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A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance: Portrait… (1992)

by William Manchester

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2,986643,835 (3.59)1 / 77
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, 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.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
Was really interested in this but was written in a pretty non accessible way.
  Luziadovalongo | Jul 14, 2022 |
A good account of the time from the Holy Roman Empire to the time of Magellan. Manchester give a good understanding of the Medieval times but perhaps makes the divide between reason and revelation too abrupt. He makes it out as being only one or the other. Not too different from the new atheists and old fundamentalist who try to present everything as black or white. There can be a balance as the French philosopher Ettien Gilson showed in his book, Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages. Otherwise a good work. He did a particularly good job of showing the corruption of the late medieval church. ( )
  MMc009 | Jan 30, 2022 |
A great read for someone who has forgotten most of world history she was taught some decades ago. The dark ages were very dark, most people were very violent, and you have to wonder how the Catholic Church survived. ( )
  Martha_Thayer | Jan 13, 2022 |
Manchester's excellent work endeavors to make a modern reader understand the medieval person, the world they lived in, their psychology, their daily life, their fears and concerns. He expertly details the differences between our modern world and theirs by doing a case study of a couple of specific periods, then moving the work into the Italian Renaissance to show the reader how incredibly shocking everything that happened in the 'exploration age' was.

He devotes the last third of his book to his fascination with Ferdinand Magellan, which wasn't exactly what I wanted, but it was still insightful, interesting, and educational. You could do fine not reading that section if you wanted a shorter read more specific to the medieval period, since the sheer length and detail of his Magellan section makes the rest of the book feel oddly like his long, detailed prologue intended to set the stage for how interesting he finds this one historical character.... who is not a likable character at all. I'm sorry, Manchester, I'm just not into conquistadors. ( )
  RNCoble | Mar 25, 2021 |
This is a pretty good book, but at best it's a distillation of portions of Arial (and William) Durants multi-volume work "The History of Civilization".

Dated stuff -- but still, good. I especially liked the stuff on the Borgia popes. ( )
  wickenden | Mar 8, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
"This is an infuriating book. The present reviewer hoped that it would simply fade away, as its intellectual qualities (too strong a word) deserved.... Manchester makes it clear in the early pages of this Portrait that he had never thought much about the Middle Ages.... Fair enough... But when this mind-set unfolds itself through some of the most gratuitous errors of fact and eccentricities of judgment this reviewer has read (or heard) in quite some time, one must protest."
added by Taphophile13 | editSpeculum, Jeremy DuQuesnay Adams (pay site) (Jan 1, 1995)
 
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Epigraph
Eine Kugel kam geflogen: Gilt es mire oder gilt es dir? Ihn hat es weggerissen; Er liegt mir vor den Fussen Als wars ein Stuck von mir.
Dedication
To Tim Joyner - Athlete - Comrade - Scholar - Friend
First words
The densest of the medieval centuries—the six hundred years between, roughly, A.D. 400 and A.D. 1000—are still widely known as the Dark Ages.
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Heroism is always deliberate, never mindless. (Page 287)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

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, 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.

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Book description
"A World Lit Only by Fire" (1992) became a New York Times bestseller and was praised for its lively storytelling in some journalistic reviews. Ron Grossman of the Chicago Tribune, for instance, wrote that “by taking readers along on Magellan`s voyage, Manchester provides them with easy access to a fascinating age when our modern mentality was just being born.”

Professional historians, however, have dismissed or ignored the book because of its numerous factual errors and its dependence on interpretations that have not been accepted by experts since the 1930s at the latest. In a review for Speculum, the journal of the Medieval Academy of America, Jeremy duQuesnay Adams remarked that Manchester’s work contained “some of the most gratuitous errors of fact and eccentricities of judgment this reviewer has read (or heard) in quite some time.” In particular, Adams pointed out that Manchester’s claims about diet, clothing, and medieval people’s views of time and their sense of self, all ran counter to the conclusions of 20th-century historians of the Middle Ages. Manchester’s views on the transition from medieval to modern civilization, though they were popular in the 19th and early 20th century (and still are current in some segments of contemporary culture), have long been rejected by professional scholars in the relevant fields. 

Source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_World_...
Haiku summary
Intriguing title.
The rest is tabloid fodder;
unsupported tripe.

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Hachette Book Group

2 editions of this book were published by Hachette Book Group.

Editions: 0316545562, 0316545317

 

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