From Dog Bites to Amputations: 14th century Surgery

Henri de Mondeville (c. 1260 – 1316) was the surgeon to two kings of France – Philip IV and Louis X. In 1312 he wrote Cyrurgia (Surgery), one of the first works of its kind from the Middle Ages. Based on his years of training, in both France and Italy, this work offers a wide scope of medical treatments, ranging from brain surgery to dog bites. Here are a few sections from the Cyrurgia.

15th century copy of Henri de Mondevilles Chirurgia

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Vegetables in the Middle Ages

Vegetables: A Biography, by Evelyne Bloch-Dano, offer the stories of eleven different vegetables – artichokes, beans, chard, cabbage, cardoons, carrots, chili peppers, Jerusalem artichokes, peas, pumpkins, and tomatoes – offering tidbits from science and agriculture to history, culture, and, of course, cooking. Here are a few excerpts from the book that detail their history during the Middle Ages:

Carrot farming in the Tacuinum sanitatis

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Five Ways to get Noticed by Historians

Of the millions of people who’ve lived on Earth, we know barely a fraction of their names. Even in periods in which thorough records were kept, time, the elements, and human actions have eroded our stockpile of documents, leaving us with just a few remembered names from the past. There are a few things that medieval people did that increased their odds of their names surviving, and they happen to be things moderns can do if they want to be remembered, too.

Charles VII meets Joan of Arc

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Why Did Elizabeth Woodville Leave Sanctuary?

On March 1, 1484, Richard III swore an extraordinary oath. In front of “lords spiritual and temporal” and the mayor and aldermen of London, he promised that if Elizabeth Woodville and her daughters came out of sanctuary at Westminster, he would see that they were in surety of their lives, that they would not be imprisoned in the Tower of London or elsewhere, that the girls would be married to “gentlemen born” and given marriage portions, and that Elizabeth would be given an annuity of seven hundred marks a year. Elizabeth would be attended by John Nesfield, one of Richard’s squires.

Elizabeth accepted the offer, much to the shock of some historians. Paul Murray Kendall, for instance, writing from the comfort of his study in mid-twentieth-century America, thunders, “That she came to terms with the man who had bastardized and deposed the Princes, driven her son the Marquess into exile, and executed her other son Grey and her brother Rivers is difficult enough to understand; but that she came to terms knowing also that he had murdered the Princes well-nigh passes belief, or is at least incomprehensible.”

But is it?

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Unravelling a medieval murder mystery

In the ultimate cold case an Aberdeen historian has re-examined a 600 year old murder, fitting of a plot for Game of Thrones.

Setting the scene

On the evening of Friday 23 March 1375, the young nobleman William Cantilupe was attacked and murdered by his cook and squire at his manor in Scotton, Lincolnshire.  His body was then cleaned, put into a sack and taken seven miles away on horseback where the scene was staged to look like a highway robbery.

Roger Cook and Richard Gyse, William’s cook and squire, were convicted of the crime and became the first people be tried and then hung under the 1351 Treason Act,

But rumours were rife that the pair had acted under the direction of William’s wife, together with his chambermaid. So thick was the plot that some 15 members of William’s household were initially indicted for the murder.

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Tournaments, Jousts and Duels: Formal Combats in England and France, circa 1380 – 1440


Abstract: This thesis examines the interplay between tournaments, jousts and single combats – here described collectively as formal combats – as ceremonial, military and political events within the context of late medieval Anglo-French history, circa 1380-1440.

This was a period of particular interest in Anglo-French relations, beginning with the accessions of Richard II of England (1377) and Charles VI of France (1380), and encompassing alternating periods of warfare and truce, including the truce of Leulinghen and the resumption of open hostilities in the fifteenth century. It ends with the retaking of Paris by Charles VII and subsequent French military gains.

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The Truth Behind the Fiction: Two Brothers, Two Kings

When I began working on my Robin Hood series, I had to research the real characters in the story as well as the fictional. The two Kings most closely associated with the Robin Hood legend are King Richard I, also known as the Lionheart for his fearlessness in battle, and his brother John. Usually, Richard is portrayed as the chivalrous knight, a man of honour and decency, while John is the dastardly villain, a man greedy for wealth and power. But were things really as cut and dried as that?

It’s true that in many ways, Richard and John seemed to have been opposites. Richard was a warrior, a born soldier. He was never happier than when he was on a battlefield. During his ten year reign, he spent only four months on English soil.

John, being the youngest son, was never expected to amount to much. He seems to have favoured strategy and manipulation as his weapons of choice. When he did take to the battlefield, it was often disastrous. His brief spell in Ireland when he was in his late teens, is a study in mistakes. Far from bringing the Irish lords to accept English rule, he succeeded in alienating every one of them.

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