horvat

Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted June 11, 2008

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