Warfare in Medieval Manuscripts by Pamela Porter – A Review

medieval warfare

This week I’ve read a short book about medieval warfare. It’s not entirely accurate to say that I’ve read it, though. Warfare in Medieval Manuscripts is more or less a picture book. That isn’t to denigrate it at all, as it’s full of wonderful pictures of warfare taken from manuscripts in the British Library. I don’t know how many illustrations there are, but probably more than three-quarters of the 128 pages have a colour picture showing one or more aspects of medieval warfare.

Given those proportions, the text isn’t as detailed as you might hope, but I did learn something that I’m saving up for a future post.

There are six chapters:

  • The Art of War
  • Knights, Chivalry and the Training for War
  • Knightly Arms and Armour
  • Armies and Battles
  • Castles and Sieges
  • Gunpowder and the Decline of Medieval Warfare

I don’t know that the chosen illustrations necessarily fall neatly into these categories, as there are cannon and handguns shown well before the chapter about gunpowder.

The illustrations themselves are wonderful. I had to get out a magnifying glass so that I could appreciate the detail more easily and there is a lot of detail to appreciate.

One thing that I found less pleasing about the book is that the pictures are labelled according to the point that Porter is using them to illustrate, rather than telling the reader which event they’re depicting. My favourite illustration, for example, is called “Weapons old and new are used side by side”. The British Library calls it “Siege of Troyes“. I  like it because it shows old and new weapons, but the picture speaks for itself. It shows cannon and pikes and crossbows and longbows. It’s that little bit more interesting when you know that it represents the siege of Troy.

That’s really the only fault I can find with the book. If you’re interested in contemporary depictions of medieval warfare, this is the book for you.


April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

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Filed under Book Review, Medieval Warfare

7 responses to “Warfare in Medieval Manuscripts by Pamela Porter – A Review

  1. Sounds like a gorgeous book, I’ll it it on my list.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. The illustration on the front cover is ‘Siege and sacking of Tesco’s’, I believe.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. That does look good, I like picture books!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I would probably feel the same way about the caption. But definitely worth a checkout from the library (when they reopen)!

    Liked by 2 people

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