The Top 8 Medieval History Books

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.

Medieval Europe: A Short History

"Medieval Europe" book cover

McGraw-Hill Europe publishers 

by C. Warren Hollister and Judith M. Bennett.

Short History is 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.

The Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval Europe

"Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval Europe" book cover

Oxford University Press 

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.

A Short History of the Middle Ages, Volume I

"A Short History of the Middle Ages, Volume l" book cover

University of Toronto Press 

by Barbara H. Rosenwein.

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.

A Short History of the Middle Ages, Volume II

"A Short History of the Middle Ages, Volume ll" book cover

University of Toronto Press 

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 medieval times.

The Middle Ages: An Illustrated History

"The Middle Ages: An Illustrated History" book cover

 Oxford University Press

by Barbara A. Hanawalt.

This book about the Middle Ages is concise and informative, and something both youngsters and adults can enjoy. It includes a chronology, a glossary, and further reading by subject.

A History of Medieval Europe: From Constantine to Saint Louis

"A History of Medieval Europe from Constantine to Saint Louis" book cover


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 have been added, and chronologies and updated reading lists for each chapter increase the book's value as an introduction. It also includes photos, illustrations, and maps. Highly enjoyable reading for the history enthusiast.

The Civilization of the Middle Ages

"The Civilization of the Middle Ages" book cover

 Harper Perennial

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. It's 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.

The Medieval Millennium

"The Medieval Millennium" book cover


by A. Daniel Frankforter.

This book 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 flashy as the above textbooks, it nevertheless is extremely useful for the student or autodidact.

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Snell, Melissa. "The Top 8 Medieval History Books." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Snell, Melissa. (2023, April 5). The Top 8 Medieval History Books. Retrieved from Snell, Melissa. "The Top 8 Medieval History Books." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).