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Maurice Keen (1933–2012)

Author of The Pelican History of Medieval Europe

10+ Works 1,776 Members 7 Reviews 2 Favorited

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Image credit: Master and Fellows of Balliol College, Oxford (Balliol Portraits 182)

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R.I.P.: Maurice H. Keen, 78; author of Chivalry in Folio Society Devotees (September 2012)


This was a major study of the English medieval/renaissance outlaw tradition, both historical reality and literary legend, chiefly but not exclusively focused n Robin Hood. The first edition offered an interpretation which got widely criticized by other scholars of the subject, and this edition includes an preliminary recantation by Keen disavowing his original interpretation. However, it still has a lot of valuable background material on the matter of the Greenwood."
antiquary | Nov 15, 2017 |
A very scholarly book about Chivalry. I expected more stories to illustrate the characteristics of Chivalry in action similar A Book of Golden Deeds but with more analysis. Surprisingly dry for such a romantic subject. More analysis of the times and societal norms than the stories of chivalry in action.

It included some interesting discussion on the separation of Church and the warrior class and how the church strove to discourage knightly tournaments because of the injuries and death that resulted.

One of my favorite passages was a prayer from a knight on his way to Crusade: "May God raise me to that honour, that I may hold her, in whom dwell all my heart and thought, naked in my arms once once before I cross the sea to Outremer." Perhaps it is mostly romantic because it a prayer of a knight on his way to perhaps die far from home but partly because of the language itself.

The folio society edition is beautiful. =)
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Chris_El | Mar 19, 2015 |
"Nobles, Knights and Men-At-Arms in the Middle Ages" is a collection of essays written by Mr. Keen over 30 years of his scholarly and professional careers. Covering such subjects as courtly love, Chaucer's Knight, and the practice of "brother-hoods in arms", just to name a few, Mr. Keen attempts to shed some light on some critical arguments pertaining to these issues.
Although I admire intensely Mr. Keen's passion, immense dedication, devotion to study and obvious knowledge on these subjects, I did not find this book very relevant to the military history genre. It tends to delve, in my opinion, more into medieval law studies and literature. Very dry and boring. There was one bright spot smack dab in the middle of the book. The chapter on Gadifer de la Salle was an attempt to highlight the career of a typical knight of the times who had achieved a bit more of his fair share of fortune, and failure.
Again, this book can be interesting, and I am glad it is now in my library, but I doubt I'll ever be pulling it down from the shelf to reference it anytime in the future.
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Poleaxe | May 19, 2010 |
Maurice Keen's "Medieval Warfare, a History" is actually a collection of essay's written by various experts on certain facets of the subject. The first half of the book is a chronological look at Medieval Warfare in general, starting the Carolingian and Ottonian area and finishing with the Hundred Years War. A particular author is assigned different periods of this time frame and each lends their talent and expertise to the reader, greatly enhancing the usefullness of the text. This section did start out a bit slow and tedious but rapidly transformed into a nicely comprehensive study into the various periods of Medival Warfare.
The second half of the book, entitled "The Arts of Warfare", covered subjects such as fortification and sieges, arms, armour, horses, naval warfare, non-combatants, and finally firearms with permanent armies. Again, each subject is address by an author considered expert in the field. If found this book very informative and probaly not too intimidating to the beginner. Mr. Keen did an excellent job at selecting the subjects and writers of this book along with a clear and informative presentation.
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Poleaxe | Jul 6, 2009 |



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