Knighthood and Feudalism in Medieval Sicily

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2022-02-02
  • Publisher: Trinacria Editions Llc
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Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?


This is the first book ever published in English to consider Sicily's complex knightly and feudal environment from its inception under the Normans around 1060 until the end of Aragonese rule in 1410.

In a fluid text that will appeal to armchair historians as well as serious scholars, the author sets forth the background of Sicily's manorial (feudal) system, comparing it to others, particularly what existed during the same period in Norman England. The economy, the influence of religion, everyday life and the nature of monarchy are just a few topics featured. Law is considered in view of Sicily's Arab, Byzantine and Jewish heritage, and legal codes like the Assizes of Ariano and the Constitutions of Melfi. Changes in the wake of the War of the Vespers are described.

Elements like architecture, agriculture, literature, language and cuisine are discussed. A chapter is dedicated to heraldry, a field useful in the study of the feudal nobility that is often overlooked by those writing about this social class. Appendices present such details as lists of knights, barons and armigers (with blazons of their coats of arms) in the Kingdom of Sicily during specific periods, along with the original texts of both surviving codices of the Assizes of Ariano which established the first unifying legal code in the Kingdom around 1140. Also included is an appendix of various source documents (in their original Latin) such as royal decrees. There is a chronology, along with numerous maps, genealogical tables and photographs. Sprinkled throughout the text are nuggets of information drawn from the author's original research in medieval records in Italy, Spain and the Vatican.

This is a very pragmatic history that puts to rest a number of myths while explaining what it was that made medieval Sicily unique. We learn, for example, that Sicily was probably one of the few places in Europe where Jews were part of the feudal nobility. Feudalism survived on the island as a system of land administration until 1812. It is impossible to understand modern Sicilian history without knowing something about this institution founded in the Middle Ages.

Here one of Sicily's leading medievalists walks us through the complexities of life in the sunny kingdom during a bygone era. The publication of this book, like others he has written, was long overdue. By presenting much information that has never been published, it fills a vast void in the study of medieval Sicilian history. This defining work is a precious resource.

Author Biography

Louis Mendola is one of Sicily’s foremost medievalists, and one of the very few whose work is known beyond Italian borders. His first scholarly paper (on the Battle of Benevento of 1266) was published in 1985; others consider such topics as the history of the medieval Normans in Sicily. He wrote the first book covering the entire seven-century history of the Kingdom of Sicily, and the first English translations of two chronicles of the thirteenth century. Having researched in Italy, Britain, Spain, Germany, France and the Vatican, he has been consulted by The History Channel, the BBC and The New York Times. Read by millions internationally, his online articles have made him one of the most popular Sicilian historians of the present century.

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