Research and Resources

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Textual vs Wikipedia Research

6AragonSealThe links here for quick info frequently go to Wikipedia, for simplicity and to ensure stable links long-term. However, research for Accidental Heretics relied on a host of academic and popular history texts.

First, to have the most fun and learn a lot quickly, see Hugh Nicklin’s The Lauragais Story from the South of France.

Second, to rant, the scholarly texts published on Amazon (and other hosts) that focus on this period in southern Europe are massively and insanely over-priced, especially for eBook formats. I recommend ordering such texts to borrow through your library until these authors come to their senses.

Here are some recommended starting points if you want to dig a little deeper into the period:

The Cathars: Dualist Heretics in Languedoc in the High Middle Ages by Malcolm Barber, Pearson Education Ltd., 2000.

A scholar’s deep examination of the rise and fall of Cathar dualism, with social and ecclesiastical analysis.

Ermengard of Narbonne and the World of the Troubadours by Frederic L. Cheyette. Cornell University Press, 2001.

A scholar’s review of the life of a viscountess and the extent and limits of her power and activities — a good look at the culture of Occitania, relying on close review of historical records.

Chasing the Heretics: A Modern Journey through the Medieval Languedoc by Rion Klawinksi. Hungry Mind Press, 1999.

I originally found this book while browsing at Powell’s in Portland, and it led me to place the Accidental Heretics in the Languedoc at the time of the initial French sorties into the south.

Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error by Emmanuel LeRoy Ladurie. Vintage Books, 1978.

This is the title you’ll see as a standard reference for insight into the Cathar society. However, it relies on the recorded testimonies of “heretics” prosecuted by the Church, 100 years after the time of Accidental Heretics, when Cathars had been persecuted and isolated in the remote hills. I have doubts about what it tells us about what people believed and did during the generations when the “Good Christians” lived unmolested in the mainstream of Languedoc society.

The Perfect Heresy: The Revolutionary Life and Death of the Medieval Cathars by Stephen O’Shea. Walker & Company, 2000.

This is a popular history that traces in very readable, non-academic terms the life and end-times of the Good Christians in the Languedoc. Key events in Accidental Heretics are based on Mr O’Shea’s viewpoint.

An Introduction to Old Occitan by William D. Paden. The Modern Language Association of America, 1998.

A linguist’s investigation and presentation on structure and usage in Old Occitan, using troubadour songs to resent the analysis.

Medieval Warfare Sourcebook by David Nicolle. Arms & Armour, 1997.
Plus a host of other useful and illustrated texts by David Nicolle on arms and armaments across the Middle Ages and early Renaissance.

David Nicolle isn’t my only source for understanding battle dress and tactics across European and Mediterranean societies in medieval times. However, he and his illustrators are my favorite. Photos, text, and drawings combine for both information and inspiration.

Finally, if you are ready to dip into a scholarly examination of the Crusades and medieval heresies, start with Steven Runciman. Consider:

The First Crusade
A History of the Crusades Vol. 1. the First Crusade and the Foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem (Penguin History) (v. 1)
A History of the Crusades: The Kingdom of Acre v. 3 (Peregrine Books)
The Medieval Manichee: A Study of the Christian Dualist Heresy

Naked Came the Werewolf: British Library

The Accidental Heretics lack association with werewolves and vampires, given they have enough trouble with human wolves and blood-letters. But since we’re still cursed with winter, perhaps you need a werewolf fix?

The British Library hosts a fabulous and growing collection of illuminated medieval manuscripts that have been digitized, together with a great scholarly blog. A recent post from the curators – Naked Came the Werewolf – cites this important fact:

If you see the wolf before he sees you, you are safe. But if the wolf catches sight of you unawares, you will be, not attacked, but instead rendered mute. There is only one cure for this condition. You must quickly take off all your clothes, throw them on the ground and trample them. Then you must pick up two stones and bang them together to make a loud noise – only then will your power of speech be restored!

British Library on Werewolves

Check this article for notes going as far back as Pliny’s Historia Naturalis, about people being transformed into wolves after stripping, then regaining their humanity when they get their clothes back. I hadn’t heard the Irish story of a priest who has lost his way. He encounters a werewolf who begs him to perform last rites for his dying were-wife. When the priest complies, the wolf helps him find his way.

And if you haven’t had the opportunity to turn the pages of the British Library’s digitized Manuscripts, try it (with or without your clothes).

Credits: from the British Library, the Rochester Bestiary, England (Rochester?), c. 1230, Royal MS 12 F. xiii, f. 29r.

By the way:
Protect Wolves! It’s almost a thousand years since the time of Accidental Heretics, when people living on the edge of an enormous wilderness had to protect their livestock. In North America in the 21st Century, we need to protect our apex predators.

Coexistence works! See “Wolves Among the Sheep” by Suzanne Stone, on the Defenders of Wildlife site.

Clip the Masters in Hi-Res at Rijksstudio

The Rijksmuseum hosts 125,000 high-resolution images from the museum collection, and providing tools for you to clip or purchase images. You can curate a collection of images and clippings on Rijksstudio, or download, reuse, alter, and share under a generous license for noncommercial use.