I’ve been reading history and mythology lately, especially of my native Ireland. It’s full of ideas that fit well into a mediaeval fantasy setting, much of which is long out of copyright. I found the following quite interesting:
Irish Fairy Tales, by James Stephens
A mythology of Ireland, chronicling from the island’s colonisation by Noah’s great great great grandson until its Christianization in the sixth century. Don’t be dissuaded by the title “fairy tales” - if this collection is anything to go by, Irish mythology is largely about bands of strong and incredibly brave men beating the crap out of wizards. 66,112 words.
A Popular History of Ireland: from the Earliest Period to the Emancipation of the Catholics
A lengthy book that reveals just how little most of us know of the history of Ireland. Pre-Christian Ireland had warrior and peasant castes, permitted the taking of foreign slaves who were generally employed as shepherds and weavers, had druids who wielded considerable political power, and bards who claimed a de facto right to make any demand of a chieftain. More than a thousand years before the United States of America was founded, Ireland had a formal constitution and elected its high king by democratic vote. 300,000 words - that someone sat down and wrote as much might inspire you in itself.
Sniping in France, by Major H. Hesketh-Prichard
A British officer during World War I documents his efforts to introduce dedicated snipers into the front lines. He contends with superiors who tell him sniping will never catch on, deadly German snipers and incompetent handling of equipment and supplies. 49,687 words.
The Strategemata, by Frontinus
A massive collection of Roman military strategy anecdotes. We have numerous short tales involving tactics, plots, betrayals, bravery and superstitions. In one case the crew of a Roman warship is spooked by a lightning bolt across their bow, but the general reassures them with the words “Jupiter himself has entered battle on our side”; in another, a general quells the panic by explaining thunder and lightning to his men in basic scientific terms. A general kills a messenger to avoid the orders he’s delivered, feigning the messenger’s capture; a general orders two units of auxilliaries to march over the hill at a fixed time to give the illusion of reinforcements, then loudly boasts that more units are on their way to panic the enemy and bolster his own men’s courage. 52,355 words.