The Routledge History Handbook of Medieval Revolt. Edited by Justine Firnhaber-Baker with Dirk Schoenaers. London, UK: Routledge, 2017. 384 p. $191.25 (ISBN 978-1-138-95222-5). E-book available (978-1-315-54242-3), call for pricing.

If one is looking for a quick and readable introduction to specific medieval revolts appropriate for secondary education or lower division undergraduates, it would be better to pass by this work and pick up one of the many single or multivolume encyclopedias of the middle ages, such as Matthew Bunson’s Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages (Facts On File 1995). Firnhaber-Baker and Schoenaers’ edited work will be too demanding for such a reader.

On the other hand, if one is looking for a variety of scholarly perspectives on medieval revolt, including ways revolt has been conceptualized, social and political contexts, and the language and performance of revolt, then this work is well worth its list price. Eighteen essays look at specific revolutionary movements and ways of approaching them, beginning with the early Roman empire and ending in the Reformation. The essays average approximately twenty pages each. The tone is erudite and the argumentation is scholarly. However, it is written for an educated layperson in the sense that it is not strictly technical and is relatively free of jargon. All essays provide extensive documentation for both primary and secondary sources used in the scholarship. Some examples of essay titles include “Great and Horrible Rumour: Shaping the English Revolt of 1381” by Andrew Prescott, “Rebellion and the Law in Fifteenth Century English Towns” by Eliza Hatrich, and “Developing Strategies of Protest in Late Medieval Sicily” by Fabrizio Titone. An excellent conclusion by John Watts draws the entire volume together, identifying primary themes and possible future directions in the field.

With the caveat that this work does not contain primary sources, one could imagine using it as a textbook for an upper-division or even a lower graduate-level history course. The variety of approaches and the scholarly writing style could provide excellent models for students in such a class. Otherwise, one could imagine seeking out this source for a particular essay as a secondary source, or even reading the volume cover-to-cover to gain a sense of the scholarly field. Any one of the essays could provide an excellent starting point for research through its thorough bibliography.

The convenient, hardbound volume contains a small number of interesting figures, maps, tables, and some grayscale photographs. There is a rather short index that would be useful mostly for people and places, among a few other topics. Most likely, one will access this work through major headers in the essays themselves. The cover is attractive but not pretentious.

The Routledge History Handbook of Medieval Revolt belongs on the shelves of academic libraries that support a liberal arts curriculum and public libraries that serve a population where some patrons are highly educated. One might consider adding this work to a circulating collection rather than a reference collection. This is a quality edited work that is well worth its purchase price in such a context.—Steven R. Edscorn, Executive Director of Libraries, Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, Oklahoma


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