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  • Mary Ellen Johnson

If You Love Fourteenth Century England



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The best books on why the 14th century mirrors our own ideals, economy, and pandemic By Mary Ellen Johnson

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Who am I? In junior high, I happened across a picture of an armor-plated knight being raised by a winch to sit astride his destrier. What a ridiculous time period, I thought. After raiding every related book in the school library, I changed my opinion from “ridiculous” to “fascinating.” Particularly when deciding that periods such as the fourteenth century, with its plagues, wars, political upheavals, and climate change were pretty much a distorted mirror of our own. Throughout my life as wife, mother, novelist, and social justice advocate, I’ve held medieval England close to my heart. I remain forever grateful I’ve been able to explore it both in my writing and in several treks across the pond. I wrote... The Lion and the Leopard By Mary Ellen Johnson


What is my book about? Fourteenth-century England was a time of plague, climate change, economic disruptions, revolts, tyrannical rulers, and corrupt favorites. Against a backdrop similar to our own, my knights, their ladies, lords, and ordinary folk live and love and struggle against the turning of fortune’s wheel—where they, like us, rise only to fall and inch their way round the wheel yet again. Each character wrestles in some fashion with the family motto of my hero knight: All is lost save honor. Throughout, historical characters such as Edward III, the Black Prince, and John of Gaunt all appear. My favorite is the little-known revolutionary priest John Ball who I shamelessly modeled after my more radical relatives. I hope I accurately captured the essence of John—and of them all.

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The books I picked & why Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more). The Three Edwards By Thomas B. Costain





Why this book? Thomas Costain’s series introduced me to a fascinating world of castles and cathedrals, of tournaments where mounted knights broke lances on behalf of their ladies, where courtly love and chivalry ruled the day. (In theory. Seldom in practice.) How strange, my preteen self thought. How enchanting! I was particularly fascinated by The Three Edwards, which recounts the reign of one of England’s worst kings sandwiched between two of its greatest. With the eye of a natural storyteller, Costain intersperses tales of wars, rebellions, and political machinations with myths such as Arthur and Guinevere’s tombs being “discovered” in Glastonbury and the possible origins of Robin Hood. While there are newer series mining the same period, Costain’s research remains relatively solid, and his prose retains its powerful simplicity. Explore this book

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The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century By Ian Mortimer

Why this book? When creating a scene, my internal dialogue consists of some form of the following: Remember, farm animals were way smaller; hedges were not ubiquitous while music pretty much was; catching butterflies with nets and blowing soap bubbles was a favorite childhood pastime; and hey, why not have my knight stop to smell the flowers followed by weaving his love a garland? While our ancestors were sometimes very like us, in other ways both their actions and thought processes seem inexplicable. Which is what makes Ian Mortimer’s charmingly written and informative guidebook an indispensable part of my library. Explore this book

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1381: The Year of the Peasants' Revolt By Juliet Barker



Why this book? Another beautifully written book recounting the first popular uprising in English history. Would the revolt even have occurred without the Black Death and the subsequent upheaval caused by labor shortages, rising wages, population migrations? The author subsequently draws similarities between 1381 and contemporary conditions, making a compelling case for the axiom: history often rhymes. (When promoting American Independence, Thomas Paine championed the rebels, as did supporters of the French Revolution.) I particularly enjoyed delving into the life of the radical priest, John Ball, whose (largely fictional) voice continues to inspire those who ask, “When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?” Explore this book

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The Black Prince By Michael Jones

Why this book? Each time I visit Canterbury Cathedral, I pay homage to my favorite knight, Edward of Woodstock, who epitomizes the fourteenth-century version of the knight nonpareil. Being an autodidact rather than a scholar, I am particularly grateful that Black Prince is both meticulously researched and easy to read. I particularly admire Prince Edward because of his courage on and off the battlefield, especially when enduring the mysterious illness that ultimately killed him. Edward the Black Prince embraced all the turns of fortune’s wheel with grace, courage, and dignity. Love this man and love this book! Explore this book

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The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation By Ian Mortimer

Why this book? Forget the Wars of the Roses! Give me the fourteenth century and the reign of Edward III—whose like, according to the chronicler Jean Froissart, “has not been seen since the days of King Arthur." A happy warrior, exuberant ruler, and skilled commander, who at least one modern military historian has described as “the greatest general in English history.” Edward kicked some serious French butt during the beginning of the Hundred Years War. (Great from the English point of view. Devastating for those on the receiving end of Edward’s chevauchees.) The poignancy of outliving one’s peers and one’s time and dying alone—all of that is compassionately detailed in Ian Mortimer’s compelling biography, which reminds us why Edward of Windsor ranks among England’s greatest kings. Explore this book

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5 book lists we think you will like! The best books on medieval warfare (if you love knights and castles) The best books on the middle ages for those with an odd fascination for filth and torture The best books for time-traveling back to the past The best medieval murders and mysteries in fiction The best books on histories of medieval families Show more book lists Interested in Edward III of England, the Middle Ages, and the Wars of the Roses? 6,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Edward III of England, the Middle Ages, and the Wars of the Roses. Edward III Of England Explore 17 books about Edward III of England The Middle Ages Explore 282 books about the Middle Ages The Wars Of The Roses Explore 21 books about the Wars of the Roses And, 3 books we think you will enjoy! We think you will like The Wars of the Roses, Victory in the East, and The Rose Garden if you like this list. Show related books







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