The millennium between the breakup of the western Roman Empire and the Reformation was a long and hugely transformative period - one not easily chronicled within a single volume. Yet distinguished historian Chris Wickham has taken up the challenge in this landmark book, and he succeeds in producing the most riveting account of medieval Europe in a generation.
Tracking the entire sweep of the Middle Ages across Europe, Wickham focuses on important changes century by century, including such pivotal crises and moments as the fall of the western Roman Empire, Charlemagne's reforms, the feudal revolution, the challenge of heresy, the destruction of the Byzantine Empire, the rebuilding of late medieval states, and the appalling devastation of the Black Death. He provides illuminating vignettes that underscore how shifting social, economic, and political circumstances affected individual lives and international events. Wickham offers both a new conception of Europe's medieval period and a provocative revision of exactly how and why the Middle Ages matter.
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Obscure language, excellent otherwise
While the book is well-researched and neatly organized, its significant shortcoming is the overly complex language used for the sake of complexity itself. Sometimes the language makes it really hard to see "the forest behind the trees" and understand the original thought of the author. For example, instead of "corruption" it is "the culture of giving money in the hope of getting favors in return" and there are numerous other examples of such sophistry.In this regard the author is a bit similar to the famous Greek historian Polybius, whose histories were really one of a kind once you get past the elusive language of the author and start seeing the flawless logical analysis of the events. Unfortunately, back in the time not everybody would have enough patience to decipher the meaning hidden behind complex grammatical forms and most of his history works were eventually lost as a result.I think the point of using the language and professional terms is not to make books sound more sophisticated and academic, but rather to skillfully illuminate the ideas presented and put them into the right context. I am not sure that this book always succeeds in doing that.But if you manage to get past through the obscure language and get to the point then this book will not disappoint.
- Anton Ivanov
not for me.