Historical Dictionary of Late Medieval England, 1272-1485

Historical Dictionary of Late Medieval England, 1272-1485

Historical Dictionary of Late Medieval England, 1272-1485

Historical Dictionary of Late Medieval England, 1272-1485

Synopsis

Providing the chronological setting for many of Shakespeare's plays, various swashbuckling novels from Sir Walter Scott's to Robert Louis Stevenson's, and such Hollywood films as Braveheart, late Medieval England is superficially well known. Yet its true complexity remains elusive, locked in the covers of specialized monographs and journal articles. In over 300 entries written by 80 scholars, this book makes the factual information and historical interpretations of the era readily available. Covering political, military, religious, and constitutional subjects as well as social and economic topics, the volume is easy to use, comprehensive, and authoritative. It provides a useful resource for undergraduate and graduate students, scholars, and educated laymen.

Excerpt

Late medieval England is an era superficially familiar to many educated people. It provided the chronological setting for many of William Shakespeare’s history plays. Unforgettable and often highly inaccurate characterizations of historical personages, such as HENRY IV and RICHARD II, have been imposed on the minds of generations of playgoers and readers. The many wars of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries have provided the background and setting for various swashbuckling historical novels from Sir Walter Scott’s Castle Dangerous (1831), to John George Edgar’s Cressy and Poictiers (1863), to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Black Arrow (1888), to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The White Company (1891). The ubiquitous G. A. Henty set several of his widely read historical romances for boys in late medieval England. Hollywood has also depicted late medieval England in various films. The Tower of London (1939) presented a delightfully villainous Shakespearean RICHARD III but did not do much to illuminate the true history of his reign. More recently, audiences have thrilled to the saga of William Wallace in Braveheart (1995), which significantly distorts the history of that era. Novels and films are notorious for their historical inaccuracies even as they are generally successful in capturing the public’s imagination and imposing their version of events on the consciousness of popular history.

Shakespeare’s plays, the many historical novels, and films such as Braveheart all have in common that they depict a late medieval England that was full of drama and adventure. In reality, it was full of drama and adventure; that is most certainly true. It contained much heroism and much villainy, much tragedy and much triumph, and all the other things that make up human existence. Larger-than-life figures such as EDWARD I, EDWARD III, and HENRY V ruled their kingdoms and led the English ARMY to great victories. Other English monarchs were failures. EDWARD II, Richard II, and HENRY VI all paid heavy prices for their inability to rule England successfully. Of course, both they and England

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