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Muse's Books

Book 76: Medieval Intrigue: Decoding Royal Conspiracies by Ian Mortimer

Book 76: Medieval Intrigue: Decoding Royal Conspiracies.
Author: Ian Mortimer, 2010.
Genre: Non-Fiction. History. 14th Century England. Historiography. Essays. Academic.
Other Details: Hardback. 391 pages

In this important new work Ian Mortimer examines some of the most controversial questions in medieval history, including whether Edward II was murdered, his possible later life in Italy, the weakness of the Lancastrian claim to the throne in 1399 and the origins of the idea of the royal pretender. Central to this book is his ground-breaking approach to medieval evidence. He explains how an information-based method allows a more certain reading of a series of texts. He criticises existing modes of arriving at consensus and outlines a process of historical analysis that ultimately leads to questioning historical doubts as well as historical facts, with profound implications for what we can say about the past with certainty. This is an important work from one of the most original and popular medieval historians writing today. - from Bloomsbury Academic website.

I picked this book up in the library because I was curious to learn more about the controversy surrounding the death of Edward II and the Fieschi Letter following my reading of Ken Follett's World Without End and watching its TV adaptation. My expectation was that it would be similar in style to his Time Travellers Guides; that is accessible to a layperson. I didn't note that it was published by the Bloomsbury Academic imprint yet soon realised that it was scholarly in its approach and content and much more suited to an academic readership than to someone like myself.

I could recognise its worth and did take on board the issues being discussed but I realised that I didn't have the background in Historiography required to be able to follow Mortimer's arguments for his innovative information method, which seeks to apply a scientific model to the study of primary sources. Frankly, I knew I was out of my depth. I spoke to one of the librarians at our local branch when I returned the book and she was going to pass it on to one of her colleagues who is a medieval scholar for his opinion.

My feeling is that while I was able to understand that Edward II's death and other issues addressed within are highly contested subjects that I wouldn't really re-visit this book unless I decided to study medieval history as a discipline and gain the knowledge and skills in understanding methodology that I currently lack. I also discovered on Dr. Mortimer's website that this book was listed among his research monographs, so again an indication this was a specialist book.

Dr. Ian Mortimer's page on 'Royal Intrigue' - Introduction and background on his writing the book.
Tags: academic, essays, history, non-fiction

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