• A World Lit Only by Fire

  • The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance: Portrait of an Age
  • By: William Manchester
  • Narrated by: Barrett Whitener
  • Length: 11 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Release date: 03-16-07
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • 4.0 (420 ratings)

Regular price: $20.97

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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.
©1979, 1980 William Manchester; (P)2007 Blackstone Audio Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"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

By Wallen on 02-28-09

Ruined by the narrator

Don't let yourself be fooled by the title of this book - it does not tell you anything about the middle ages and very little about the renaissance - it is focused on the years around 1500 AD. It deals with three basic topics - the downfall of papacy, Martin Luther and Magellan's circumnnavigation of the globe. In addition it is a rehash of what can read in any text book on the era. Nothing new is added and there is not a vestige of source criticism.
The worst thing about this book is, however, the narrator's complete lack of knowledge in the pronounciation of foreign languages. In a book abundant with names, places and quotations in Latin, German, French, Spanish - to name but a few of the langauges - it is a mystery to me why the publishers chose a narrator so inept in pronouncing even a single word correctly. I speak German and French fluently - and have a good understanding of Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, but I was at loss in understanding most of this narrator's efforts in reading the quotations in these languages. Instead of teaching me something of the period, it just made me laugh - I am sure this was not the author's intention.

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34 of 38 people found this review helpful


By Eric on 09-01-11

Ill informed and narrow

This book is written "entirely from secondary" or further removed sources and started as a preface to a book on Magellaen. It is Full of historical errors and bald suppositions touted as fact. They wore only wool, they used spices to hide the rotting food, peasants went around naked in summer, thought the world was flat, lived to be 25 and married at 9, the catholic church was horrible but the protesants were cool and enlightened (except for that whole antisemite thing)
So many errors that You would have to rewrite the book to list them all. author should hav seriously done some research or simply relied on Non-Victorian sources.
Don't Waste your Money. There are lots of good histories of the time period, this is not one of them.

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11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By markw on 04-02-07

Gets better

I just finished this. It starts with a catalogue, somewhat one-sided, of why the middle ages were a bad and brutal event in human history. I say somewhat one-sided, because I think Manchester falls into the camp that slightly under-rates the brutality and over-rates the civilising influence of the Romans. Manchester is however very good when he gets out of the mud of context and back onto the more easily navigated paths of narrative biography. His descriptions, in particular, of Luther and of Magellan (effectively the hero of this volume, though you'll have to wait till around two thirds of the way through to get to him) are both interesting and illuminating.

The book is read in something of a monotone - don't expect great theatrical declamations. But it is interesting and a worthwhile listen, and to be honest I'll probably now buy the printed book to read over.

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13 of 13 people found this review helpful


By Geoffrey O. on 05-26-16

Really great book was gripping from the beginning

I couldnt stop listening so had to loss a day to it I was so engrossed. the narration was excellent the subject so huge I will have to listen a few times to make any imprint on my somewhat diminished brain but will enjoy it everytime...

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Customer Reviews

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By Miss Amy V on 04-06-16

Absolutely loved this book!

Highly recommended for medieval history lovers. Good narrator and thoroughly researched down to fine details.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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