Books by Maurice Keen

Released: Jan. 1, 2000

A comprehensive anthology of essays by highly placed British academics (joined by one from West Point) that survey military development in the Middle Ages. Arguing in his introduction that —war is central to the narrative political story of the middle ages,— Keen (History/Oxford; Chivalry, 1984) has assembled a series of 12 crisply topical essays that consider how warfare became increasingly organized, mechanized, and militarized between 900 and 1500. Keen and his fellow authors make clear that this acceleration of war-making was primarily defensive, as the fledgling European societies were regularly besieged by invaders like the Magyars and Vikings. In an attention-getting early chapter, H.B. Clark observes that the Vikings derived much of their power from their simultaneously elusive and brutal nature (they combined sophisticated tactics of organized raiding with a knack of attracting poetic tributes to their violence). John Gillingham's —An Age of Expansion— shows how this defensive pattern underlies the warfare over Saxony and the later colonial wars in Spain, Scotland, and Ireland. And Peter Edbury's —Warfare in the Latin East— examines the defensive motivations of the European campaigns against Muslims ranging from Eastern Europe to Jerusalem, campaigns we remember as the Crusades. Later chapters deal with more tactical matters, exploring how proprietary medieval notions, particularly chivalry, fared in the context of warfare's increasing standardization, and covering the developing range of fortifications, siege tactics, and arms and armor. Following Christopher Allmand's unusual survey of —War and the Non-Combatant,— Keen closes with his own review of the emergence of cannon, gunpowder, and permanent armies as the ultimate developments of medieval militarism. A scrupulously prepared survey that will be invaluable to students and accessible to committed lay readers. (100 b&w illus.) (History Book Club Split Main selection) Read full book review >