“A History of the Early Medieval Siege, c. 450-1200” by Peter Purton

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Whether you’re a writer of medieval historical fiction, a medieval history teacher, or an amateur medieval historian looking to give talks and guided tours at museums and locations throughout Europe; every once in a while a book comes along that you just have to add to your library.  The price tag may be steep, but the information, detail, facts and statistics presented in A History of the Early Medieval Siege is invaluable to any person matching the above categories.  You may also just be an interested reader in the period, looking to get everything you can on the subject of medieval warfare; well then, look no further.

The author, Peter Purton, is not your usual professor of a well respected academic profession.  He is an equalities officer for Britain’s Trade Union Congress, but developed a lifelong interest in medieval fortifications after visiting the Edwardian Castles of North Wales when he was a child.  He has devoted over a decade of his spare time to research and study – along with a doctorate in history from Oxford University – to creating and publishing an epic, two-volume series.  A History of the Early Medieval Siege is the first volume (A History of the Late Medieval Siege, unsurprisingly is the second, companion volume, also available).

The text is small, the words many, the tables and charts seemingly never ending, the photos and drawings abundant, and the bibliography overwhelming to say the least (over 70 pages), along with a glossary, timeline, and thorough index; readers will have no problem finding a specific detail, point in time, or type of siege – be it ballista, trebuchet, or whatever tickles your fancy.  The Roman period was obviously an incredibly important one for the development of siege weaponry, which Purton also discusses and explains how these instruments of war and destruction were carried into the medieval period and then developed and improved over the centuries, as well as new and more destruction siege engines devised.

A History of the Early Medieval Siege (as well as the companion volume) comes down to one thing really: would you rather have three shelves of an assortment of books, or one thick, sturdy volume you can turn to time and time again?

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Originally written on September 16 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

5/6 On the Bookshelf . . . “Templar Knight,” “Test,” “By Fire, By Water,” “The History of the Early Medieval Siege,” & “Life After Death”

Templar Knight

After reviewing the first in the trilogy from Swedish author Jan Guillou, The Road to Jerusalem, I’m looking forward to this next installment.  Though this new cover style seems to be trying to catch people’s eyes as compared to the first book:

Road to Jerusalem

I’m a relatively recent William Sleator fan, after having him recommended by my wife who read him a lot when she was younger.  I’ve started with some of his older books, but he’s still churning them out, and am looking forward to his latest, Test:


By Fire, By Water

Don’t quite remember where I caught sight of this book, By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan, but it’s his debut novel set in 15th-century Spain about the Inquisition, so very much my type of book.

The History of the Medieval Siege

The next tome in my medieval readings: A History of the Early Medieval Siege, c. 450-1200 (which isn’t due out until October), which will certainly be a fascinating read for me, and serve as some important research for my medieval historical fiction novel, Wyrd.

Life After Death

Last but not least is Life After Death by Alan F. Segal, which I’ve had my eye on for literally years, since its publication in 2004.  The subtitle is: A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion.  I simply haven’t been willing to spend the $40 cover price for it, and just this last week received an alert from Powells for a used copy (which looks like new to me) for $15, so snatched it up immediately.  The book will prove to be an interesting read, as well as research for a future book, however, I don’t expect to be reading this one anytime soon, but am happy to finally have it on my shelf.