These are the books that have stolen afternoons out of my life and have kept me up till dawn reading their words whilst researching my Wars of the Roses series.
The Medieval Household: Daily Living 1150-c.1450 by Geoff Egan.
This is exactly the sort of thing I need. It’s not enough to know about the battles and the main characters. In writing historical fiction, you also need to know about the spoons, the diet, coins chairs, clothes and so on. This book has been vital from the start.
The Time-Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer.
Another general book on the period. This one is a real treasure, a good introduction to the period for those who are interested. It contains descriptions of towns and daily life that are invaluable to anyone setting scenes in England around 1450.
Henry VI by Bertram Wolffe.
This has probably been my main reference text. As history books go, it’s incredibly detailed, but well written enough that it’s not a chore to read. Fascinating and fluent, occasionally gripping. I only wish all history books were like this.
The First Battle of St Albans 1455 by Andrew Boardman.
A classic example of how historical fiction research works. I look for books on a tiny part, with more detail than I can possibly use, then write a scene which might be no longer than a single chapter. As this is the battle that began the Wars of the Roses though, it’s well worth a mention.
She-Wolves. The Women who Rules England before Elizabeth. By Helen Castor.
I bought this to read about Margaret of Anjou and what a lucky find it was. An absolutely fascinating book, highly recommended.
Duke Richard of York 1411-1460 by P.A. Johnson.
Not one of my favourites, for its dry style. In terms of research and excruciating detail however, a superb resource.
The Paston Letters 1422-1509 Contemporary. Paston family correspondence.
The originals are available in the British Library, as well as online, though I’m lucky enough to have got hold of my own six-volume set. At times, these are the only primary resource for events in the Wars of the Roses. Unique and fascinating, though the archaic language makes deciphering them tricky at times.
English Men of Action: Warwick/Henry V by the Rev. A.J. Church.
I bought this a dozen years ago, simply because it was a beautifully leather-bound Octavo hardback from 1889 and I thought I’d get round to it at some point. It has turned out to be incredibly useful for Warwick the Kingmaker.
The Wars of the Roses by Desmond Seward.
Expert and well-written, this is perhaps the best of a number of ‘overview’ WotR books I’ve bought, borrowed or stolen in the last couple of years. Highly recommended to anyone interested in the period 1455-1485.
Richard The Third by Paul Murray Kendall.
Brilliantly researched and clearly written. I had to have a few books on the figure that towers over the Wars of the Roses, though Richard III only comes in at the end. In many ways, this series is all leading up to one man and one battle: Bosworth, 1485. This is the best of them all, I think.