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Life in the Middle Ages
Author: La Belle Compagnie
Shumacher Publishing

1381: The Peel Affinity builds a portrait of a world long lost, using gorgeous photographs filled with carefully researched and reconstructed clothing, tools, armor, furnishings, and other items, all based closely on surviving artefacts, manuscript illustrations, and paintings. The text draws extensive details from historical accounts, records, chronicles, and literature, as well as modern historical and archaeological research. All this potentially dull and dusty detail is brought to vibrant life with a narrative that follows an English knight and family, his servants, officials and tenants, associates and soldiers through a year in their lives. The Peel Affinity represents the culmination of years of work by La Belle Compagnie. Founded in 1992, La Belle is a group of independent scholars and history enthusiasts committed to the presentation of history through the medium of "living history." La Belle Compagnie has worked with schools, civic groups, museums, and other organizations to bring a bit of the past to life and has won numerous awards for its presentations.

Author: Christopher Gravett
DK Eyewitness Books

Like Eyewitness Books? This is another nice entry in their series for younger readers. What is a castle? The book describes it thus: "A castle was the fortified private residence of a lord." The lord could be a king or a baron or some lesser noble. It was designed as both a residence AND a stronghold. The book begins by noting that such structures have had a long history (one ancestor goes back to Mycenae in about 1250 B.C.).

The volume moves on to consider the first castles (appearing in the 9th and 10th centuries A.D.). There is discussion of different approaches to building a castle--such as the use of concentric rings to harden the castle against attack. There are also discussions of different styles in castles--from the Loire region in France to Spanish castles, to German castles (take a trip along the Rhine River, and you will see numerous examples) to Japan. There is discussion of how those who wanted to capture a castle would strategize and how castles were structured to defend against such attacks.

The volume considers the different functions of a castle--from defense to kitchens and eating to entertainment.

The volume concludes with a discussion of the decline of castles.

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