Chaucer: A European Life

An acclaimed biography that recreates the cosmopolitan world in which a wine merchant’s son became one of the most celebrated of all English writers


Sep 22, 2020
5.25 x 8 in.
21 b/w illus.
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Geoffrey Chaucer is often called the father of English literature, but this acclaimed biography reveals him as a great European writer and thinker. Uncovering important new information about Chaucer’s travels, private life, and the circulation of his writings, Marion Turner reconstructs in unprecedented detail the cosmopolitan world of Chaucer’s adventurous life, focusing on the places and spaces that fired his imagination. From the wharves of London to the frescoed chapels of Florence, the book recounts Chaucer’s experiences as a prisoner of war in France, as a father visiting his daughter’s nunnery, as a member of a chaotic Parliament, and as a diplomat in Milan. At the same time, the book offers a comprehensive exploration of Chaucer’s writings. The result is a landmark biography and a fresh account of the extraordinary story of how a wine merchant’s son became the poet of The Canterbury Tales.

Crossing Medieval borders: Chaucer and Europe

Ideas Podcast: The life of Geoffrey Chaucer

Q&A with Marion Turner

Awards and Recognition

  • Winner of the Otto Gründler Book Prize, The Medieval Institute at Western Michigan University
  • Winner of the Beatrice White Prize, The English Association, University of Leicester
  • Winner of the Rose Mary Crawshay Prize, The British Academy
  • Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize, The Wolfson Foundation
  • Longlisted for the HWA Non-Fiction Crown, Historical Writers’ Association
  • Finalist for the PROSE Award in Biography and Autobiography, Association of American Publishers
  • One of The Times' Best Literary Non-Fiction Books of 2019
  • One of the Times Literary Supplement's Books of the Year 2019
  • One of the Sunday Times' Best Literary Books of 2019
  • A Choice Outstanding Academic Title of the Year
  • One of New Statesman's Books of the Year 2020