Saturday, September 30, 2017

Beyond the harem: ways to be a woman during the Ottoman Empire

A new volume of essays looks afresh at women’s lives during the 600 years of the Ottoman empire. The book challenges the stereotypes of female lives confined to the harem and hamam – and reveals how women were surprisingly visible in public spaces.

In Ottoman Women in Public Space, a group of scholars of the Middle East and the Islamic world turn their attention to a neglected topic: what life was actually like for women at the height of an empire that lasted for 600 years (right up until the turn of the 20th century) and, at its most powerful, stretched eastwards from present-day Hungary, southwards to the religious centre of Mecca, and westwards around the southern Mediterranean to the bustling port of Algiers.

With this new volume, Kate Fleet and Ebru Boyar and their contributors lift the lid on many thousands of lives previously marginalised by academic histories.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Baltic History

A selection of tomes on the history of the Baltic region

The Baltic: A new history of the region and its peoples by Alan Palmer. 
This history of the region covers the Viking era through the Medieval pinnacle of trade into the world war years of the twentieth century and the years of Soviet domination. Now, these countries are growing and emerging into strong democracies.

The Baltic: A History by Michael North
From the Vikings to the EU the Baltic has been a Nordic Mediterranean, a shared maritime zone with distinct patterns of trade, cultural exchange, and conflict. Covering a thousand years in a part of the globe where seas are more connective than land, Michael North’s overview transforms the way we think about one of the world’s great waterways.

A Concise History of the Baltic States by Andrejs Plakans
The book traces the countries' evolution from their ninth-century tribal beginnings to their present status as three thriving and separate nation states, focusing particularly on the region's complex twentieth-century history, which culminated in the eventual re-establishment of national sovereignty after 1991.

Foreword to the Past: A Cultural History of the Baltic People by Endre Bojtár
Introduces the reader to Baltic issues in general; recounts the history of the Baltic peoples relying on archaeological sources; provides an objective linguistic history and a description of the Baltic languages; and provides original and fresh insights into mythology in the ancient history of the Baltic peoples.

Culture and Customs of the Baltic States by Kevin O'Connor
The approach in each of the topical chapters is to generalize what is common among the three states and then to focus on each country in turn. Chapters on the land, people, and history; religion; marriage, family, gender, and education; holidays, cuisine, and leisure activities; language, folklore, and literature; media and cinema; performing arts; and art are a superb introduction to the Baltics and to the unique aspects of the countries.

Northern Shores: A History of the Baltic Seas and Its Peoples by Alan Palmer
In the days of sail Viking longships and Hanse roundships plied the waters of the Baltic, and for centuries the area formed the axis of a five-nation power struggle, as bids were made for glory both on land and at sea. Today towering ferries and container ships criss-cross routes between cities with a proud past, and travellers are entranced by legendary castles and captivating palaces. This is the fascinating story of the northern inland sea and of the peoples of its shores, from the ice age to the nuclear age.

The Baltic World 1772-1993: Europe's Northern Periphery in an Age of Change by David Kirby
Here he tackles the contrasting experiences of Europe's northern periphery -- affluence and democracy in the north, stagnation and authoritarianism in the south -- from the French Revolution to the collapse of the USSR and beyond. This is a masterly study of a region that is far from peripheral politically to the post-Soviet world.

A History of the Crusades: The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries edited by H. W. Hazard
A comprehensive, collaborative account of the political, religious, military, and social causes, events, organizers and leaders, achievements, and consequences of the Christian Crusades and concurrent enterprises, through the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Part of a six volume series, this edition has chapters on the crusades against the Hussites, and the German crusades in the Baltic

Crusading and Chronicle Writing on the Medieval Baltic Frontier- A Companion to the Chronicle of Henry of Livonia by Dr Carsten Selch Jensen, Dr Marek Tamm, Ms Linda Kaljundi
The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia, written by a missionary priest in the early thirteenth century to record the history of the crusades to Livonia and Estonia around 1186-1227, offers one of the most vivid examples of the early thirteenth century crusading ideology in practice. A key objective of this book, therefore, is to synthesise the current state of research for the international scholarly audience.

An expert look at the history of Seaham’s churches

From an article in the Sunderland Echo, come this review of Fred Cooper's book, A History of the Churches at Seaham:
..... begins in Saxon and Norman times when the area we know as Seaham was served by the two churches of St Mary’s and St Andrews in the two parishes of (Old) Seaham and Dalton-Le-Dale.
Fred added: “In medieval times, churches were often built by the manorial lord who were the patrons of the church and were the possessors of the advowson i.e. the right to appoint the Rector.”

Sunday, September 24, 2017

10 Legendary and Mysterious Libraries of the Ancient World

Beyond Science has listed ten of the most remarkable libraries in the world.

In today’s list, we take a step back thousands of years to days when information and knowledge are stored and jealously guarded in giant libraries that are often the first monuments to be destroyed and sacked in times of war or invasion. Libraries that have shaped the world we now know of and the civilizations that have walked the earth, each contributing to humanity’s progress.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Epistolae: Medieval Women's Letters

One of the most remarkable resources for those studying women in medieval times, is this vast collection of letters written by them and to them - available online at Epistolae: Medieval Women's Letters.
Epistoalae is a collection of letters to and from women in the Middle Ages, from the 4th to the 13th century. The letters, written in Latin, are linked to the names of the women involved, with English translations and, where available, biographical sketches of the women and some description of the subject matter or the historic context of the letter. The letters were originally collected and translated by Professor Joan Ferrante of Columbia University, mainly from printed sources.

Fechtbuch - Medieval Fightbook

I first came across a reference to "Fechtbuch" via a documentary on SBS here in Australia - which was no doubt the National Geographic program that had aired much earlier.

The tome in reference - Fechtbuch - was a fencing manual written in 1443 by Hans Talhoffer:
Talhoffer was following a tradition established by Johannes Liechtenauer, an itinerant master swordsman of the fourteenth century who recorded the secrets of his fighting techniques in the form of cryptic verses. The Talhoffer manuscript includes verses from Liechtenauer, sections devoted to the procedures for fighting judicial combats both with and without armor, and the use of the weapons employed in such combats, including the highly specialized Stechschilde (thrusting shields), maces, long swords, spears, and daggers. There are also sections on knife fighting and wrestling, the latter based on the methods of Ott the Jew, a renowned wrestling master to the archdukes of Austria.
There is a 1467 copy of Talhoffer's Fechtbuch in the Bavarian State Library:
This 1467 manuscript Fechtbuch (Combat manual) provides instructions for various methods of fighting, without armor and wearing different kinds of armor, and on foot and on horseback. A series of annotated illustrations is devoted to combat with swords, daggers, pikes, and other weapons. Even the rules for a trial by combat between a man and a woman are included. The author, Hans Talhoffer (circa 1420–circa 1490), was regarded in his time as an unbeatable swordsman and one of the finest teachers of the so-called German school of fencing. Because of his reputation, many noblemen sought his services as an advisor and teacher. Among them was the first duke of Württemberg, Eberhard the Bearded (1445–96), who commissioned this manuscript. The manuscript itself has a curious history: originally forming part of the library of the dukes of Bavaria, it was stolen during the Thirty Years' War and ended up in Gotha. Only in 1951 was it again sold to the Bavarian State Library, where it is now preserved.
See also:

Read Online:
Further Reading:
  • Codex Wallerstein: A Medieval Fighting Book from the Fifteenth Century on the Longsword, Falchion, Dagger, and Wrestling by Grzegorz Zabinski
  • The Art of Combat: A German Martial Arts Treatise of 1570 by Joachim Meyer 
  • The Art of Sword Combat: A 1568 German Treatise on Swordmanship by Joachim Meyer
  • Venetian Rapier: Nicoletto Giganti's 1606 Rapier Fencing Curriculum by Tom Leoni
  • The Art of Swordsmanship by Hans Lecküchner trans Jeffrey L. Forgeng
  • The Complete Renaissance Swordsman: A Guide to the Use of All Manner of Weapons: Antonio Manciolino's Opera Nova (1531) by Tom Leoni

The Principality of Antioch and its Frontiers in the Twelfth Century

My fascination with the Normans, and particularly Bohemond of Taranto, has led to my eager anticipation of Andrew Buck's book (being the result of his doctoral research under the guidance of Thomas Asbridge).  I am looking forward to adding both this tome as well as Asbridge's "Creation of the Principality of Antioch 1098 - 1130" to my "Crusades" shelves in the Library.

This review of Andrew Buck's book was posted on De Re Militari by Nathan Albright.

For those readers who have an understanding of the crusader states and are interested in knowing more about the political and diplomatic and military history of the Principality of Antioch, this book represents an able and detailed and thorough account of the twelfth century.

Blurb from Boydell and Brewer:

Situated in northern Syria, on the eastern-most frontier of Latin Christendom, the principality of Antioch was a medieval polity bordered by a host of rival powers, including the Byzantine Empire, the Armenian Christians of Cilicia, the rulers of the neighbouring Islamic world and even the other crusader states, the kingdom of Jerusalem and the counties of Edessa and Tripoli. Coupled with the numerous Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities who populated the region, Antioch's Frankish settlers - initially installed into power by the military successes of the First Crusade - thus faced numerous challenges to their survival.

guest blog @ Bearers of the Cross
review @ Amazon

More September Additions

With the latest round of additions to the Library, anyone would think I might have an addiction - to books that is.  I make no secret of the fact that I might have a "small" foible when it comes to books - I do tend to collect them on not such a small scale.  But to each their own!

Adding to my collection of George RR Martin's Game of Thrones series:
  • A Dance With Dragons: Part 1 Dreams and Dust
  • A Dance With Dragons: Part 2 After the Feast
  • A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms
As for the rest:
  • A History of Wales by John Davies
  • Daughter of Venice - Caterina Corner, Queen of Cyprus and Woman of the Renaissance by Holly Hurlburt
  • The Rival Queens - Catherine de' Medici, Her Daughter Marguerite de Valois, and the Betrayal That Ignited a Kingdom by Nancy Goldstone
  • Bess of Hardwick - First Lady of Chatsworth by Mary Lovell
  • Harold - Tha Last Anglo Saxon King by Ian Walker
  • Red Roses - Blanche of Gaunt to Margaret Beaufort by Amy Licence
  • Bosworth - The Birth of the Tudors by Chris Skidmore
  • The Life and Afterlife of Isabeau of Bavaria by Tracy Adams
  • Margaret, Queen of Sicily by Jacqueline Alio
  • Kingdom of Sicily 1130-1860 by Louis Mendola
  • Kingmakers - How Power in England Was Won and Lost on the Welsh Frontier by Timothy Venning
  • The Family of Richard III by Michael Hicks
  • The Warrior Queen - The Life and Legend of Aethelflaed, Daughter of Alfred the Greatby Joanna Arman
  • King John - England, Magna Carta and the Making of a Tyrantby Stephen Church


Monday, September 18, 2017

Review: Defiance - The Extraordinary Life of Lady Anne Barnard

The lives of unconventional ladies has always fascinated me - and Lady Anne Barnard was no exception.  A woman who lived 1750-1825 and embarked on a series of adventures, none more outstanding than her journey to South Africa - unheard of for a woman at the time!  

I was unfamiliar with Lady Barnard, and the author, Stephen Taylor, uses diary entries and personal letters to bring this woman to life - they say sometimes fact is more exciting than fiction - and in Anne Barnard, this is doubly so.  One of the great adventuresses, who no doubt carved a path for those ladies who followed her.

For those who a student of women in history - this is especially one for you!

read review here @ goodreads

See also:
Lady Anne Barnard @ wikipedia
Lady Anne Barnard @ Cape Town History

Review: The Painted Gun

Where does one begin?? Heart-pumping read with more twists and turns than a carnival ride. Just when you think you've got a hold of the plot, a white rabbit appears, and you chase it down a seemingly unrelated rabbit-hole.

The case - a missing girl - straight-forward story line - find the girl, solve the mystery. Wrong! And this is where this talented author uses smoke and mirrors to confuse and confound the reader - the art of misdirection at its best. The conclusion - unexpected, totally.
With pitch-perfect dialogue, an exquisitely crafted plot, and a stylized, deadpan nod to classic hard-boiled writers like James Ellroy, Elmore Leonard, and Dashiell Hammett, The Painted Gun introduces Bradley Spinelli as a force to be reckoned with in contemporary noir fiction.
This book reads like a famous movie that the author references! High praise indeed!

see review @ goodreads
visit website of Bradley Spinelli

Review: Death On Delos

Greece, 454 BC: The sacred isle of Delos - It is a crime against the gods to die or be born on the sacred island. Thanks to the violence over the treasury, the first blasphemy has already been committed. Can Nico solve the murder and get Diotima off the island before they accidentally commit the second?

Again, a little out of my comfort zone with crime fiction set in Ancient Greece - and although this was my first read in this series (I began at book 7), I found it quite easy to follow the characters of Diotima and Nicholas.  A few of the "real" characters were familiar to me through my cursory high school education in the Classical Era and the author, Gary Corby, does a great job in filling in the details.

So to the story itself - murder, of course, on a sacred island in the Aegean 545BC.  Our detective duo are already in situ and are called upon to solve this mystery.  However, this is not a straight-forward crime and the location itself is proving to be rather trying.  Add into this mix a delicate political situation, religious tensions, a cast of questionable islanders, and you have all the makings of great cosy mystery.

The author injects humour and satire into this novel, which adds to its enjoyment.  It is an easy to read novel that is not saturated in  unnecessary details.   Not only was my interest maintained, but the author also inspires the reader to explore more of this period in history - not only fiction but non-fiction as well.  Love the author notes at the end!

see review @ goodreads

Review: Outsider In Amsterdam

"This now-classic novel, first published in 1975, introduces Janwillem van de Wetering’s lovable Amsterdam cop duo of portly, wise Gripstra and handsome, contemplative de Gier. With its unvarnished depiction of the legacy of Dutch colonialism and the darker facets of Amsterdam’s free drug culture, this excellent procedural asks the question of whether a murder may ever be justly committed."

This was my first dip into crime fiction from the Netherlands - and I wasn't disappointed. It was a little slow moving to begin with - and here I may have been comparing it with UK & US crime fiction - but my interest was never for a moment left idle, and before you know it, the denouement is upon you.

We have all the elements of a great crime novel - murder, plot twists, interesting characters, police procedural - all things the avid crime reader will be familiar with. Add into this mix an exotic European location (Amsterdam), and you have an intriguing and punchy story-line.
While de Gier telephoned Grijpstra picked up the stool and put it right and climbed on top of it. He cut the rope with his switchblade, an illegal weapon that he carried against all regulations. The rope wasn’t thick and the knife very sharp. De Gier wanted to catch the corpse but van Meteren was quicker. He put the corpse down, very carefully, on the bed. No one thought that Piet would start breathing again.
He didn’t.
I actually kept forgetting this this was published in 1975 - so to the uninitiated in Dutch fiction, one would hardly have known the difference - some of the "attitudes" prevalent in the novel, whilst dated, could still be applicable in today's world.

I am going to source other novels in this series as this first outing was highly enjoyable.

see review here @ goodreads

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Review: The Forgotten Queen

When most talk of the Tudors, the focus is usually on Henry VIII, his six wives, and his children.  Often forgotten are the siblings of Henry VIII, in this instance, his elder sister, Margaret.

Margaret was married to James IV, King of Scotland, and her offspring and their offspring, would make an indelible impact upon the political reigns of Henry and his children, notably that of Elizabeth I.

So, it was with this in mind that I was curious to see how Margaret would be portrayed in this fictional account of her life, The Forgotten Queen by DL Bogdan.
"From her earliest days, Margaret Tudor knows she will not have the luxury of choosing a husband. Her duty is to gain alliances for England. Barely out of girlhood, Margaret is married by proxy to James IV and travels to Edinburgh to become Queen of Scotland."
Margaret's story is told in the first person narrative - so we are really hearing Margaret's story from her own perspective.  This form of story-telling is, I guess, an attempt to make the reader more empathetic towards the main character, who in this instance is selfish, petulant, childish, rude and egotistic.  Whilst this behaviour is understandable in a very young woman who is married off to a complete stranger in a foreign country for purely political reasons, it wears thin as Margaret ages.  Something else that really puts me off is the attempt at native dialects - it detracts from my reading pleasure.

Margaret's real story is an exciting read - this woman was a true survivor of the politics of her day.  

Further Reading:
  • Margaret Tudor on wikipedia
  • Queen Margaret Tudor: The Story of a Courageous but Forgotten Monarch by Stuart McCabe
  • The Sisters of Henry VIII: Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland (November 1489-October 1541), Mary Tudor, Queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk (March 1496-June 1533) by Hester W. Chapman
  • The Thistle and the Rose: The Sisters of Henry VIII. by Hester Chapman
  • Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots by Patricia Hill Buchanan
  • The Sisters Of Henry VIII: The Tumultuous Lives Of Margaret Of Scotland And Mary Of France by Maria Perry
  • King Harry's sister, Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland by Michael Glenne
  • The rose and the thorn: the lives of Mary and Margaret Tudor by Nancy Lenz Harvey

Review: The Children of Henry VIII

There are two works of the same name but by different authors - and I have read both.

The Children of Henry VIII by by 

"At his death in 1547, King Henry VIII left four heirs to the English throne: his only son, the nine-year-old Prince Edward; the Lady Mary, the adult daughter of his first wife, Catherine of Aragon; the Lady Elizabeth, the daughter of his second wife, Anne Boleyn, and his young great-niece, the Lady Jane Grey. These are the players in a royal drama that ultimate led to Elizabeth's ascension to the throne--one of the most spectacularly successful reigns in English history."

Weir book focuses on Henry's three legitimate children, Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth I, and also Jane Grey - for continuity of reigns.  Its is certainly an extensively researched book, for those who would quite naturally gravitate towards this work, there is nothing outstandingly new presented.  The focus is on the relationships between the siblings rather than any in-depth political treatise, and finishes up with Elizabeth I on the throne.

The Children of Henry VIII by 

"Behind the facade of politics and pageantry at the Tudor court, there was a family drama.  Nothing drove Henry VIII, England's wealthiest and most powerful king, more than producing a legitimate male heir and so perpetuating his dynasty. To that end, he married six wives, became the subject of the most notorious divorce case of the sixteenth century, and broke with the pope, all in an age of international competition and warfare, social unrest and growing religious intolerance and discord. "

Intriguing - yes.  This is not a standard biography of each of Henry's children, but more an intertwining history.  Into this mix is included the often over-looked Henry FitzRoy, which makes for a refreshing change, and was one of the main reasons I picked this up.  However, Guy does not paint a very flattering picture of either of Henry's daughters, not of his wives, which I found a little annoying.   This short tome would be considered more of an entree into the world of the Tudors than anything else.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

September 2017 Additions

Out and about today, I dropped into one of my local book sellers (yes an actual building) for a bit of a browse, and came away with these titles:

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (new Penguin edition with forward by Ian Rankin) - I've love the 1946 movie version of this work - Bogart & Bacall at their finest. Wasn't too fussed with the Mitchum & Miles version (1978).  One of the great detective movies of all time (in my humble opinion)

The Opening Night Murder by Anne Rutherford - murder in Restoration London.

The Dragon Throne by Jonathan Fenby - a history of China's emperors.

Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared To Execute Charles I by Charles Spencer (brother of the late Lady Di) - story of Charles II quest for revenge and retribution.

A Knights Tale by Edward John  Crockett - novel of Sir John de Hawkwood

Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered by Dianne Hales - biography of Lisa Gherardini, Leonardo's muse.

The Riddle & The Knight: In Search of Sir John  Mandeville, the World's Greatest Traveller by Giles Milton - journey to rehabilitate this 14th century traveller.