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A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th…

A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century (1978)

by Barbara W. Tuchman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Mirror of the Past (1)

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Many books in this style of the historical novel followed, but couldn't compete with this. This could be subjective since I was young then and hadn't started my history studies yet. ( )
  ToonC | Aug 19, 2014 |
A vivid and detailed look into a lost world. The major players are The Black Death, The Hundred Years War, the sick, uproarious joke of chivalric valor, The Papal Schism, ruinous taxation, serfdom, petty feudal institutions, the utter absence of reason among the so-called ruling classes, murderous vengeance, horrendous peculation, brigandry, the subjection of women, the sheer endless cruelty of mankind, crusade against the "infidel," and so on. A GR friend said that he was disappointed in this book because it did not offer the narrow focus and sleek thematic underpinnings of Tuchman's The March of Folly. I see his point. It should be noted, however, that Folly is a very different kind of book. Folly is a deft study of the almost systematic loss of rational method leaders experience once they are dazzled by the trappings of ultimate power. A Distant Mirror is a survey of a lost world. As such it brings before the reader an almost encyclopedic survey of the particulars of that time, a few major ones outlined above. Reading A Distant Mirror is like being in thrall to an endless film loop of natural disasters, pitiless murders, and roadside accidents. Tuchman brings order to this concatenation of relentless self-woundings so that try as we might we cannot look away. If there is only one book you read on the Middle Ages it might be this one. It is not for the squeamish or those afraid of the dark. It is not a light beach- or inflight-read. Highly recommended. ( )
  William345 | Jun 11, 2014 |
Tuchman's horrific 14th century. ( )
  schmicker | Apr 19, 2014 |
Tuchman is my ideal historian. She is self-taught, but she is also a natural for presenting historical narrative. As two Pulitzer prizes attest.

In this book she takes one (significant) noble family in France and tells the story of the effect of the Black Plague on Europe. In the process she integrates social, economic, military religious and political history into one whole. Will and Ariel Durant would have been proud!

I am not a medievalist, nor the son of one. So I will abstain from any attempt to evaluate her scholarship. But writing is something I know a bit about; if you care about your writing skills, read this book for a marvelous example of how to do it. ( )
1 vote KirkLowery | Mar 4, 2014 |
Dan Carlin mentioned this work in one of his podcasts on the age. Enthralling episode, as is this book.

It's still difficult to believe Tuchman was able to paint such a clear picture of people living back then. The amount of written accounts and first hand recordings are stunning. Really, it feels like this could have described something that occurred only 50 years ago. Tuchman did an excellent job with this title. ( )
  mortensengarth | Feb 16, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barbara W. Tuchmanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
May, NadiaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sliedrecht-Smit, J.C.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vries, S. deEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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" For mankind is ever the same and nothing is lost out of nature, though everything is altered. "

John Dryden
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The genesis of this book was a desire to find out what were the effects on society of the most lethal disaster of recorded history-that is to say, of the Black Death of 1348-50, which killed an estimated one third of the population living between India and Iceland.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345349571, Paperback)

In this sweeping historical narrative, Barbara Tuchman writes of the cataclysmic 14th century, when the energies of medieval Europe were devoted to fighting internecine wars and warding off the plague. Some medieval thinkers viewed these disasters as divine punishment for mortal wrongs; others, more practically, viewed them as opportunities to accumulate wealth and power. One of the latter, whose life informs much of Tuchman's book, was the French nobleman Enguerrand de Coucy, who enjoyed the opulence and elegance of the courtly tradition while ruthlessly exploiting the peasants under his thrall. Tuchman looks into such events as the Hundred Years War, the collapse of the medieval church, and the rise of various heresies, pogroms, and other events that caused medieval Europeans to wonder what they had done to deserve such horrors.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:28 -0400)

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The prize-winning historian traces the major currents of the fourteenth century, revealing the century's great historical rhythms and events and the texture of daily life at all levels of European society.

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