These 36 lectures tell the remarkable story of a tumultuous thousand-year period in the history of England. Dominated by war, conquest, and the struggle to balance the stability brought by royal power with the rights of the governed, it was a period that put into place the foundation of much of the world we know today. As you journey through this largely chronological narrative - occasionally interrupted for lecture-long explorations of specific topics - you'll see key themes emerge, including the assimilation of successive waves of invaders, the tense relationship between kings and the nobility, and the constant battles over money and taxation. And because so much of history is driven by specific individuals and not just historical circumstance, each lecture is rich in intimate portraits that reveal those individuals at the key moments of their historical destiny, including Alfred the Great, William the Conqueror, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and John Wycliffe.The result is a lecture series that winds up being not only informative but deeply entertaining, with each lecture drawing you in with its own particular fascinations, including a probing look at the scope of the Black Death, a realistic examination of the legends of both King Arthur and Robin Hood, a riveting description of the Battle of Bosworth Field, and a discussion of the surprisingly nuanced penalties of the early Germanic law codes.
These lectures consistently deliver a fresh level of understanding about medieval England, its rulers and subjects, and their significance for the world we live in today. The chain of theme and event that links our world to theirs will never be clearer, rewarding every moment you spend with this series.
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I'm sad it's over!
I can't answer this question because it's just . . . different. I'm a literary fiction person, and I've tried to get into historical texts before with little success (I know it's sacrilege, but I stopped part way through 1776). I've had some success with biographies.
This was my first attempt at a Great Courses program, and I picked it up because I had just read Pillars of the Earth (and, side note, READ THAT), and I couldn't get enough of Medieval England. The complexities really drew me in. So I somewhat reluctantly downloaded this program and had one of those glorious experiences where I couldn't unplug. I've reorganized my entire home and office to have some excuse to keep listening.
History has always been tough for me because I'm not a great linear thinker, but Paxton really helped with her guideposts at the beginning and end of each lecture, as well as at the beginning and end of the series. I can't say enough good things about this lecture. I keep bringing it up in my real life.
I didn't think I'd have a good experience with lecture series (though lectures have always been my favorite part of school--related to the fascination with audiobooks), but I am so enamored with this one that I'm moving on to the Ancient Egypt lecture. If you're hesitating, don't. Paxton is a great storyteller and keeps you engaged throughout.
I love how much Paxton loved the wife of Bath. She is audibly exited to talk about her, an as an amateur Chaucer scholar (read: I took a course once), I got a kick out of her discussion.
- Claudia Murray
I was happily surprised!
This lecture series is hard to compare to other audiobooks, but I've greatly enjoyed listening to it. The story is fascinating, and Professor Paxton delivers a very intelligently crafted story that ties in all the major historical events in England. It provides a real sense of depth while still being quickly paced and simply stated.
I really enjoyed how this story lays out the events and people so it is easy to follow as you move from beginning to end. Sometimes it felt like there was a lot of trivial information, but it usually came back around to play a larger role. Because of how the story was organized it never got boring or too dry.
Reading something like this can sometimes seem like something that should be reserved for academics, but having Professor Paxton narrate the story brought energy to an otherwise dry tale. There is very little indication that she's actually reading anything at all, so the overall sense is like you're just being told a story by someone who knows A LOT about this stuff. I would have never been able (or even wanted) to get through all of this information without an energetic voice to guide me through it.
I was initially concerned when I downloaded the audiobook that I wouldn't be able to sit and listen to someone drone on and on about ancient history. I didn't want to be buried in all the names of lords and kings and various locations of interest. I was pleasantly surprised that the delivery of the information was so lively compared to what I was expecting.
There are obviously going to be a lot of names and places in a story like this, but they are only mentioned as far as their relevance will allow. Trying to fit the whole history of Medieval England into one volume is a daunting task, and this book does a great job of trimming the fat.