Catherine Hanley

War and Combat 1150–1270: The evidence from Old French literature by Catherine Hanley (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2003), £50.

War and combat were significant factors in the lives of all conditions of people during the 12th and 13th centuries. Thousands of men, women and children prepared for, engaged in and suffered from the consequences of almost endemic armed conflict. However, while war and combat feature prominently in many of the forms of literature written at the time, the theme of warfare in some types of narrative source remains a relatively under-studied area.

This book offers an investigation of the depiction of warfare in contemporary writings, in both fictional narratives and factual accounts, aiming to bridge the gap between the disciplines of literature and military history. Using both established sources and the latest research, the author examines how the application of what is now known about the practical and technological aspects of medieval warfare can aid us in our understanding of literature.

She also demonstrates, via an investigation of a corpus of Old French chronicles, epics and romances, how the judicious study of sources that are not always considered reliable can, in turn, inform us about contemporary perceptions of, and attitudes towards, war and other forms of armed combat.

The Sins of the Father: A mediaeval mystery by Catherine Hanley (Stroud: The History Press, 2012), £7.99 (also available in e-book).

1217: England has been invaded. Much of the country is in the iron grip of Louis of France and his collaborators, and civil war rages as the forces of the boy king try to fight off the French. Most of this means nothing to Edwin Weaver, son of the bailiff at Conisbrough Castle in Yorkshire, until he is suddenly thrust into the noble world of politics and treachery: he is ordered by his lord the earl to solve a murder that might have repercussions not just for him but for the future of the realm.

Edwin is terrified but he must obey. He takes on the challenge and learns more until he uncovers a horrific secret that has been dead and buried for 15 years, a secret that might kill them all – and realises there are some questions to which he might not wish to know the answers.

The Bloody City by Catherine Hanley (Stroud: The History Press, 2013), £7.99 paperback (also available in e-book).

1217: Lincoln is not a safe place to be. A French army has captured the city, and the terrified citizens huddle in the rubble of their homes as the castle, the last remaining loyal stronghold in the region, is besieged. Edwin Weaver finds himself riding into grave danger after his lord volunteers him for a perilous mission: he must infiltrate the city, identify the traitors who are helping the enemy, and return to pass on the intelligence. The last man who attempted such a thing was captured by the French, his head hacked off and catapulted over the castle wall as a warning. The city is awash with violence and blood, and Edwin is pushed to the limit as he has to decide what he is prepared to do to protect others. He might be willing to lay down his own life, but would he, could he, kill?