Top General Histories of the Middle Ages

A general reference of the Middle Ages is a must-have for medieval history enthusiasts and students alike. Each of these introductory works provides a sound starting point for what you need to know about the medieval era, yet each offers a unique viewpoint and different advantages for the scholar. Choose the text that best suits your needs and interests.
by C. Warren Hollister and Judith M. Bennett.
Successfully updating Hollister's admirably clear survey, Judith M. Bennett makes the Short History more useful than ever. The 10th edition adds expanded info on Byzantium, Islam, myths, women and social history as well as more maps, timelines, color photos, a glossary, and suggested reading at the end of each chapter. Designed as a college textbook, the work remains accessible enough for high school students, and the engaging style combined with the structured presentation makes it an excellent choice for homeschoolers.
edited by George Holmes.
In this comprehensive overview, six authors offer lucid, informative surveys of three medieval periods with the help of fine maps, splendid photos and full-color plates. Ideal for the adult who knows a little bit about the Middle Ages and is serious about learning more. Includes an extensive chronology and an annotated list of further reading, and serves as the perfect springboard for further studies.
by Barbara H. Rosenwein.
The folly of attempting a "short" history of the entire medieval era is borne out by the necessity of presenting Rosenwein's laudably informative text in two volumes in this, the second edition of A Short History of the Middle Ages. Volume I covers events from about 300 to 1150, with an expansive view of Byzantine and Middle Eastern cultures as well as that of western Europe. Though covering such a wide range of events, Rosenwein manages to offer detailed examinations of her subject in a manner that's easy to absorb and enjoyable to read. Numerous maps, tables, illustrations and vivid color photos make this an invaluable reference.
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A Short History of the Middle Ages, Volume II

by Barbara H. Rosenwein.
Overlapping the first volume in time, Volume II covers events from about 900 to about 1500 and is also loaded with the features that made the first volume both enjoyable and useful. Together these two books make a thorough and excellent introduction to the subject. The only drawback is the expense of two volumes over one (as the first edition was presented), but use the power of the Internet to compare prices and you may find a solution you can afford.
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The Middle Ages: An Illustrated History

by Barbara A. Hanawalt.
If you know a young person who is already interested in the Middle Ages, or one who loves to learn with whom you'd like to share your enthusiasm for the Medieval era, Hanawalt's involving narrative is just the thing. Chock full of photos depicting everything medieval, from stunning stained glass to swords to castles and heraldic designs, the Illustrated History is concise and informative, and something both youngsters and adults can enjoy (I certainly did). Includes a chronology, a glossary, and further reading by subject.
by R. H. C. Davis; edited by R. I. Moore.
Ordinarily a book that was originally published half a century ago would hold no interest for anyone but those most curious about the evolution of medieval studies. However, Davis was certainly ahead of his time when he first wrote this clear, well-structured overview, and Moore retains the thrust of the original in this judicious update. Postscripts addressing the latest scholarship in the subject at hand have been added, and chronologies and updated reading lists for each chapter increase the book's value as an introduction. Also includes photos, illustrations and maps. Highly enjoyable reading for the history enthusiast.
by Norman Cantor.
This thorough introduction from one of the 20th century's foremost authorities on the medieval era intensively covers the fourth through the fifteenth centuries. Somewhat dense for younger readers, but authoritative and deservedly popular. In addition to an extensive bibliography and a list of Cantor's ten favorite medieval films, it includes a short list of 14 in-print, affordable books to expand your medieval knowledge.
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The Medieval Millennium

by A. Daniel Frankforter.
This very well-written textbook makes the complex subject commendably plain. Used in colleges courses but easily understood by younger students, The Medieval Millennium includes biographical essays, chronologies, essays on society and culture, and maps. Frankforter's style is never intrusive and he manages to pull together disparate information on an extensive topic without losing his focus. Though not as flash as the above textbooks, it nevertheless is extremely useful for the student or autodidact.