Sunday, 22 March 2009

A Useful Book For Historical And Fantasy Authors

Moira Allen, best known as the editor of the excellent website Writing-World, has recently come out with an interesting book through Lulu. She has reproduced a series of articles that appeared in Gentleman's Magazine in 1858 and 1859 and compiled them into a book titled The Arms, Armour, and Military Usages of the Fourteenth Century. It's a detailed look at military life in the High Middle Ages, when warfare was begining to change, both in the organization of armies and the development of new technologies such as black powder weapons.

The book is filled with interesting details, such as the fact that in this era knights fought on foot as often as they fought on horseback. They'd cut their lances down to only five feet and charge the enemy in a close formation. There's also an interesting anecdote of them using their spurs as caltrops, and the fact that large armies could only march two to three leagues (six to nine miles) a day. Anyone writing a historical novel set in this time, or a fantasy novel with a medieval culture, will benefit from this book.

Victorian gentlemen were expected to be fluent in Latin and French, so there are numerous untranslated quotes that slowed me down. I like to pretend I can read these two languages, so I spent a lot of time trying to puzzle out these passages! I could have also used an introduction giving an overview about the magazine and author. But these are minor quibbles. The book is a fascinating and useful read and I hope Moira does more books like this. She's already compiled The Best of Girl's Own Paper, extracts from a Victorian magazine for girls.

The Arms, Armour, and Military Usages of the Fourteenth Century is available through Moira's Lulu store and is available in either as an ebook or in print.

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Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

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