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Those Terrible Middle Ages: Debunking the Myths
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Those Terrible Middle Ages: Debunking the Myths

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  175 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
As she examines the many misconceptions about the "Middle Ages", the renown French historian, Regine Pernoud, gives the reader a refreshingly original perspective on many subjects, both historical (from the Inquisition and witchcraft trials to a comparison of Gothic and Renaissance creative inspiration) as well as eminently modern (from law and the place of women in societ ...more
Paperback, 179 pages
Published March 1st 2000 by Ignatius Press (first published 1977)
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Community Reviews

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Webster Bull
Jan 05, 2012 Webster Bull rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faith
We don’t take reality seriously. We don’t open our minds and hearts to the totality of experience. We accept certain preconceptions and plunge ahead blindly, shoving aside data that does not fit our “truths.” That is one of the points made by Msgr. Luigi Giussani in The Religious Sense, the focus of CL Schools of Community through much of 2011; and it is a central point in Régine Pernoud’s remarkable, short book of historical essays Those Terrible Middle Ages!

Nowhere is our refusal to follow fa
Le Secret des secrets. — Alain Chartier, Le Bréviaire des nobles.
Le Secret des secrets. — Alain Chartier, Le Bréviaire des nobles.

Régine Pernoud(1909-1998) est historienne française du moyen-âge, pardon, de l'époque médiévale. Dans ce livre écrit il y a quarante ans, un pamphlet vigoureux et enflammé, elle défend l'honneur de la matière qu'elle a étudié toute sa vie contre les préjugés et l'ignorance du tout venant, eux-mêmes enracinés dans ces idées générales que chacun répète parce qu'il les a entendues ou apprises à l'école. Le respo
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Jul 25, 2008 ♥ Ibrahim ♥ rated it it was amazing
Recommended to ♥ Ibrahim ♥ by: An Agnostic friend in Switzerland, Elias
Shelves: history-politics
This is one of the best books that have been written in response to those who like to put down the Middle Ages. Growing as a Muslim, I heard a lot of bashing of "those dark ages" and this book is the answer to the bantering of the Atheists as well as the Muslims in their hostility to Christianity.
Jacob Aitken
This book is an example of counter-history.

She is a Christian but also a rigorous French historian (was, she died). She explodes all the anti-Christ Enlightenment myths against the medieval period. Basically, in the worst case scenario a serf living under those mean kings (actually, he never felt the king's influence, but the local lord) he had more freedom than we ever dreamed of today.

She doesn't explicitly mention it, but i have noticd that much of the Establishment's hostility to the mediev
Miss Clark
The section on Feudal Society and Custom, as well as Women, were both really good.

Art: Its functional character and technical utility, far from harming the artistic quality, are its most obligatory supports; for art cannot be "added" to a useful object: it is born with it; it is the very spirit that animates, or else it does not exist. (speaking of a Romanesque capital)

motifs: ...but when the most humble trait, the most modest touch of colour signified another reality, enlivening a useful surfac
Rick Davis
Aug 11, 2014 Rick Davis rated it it was amazing
Author Régine Pernoud worked for years in the French National Archives dealing with documents from the Medieval period, and dealing with the ignorance of the majority of the populace concerning the Middle Ages. She shares one anecdote wherein she was giving an interview on Joan of Arc, her area of expertise. The interviewer asked her how we can know so much about the trial of Joan of Arc, to which Pernoud replied that we have the court records. The interviewer was astonished. “But then, they wro ...more
Jul 10, 2009 Harris rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This was an interesting book, though not what I was expecting. It was less a historical account of the Middle Ages and more a response to how modern culture views history. While Pernoud was writing from the perspective of France in the 1970s I don’t think things have changed too much or even that historical stereotypes are limited to the Middle Ages (though it still remains a rather looked down upon period, particularly in America). It is easy to see that Pernoud truly loves Medieval Europe, and ...more
Jan 15, 2014 Dallas rated it it was amazing
This was a serious study on the brilliance of the middle ages in Western Europe, which was great to get from a gallic apologist. I'm more used to an eastern approach at this point. The ending essay, which was a defense of teaching history. I loved the denial that man is a blank slate; Pernoud says that each of us comes with ancestry, heritage, and a story, and if we know nothing of these things, we are as impaired and limited as amnesiacs.
Jan 13, 2009 Daniel rated it it was ok
There's something lost in translastion. For instance:

"It was also in this period that musical language was worked out that would be used everywhere in the West up to our times" ???

It was a poor translation, and I was hoping the arguments would be more succinct.
Mary Catelli
Jun 13, 2013 Mary Catelli rated it it was amazing
A view of the myths about the medieval era, as believed in France. In 1977. Nevertheless has some things I recognize.

Though she's an academic, it's very informally written. Indeed, when comparing access to medieval French literature in France vs. in the United State, she take a moment to enthuse about the Dewey Decimal System, which let her find a book all by herself. (She comments that it was just beginning to be introduced into France.)

It goes through the myths by topic. The visual arts and li
Bich Lam
May 08, 2012 Bich Lam rated it really liked it
Great book if you are a history connoisseur like myself. I had to read this book for an assignment but found it very enjoyable and of course worthy of mentioning on goodreads. the author, Regine Pernoud, a famous 20th century French archivist and historian did a fantastic job "debunking" or arguing misconceptions historians overlooked or rather under looked regarding the middle ages. Her arguments embody the notion of feudalism, serfdom, gothic structures, women's rights, power of churches, alon ...more
Gary Ludlam
Sep 13, 2013 Gary Ludlam rated it really liked it
Fascinating book, though a little dry at times. This book turns many misconceptions about the middle ages on their head, and traces those misconceptions to the relatively self-congratulatory period of the enlightenment, putting both periods of history into new perspective. It shows us how not everything was worse in the middle ages, how some things deteriorated in the enlightenment, and even how the term "middle ages" is not really appropriate at all.
My only criticism comes in the areas of the C
Martin Moleski
May 27, 2014 Martin Moleski rated it really liked it
Primarily focused on French culture and education. There are lots of allusions that I could not understand. The basic thesis, though perhaps somewhat dated, seems sound: we tend to lump 1000 years of human history together as "the Middle Ages" so that we can pass over them with a few ill-chosen stereotypes, as if nothing important was said, thought, or done in that long period of history.

I am thinking of using the life of the Middle Ages (or some period during the Middle Ages) as a counterpoint
Dec 01, 2013 Tom rated it it was amazing
Not at all what I expected, but a very good book all the same for anyone who reads much in the way of history books. The author goes through various presumptions made by historians, and describes the methods and evidence that she's found that undermine some of those assumptions.
Mike Hacker
For all those fallicies that exist on those so called "Dark times," this is an excellent read to discover the Truth unvieled behind the the ages of the hieght within the Church-whether its the beauty of architecture or the ontological concept of being lived by the Christian.
Cristina Montes
Jan 31, 2010 Cristina Montes rated it really liked it
A bit hard to read, but for those who keep at it, it's an eye-opener about the Middle Ages and our modern prejudices against that historical period. The book debunks the notion that the Middle Ages were a backward age.
Victoria Haf
Apr 09, 2011 Victoria Haf rated it really liked it
Shelves: libros-que-amo
This book is great because it really changes the ideas you have in terms of Medieval Age, I now love this part of history in so many levels
Oct 25, 2008 Anthony rated it it was amazing
Read this book before you ever call anything "medieval" again.
✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)
Un livre passionnant, comme tous les écrits de Régine Pernoud.
Jul 01, 2015 Cynthia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I've seen a few reviews where people have complained that, despite the friendly title, it's really scholarly. Um -- yeah -- the writer was a renowned historian discoursing on her specialty, the Middle Ages. Probably not going to be breezy. That said, I loved it. I found the surprising and fascinating information was well presented and the writing style was educated but so enthusiastic as to be a delight to read.

And debunk she does. Pernoud reminds us that everything from the Gothic arch to print
Sep 01, 2013 Aga rated it it was ok
I couldn't get to the fourth chapter as I was falling asleep because of boredom. Maybe it was a matter of translation but I read better books on medieval history than this one. Like Zbigniew Herbert's Barbarian In The Garden, which a poetic transcription of his travels and deals with Middle Ages in some of the chapters in a more enchanting way.
Mar 06, 2013 Lauren rated it really liked it
Very dry, and at times almost boring, this book was absolutely worth reading. Pernoud brings to the surface issues of the Middle Ages that should not be ignored. It should be read by those who love history, even more so by those who have only an inkling of understanding the importance of the study of history.
Jan 23, 2012 Kara rated it it was ok
Shelves: lexicon

Its an interesting rant from a history teacher who has put up with one too many sophomores parroting back Hollywood "facts," but its also 40 years old and doesn't offer much besides giving this poor woman a chance to vent.
Sep 29, 2011 Brie rated it it was ok
So boring! This book shows it's age in how dry the author is in conveying the information and how repeatitive it is in the information it puts forth. Definitely a "Pass up this book if you see it" experience.
Jan 21, 2016 Christopher rated it liked it
This book is really good, really informative, setting the record straight. There are so many common misconceptions about the Middle Ages, and they just keep getting passed along from one generation to the next without any fact-checking. In fact, this book was published in the early 70s, and most of these are still going around. Probably they'll never be entirely corrected in the public mind because people aren't motivated to change. The fact is that most of the stuff that people think was so bad ...more
Charise D.
Apr 16, 2015 Charise D. rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone who ever says anything about the medieval period.
Recommended to Charise by: John C. Wright
In Those Terrible Middle Ages Regine Pernoud sets out to correct many common misconceptions about the roughly thousand-year period known as "The Middle Ages". The main thrust of her argument is this: That "The Middle Ages" have been wilfully misinterpreted up to our current day as a result of the prejudices against it formed in the Renaissance and carried on through what she terms "classical times" (ie the sixteenth century up to the nineteenth century), and a cultural bias in favor of classical ...more
Mar 10, 2015 anna rated it really liked it
A fascinating and informative book. Some of the early chapters were not quite what I expected. The one on the supposed 'Clumsiness and Awkwardness' was mostly about architecture, and the following on literature, which would not seem to be suggested by the title.
Also, as the book was originally written in French as is translated, some of the grammar and word syntax is a little dubious- though this does improve.

The later chapters, especially those on women and the controversial issue of religious
Jun 02, 2012 Lynn rated it really liked it
Shelves: reference
Apr 15, 2016 Mike rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, history
Not bad, but dated, insofar as a lot of reevaluation of the "middle ages" has been done since this was first written. The author is an academic and despite the title and brevity of this book, it is really not aimed at an amateur audience, so there are a lot of casual referneces to French historians of the early 20th century that I did not know.
But I did find a few very interesting insights here. First, much of the cruelest and most "barbaric" things about the medieval period come from the redis
Mar 18, 2016 Sarah rated it really liked it
Why oh why did the translator/editor choose such a cutesie title for this serious book? It's "Pour En Finir Avec le Moyen Age." Sheesh.
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Régine Pernoud (17 June 1909 in Château-Chinon, Nièvre - 22 April 1998 in Paris) was a historian and medievalist. She received an award from the Académie française. She is known for writing extensively about Joan of Arc.
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