A World Lit Only by Fire

  • by William Manchester
  • Narrated by Barrett Whitener
  • 11 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

From tales of chivalrous knights to the barbarity of trial by ordeal, no era has been a greater source of awe, horror, and wonder than the Middle Ages. In handsomely crafted prose and with the grace and authority of his extraordinary gift for narrative history, William Manchester leads us from a civilization tottering on the brink of collapse to the grandeur of its rebirth, the Renaissance. The latter was a dense explosion of energy that spawned some of history's greatest poets, philosophers, and painters, as well as some of its most spectacular villains.


What the Critics Say

"An absorbing and readable history." (School Library Journal)
"Manchester provides easy access to a fascinating age when our modern mentality was just being born." (Chicago Tribune)
"Manchester has not forgotten the skills that, with invective, eloquence, and anecdote, make him a master storyteller."(Kirkus Reviews)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Biased and uninformative

I love learning about the middle ages and hoped that this book would paint a picture of "what life was really like." Instead, it drones incessantly about how debauched, violent, sex-crazed, and maniacal everyone was, especially the clergy. It contains chapter after chapter of horrifying anecdotes of pedophilia, incest, and unspeakable cruelty. Worst of all, the hysterical and unscholarly tone of the work strips all crediblity from the author, so that even if what he is saying is really representative of life during those times, I couldn't trust his reporting of it. I recommend skipping this work if you are actually interested in a balanced representation of the era.
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- Rob

Distorted and FIlled with Historical Erros

As an academic historian, I am appalled by the lack of historical accuracy and perspective supplied in this book. The author subjects his reads to the same tired historical misunderstandings that plagued 19th centruy historians who were trying to look back and come up with a history of different ages. AN uninformed reader of this work would leave it with the impression that scientific, cultural and social development had been completely arrested during this time period, and indeed that Europe had fallen into a world where death and destruction were the only companions. The contrasting richness of life during these times is completely ignored by the author.

As an example, the writer presents the "Catholic" faith as monolithic and all-controlling of life in middle ages Europe. The CHurch exhibited, in his view, a coordinated and sinister effort to keep civilization down. In truth, Christianity was responsible for much of the cultural development of Europe during this time, and helped to enhance many cultural variations and innovations. The author erroneously and continuously uses the term "Catholic Church" to describe the Latin Christian Church. The term "Catholic" was not used until after the Council of Trent in 1555, and was coined to differentiate between traditional Christians and Protestants during the Reformation.

Thus inaccuracy plagues the book. In another example, the writer characterizes both John abd Paul, two of the fathers of the early Latin Church as heavily influenced by Greek philosophy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Paul was a Jewish Pharisee, a man thoroughly trained in Jewish law that stood in stark contrast to Greek philosophical thought. John was a spiritual mystic and steeped in Jewish tradition. He was not in the mold of Pythagoras or Plato.

Let the reader (or listener) beware. This book is for anyone with a serious interest in the so-called "Dark Ages".
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- Sandy F

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-16-2007
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.