History Book List Updates, June 22, 2020

June 22, 2020 | Filed Under History | No Comments

The Medieval Podcast (part of Medievalists.net) has a new episode of book recommendations! The list is extensive, so I encourage you to visit their blog post for the entire thing. A few that stood out for me (and are now on order from my local Books, Inc.—also available through Bookshop.org or your local bookstore!)

She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth, by Helen Castor: In the tradition of Antonia Fraser, David Starkey, and Alison Weir, prize-winning historian Helen Castor delivers a compelling, eye-opening examination of women and power in England, witnessed through the lives of six women who exercised power against all odds—and one who never got the chance. Exploring the narratives of the Empress Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, Margaret of Anjou, and other “she-wolves,” as well as that of the Nine Days’ Queen, Lady Jane Grey, Castor invokes a magisterial discussion of how much—and how little—has changed through the centuries.

The Trotula: An English Translation of the Medieval Compendium of Women’s Medicine, by Monica H. Green: The Trotula was the most influential compendium of women’s medicine in medieval Europe. Scholarly debate has long focused on the traditional attribution of the work to the mysterious Trotula, said to have been the first female professor of medicine in eleventh- or twelfth-century Salerno, just south of Naples, then the leading center of medical learning in Europe. Yet as Monica H. Green reveals in her introduction to the first English translation ever based upon a medieval form of the text, the Trotula is not a single treatise but an ensemble of three independent works, each by a different author. To varying degrees, these three works reflect the synthesis of indigenous practices of southern Italians with the new theories, practices, and medicinal substances coming out of the Arabic world.
Green here presents a complete English translation of the so-called standardized Trotula ensemble, a composite form of the texts that was produced in the midthirteenth century and circulated widely in learned circles. The work is now accessible to a broad audience of readers interested in medieval history, women’s studies, and premodern systems of medical thought and practice.

Trickster Travels: A Sixteenth-Century Muslim Between Worlds, by Dr. Natalie Zemon Davis: An engrossing study of Leo Africanus and his famous book, which introduced Africa to European readers. Al-Hasan al-Wazzan–born in Granada to a Muslim family that in 1492 went to Morocco, where he traveled extensively on behalf of the sultan of Fez–is known to historians as Leo Africanus, author of the first geography of Africa to be published in Europe (in 1550). He had been captured by Christian pirates in the Mediterranean and imprisoned by the pope, then released, baptized, and allowed a European life of scholarship as the Christian writer Giovanni Leone. In this fascinating new book, the distinguished historian Natalie Zemon Davis offers a virtuoso study of the fragmentary, partial, and often contradictory traces that al-Hasan al-Wazzan left behind him, and a superb interpretation of his extraordinary life and work.
In Trickster Travels, Davis describes all the sectors of her hero’s life in rich detail, scrutinizing the evidence of al-Hasan’s movement between cultural worlds; the Islamic and Arab traditions, genres, and ideas available to him; and his adventures with Christians and Jews in a European community of learned men and powerful church leaders. In depicting the life of this adventurous border-crosser, Davis suggests the many ways cultural barriers are negotiated and diverging traditions are fused.

 

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