Medieval history is a deeply fascinating subject. In Europe, the Middle Ages (or medieval period) lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. When England emerged from the collapse of the Roman Empire, many of the towns had been abandoned and the economy was in tatters. New identities and cultures began to emerge, developing into kingdoms that competed for power. 

In this list we’ve included some of the best books that cover a variety of topics around medieval England, from the flourishing of art under the Anglo-Saxons and the fierce Viking attacks during the 8th and 9th century to the Norman invasion, the Great Famine and the Black Death. 

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

Author: Ian Mortimer

Available in: Kindle, Audiobook, Paperback, Hardcover

Publisher: Touchstone; unknown edition (October 25, 2011)

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The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England is a revolutionary  book that takes readers into the sights, smells, and tastes of the fourteenth century. A time machine that transports you back into the fourteenth century with a radical new approach. 

The past is not just something to be studied; it is also something to be lived. The book uses daily chronicles, letters, household accounts and poems of the day to provide answers to questions typically ignored by traditional historians. Th result is an astonishing social history book that is both informative and entertaining in its detail, and startling for its portrayal of humanity in an age of violence, exuberance, and fear.

Medieval England, 500-1500: A Reader, Second Edition

Author: Emily Amt & Katherine Allen Smith

Available in: Kindle, Paperback, Hardcover

Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Higher Education Division; 2nd ed. edition (January 2, 2018)

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The  book Medieval England, 500-1500 spans several centuries in over a hundred documents that present the social and political history of England and include constitutional highlights and records and narrative sources that describe the lived experiences of a range of historical actors.

The topics covered include the Anglo-Saxon monarchy, lay piety, later medieval commercial life, queenship, and Jewish communities, among others. Significant events like the conquest of Wales and the Viking Invasions are discussed in a comparative analysis.

The book also features 40 illustrations, a map, and an index of topics, as well as essay questions, web resources, and a timeline.

Life in a Medieval Village

Author: Joseph and Frances Gies

Available in: Audio CD, Paperback, Hardcover

Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reissue edition (July 12, 2016)

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In the book Life in a Medieval Village, written by respected historians Joseph and Frances Gies, a lively, convincing portrait of rural people at work and at play in the Middle Ages is painted. The book is centered around the village of Elton, in the English East Midlands, and the agricultural advances that made communal living possible.

The book covers what domestic life was like for serfs and lords, describing the central role of the church in maintaining social harmony and supplying historical context on the origin, development, and decline of the European village. This book is a remarkable account that illustrates the captivating world of the Middle Ages and demonstrates what it was like to live during a fascinating—and often misunderstood—era.

A Year in the Life of Medieval England

Author: Tony Mount

Available in: Kindle, Paperback, Hardcover

Publisher: Amberley Publishing; 1st edition edition (May 15, 2016)

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The book A Year in the Life of Medieval England focuses on the everyday experience of the royal subjects and common people and covers the royals and nobles of official history as well as the quarrels of a miscellany of characters, including William and Christopher of York, Nalle Kittewritte who stole her neighbours’ washing, and Margery from Hereford who was murdered by an Oxford student. 

Alongside the coronations, diplomatic dealings and key battles, we can find the fabric of medieval life as it was really lived – in its folk songs, recipes and local gossip. The book covers a diverse range of entries (one for each day of the year) that allow for a detailed picture to be gathered from original sources that include chronicles, manor court rolls, coroners’ rolls and the records of city councils.

The Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval England

Author: Nigel Saul

Available in: Paperback, Hardcover

Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st edition (December 31, 1997)

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The Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval England is a thorough and well-illustrated history book containing eight long essays by leading scholars.

The essays cover the history and culture of England from the 5th to the 15th century and are as follows:

  • Medieval England – Identity, Politics and Society by Nigel Saul;
  • Anglo-Saxon England by Janet L Nelson;
  • Conquered England by George Garnett;
  • Late Medieval England 1215-1485 by Chris Given-Wilson;
  • Economy and Society by Christopher Dyer;
  • Piety, Religion and the Church by Henrietta Leyser;
  • The Visual Arts by Nicola Coldstream; and
  • Language and Literature by Derek Pearsall.

Further Reading

Medieval Castles

Medieval Britain: Newark Castle. Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

Newark Castle

Newark Castle is a 12th century castle by Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln.

British Castles: Corfe Castle.

Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle is a ruined castle on the route between Wareham and Swanage.