Saturday, May 18, 2024

The Story of Medieval England: From King Arthur to the Tudor Conquest by Jennifer Paxton

One of the great things about my Audible subscription is the access that I have to The Great Courses series of lectures. The Story of Medieval England: From King Arthur to the Tudor Conquest by Jennifer Paxton gave me that deep dive that put so much into context. Plus, it gave me oodles of jumping-off points for further research that I heartily recommend to any author looking for fresh material to mine, whether you write fantasy or historical fiction. I can see where George RR Martin gets so much of his inspiration – and that's only England. I can imagine that the rest of Europe must be equally fascinating, and I don't think there are enough hours in the day.

As the title of this series of lectures suggest, we really do get an overview of some rather exciting times in the British Isles that seem, over the years, to have acted as a magnet for waves of invasion, with the resultant cultural stewpot that has had such a massive impact on world history (while giving a good idea as to why England has ended up being such an aggressive colonial power).

What I liked about Paxton's delivery is that she will hit the pause button to go in depth into certain topics – I particularly liked her exploration of chivalry. She also gives a great explanation on how the monarchy was set up, and how its relationship with the nobles played out. We see, also, a glimpse into English legends, such as King Arthur and Robin Hood, but I will admit that the plethora of kings and queens with their names and the complex interrelationships got a bit dizzying – fascinating, but something I'd need to return to with more focused looks into particular eras.

Paxton is personable, easy on the ear, and she takes a vast and daunting subject and presents it in a way that is easy to understand. If you, like me, are looking for an overview of an era that will set many events into context, then I reckon this series of lectures is a great place to start (especially for those of us who've been drawn into the subject thanks to series like Vikings and The Last Kingdom on telly).

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