Who Murdered Chaucer? by Terry Jones

There are so many post-it bookmarks in this book now. It’s totally the period I’m interested in, and gives so much information on the cultural life of Richard II’s court (and Europe in general in the late 14th century) – including, of course, my area of expertise, musicians. The first third of the book is almost unclosable because of the post-its. I marked so many passages and references…I really need to get back to proper research one day.

There were also parts I wanted to mark just for the style. Terry Jones is one of the authors, and you can kind of tell the parts that are his and the parts that are from people who are more academically trained.  There’s an irreverence to his style, even while it’s factually accurate. I knew he was a Richard II apologist (almost fanboy) because of when I heard him speak two years ago, and his defense ofRichard and his court is one of the more powerful arguments in the book.

Not everything is factually accurate, though – not that things are inaccurate, but so much of this book is conjecture based on lack of evidence. It’s not unreasonable conjecture, it is necessary conjecture, but it’s still conjecture. Most of the jumps made sense – I particularly like the explanation for Henry IV’s coup – but on a couple (like Chaucer living until 1402), the initial jump was a bit iffy, even if the following jumps were logical.

This book is fantastic for the background of the time and the character portraits of Henry IV, Richard II, and Archbishop Arundel that it draws. What it did for me more than anything else, though, was increase my reading list about a million times. Not only do I now need to finish reading the Canterbury Tales, but I also need to read….everything else written between 1330 and 1450.


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Filed under Non-Fiction (History)

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