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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Review
I hadn't seen the TV series which this accompanies but I did know of the Former Python's keen interest in History so I was sure I was in for a good book. I'm glad I wasn't dissapointed.

An extremely informative book, it debunks the whole concept of the "Middle Ages" as a Reformation construct and sets about trying to present an accurate picture of life post...
Published on 21 Sep 2008 by Jamie Beckwith

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wow! This was ther Middle Ages in Enhgland.
This is a selective account of the period with some nicely presented characters carefully chosen. It is excellent for a good holiday read. There are some amusing passages and some memorable comments. If you really want an insight, in easy manner, to the fourteenth century, you would do far better to read the much more detailed research and the cumulative years of insight...
Published 12 months ago by Manfred


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Review, 21 Sep 2008
By 
Jamie Beckwith (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Terry Jones' Medieval Lives (Paperback)
I hadn't seen the TV series which this accompanies but I did know of the Former Python's keen interest in History so I was sure I was in for a good book. I'm glad I wasn't dissapointed.

An extremely informative book, it debunks the whole concept of the "Middle Ages" as a Reformation construct and sets about trying to present an accurate picture of life post Norman invasion and up until the end of the War of the Roses. By taking the stereotypes of the Medieval era such as peasent, minstrel, damsel, knight and monk and devoting a chapter to each, the author is able to set the context and then show how the reality differed from the image. We learn that by todays standards peasents probably had a better lot and were far from illiterate, the church was a money spinning enterprise, women were outspoken (and horny!) and knights invented the chivalric code simply as a way to legitimise institutionalised violence.

Some reviews found Jones's use of modern allusions too jarring but I personally thought they were infrequent and when they did pop up helped us see the historical absurdities with a modern eye. Given the state of affairs in the world today I'd be very interested to read Jones's book on the Crusades.

I learnt a lot of new things such as the role minstrels played in the propoganda of war, and about King Louis the First & Last, the de facto ruler of England towards the end of King John's reign and that of his child heir Henry III. Whilst the book was very easy to read and suffused with a sense of humour there were plenty of scholarly footnotes as a useful springboard for anyone looking for a more weighty and academic read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and Very Readable Reappraisal of the Middle Ages, 9 Sep 2008
By 
D. Evans - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Terry Jones' Medieval Lives (Paperback)
In this book Terry Jones discusses his view of the Middle Ages, as he attempts to show that our view of the period as being one of darkness and stagnation is only half the picture. Jones explains how our view of the Middle Ages have been skewed by nearly five centuries worth of negative propaganda. From Renaissance scholars who disparaged the Middle Ages to make their own period seem greater in comparison (Jones notes that the Renaissance men were backward looking and conservative) to 19th century Romantics who created bizarre Medieval stereotypes for their own amusement. Later on 20th century filmakers would combine these sterotypes, and in doing so, they created "a period of history that never existed" - that is, the Medieval World which we often imagine to exist is actually based on biased sources from centuries past, written by people with axes to grind, or by romantic day-dreamers.

Jones attempts to tackle these stereotypes head on, and he uses first hand accounts, the most up-to-date scholarly research and modern archaeology to create a different view of the Middle Ages in Britain.
Each chapter tackles a different stereotype, examples being: The Peasant, the Minstrel, the Outlaw, the Monk, the Philosopher, Knight, Damsel, and King.
Jones gleefully deconstructs these images and shows us another side to these groups. For instance he argues that Medieval peasants often had more days off work and rights than their descendants in the Victorian industrial age, or that fourteenth century Medieval women had a sort of semi-emancipation (making them much better off than their descendants in the Renaissance) or that Knights, far from being dashing, were often the Medieval equivalent of Mercenaries and arms dealers.

Jones also explodes many infamous myths that have entered into popular cutlure, such as the flat earth and mass witch burning. He explains that the old story of Christopher Columbus sailing to the New World to proove that the world is round has its origins in Washington Irving's novel about the man, and provides several first hand accounts from the Middle Ages that show that educated men at least, knew that the world was round. He also shows that the worst cases of witch burning occured during the Early Modern period (16th to 17th centuries) and that small scale witch hunts did not occur until the very last decades of the Middle Ages. In these cases there seems to be a chronological mix up with many of the brutalities of the Renaissance being imposed on the Middle Ages instead.

This is a fascinating and lively read through 500 years worth of Britain's Medieval History. That said, it should be taken with a pinch of salt. Jones tends to be overly enthusiastic, and as one reviewer pointed out, he does tend to take exceptions as a rule. For instance he points out how archaeology has revealed how Medieval Welsh Peasant houses were well stocked with French wine, or that they were spacious, well built and comfortable. Yet this doesn't necessarily mean that every peasant house was the same.
Still, Jones should be congratulated for attempting to give another view on the period. A few years back a viral article became very popular on the internet called 'Life in the 1500s'. It detailed all sorts of 'facts' about Medieval life, none of which were true. Yet most people accepted them as such, simply because we automatically believe evey negative thing we hear about the Middle Ages. It seems fair therefore that Jones should attempt to balance out this negative image with facts. He doesn't attempt to create a view of the Middle Ages as an idyllic golden age, (as a matter of fact he discusses the brutality of war and the corruption and hypocrisy of the Church) but in his own words, he would like to "adjust the spectacles by which we view the Middle Ages". He does a good but not thoroughly convincing job.

This is a well written, enjoyable and witty book, and one that deserves to be read by any history or Medieval buff, or anyone who'd like to understand this fascinating period.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last an accessible account to redress the balance..., 9 Mar 2004
By A Customer
At last, a book -and excellent TV series- to redress the balance in the propaganda war that is history. This book is superb and very accessible for young people. They will never look at the Middle Ages in the same way again... despite what they might have learnt in school! Rule one for any historian is to have a healthy disregard for the official line!
I was especially pleased to see that Terry Jones has some sensible comments to make about Richard III and the so-called Princes in the Tower (could have done with a bit more about the later.) At least he recognises Shakespeare's image of Richard as Tudor propaganda based on commentaries from the likes of More and Rous who changed his spin with the current king! Jones does not engage in Ricardian hysteria either, so it makes the short section on Richard III very readable.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amusing look at medieval people., 2 July 2004
By 
L O'connor (richmond, surrey United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Each chapter in this very enjoyable book deals with a different type of Medieval person, the Peasant, the Lady, the Knight, the Monk etc, and shows that the reality is often very different from the popular stereotype. For instance, in the chapter about the Peasant we learn that the lot of the common people was not as bad as we might have been led to believe, and that Medieval peasants had in gneral a higher standard of living, and far more legal rights than is generally believed. The chapter on the Lady shows how women in Medieval society also had far more autonomy than is usally thought, and we learn about women managing estates, running businesses, and being able to obtain divorce for a variety of different reasons (the bit about impotent men being examined by a jury of matrons is particularly hilarious). The chapter on the Philosopher is one of the most interesting in the book, it shows that science and medicine were far more advanced in medieval times than is generally thought. Medieval doctors were much more effective at curing diseases than they are usally given credit for, and they even understood the use of anaesthetics. I would have liked it if the book had said a little more about women in general (for istance, in the chapter on the Philosopher, there is no mention of the fact that there were women physicians in the Middle Ages). And I was a little surprised to fidn that Terry Jones apparently takes seriously the apologists for Richard III. But these are minor quibbles. Overall, this is a very amusing and interesting book, and it gorgeously illustrated throuhgout with exquisite colour pictures from Medieval art.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Medievalism made fun, 19 Oct 2012
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This review is from: Terry Jones' Medieval Lives (Paperback)
A great read. Full of details and insights not found in other histories. A great source of dinner party conversation starters! Brings the medieval period into full colour focus with a wry Monty Python style comment on the human condition. Highly enjoyable and surprisingly educational
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent alternative viewpoint, 18 May 2011
By 
Icy Sedgwick "Icy" (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Terry Jones' Medieval Lives (Paperback)
This is a truly fascinating examination of life in the Middle Ages. Divided according to the roles various people played (Monk, Philosopher, Peasant, Knight etc.), the book tries to expose the truth behind some of the misconceptions that have arisen surrounding life in medieval Britain. Some reviewers have complained that a 200-page book is not long enough to truly do the subject justice, but that would be to somewhat miss the point. This book is intended as an introduction to the subject, not an exhaustive encyclopedia, and what it does relate certainly does the job. Damsels are reclaimed from their place as weeping women, not fit to do anything but require rescuing, and the balance is restored in changing our perceptions of so-called "good" or "bad" kings. Indeed, after reading this book, it is amazing the advances that were made during a period usually dismissed by scholars as being "backward" or "primitive". Genuinely interesting read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very enjoyable and revealing, 3 May 2010
By 
John J. Plant "dinky740" (herefordshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Terry Jones' Medieval Lives (Paperback)
Very well written. You can hear Terry Jones speaking every word as you read the intersting thing that the characters described lived.
It gives information that is not obvious until you read it. But done in an engaging and light hearted way. Better than the TV serial because your mind's eye always makes the best pictures.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing - A Great Starter Text on the Period, 24 Dec 2008
By 
Mr. Ross Maynard (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Terry Jones' Medieval Lives (Paperback)
With an upbeat and very readable style, Terry Jones and Alan Ereira give us a fascinating insight into the lives of different groups of people in medieval times. Eight groups of people are covered from Peasant to Minstrel to Knight. I found the chapters on the church and the role of women to be particularly good. The book is well researched with a host of references for further study. It cannot hope to give us a comprehensive history in 250 pages, but I like the approach it takes. It is accessible and informative and will provide readers of all ages an excellent starting point for further exploration of the history of the times.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good solid introduction to this period of history, 20 Aug 2013
This review is from: Terry Jones' Medieval Lives (Paperback)
This book is a very good introduction to medieval history. The book is not a heavy read as Terry Jones is good at mixing his humour along with the fascinating details of the lives that medieval people led. This is not a book deep in detail and historical fact but more of a light-hearted general overview of how medieval people viewed and lived their lives. The layout of the book is very good the book has eight chapters which include 1.Peasant 2.Minstrel 3.Outlaw 4.Monk.5.Philosopher 6.Knight 7.Damsel 8.King.

Overall this book is a good read and ideal for anyone who is just getting interested in medieval history.It is not for the scholars out there but I would recommend this to any new enthusiasts of this period.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fab book, 10 Aug 2013
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Great little book my eldest found it really useful as a reference book for school project lots of information with out getting bogged down in details.
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Terry Jones' Medieval Lives
Terry Jones' Medieval Lives by Terry Jones (Paperback - 5 May 2005)
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