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Biography Review – Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc: Maid, Myth and History by Timothy Wilson-Smith


Review by Jennifer (mywolfalways)




Joan of Arc is a well-known figure of history all around the world.  She’s known as a Saint, a soldier, and a leader. But who was she really?  This wonderful narrative by Wilson-Smith seeks to bring together what we know by gathering records of witnesses to her life and trial records.


The culture in which Joan was raised in is important to understanding who she was.  Wilson-Smith provides insight to Domremy, where she was born, a town located on the border of several countries, including France.  Born into a peasant family, she was exposed to the ravage of war at an early age.


The dedication of Joan to free the French from the tyranny of the English is difficult to understand without knowing the history of the 100 Years War.  By the time Joan was born, the people of France were already feeling defeated.  The English controlled most of the territory and Charles the Dauphin was in hiding, afraid to come out and claim his place on the throne.


When Joan came onto the scene she had already cut her hair short and wore young men’s clothing in a bid to be taken seriously.  From the beginning, she was constantly balked by unbelievers, but through her revelations she was able to meet every challenge that faced her.  She successfully put Charles on the throne and it was only after that when she failed.


Joan was captured by the English and attempted escape, against the advice of her voices, which continue to be of much debate today.  Many argue that these voices were merely symptoms of her supposed schizophrenia, while others believe these were truly the voices of Saint Catherine, Saint Michael the Archangel, and others as she claims.  Due to the maltreatment during her imprisonment and the stress of the trial, she eventually recanted.  Not long after, however, she again took responsibility for her actions and was burned at the stake for it.


While much of the history is provided in written format, the author also provides timelines and lineage charts to provide the reader with a better understanding.  The author also provides examples of literature, films, plays, and other forms of art that can expand the readers appreciation of how influential the woman was in history.  In addition, he explains the many traditions and festivals that were celebrated and continue to be celebrated in France today.  But Joan isn’t just an inspiration to the people of France.  Wilson-Smith tells of how this young soldier is respected in places all over the world, including England (the country of her original adversary).


Those that know little about Joan of Arc will find this book eye-opening simply for its history.  Those that already know much about the history of Joan of Arc will find the latter sections fascinating in that they provide a more current view on how relevant Joan is, not just to France, but to the world.


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2 Responses to “Biography Review – Joan of Arc”

  1. Jerelyn H. (I-F-Letty) says:

    Great review Jennifer.

  2. Brenna B. (demiducky25) says:

    Great review! I love history books, so this is another one to add to the reminder list! 🙂

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