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The Rise of Alchemy in Fourteenth-Century England: Plantagenet Kings and the Search for the Philosopher's Stone [Paperback]

Jonathan Hughes
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

1 Oct 2011 1441181830 978-1441181831
This is the first book to explore the importance of alchemy and its links to the occult in the period between 1320 and 1400. Alchemists did more than try to transmute base metals into gold: they studied planetary influences on metals and people, refined plants and minerals in the search for medicines and advocated the regeneration of matter and spirit. This book illustrates how this new branch of thought became increasingly popular as the practical and theoretical knowledge of alchemists spread throughout England. Adopted by those in court and the circles of nobility for their own physical and spiritual needs, it was adapted for the diagnosis and therapeutic treatment of the illnesses of the body politic and its head, the king. This is the first work to synthesize all aspects of alchemy and show its contribution to intellectual, social and political life in the fourteenth century. Hughes explores a rich body of manuscripts to reveal the daily routines of the alchemist and his imaginative mindscape, and considers the contribution of alchemy to the vernacular culture and political debate, leading to a reassessment of the intellectual life of the middle ages.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum Publishing Corporation (1 Oct 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1441181830
  • ISBN-13: 978-1441181831
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.5 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 992,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

About the Author

Jonathan Hughes is a Wellcome Research Fellow at the University of East Anglia. He has taught at the University of East Anglia, University of Roehampton and the Oxford Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. His books include Pastors and Visionaries: Religion and Secular Life in Late Medieval Yorkshire; The Religious Life of Richard III and Arthurian Myths and Alchemy: the Kingship of Edward IV.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By guthrie
Unfortunately there are multiple errors on each page in the introductory chapters, showing that the author is unfamiliar with the history of alchemy before the 14th century.
When we turn to the meat of the book in the 14th century, there are still some factual errors, but also many odd or unexamined interpretations which would mislead the casual reader into thinking there was good evidence for a link between alchemy and Royalty in the 14th century. When read critically, Hughes fails to make a good argument for his thesis and does not properly discuss a number of important and relevant aspects of the alchemy of the period such as the use of cover names.
There are also errors in his references, making it impossible to trace some of his claims, and many smaller statements are not referenced at all, no matter whether they are correct or not. (And many are either wrong, or debateable but there is no room given to the debate, you are just expected to accept what he wrote)
He has at least spent some time reading manuscripts and covering a wide range of secondary works, some of which were new to me and perhaps it has some value for that, but he has not put them together at all well.
Ultimately this book should be avoided unless you are prepared to do the work of sorting out what is accurate from inaccurate.
(A proper discussion of this book would take many thousands of words and not fit into this review section)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very readable and interesting treatment of 14th Century Alchemy 30 Jan 2014
By Word Maven - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Although I am a medievalist, I somehow missed the course on the manifestations of alchemy in 14th century politics and literature. This work presents a clear and understandable treatment of the various elements (no pun intended) of alchemy and how alchemy found its way into literary, religious, and political thought. Because of its accessibility, this book would be a fascinating read for non-specialists as well as those in 14th century studies. It's enjoyable to encounter a book so well-written that it can be read for information and relaxation at the same time.
2.0 out of 5 stars This book has an interesting thesis --that the Plantagenet kings ... 28 Jun 2014
By John L. Leland - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book has an interesting thesis --that the Plantagenet kings, especially Edward III and RIchard II,were serious patrons of alchemy understood in a mystical sense --but it is marred by numerous small factual errors which undermine its credibility. It speaks of the fall of the "Abdul Dynasty" in Spain in 1095 when it means the fall of the Umayyad Dynasty in 1031, it describes Henry of Grosmont as the second duke of Lancaster when he was the first, etc. The author appears to know more about alchemy than about basic history.
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