Middle Ages, The
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Middle Ages, The

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  418 ratings  ·  37 reviews
An historical summary of the middle ages.
Paperback, 350 pages
Published February 15th 1986 by Mariner Books (first published 1968)
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LeAnn
Apr 01, 2010 LeAnn rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to LeAnn by: Amazon reviews
Morris Bishop's highly readable survey of The Middle Ages condenses a thousand years of history often dismissed for its darkness, violence, and superstition and incorrectly portrayed as an unfortunate chasm between the glory of ancient times and the Renaissance that drew on a renewed interest in the classics.

Bishop's survey, unlike Asimov's histories, covers the period thematically rather than chronologically. For a span of time that includes the Dark Ages when much of what was written was eithe...more
Ben
Jul 08, 2009 Ben rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: history
Like your British grandfather telling stories by the fire. There are no notes or references, so who knows how accurate this is, but Bishop's a good storyteller.
Hayward Chan
Before buying this book, set your expectation straight: it isn't an event-driven history book with details about every war and political change. It's about life and the state of the art throughout the middle ages. Historical events are included only if they help making the point.

Knowing that it is an old book, I find it surprising readable. Granted, I need to look up the dictionary every now and then (English is my second language and I am not a liberal arts major), but the narrative is fluent a...more
adrienne
easily readable, but completely lacking footnotes/references/bibliography, even for the most simple of things like a king's birth date. Where he uses quotations, he notes the person who (supposedly?) made the statement, but not where he actually found the citation.
good for a beginner book or a pleasure read, but i could never recommend using this as a reference for anything serious; it would rank, at absolute best, as a tertiary source.
given 3 stars because it is an enjoyable read, if one is l...more
Sam
Why do I rate a dry history book so high? Because it’s not dry at all it’s very interesting and engaging. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself talking about its details with friends and family. This book exemplifies Bill Cosby’s cartoon admonition if you’re not careful you might learn something.
Samantha S.
If you are even remotely interested in the Middle Ages, this book is quite the find. Bishop's writing is clear, accessible, detailed and very funny. A solid primer on a strange age
Colleen Browne
Bishop's book is a good tertiary source on the middle ages but I would classify it as a commentary rather than a history. The narrative is lively and Bishop's wit makes it an enjoyable read. It would perhaps be a good "first book" for anyone interested in the Middle Ages. However, there are several weaknesses, some of which have been mentioned by other reviewers that make it a less than reliable. The lack of footnotes, endnotes, and bibliography is something that would not be tolerated from a h...more
Tom Kenney
This book gives a very solid overview of the Middle Ages, however that serves as its biggest weakness as well. Because it is so general, it left me wanting to learn more about specific topics. In addition, it was difficult to keep track of of the key moments and figures of the time period because it was such a broad span of time. Lastly, again due to the generality of the book, often it felt like merely a stream of consciousness delivered by Morris, rather than a well-organized description or na...more
Cormacjosh
Comprehensive yet concise, and it has pictures !

This gift from my co worker ( on the occasion of Christmas 2004 )was read in part during Pennsic War xxxiv.
Rob
This book offers a good overview of the Middle Ages without being simplistic or reductive. Captures the contradictions of the Middle Ages-- a time contradictory enough to serve as an inspiration for both hippies and fundamentalists. St. Francis talked to animals, loved the sound of the lute, and embraced nature as whole-heartedly as a Deadhead on acid. Yet, had St. Francis believed any number of minor deviations from orthodoxy, he would have been tortured and killed in ways Wes Craven couldn't e...more
Ellen
Loved it! A perfect lay (non-academic) introduction. Wise, witty, compelling writing.
Alex Yepiz
This is not an "academic" book, despite it being written by an academic. The first 100 pages quickly summarizes the end of the Roman Empire, then the "Dark Ages." It then gives a brief and really undetailed account of the Middle Ages. After this, it is mostly a social history of how people lived, and how each class of people behaved. The book reads more like it was written for Jr high school students.

I would state that this reads more like a commentary of the period than a history. I wouldn't s...more
Mark
This is the second book on the Middle Ages that I have read, this one being the easier read. The book is divided into "classes". That is, the chapters review the different levels of society that was found in the middle ages.
Bishop, while not overly thorough, is interesting, and this book is a good introduction. The Discoverers is rather long, but much more thorough, covering a broader range of time. It would be a great follow up to Morris' book
Matthew
This book was an excellent introduction to life in the Middle Ages. The prose style of the author is fun and really adds to the experience of reading the history. I appreciated the fact that the book focused on the peasantry just as much, if not more, as the nobles. It covers basically everything from labor to religion to art and literature. I highly recommend this book to any history buffs or even fans of medieval themed fantasy.
Rachel
A really great overview of the middle ages. Read mostly like a fiction with interesting anecdotes and stories along the way. Definitely not the best for people who want a really detailed account of the time period, but for covering basically the 700s-1400s it had a lot of great knowledge. It broke down what life would be like in the middle ages by group: Noble, peasant, town-dweller, clergy, etc. Very readable.
Dray
I've noted a few places where the scholarship seems very out of date, but in general I agree with his take of the middle ages and I can appreciate his love of literary figures and his attempt to assert some additional centrality of Petrarch to the medieval mentality. In general, he gave an excellent idea of the essence of the middle ages, and did well to dispel the myth of the dark ages having been truly dark.
Roberta
It was definitely a good solid primer on the Middle Ages. It didn't go into great detail about anything, but it did hit various topics such as royalty, nobility, merchant class, clergy, peasants, art, architecture, and intellectual movements. The book gets 3 stars because it took me over a week to read it, and I kept falling asleep. It wasn't a bad book, and all that, but didn't catch my interest like I expected.
Fox
This was a very nice, fairly comprehensive view of the whole Middle Ages. The book was divided into very helpful chapters, each detailing a different aspect of life: i.e. Religion, Art, the peasants life, the noble's life, the knight's life, etc.

While the book was dense, that was only because it held so much useful information. A very great guide to an overview of that time period.
Themistocles
For a book trying to cover half a continent over a span of centuries while dealing with all aspects of its civilisation (religion; everyday life; arts; sciences; politics; diplomacy; military; etc), this small book does a surprisingly good job. It's a real page-turner, neever boring, always revealing and often amusing. Highly recommended.
Vanessa Baroña
This book is worthwhile reading. Lots of refreshing information and ideas about the middle ages that is very helpful for me majoring History. It is humorous and well written. This book is a very good introduction for those who wanted to know what middle ages is all about. Glad I choose this as my book review in one of my History subjects. :)
Russ
This survey of the middle ages begins with a chronological outline which may serve as a helpful guide for further investigation, but then lapses into generalities in chapters about aspects of medieval life (battle, trade, lives of knights, peasants, clergy, etc), which despite being general were nevertheless interesting in parts.
Thom Dunn
Check out the iconographic Ebstorf World Map just before the title page. Christ's head, feet and hands at the four main compass points suggest the World as the Body of Christ, Jerusalem, his heart, and so on. An amazing visual allegory.
This entertain volume could be titled My Little Golden Book of the Middle Ages.
Richard
Dec 13, 2008 Richard rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in that time and place
This book gives a lot of details about life in Europe during the Middle Ages (from about 450 AD to about 1450 AD). It has a number of pictures, extensive endnotes and bibliography. Highly recommended to those interested in that time period.
John Ryan
Aug 22, 2007 John Ryan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anybody
This book is so awesome. You would think it would be really dry and borrrrrrrrrring. But Bishop includes the most twisted details of life in the Middle Ages (cutting people in half, priests' wives lynching a bishop, etc.). Very entertaining.
Rosemary Lauryn
Very good source and informative of every day life and what times were like. The voice seems to disdain or at least dismiss the people of faith as silly at times, but it is clearly overall thorough scholarship.
Don
This is a good, relatively short overview of the period, written in an enjoyable, highly readable style. Bishop wrote this in 1968; I don't know enough about the period to know whether it is out of date.
Holly
This was readable and fair especially in its treatment of Catholicism. In general, a brief overview of Middle ages early, middle and high.
Margaret
This is an outstanding overview of the Middle Ages. Charming and easy to read, a true living history book.
Jeremiah Atencio
I liked it a lot, but you probably have to be a die hard history nut like me to enjoy it.
Nicole
If you even have a passing interest in the subject, you should read this book.
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