The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History by Colin McEvedy and John Woodcock

Suzie Eisfelder

I found this book in a house I’m happily clearing out. No, I’ve not bought the house or contents, it’s just my task to clear it out. I’m able to take what I want and this book looked like it might be really interesting and potentially useful for a book I have in mind. I’m trying to be really careful about what I take as I’m bearing in mind how much stuff I already have in my house.

This book shows various periods of history from 362 through to 1478. There is a map of the entire area with various parts delineated and a page of very small writing talking about what was happening at the time. Sometimes there are two maps. The first map shows the religious borders and the second map shows the empire borders for the year mentioned.

This was first published in 1961, republished several times until my edition in 1978. The photo shows the edition published in 1992. What I’m suggesting by giving you all these details is that it must be a really popular book despite it being a fairly specialised topic.

Some things I found interesting

It seems that Constantine drew up his will some four hundred years after he died. That’s quite a feat for anyone.

Genghis Khan was incredibly successful. ‘By any standards except his own he can be called a successful man…’ Maybe he felt he had imposter syndrome.

One point I’d like to make note of is that there seem to be a lot of wars. I do understand that these maps cover an enormous amount of territory. Because the two main things mentioned in this book are wars and trading routes, it really feels as if the world has been consumed by wars during the time frame covered.

I was fascinated by what I found in this book. So, so much I didn’t know about. And so much to consider researching. There were various things that will be useful when writing. Far too many pieces of information I may never use but were really interesting. Such as the Golden Horde or the Black Sheep Turks. Oh hang on, Terry Pratchett wrote about the Silver Horde. I wonder if he was thinking of the Golden Horde, I see more research in my future

If you’d like to look at this book and not learn anything you can do this with this link. You can use the same link to buy and learn lots.

  1. I have this and the companion Penguin Atlas of Ancient History on my shelves. Really handy, although Colin McEvedy had strong opinions on some subjects (he got quite hot about the population of ancient Rome, and he really has it in for the Irish). It only has space for summary judgements, so one is led off in all sorts of enticing directions – eg into 700 page histories of the Holy Roman Empire or the merry feuds of the Merovingians.

    1. I love the fact that you have this on your shelf, it gives me great pleasure to see. This is the first book I've read by McEvedy so I can't begin to talk to your point about his strong opinions, also, I just don't know enough. But the fact that I'm sure I'll be led off into all sorts of enticing directions should lead to some interesting reading in the future

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