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Terry Jones' Medieval Lives Paperback – March 27, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 119 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Renowned for lampooning the schoolboy view of the medieval world in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Terry Jones is also regarded as a true connoisseur of the Middle Ages. In this lavish volume, he slays the dragons of cliché and platitude.

About the Author

Jones is perhaps best known as a scriptwriter and member of the Monty Python team. He is a highly successful performer, writer and director for film, radio and television.

Terry Jones is best-known as a member of Monty Python. He has also written four books on Medieval England and is the author of several children's books.
Alan Ereira has worked as an award-winning producer and writer of history programs on radio and television for over 40 years, and has collaborated with Terry for ten years on a number of historical films. His previous books include The People's England, The Invergordon Mutiny, The Heart of the World and (with Terry Jones) Crusades and Terry Jones' Medieval Lives.

"From the Trade Paperback edition."

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Books; New Ed edition (May 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0563522755
  • ISBN-13: 978-0563522751
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #145,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Terry Jones of Monty Pyhton fame is less well-known as an accomplished historian. He skillfully uses his comic ability to make the scholarly material more accessible to laypeople, like me. Despite that it is cramped with facts and analyses it reads very easliy, and left me with wishing it had been longer. My favourite sections were the ones about the friaries that drove the financial and technological development of early middle ages, and the king that has been struck from British lists of regents.
With this book Jones wants to remedy a lot of misconceptions we have of life in the middle ages. Some, like financially astute monks and knights, are reaonably well-known, but others, like affluent peasants, sexually liberated women, and kings that served as defenders of the law, are less known. I do consider myself well-read, but there was a lot of new stuff in here for me. Even if some of his conclusions might be a bit shaky they are still of interest, and can serve as basis for further studies.
Do avoid the television series: it is very shallow and a bit incoherent because of all the unneccessary animations.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When Terry Jones joined Monty Python, he kept his day job. He is a scholar and professor of medieval studies. Which means, MEDIEVAL LIVES is serious history for general readers, but it is also history dished up in a fluent voice that chuckles over human folly, is appropriately stern at the abuses of power that caused incredible pain and suffering, and returns with awe at the lights of human achievement that managed to flicker in an epoch of constant bloodshed.

Nothing seems to annoy Jones more than the inaccuracies that have circulated as fact about the period he defines as beginning with the Norman Conquest in 1066 and ending when Henry VIII effectively dismantled the old church in 1536. The overarching inaccuracy is that the medieval period was static and primitive. Au contraire says Jones and developed a BBC series taking the 470 years archetype by archetype, looking at how things changed often dramatically in that long period, sometimes progressively, sometimes regressively for the likes of peasants, minstrels, monks, outlaws, scientists, knights, women and kings. He stomped forcibly on the inaccuracies and falsehoods largely promulgated in the Renaissance and Victorian eras. This book is the companion volume to that series. As someone who has not seen the television series, I can vouch that you never miss it. The book is a stand alone triumph.

Jones manages to pull together an amazing amount of material and information in a relatively short book, weaving social, political and religious history. As such, the book is like a survey course, which is not a bad thing at all. To see what Jones can really do when he throws all his scholarly resources and colleagues at a medieval subject, see WHO MURDERED CHAUCER? That is top-notch historical investigation and criticism that skimps on nothing.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read Terry Jones' book just prior to reading Ian Mortimer's "Travelers Guide to Medieval" book. Both were quite interesting, and very entertaining,and not to belittle Jones' book, since it does accompany a TV series and presumably had to cater to a TV audience, but after reading the latter, the Jones book kind of came acrost as light and fluffy, like an adult Horrible Histories.

Jones did present material I was not familiar with, and gave me a new perspective on historical "facts" I had always assumed to be correct, which just.... weren't.

On the plus side, my husband has put this book in his "to read" pile, just based on the author (sorry, dude, I know you're a serious scholar and all), and anything or anyone who can get him to read anything outside of WWII topics is OK in my book.

Read the Jones' book as a delightful, entertaining appertif, and then devour the Mortimer book as a main course.

And while we're at it, gotta love a country that can produce what looks to have been an entertaining series on medieval history, which people will actually WATCH, while all our lot can come up with is the annoying, endless soft porn of "The Tudors". Meh!
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Format: Paperback
This slender volume contains some neatly presented information about life in the Middle Ages (defined as 1066 to 1536), and introduces humour and colour into the mix. Be warned, though, its real value is in providing a panoramic view of the times rather than a detailed snapshot of the events. If you want or need more detail, you'd be well advised to delve in to the bibliography provided.

Still, it's hard not to wonder about why nobody ever mentions King Louis the First (and Last). And which monks were forbidden the delights of donning underpants (and why)? Did medieval people think the world was flat? Not according to Terry Jones and Alan Ereira, who advise that this was an invention of a French antireligious academic (Antoine-Jean Letronne) and the American novelist Washington Irving during the 19th century.

Under the headings of Peasant, Minstrel, Outlaw, Monk, Philosopher, Knight, Damsel and King are vignettes which serve to bring some meaning to these headings and some context to some of the names that readers may remember from history. For example, the stories of Blondel (Minstrel) and William Marshal (Knight).

A fun and entertaining read for those looking to a light-hearted but informative snapshot of the times.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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