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Medieval History Magazine

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating

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Please note: this magazine is now out of print.

Discovering a good magazine is both a joy and a curse for me: alongside the joy of new and regular reading material I feel a terrible urge to obsessively hunt down the back issues. It's therefore a pleasure to review the first few issues of the brand new Medieval History Magazine, rather than being presented with issue 238!

Medieval History Magazine describes itself as being 'the first magazine dedicated to the Medieval Era' and, while I can't confirm that, I can praise the breadth of subject: this is 'medieval' as defined from the close of the Roman Empire in Western Europe to the Renaissance, a thousand years of fascinating material with no-one trying to snobbily dismiss the 'Dark Ages'. The geographical spread isn't as clear but, while the content has so far focused on Europe, events in Asia and the America's have received of coverage.

Of course, dates and eras are all well and good, but what are the articles actually on? The cynical heart will sink at Issue 1's cover: Jousting and Vikings! Hmm, never seen that before... Persevere though, and you'll find a terrifically broad subject matter written for different age groups. Alongside battles – which are well illustrated with examples of combatants and maps showing troop movement – and weapons, there is architecture (a study of Château-Gaillard mixing photographs with sensible computer reconstructions), archaeology (blended with the history for better accuracy), social history (the early acceptance of Jews in Spain), place names, biography, politics culture and even cooking.

In addition, the Day in the Life feature follows an average medieval human through their daily life in varying professions - the accompanying cartoons are perfect for younger readers - while in issue 1 'Historical Methods’ explains how you can deduce the history of a church from its walls and fittings. The two old classics are also present: reviews and What's On? pages, but even here the magazine scores extra points by covering music as well as books!

As I hope this conveys, the magazine is open to just about any sort of content. Each writer has pitched their work at different levels, so everyone but the hardcore medievalist will find something to interest them textually. Graphically, Medieval History Magazine will satisfy everyone: numerous bright, glossy colour pictures are found throughout, mixing photographs of re-enactors and buildings with clearly reproduced paintings and manuscripts, as well as maps and computer generated images. However, care has been taken to preserve the text and allow easy reading. One innovation (well, your reviewer hasn't seen it before) is a standard timeline produced near the front of each issue, with that month's features clearly marked in the relevant eras.

Britain's Royal Armouries Museum has been heavily involved – even taking up three seats on the editorial board - but the result is not an advert and the reader benefits from access to their large archive of real equipment and knowledge. Other board members include Professors Ian Wood and Kelly DeVries. The impression is of a bright, visually indulgent journal, not just eye candy for the kids, unlike another (non-historical) magazine I've recently had to review; you won’t feel your intelligence being insulted. There are currently 84 pages per issue, which is a fair size for monthlies of this nature and the price of $8.95/£3.60 is competitive (the euro price varies by region).

In short, I am very impressed with Medieval History Magazine and have no hesitation in rewarding it five stars. It provides popular and literate access to an era increasingly ignored in schools and, while this isn't a journal of cutting edge research, even the driest academic can't fail to appreciate the passion and imagery conveyed through the magazine. This magazine deserves your support at this early stage in its life.

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