Knights: In History and Legend


The most comprehensive book on knights and knighthood available.

The word "knight" conjures up images of gallant men in gleaming armor astride noble steeds, searching for foes to fight and fair maidens to rescue. In Knights the reality of knighthood is detailed, warts and all. This handsome reference tells the true story of these mounted warriors, who evolved from simple soldiers on horseback to defenders of the faith during the Crusades.


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The most comprehensive book on knights and knighthood available.

The word "knight" conjures up images of gallant men in gleaming armor astride noble steeds, searching for foes to fight and fair maidens to rescue. In Knights the reality of knighthood is detailed, warts and all. This handsome reference tells the true story of these mounted warriors, who evolved from simple soldiers on horseback to defenders of the faith during the Crusades.

Written by a team of historians with specialized knowledge of the medieval period, this beautifully illustrated reference includes:

  • A timeline of knight history from its origins
  • The ethos and ideals of knighthood
  • Becoming a knight and the everyday life of a knight
  • Knights in premedieval times
  • The rise and fall of Charlemagne's empire
  • Knights among the Normans and the Saxons
  • The Crusades
  • The decline of knighthood
  • The role of literature and movies in the mythology of knights
  • And much more.

Hundreds of beautiful color photographs, artworks and maps add to this fascinating history of knights and knighthood.

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Editorial Reviews

Book News
Attractively designed and abundantly illustrated, this oversize book will have wide appeal with a general audience enthralled with the Middle Ages for any number of reasons. Editor Bouchard...has overseen the work of 16 scholarly contributors to shape a narrative that begins with the origins of knights and chivalric ideals and then focuses on everyday life, castles, armor, weapons, and tournaments, before looking at knights through time—their rise, the Norman era, the Crusades, the Reconquista, and their decline. Their cultural legacy receives plenty of attention in chapters on knights in literature, film and television, war games, and honorific orders. A final section offers reference material.
Visually transfixing.
History Magazine
Knights: In History and Legend explores the rich historical, popular and artistic legacy of European knights.... A team of historians tackles each aspect of knighthood, from a knight's education and training, lifestyle and combat, [to] chivalric legend that has been recreated in countless paintings, books, poems, films and TV shows.
The Globe and Mail Holiday Round-Up
Bouchard, a professor of medieval history at the University of Akron in Ohio, oversees 167 other academic contributors as they look at the rise of knights in the 11th century and the decline of these "warrior elites" in the 14th century, done in by gunpowder and new battlefield tactics. A delightful book, it matches a lively text written for general readers with hundreds of colour illustrations.
Saginaw News - Lynn Heitkamp
There's no doubt that literature and film usually romanticize the age of chivalry, but the team of medieval experts who put together this book did an admirable job of getting to the truths behind the myths. They note that knights enjoyed listening to idealized stories about themselves, and that some of our most popular legends date back to storytellers of their time. This comprehensive volume is beautifully illustrated, using everything from historical artwork to contemporary picture stills to show how the lives of this elite warrior class continue to influence our culture.
Library Media Connection - Sandi Jordet
(starred review) King Arthur, Lancelot, the Knights Templar, Joan of Arc, the Samurai, and the Jedi—knights all—are included in this detail-packed book. Arranged in chronological order, the articles tell the story of how knights came to be. The Crusades are covered in depth, as are all of the topics, including some not found in other books on knights, such as the Reconquista of Spain... This book also includes Asian knights and their role in establishing the Samurai code along with their contribution to global history. Additionally the cultural legacy of knights is explored.... The artwork makes this book. The color illustrations provide sharp images. Sculptures and stonework pop off many of the pages. Weapons, maps, and reproductions of tapestries are just as clear. This is a book that begs to be browsed. Even my five-year-old grandson loved looking at the pictures. There is a reference section with a timeline a list of monarchs and further readings. Glossary. Index. Highly
Library Journal
Say the word knight, and most people think of King Arthur, gleaming armor, and white stallions charging in jousts. While not entirely wrong, such images don't do justice to the more complex and less pretty history of knights. Dominant on the battlefields and in the courts of Europe, knighthood was both a military position and a political and social class. In this lavishly illustrated volume, Bouchard (medieval history, Univ. of Akron; Strong of Body, Brave and Noble) and a team of medievalists recount the history of knights in Europe, as well as in China, India, and Japan, and describe their armor, weapons, mounts, castles, and coats of arms. They also cover the new life of knighthood in contemporary fiction, reenactment groups, movies, and computer games. VERDICT Aimed at history and art history lovers, this work would be excellent reading for medieval history enthusiasts and should be welcomed as a library reference resource.—Robert Harbison, Western Kentucky Univ. Lib., Bowling Green
Saginaw News
An admirable job of getting to the truths behind the myths...beautifully illustrated.
— Lynn Heitkamp
Library Media Connection
(starred review) This is a book that begs to be browsed. Even my five-year-old grandson loved looking at the pictures.
— Sandi Jordet
VOYA - Rachelle Bilz
Knights: In History and Legend is an exceptional volume of information from its arresting cover to its comprehensive index. Originating in eleventh-century France, knights have long been known for their fighting skills and their chivalric code; they have been esteemed and idealized throughout the ages. Knights is divided into five parts; the first three introduce knights, take readers into the life of a knight, and explicate the historical significance of knights. All aspects of knights as an integral part of battles and crusades are fully explained, as is the process of becoming a knight. Asian knights are also covered, with information on these warriors in Japan, China, and India. In addition to information about the knights and their training, the trappings of knighthood, such as armor (for both man and horse), weaponry, and heraldry are described in detail. Part five, "The Cultural Legacy," is an invaluable look at how knights and their standards persist even today. Knights in literature, television, and film are examined, as are sports mascots and reenactment groups. Part six, "Reference," contains helpful information such as a glossary, a list of further reading, and a timeline. Created by an international team of seventeen scholars, Knights is impressive in scope and hard to put down. Information is clearly presented, and the book is beautifully illustrated with full-color paintings, photographs, and artwork. A fascinating introduction to the topic, high school students already familiar with knights will find here a superb addition to books about these warriors. Reviewer: Rachelle Bilz
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554077557
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 9/9/2010
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,384,963
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 11.70 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Constance B. Bouchard is a distinguished professor of medieval history at the University of Akron in Ohio. Dr. Bouchard has been teaching medieval history for 30 years, and she is a member of the Medieval Academy of America, the American Historical Association, the American Catholic Historical Association and the Society for French Historical Studies. She has authored eight books, including Strong of Body, Brave and Noble: Chivalry and Society in Medieval France. She has also been widely published in national and international journals and has presented numerous papers at history-related conferences.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Part One

Introducing Knights
The Origins of Knights
Chivalric Ideals
The Noble Steed
Knights in the Arts

Part Two

The Life of a Knight
Becoming a Knight
Everyday Life
Knights and War
Crusading Orders
Asian Knights

Part Three

The Knight in History
The Rise of
The Norman Era
The Crusades
The Reconquista
The Albigensian Crusade
The Hundred Years' War
Knighthood in Decline

Part Four

The Cultural Legacy
Knights in Literature
Film and Television
War Games
Honorific Orders

Part Five

Medieval Monarchs
Further Reading

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Five centuries after knights ceased to play a role in Europe's wars, they continue to intrigue us. All over the world, children construct makeshift "castles" and play-fight with plastic swords. Adults reenact medieval battles or take on the personae of fictional knights. Meanwhile, the image of the bold, Christian fighter, absolutely loyal to his lord, gentle to women and the weak, but implacable toward his enemies, is ubiquitous, appearing in video games, novels, and even sports logos. This romantic image inspires many people to find out more about the Middle Ages.

But was there ever a real age of knighthood? Stories of knights in shining armor can be so romanticized that one might easily imagine that knights are as fantastic as the dragons they supposedly fought. Knights were real, however. Horseborne warriors, they first emerged in France during the eleventh century and dominated Europe's wars until the fourteenth century, when advances in infantry tactics and the development of gunpowder reduced their effectiveness. They might have often been quick-tempered and violent, coarse and rough, but even their enemies recognized them as superb fighters. And as those of noble blood also began to define themselves as knights, these fighters, encouraged by their lords, ladies, and the church, tried to temper their violence and rude ways by adhering to ideals of honor and courtesy — the concept of chivalry, in other words. Increasingly, too, they enjoyed hearing and reading stories of legendary knights who fought gallantly for God and the ladies they loved — just as we enjoy such stories today.

This book introduces both the history and the legend of medieval knights. In its pages, contributors from North America, the United Kingdom, and Australasia, all experts in their fields, explore the role of knights across the centuries. Knights are seen emerging into history, at the same time as castles were first built, and playing major roles in such events as the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, the Crusades against Islam, and the Hundred Years' War. A knight's youthful training, his horse, his sword and armor, the heraldic symbols that came to identify him, tournaments, the tricky reconciliation of violence with Christian beliefs, and the shifting ideals of chivalry are all detailed. Comparisons are made with fighters in other parts of the world, such as Japan's samurai, who were both like and unlike the knights of Europe. Knights are also seen through the lens of literature — both medieval works and modern tales — and through a rich array of illustrations, including images from medieval manuscripts and from nineteenth-century paintings, where representations of the knight reach an apex of romance and glorification. The volume concludes with the continuing appearance of knights in games and movies, and in the titles given to members of modern organizations such as the Knights of Columbus — indicating that, while historical knights may be far in the past, their legend lives on.

Constance Brittain Bouchard

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 29, 2010

    For laymen with a scholarly bent.

    Lavishly illustrated book with Sections overviewing topical points followed by Chapters that substantiate and support the section overview.

    Sections cover the historical development of the Knight as a mounted warrior that evolved into a unique class below higher nobles in medieval societies beginning from the times of Charlemagne, weapons and armor of the Knights, training, tactics, etc. Of particular interest to this reader was the editor/writers providing the language antecedents for the common English terms and words used for Knights, his activities, weapons, etc. Overall, a good summary of knights, their role in medieval society, etc. with references to particular historic events and individuals-all with a scholarly bent.

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