Book List: Conquerors!

With the Genghis Khan exhibition now on display, the book list for March will feature the theme Conquerors: Their Lives and Times. Scholastic Books publishes a series of books, over 50 in all, whose titles all begin with You Wouldn’t Want to Be…  The books, illustrated with colorful cartoons, bring history to life in an engaging, entertaining way.
 
For example…You Wouldn’t Want to Be in Alexander the Great’s Army! by Jacqueline Marley begins with an introduction and a map of Alexander’s route.  You learn that Alexander’s father, Phillip II, united Macedonia and made it strong.  Phillip’s army controlled most of Greece when he died, and his 20-year old son Alexander III decided to embark on the trip that his father had planned.

Alexander The Great
Creative Commons License photo credit: Dime01

As you read you learn interesting tidbits:  At the Siege of Tyre (332 BCE) Alexander had to defeat the Persians; when Alexander’s men tried to scale tall walls, the Persian soldiers poured red-hot sand down on them. Alexander founded the city of Alexandria in Egypt. Soldiers were not paid but were allowed to steal from their victims – and so looters learned to take only light things because they had to carry everything they took; soldiers were also allowed to pick up wives along the way. Alexander’s trip lasted 8 years; and soon after the trip ended, Alexander died at age 32.

This book contains a glossary and an index.  The books in this series are useful introductions to many topics.

The story A Medieval Feastby Aliki is 25 years old, and could have taken place during the time of William the Conqueror.  The pictures are timeless.  The King, Queen, knights, squires and other members of the court – maybe 100 in all – are coming to visit Camdenton Manor, and the lord and lady must prepare for the visit.

The serfs who lived on the lord’s estate helped with the preparations that involved everything from redecorating the Royal Suite to building fences for the horses—in addition to preparing for the feast. 

Sir Aiden and his charming squire
Creative Commons License photo credit: badlogik

The lord went hunting and hawking for meat, and they trapped and fished.  Fruits and vegetables were gathered; bread was made; butter was churned and wine and ale were brewed.  A rare “beast” called a Cockentrice was created by cutting a caponand pig in half and attaching one’s back to the other’s front and vice versa.  A peacock was cooked and then all the feathers were reassembled.  The upcoming feast, fit for a king, would begin at 10:30 a.m. and end at dark.  The next day it would be repeated.

Take time to look carefully at the illustrations!  Aliki’s detailed pictures enable the reader to learn even more about this time period.  The reader sees the serfs at work and play, the kitchen alive with food preparation, people trapping birds and so much more.  (For another look at life in a medieval castle, read You Wouldn’t Want to Live in a Medieval Castle! by Jacqueline Morley.)

medieval women
Creative Commons License photo credit: hans s

Crabtree Publishers publishes an incredible number of nonfiction books which are illustrated, easily read and contain facts about a particular subject.  One of the books in the Medieval World series is Women and Girls in the Middle Ages. This book is divided into topics such as Having Fun, Housekeeping, Educating Girls and Beauty, and you learn interesting facts on each page. 

Did you know:
• That during this time all you had to do to get married was say “I Do”?
• That you needed bread, glue, turpentine and a candle to get rid of fleas?
• That employment opportunities for women improved after the Plague killed one third of Europe’s population?
• That women were told to comb their hair and “make sure that it is not full of feathers or other garbage”?
• That you can make a beauty lotion by mixing asparagus roots, anise, bulbs of white lilies, milk from donkeys and red goats and horse dung?

Books from the Conquerors: Their Lives and Times list will transport you to another time—and, as a bonus, probably make you very glad you are living NOW.

Do you mind passing the hand sanitizer? I think I’m coming down with a touch of the plague.

Today, as I sit and tidy up the Plague curriculum for the upcoming ExxonMobil Teacher Tuesday I can hear the children in the classroom next to me coughing….. just a bit.   I begin to think, maybe I need to make that appointment to get the flu shot.  I mean, it’s the least I can do to protect myself and the others that come into contact with me, right?  Hmm…,  I wonder.

In the year one thousand three hundred and forty eight when the Black Death set her dark sights upon the unsuspecting West, I wonder what the good people of Europe were thinking?  It sure wasn’t “Pass the hand sanitizer and warm me up a cup of Theraflu.”

The plague boasted the following symptoms: aching limbs, vomiting of blood, and lymph nodes that swelled to the size of chicken eggs before bursting.  I would have been first in line for my plague vaccination, had there been one available at the time. 

The Crow
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kessiye

As a plague victim in the Middle Ages, you would count yourself lucky if your family didn’t abandon you in the street to die alone.  If you were really lucky (so to speak) a doctor might pay you a visit.  If you were luckier still, maybe he wouldn’t.  Common treatments for the plague included, but were not limited to:  bleeding by leech or blade (sometimes until there was no blood left), purging by laxative (better to die of dehydration, right?), and various herbal treatments. 

In the stead of drugstores, the Medieval town might have had a local apothecary.  Check out some of the herbs that were used, mostly in vain, to treat the plague:

Thyme – a natural disinfectant used in the “nosegays” carried by doctors in an attempt to ward off the plague.

Rosemary – burned like incense, it was thought to ward off sickness of all types.  It was hung around the neck to protect from the plague.  It was also thought a twig of rosemary could ward off the evil eye.

Sage flower
Creative Commons License photo credit: tanakawho

Sage – among the most important medicinal herbs of Medieval Europe.  No covenant garden would be without a substantial patch of sage growing to treat the ailing masses.

Angelica – according to legend, the Archangel Gabriel revealed the powers of this Nordic herb to the Benedictine monks.  During the Middle Ages it was commonly cultivated in monasteries and used to treat symptoms of the plague.

Lavender – thieves who made a living stealing from the dead and infirm used lavender as an ingredient in their “Four Thieves Vinegar,” a concoction they used to protect and cleanse themselves after a hard night’s work.

During the plague in the seventeenth century, you might have even scored a visit from this guy (pictured below).

17th century plague doctor

And if that wasn’t enough to scare you to death, wait three days and the plague might get you anyway. As the poet Boccaccio said, “one could eat lunch with friends and have dinner with ancestors in paradise.”