And now for a peek into some the research I do for my books.
I have selected and rated the books on this list according to their practical use in worldbuilding. There are, of course, many more scholarly works, concentrating on the great people and great events of these periods. But for understanding the ordinary lives of ordinary people of all ranks and conditions, and for discovering the kind of details that can make a setting—real or imaginary—come to life, these are books that I’ve personally found useful.
I recommend each of these books, but the ones I have starred most of all. Although most of these books I checked out from a public library, many of those I was later able to buy used from Amazon or Abe Books or other online bookstores.
THE DARK AGES THROUGH THE MEDIEVAL PERIOD AND THE RENAISSANCE
**Daily Life in the World of Charlemagne, Pierre Riché, translated by Jo Ann McNamara
Step Into … The Viking World, by Philip Steele (This is a children’s book, but it has many, many photographs of buildings and artifacts from the period.
**The Middle Ages, by Morris Bishop
**Daily Life in Portugal During the Late Middle Ages, by A. H. de Oliveira Marques
*Life in Medieval Times, by Marjorie Rowling
The Medieval Health Handbook Tacuinum Sanitatus, by Luisa Cogliati Arano, translated and adapted by Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook
Popular Religion in the Middle Ages, by Rosalind and Christopher Brooke
The English Medieval House, by Margaret Wood
**Life in a Medieval City, by Joseph and Frances Gies
Paris in the Middle Ages, by Simone Roux, translated by Jo Ann McNamara
**Life in a Medieval Castle, by Joseph and Frances Gies
Daily Life in Florence During the Time of the Medici, by Jean-Lucas Dubreton, translated by A Lytton Sells
*The Pageant of Early Tudor England, (also published as The Early Tudors at Home) by Elizabeth Burton
*The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England, by Ian Mortimer
**The Pageant of Elizabethan England, (also published as The Elizabethans at Home) by Elizabeth Burton
Leaves from Gerard’s Herball, edited by Marcus Woodward (Selections from a primary source: John Gerard’s The Herball or General Histories of Plantes, 1597)
BOOKS COVERING THE LATE 16TH AND EARLY 17TH CENTURY
**Daily Life in Spain During the Golden Age, by Marcelin Defourneaux, translated by Newton Branch (this book covers the late 16th and early 17th centuries)
*Shakespeare’s Europe, Unpublished Chapters of Fynes Morison’s “Itinerary” 1617, edited by Charles Hughes (Moryson is a primary source)
The Age of Courts and Kings, Manners and Morals 1558-1715, by Phillipe Erlanger
Touring in 1600, by E. S. Bates
Versailles, the Court, and Louis IV, selections from the diary of the Duc de Saint-Simon, translated by Lucy Norton (Saint-Simon is a primary source and others have translated his memoirs, so it wouldn’t be difficult to find an inexpensive edition of a different and perhaps more complete selection, but this is the one I have. There is a lot of fascinating information — and obviously first hand — but it only covers a small slice of society, and is of limited use to world builders unless they are writing about court life, which is why I haven’t rated it higher.)
**The Splendid Century, by W. H. Lewis
Spain in Decline, 1621-1700, by R. Trevor Davies
*Amsterdam in the Age of Rembrandt, by John J. Murray
**Daily Life in Rembrandt’s Holland, by Paul Zumthor, translated by Simon Watson Taylor
Life in Stuart England, by Maurice Ashley
*The Pageant of Stuart England, by Elizabeth Burton
The Days of Duchess Anne, Life in the Household of the Duchess of Hamilton, 1656-1716, by Rosalind K. Marshall (these are the results of Marshall’s researches through the Hamilton Archives)
*Travel in England, by Thomas Burke
A Journal of the Plague Year, Daniel Defoe (published in 1722 this novel is based on actual events during his childhood in the year 1665)
**The Admirable Secrets of Physick and Chyrurgery, by Thomas Palmer (Primary source. From the 1696 notebook of Thomas Palmer, a minister and doctor. Some medical theory, but most is devoted to treatments and remedies.)
and finally, a book that covers the late 15th through the early 18th centuries, the kind of book that is often referred to as an expensive coffee-table book, more pages devoted to pictures than text, but worth every penny of the price as far as I am concerned, because the pictures are so amazing:
**Cabinets of Curiosities, by Patrick Mauries
Part Two has now been posted.
For those interested, there is an active discussion about books history books which have influenced and been eye-opening for other writers in writing their historical fiction (or historically based fantasy) here: https://www.sffchronicles.com/threads/568224/