The Middle Ages
Facts and Fictions
by Winston Black
July 2019, 248pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-6231-1
$65, £50, 57€, A90
Please contact your preferred distributor for pricing.
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-6232-8
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Columbus is popularly believed to have set out to prove the world was round, bringing an end to the ignorance of the Middle Ages. But nobody in the Middle Ages believed the Earth was flat.

This book guides readers through 10 pervasive fictions about medieval history, provides them with the sources and analytical tools to critique those fictions, and identifies what really happened in the Middle Ages.

This book is the first to present fictions about the medieval world to serious students of history. Instead of merely listing myths and stating they are wrong, this volume promotes critical historical analysis of those myths and how they came to be. Each of the ten chapters outlines a pervasive modern myth about medieval European history, describing “What People Think Happened” and “What Really Happened,” and illustrating both trends with primary source documents.

The book demonstrates that historical fictions also have a history, and that while we need to replace those fictions with facts about the medieval past, we can also benefit from understanding how a fiction about the Middle Ages developed and what that says about our modern perspectives on the past. Through this innovative presentation, readers are introduced to a wide range of sources, from Roman imperial perspectives on the “Fall of Rome” to songs of chivalry and chronicles of the Crusades, scientific treatises on the shape of the Earth and the creation of the universe and early modern stories and textbooks that developed or perpetuated historical myths.


  • Provides an overview of a particular historical misconception and its corresponding truth
  • Presents primary source documents to help readers to see how the misconceptions developed and spread, and provide evidence for what we now believe to be the historical truth behind each fiction
  • Suggests further reading and additional sources of information
  • Fosters critical thinking skills and engages readers with the history of the Middle Ages
Winston Black is a scholar and professor of medieval history. He specializes in the history of science and medicine of the medieval world, and explores the interactions of medicine and herbalism with the religious cultures of Europe and the Mediterranean. He is the editor and translator of Henry of Huntingdon's Anglicanus Ortus: A Verse Herbal of the Twelfth Century (2012) and author of the forthcoming Medicine and Healing in the Premodern West, as well as coauthor with John M. Riddle of A History of the Middle Ages 300–1500, Second Edition (2016).


"Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and graduate students."—Choice, December 1, 2019

"This is a comprehensive book about the Middle Ages for students who are interested in that period of European history. It is also a very good reference book for teachers who want to learn more background information that may not be included, or may be inaccurate, in standard textbooks." —School Library Connection, January 1, 2020

Historical Facts and Fictions

Did Nero really fiddle while Rome burned? Did the Egyptians really worship animals and gods with animal heads? History is full of misconceptions that have been passed down as historical facts and become rooted in the popular imagination. This series explores historical fictions and what we now believe to be historical truths. Each book focuses on a particular topic, such as a period, event, civilization, movement, religion, or person, and explores roughly 10 misconceptions. Chapters summarize the misconception, discuss how it arose and was propagated, and explain what is now taken as historical fact. The series helps readers think critically about the past and prepares them to be equally critical of the present.
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