The 'Knight in Shining Armour' dominates the public image of the Middle Ages, charging into battle in gleaming plate armour. This book looks at the reality of the knight, from their humble origins to the period of their military and social dominance in the High Middle Ages through to their decline in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The main focus is on the military role of the knight, looking at their equipment, their individual role as fighters and their wider role on the battlefield and the impact of chivalry on their battlefield performance. Jones also examines the social life of the knight including their tastes in literature (both as readers and writers). Finally we examine the decline of the Knight,
Many of this issues being discussed here are the subject of complex academic arguments. Jones is clearly aware of those debates (he uses one of my PhD supervisor's books during his discussion of the value of the war horse for example), but doesn't get bogged down in the more obscure details. The author has also produced his own contributions to that academic debate, and at the time of writing was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute for Medieval Studies at the University of Leeds (home of the massive annual International Medieval Congress), so his academic credentials are very solid.
The book does concentrate on the British and French experience, with some coverage of Germany and Italy. The more complex borderlands of central and eastern Europe, with their variants on knighthood, are thus not covered. This is an understandable decision, as the author already has enough to deal with in the five hundred year history of the knight in Western Europe.
As one would expect with Osprey the book is very well illustrated, in this case with a large number of illustrations from medieval documents as well as a good selection of photographs of surviving equipment (although in one or two cases the photos could have been nearer to the topic they illustrate).
This is a successful attempt to provide an overview of the history of the knight, covering a large and complex topic in a readable way, while still including a significant amount of detail.
1 - Arms and Armour
2 - Tactics and Training
3 - Campaign and Battle
4 - Chivalry
5 - Beyond the Battlefield
6 - The Death of Knighthood?
Author: Robert Jones