...in which I share some of my favorite medieval research resources and methods for the benefit of others interested in also writing about the Middle Ages

Friday, August 15, 2008

Apologies, a New/Old Book, and Another Research Tip

First off, I need to offer my apologies to all for not keeping this blog properly up-to-date. (Although I do hope you enjoyed my interview with G.G. Vandagriff.) My excuses (and that’s exactly what they are…excuses) boil down to this:

Originally, I was hoping to publish the next novel in my series, Illuminations of the Heart, and subsequently was looking forward to sharing all kinds of new research sources with you that I used for that novel. But then Leatherwood Press picked up Loyalty’s Web and asked me to put Illuminations of the Heart on the shelf for awhile, while they publish Loyalty’s Web and see how it does in the marketplace. If well, then they will likely want to publish Illuminations of the Heart as well. (So keep your fingers crossed for me!)

I did proceed with some revisions of—oh, let’s just call it Illuminations, it’s shorter that way!—this summer and hopefully have it in good submittable form now, but it remains on hold for the foreseeable future—and so, for now, do my coordinating research posts.

But I do owe you, my faithful readers, something in the meantime. So here’s a book and a tip that I haven’t mentioned before. I haven’t mentioned the book because I assumed it was such a basic resource that everyone would already know about it. But I should know better than to make assumptions like that—maybe you don’t know about it at all! So here it is:

Life in a Medieval Castle
, by Joseph & Frances Gies. This is one of the first research books I ever found on the Middle Ages, way back in the late 1970s. And the good news is, this book is STILL IN PRINT. (I was going to tell you about another favorite medieval book of mine, but when I discovered it is out of print, I decided I’ve tortured you enough for awhile with wonderful but difficult to obtain titles. I’ll share it another time.)

Life in a Medieval Castle
includes the following chapters:

1. The Castle Comes to England
2. The Lord of the Castle
3. The Castle as a House
4. The Lady
5. The Household
6. A Day in the Castle
7. Hunting as a Way of Life
8. The Villagers
9. The Making of a Knight
10. The Castle at War
11. The Castle Year
12. The Decline of the Castle

The chapters are followed by a Glossary of Castle Terms and a Glossary of Feudal Terms.

This really is an excellent, basic starting point for anyone researching the Middle Ages. (Of course, each chapter should be just that, a starting point for your research, and not the beginning and end of your research journey.)

Now, here is the tip that I wish I had followed more consistently in my research books. It’s basically the same tip that I offered much earlier in my post on Medieval Gardens, Part II—don’t be afraid to write in the margins of your books!

For example, in Life in a Medieval Castle’s chapter on “Hunting as a Way of Life”, I made the following margin notes:

Paragraph 1: morning hunting
Paragraph 2: huntsman-sizing a dear
Paragraph 3: hunting dogs
Paragraph 4: hunting equipment
Paragraph 5: boar hunting
Paragraph 6: the huntsman/the hunting company—members
Paragraph 7: hawks
Paragraph 8: kinds of falcons
Paragraph 9: the mews
Paragraphs 10-14: training of a falcon
Paragraph 15: training of a falcon—to stand on human wrist
Paragraph 16: guarding the falcon
Paragraphs 17-18: falcon training to return to master
Paragraph 19: training the falcon—the lure
Paragraph 21: training the falcon
Paragraph 22: dogs and falcons
Paragraph 23: falcons and ducks
Paragraph 24: description of a falconer/care of falcons
Paragraph 25: forest supplements
Paragraph 26: poaching penalties
Paragraph 27: royal forest, the warren, forest dogs

Okay, I’m going to stop counting now, but other paragraphs in this chapter include the margin notes: forest courts; forest courts & enforcement; forest courts—the forest eyre—penalties; forest administration & officers; private forests or chases; ecclesiastical preserves; exceptions to forest law; foresters—abuse of powers; “hue and cry” against forest offenders; forest officers a hated class.

These were all notes I took the time to make in the margins as I read this chapter. Can you see how now, when you want to know about falconry, you don’t have to plow through the entire chapter every single time to find only the particular information on falconry that you want? Or if you want to know what happened to poachers, you can quickly skip over the falconry paragraphs to quickly grab the information you need?

Sadly for me, I have followed my own advice quite erratically in my research books, including Life in a Medieval Castle. Some chapters I took the time to mark with margin notes, others I didn’t, always making the search for information harder than it would have been if I had consistently followed the advice I just gave you. Learn from my mistakes, if you can. And thankfully, it’s not too late for me to learn myself and go back and make the notes I should have made in the first place.

Other books by Joseph & Frances Gies include (all still in print, with one exception):

Life in a Medieval Village
Life in a Medieval City
Women in the Middle Ages (apparently out of print, I don’t know why—good thing I bought my copy when I did!)
The Knight in History
Marriage and the Family in the Middle Ages
Cathedral, Forge and Waterwheel: Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages


NOTE: If you scroll down the right side of this page, you’ll see that I’ve added two new widgets: Castles of the World and History Trivia. Both should be changing daily. (Or, from the looks of it, possibly more often than that!) I hope you enjoy the new additions!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

My New Cover—finally!

My new cover art for Loyalty's Web has finally been approved. What do you think?