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Publisher's Summary

A History of the Middle Ages is the amazing story of European man in transition. It is a dramatic chronicle of 1,000 years of political, social, and economic transformation beginning with the dissolution of the classical Mediterranean civilization and ending with the first flowering of the Renaissance. It is also the story of two new religions, Christianity and Islam, both of which were destined to dominate the mind of every person in those new civilizations arising in their wake. This was the great Age of Faith, a time of darkness and a time of enlightenment...a time of lords and vassals, popes and kings, and commerce and cathedrals. This great history starts with a survey of Christianity, then continues with an exploration of the "dark ages" following the fall of Rome, before proceeding with an explanation of how Europe coped with, and absorbed, the barbarians who overran the Empire. It goes on to trace the development of feudalism and Islam, and describes the harrowing survival of Byzantium throughout the brutal chaos that swirled about the Eastern Roman Empire during the 9th and 10th centuries. Discover how national monarchies and the modern nation state came into being, how the West responded to the Islamic invasions, and how Christianity penetrated into the farthest reaches of Northern Europe. Understand the dramatic repercussions of the Great Schism in Christianity and how economic change in the West almost destroyed the church. Finally, discover the events which gave rise to the magnificent flowering of the Gothic Age and the explosion of knowledge which subsequently paved the way for the Renaissance. The Middle Ages were the precursor to everything which we in the west consider "modern." This beautifully written history tells you why.
(P)2004 Audio Connoisseur
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Aaron on 12-04-04


This rather long history is absorbing from beginning to end. It is actually an outline, and as such succeeds brilliantly. The long period it covers (over a thousand years) is broken out in more or less chronlogical order, though there are a few chapters that jump backward or forward depending on the geography being covered. The reviewer named "zuff" is way off base in regard to content. The authors of this mid-twentieth century text were ALL very highly respected Ivy League professors of note. You can find their historical works and papers scattered across numerous famous institutions, including Columbia University. If you are looking for politically correct history, you will not find it here. Also, this is serious history, so if you're looking for "popular history," this is just not going to light your fire. This is academic history for people with patience who can listen carefully and want to get a good grasp of what the middle ages were about. But it is not difficult to understand. From my standpoint, this audiobook is simply magnificent.

The narrator has a very clear and persuasive voice that is easy to understand. It is somewhat British sounding and very pleasant over long periods of time. Merely listen to the sample.

For anyone wishing to know something about the middle ages, whether highly educated or not, you can do no better than this great work.

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45 of 47 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Theresa on 06-17-04

A Stunning Achievement

The middle ages is one of those cloudy subjects that most people, including me, usually steer clear of. It doesn't seem to have the dash and intellectual allure of the classical periods that preceeded it. Bu that was merely my perception. This long and detailed history of the 1,000 years of history spanning the end of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Renaissance was honestly one of the most entertaining pieces I have ever listened to. Call me ignorant, but I just did not know how interesting this period actually was. I note with amusement that some listeners objected to the chapter on Christianity, though for the life of me I don't understand their objections. I was brought up a Christian but have not practised any religion in several decades. However, I found the explanation of how Christianity developed to be incredibly fascinating. It's hard to really understand the passions and disputes that occurred in the middle ages without some compass of what made those people tick. I also found the chapters on Islam and Byzantium extremely informative, as well as the chapters that covered the establishment of nationlist monarchies and the achievements of the late Gothic period. All in all, I was hugely impressed by this great work and would recommend it to all but the few zany anti-religious types who probably would never get past the first chapter anyway. There is also wonderful medieval music here and the narrator, Charlton Griffin, is truly superb.

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68 of 72 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
1 out of 5 stars
By Vaughan on 02-15-11

A very good book ruined

I was housebound at the time and I was looking forward to learning something of my favourite historical period. I still have some text books from my youth, but this seemed likely to be more thorough and informative.

Unfortunately, and I have to say this, the reading was so appalling that it was difficult to absorb anything and having to continually 'rewind' an MP3 player was a frustrating exercise.

Part of the problem is that a book of this type does not lend itself to spoken cross references to narrative which has already been read or which appears later in the book. On the printed page this would be easy enough to follow but not so in an audiobook. This is one of those occasions where some care should have been taken to edit the book to make things easier for the listener.

I also regret that the narrators voice and quite unnecessary attempts to introduce 'drama' (I can only think that this is what he was trying to do) into the work was both irritating and unsuccessful.

I have given up on the audiobook and may now go to the library and borrow the printed work.

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

1 out of 5 stars
By John on 02-25-10

Reasonable book, ruined

Any audiobook is a game of two halves. The first part is the text written by the author and the second the narration.

The first part of this book is fine, well researched if a little pro-Western, pro-Church stand point. It is a little dated in places but otherwise excellent.

The downfall comes with the narration which at best sounds like Hugh Denis doing his best pompous voice but most of the time is dreadfully dull and precisely the tone that puts so many off history. At point one I really did wonder what was going on as he mispronounces even the simplest things dan-e-geld is actually dane-geld (gold paid to the Danes to go away). The patronising, condescending and frankly turgid tones were eventually enough even for me and I couldn't face the final part. My view is that it was a good book ruined. There are many good books on audible, this just isn't one of them. My advice, get Caesar's Legion instead and cracking book and an excellent narrator.

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13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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