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The Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval Europe (1988)

by George Holmes

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1,108615,304 (3.7)1
This richly illustrated book tells the story of Europe and the Mediterranean over a thousand years which saw the creation of western civilization. Written by expert scholars and based on the latest research, it gives the general reader the most authoritative account of life in medieval Europe between the fall of the Roman Empire and the coming of the Renaissance. The story is one of profound diversity and change: the political empires of Charlemagne or the Byzantines, contrasting with the new nations which fought the Hundred Years War; the expression of religion in the great monasteries and cathedrals, and in the ideals of ecclesiastical poverty and reform; the mixed ambitions of the Crusades; the cultural worlds of chivalric knights and heroic romance, popular festivals, and the realism of the new arts; economic expansion and social catastrophe, such as the Black Death. The authors describe both the strange and the familiar. We have endured nothing comparable to the vast upheavals of migration and new institutions of the Dark Ages between 400 and 900. Consequently the new attitudes and ways of life that grew up from 900 to 1500 around the cathedrals and universities, the royal courts and commercial cities, remain central in modern societies. Our towns and villages, the nation state and democratic forms of government, our commerce and banking, our university courses, our novels and history books, our concern with the relationship between physical and spiritual realms-all had their origins in the medieval world. The six chapters in this book are divided between the Mediterranean world and northern Europe to show the movement of the centre of gravity in European life from the Mediterranean to the north. The authors explore the contrast between Byzantine and Renaissance cultures in the south and the new, complex political and social structures of north-west Europe, which by 1300 had the most advanced civilization the world had ever seen. Over two hundred illustrations, including twenty-four colour plates, amplify the text; and the picture is completed with comprehensive reference material in maps, genealogies, a chronology, lists of further reading, and a full index including personal dates.… (more)
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A robust exploration into the history of Western and Central Europe from 400-1500.

The book features multiple authors and is divided by both geographical areas and time: timeframes are 400-900, 900-1200, and 1200-1500, and two main geographic areas are explored: northern Europe (meaning British Isles, France, Germany, and Poland and Hungary as they develop) and the Mediterranean (meaning Spain, Italy, and the Byzantine Empire).

All major trends and events are profiled but not all are covered in detail; the book is very general, as is necessary for a topic of such breadth. Nevertheless, the reader is given an understanding the developments of history over this 1100 year period, to learn of the importance of that period, and to appreciate how the medieval experience and its major events and challenges have shaped the modern world and its belief systems.

Highly recommended. ( )
1 vote deusvitae | Sep 4, 2015 |
A decent road-map to the economic, political and social changes that transformed the Roman Empire and it's northern frontiers into Modern Europe. ( )
2 vote Brendan.H | Jul 21, 2013 |
FURTHER READING; CHRONOLOGY; INDEX; ILLUSTRATIONS
1 vote | saintmarysaccden | Apr 16, 2013 |
Group L
  gilsbooks | May 17, 2011 |
Good, if you like history -- even then, it's kind of dry. It is a very dense text, and there's an awful lot of it -- so you don't have to worry about it being thorough enough, because it is.
2 vote littleredcow | May 24, 2010 |
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This richly illustrated book tells the story of Europe and the Mediterranean over a thousand years which saw the creation of western civilization. Written by expert scholars and based on the latest research, it gives the general reader the most authoritative account of life in medieval Europe between the fall of the Roman Empire and the coming of the Renaissance. The story is one of profound diversity and change: the political empires of Charlemagne or the Byzantines, contrasting with the new nations which fought the Hundred Years War; the expression of religion in the great monasteries and cathedrals, and in the ideals of ecclesiastical poverty and reform; the mixed ambitions of the Crusades; the cultural worlds of chivalric knights and heroic romance, popular festivals, and the realism of the new arts; economic expansion and social catastrophe, such as the Black Death. The authors describe both the strange and the familiar. We have endured nothing comparable to the vast upheavals of migration and new institutions of the Dark Ages between 400 and 900. Consequently the new attitudes and ways of life that grew up from 900 to 1500 around the cathedrals and universities, the royal courts and commercial cities, remain central in modern societies. Our towns and villages, the nation state and democratic forms of government, our commerce and banking, our university courses, our novels and history books, our concern with the relationship between physical and spiritual realms-all had their origins in the medieval world. The six chapters in this book are divided between the Mediterranean world and northern Europe to show the movement of the centre of gravity in European life from the Mediterranean to the north. The authors explore the contrast between Byzantine and Renaissance cultures in the south and the new, complex political and social structures of north-west Europe, which by 1300 had the most advanced civilization the world had ever seen. Over two hundred illustrations, including twenty-four colour plates, amplify the text; and the picture is completed with comprehensive reference material in maps, genealogies, a chronology, lists of further reading, and a full index including personal dates.

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