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The Civilization of the Middle Ages

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  1,544 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Now revised and expanded, this edition of the splendidly detailed and lively history of the Middle Ages contains more than 30 percent new material.
Paperback, Revised/Expanded Edition of Medieval History, 624 pages
Published June 3rd 1994 by Harper Perennial (first published 1963)
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Jun 08, 2007 Jennifer rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Students who need to write a paper about the Middle Ages
A thorough if sometimes tedious book about medieval Europe. Cantor's scholarship is sound. His writing is accessible but not the easy-to-digest style he perfects in such later book as "In the Wake of the Plague" and "Antiquity."

I have two complaints.

First, there are no maps or photos of any kind and the book suffers because of it. Modern maps do not represent the heavily forested, mostly rural Europe of the Middle Ages. Photos of the documents produced by monks in the scriptoria would have been
Jacob Aitken
While most readers simultaneously love-hate Norman Cantor, even among his bitter critics he is considered a master in the field. In delineating the time frame of the middle ages, Cantor doesn't buck the standard trend that the Middle Ages began in the Barbarian invasions of Rome and ended in 1500. At the same time, though, he pleads for a hearing of other scholars' time lines (usally ending somewhere between 1200 and 1300).

It is difficult to analyze a standard survey work; most cover the same t
David Withun
I disagree with some of the conclusions that Cantor draws, I think that he a little too often states as fact what is really conjecture or a best-guess, and I wish that he had actually taken the time to give citations on many of his more controversial statements. In spite of these rather significant drawbacks, however, I was impressed with Cantor's work here. Though these flaws are not to be overlooked or lightly dismissed, I have not seen any work comparable with this one in its scope and style. ...more
William Ramsay
The book listed here is an update to the one I actually read, which is probably the book's first edition, purchased and first read in 1965. The reason I reread it is twofold; one I have been reading mostly mind candy thrillers and, two, I have always considered this one of my favorite books. It still is. Cantor was one of the pioneers of bringing the middle ages out of the dark ages. It's amazing the number of cultural foundations we take for granted that were begun in the middle ages - the univ ...more
Compelling reading and first class treatment of medieval civilization, the author painstakingly address every possible angle in the study of medievalism, from the influence of Greek, Judeo-Christian until Islam's culture that has formed and reformed the multiple faces of middle ages. Also he discuss the crusade factor in political middle ages and the contour of scholasticism that later gave birth to european enlightenment.

This book is simply a must , I wouldn't classify myself as cultured man un
Sabrina Spiher
May 26, 2007 Sabrina Spiher rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: History buffs
Let me start by saying that this book was a bit daunting. At 566 pages, it's not the longest book I've ever tackled by far, but it may be one of the densest. Every page was literally crammed with information.

I'm a big fan of the one-volume history. I like to know a little bit about everything, but I don't like to get too intensive about much. I also don't enjoy the overly scholarly. Cantor's *Civilization* is a pretty perfect fit for these criteria: his prose is very "readable" for someone basic
I'm re-reading this book because my own personal interest in Medieval Europe, since I'll be studying for my doctorate in the subject. Anyway, it's a solid, well-written, overview of Medieval Europe (one reviewer remarked that it's eurocentric, apparently oblivious to the fact that the book is specifically about European civilization). I'm still partial to Durant and primary source material, but this is a solid work packed with information. The dates for the Middle Ages vary, since certain countr ...more
Aug 12, 2013 Mel rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People with a serious interest in the middle ages only
I enjoyed reading this book but would only recommend it to people who have a serious interest in knowing about the Middle Ages and/or history nerds. (I sometimes can’t believe I was that person who hated history in high school and college since I love it now.)
Reading this behemoth of a book sucked up almost a month of my time and the pages are filled with notes, various scribblings and underlines. I am very glad I will not be tested on the subject as sadly I already know I am not going to retai
Charles Lewis
About a quarter of the way through and am thoroughly enjoying. I'm embarrassed that there is such a big gap in my knowledge about this period. What should have been obvious to me is that there can be no understanding of the Middle Ages, at least in Europe, without knowing the evolution of the Catholic Church post-Constantine.
One small complaint: why is the type so tiny! That's why more and more I'm buying books on Kindle. I love holding a book but I hate squinting for hours at a time. And yes I
Civilization of the Middle Ages by Norman Cantor

As general surveys go, this one was very entertaining and informative.

Cantor has divided this survey into twenty-one sections which makes this book much easier to read and digest. For example, section one deals with the development of the middle ages from antiquity. Section two introduces us to the foundations of the middle ages while section three discusses the years of barbarian invasions. And so on.

Cantor has an easy to read writing style and pr
A great introduction to the period. He's a cranky, cantankerous guy, and he doesn't hesitate to take swipes at other historians, but it's part of the entertainment. You'll get a thorough grounding in the all aspects of the time, both the traditional concerns of history, like wars and economics, but also lifestyles and particularly internal church history. Maybe not to everyone's taste, but if you like this sort of thing, well, you'll like it.
Justin Tapp
The Civilization of the Middle Ages: A Completely Revised and Expanded Edition of Medieval History
I learned too much to write about in detail from this sweeping book of Western European history from the Roman Empire to the Renaissance. It's a 5-star book. It begins with a brief look at the development of the Roman Empire, and how Romans adopted previous Mediterranean ideas. Cantor repeatedly returns to Greek and Roman works on philosophy and political science and their importance in the developm
Jason Reeser
I had never really enjoyed learning about this period in history, but when I picked up this book, it pulled me into the vast, complex story that is Europe's foundation. It makes our own recent history so much more understandable. The book was well written and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys broadening their knowledge of history.
Mike Anderson
Detailed and thorough exposition of the Middle Ages from the fall of Rome to the renaissance.
Lynn Weber
Every page is interesting (if you're interested in this kind of thing).
Delightful read--Cantor has a historians wit (as the good ones do).
I think I'll leave the stars for somebody else. I rather enjoy the college reading atmosphere as well as Cantor`s exhaustive research. I hit some hidden sand bars as I was sailing along over his deep historic seas. The first was when he hinted broadly at Jesus Christ treating prostitutes as his equals as signs that he had been intimate with them (her). Sorry, but a john doesn't treat a prostitute as an equal, and really, this is the Savior of the world we're talking about here, so thanks, Cantor ...more
I just finished "The Civilization of the Middle Ages" by Norman F. Cantor and it was pretty good. It is concise and to the point. It mentioned everything I wanted to know. I am not always sure if I was getting everything I needed to know but it was good nevertheless.

The author comes to conclusions rather than simply reciting facts. He called King Philip the IV of France simple-minded and that would explain many of the things he did during his reign.... like killing Pope Boniface VIII for exampl
While this book is very thorough, it's also incredibly dull. Cantor has a very dry writing style that can sometimes be a chore to get through. It reads like a textbook, reciting names, places and dates, but doesn't really do much to explore the civilization itself. It focuses on the important people, and largely ignores the regular citizens. So while it's a useful resource, it's not a particularly enjoyable one.
Cantor undertakes a huge project and manages to put together a book covering issues in three axes: in length (over a thousand years are covered), in width (most of Europe) and in depth. It's hard to even begin to put everything in order, so a body of work that manages to give an overall image of the period covered is simply amazing.

On the other hand, Cantor tends to focus quite a bit on kings and/versus church and, in doing so, gives the impression that the Middle Ages were all about knights, ki
I would have preferred to rate this book 3.5 stars. I enjoyed reading a broad overview of the period, which I believe to be the strength of this book. What I would also have preferred is less opinion from the author. Still looking for a well written, engaging, overview of the middle ages.
With an incredible display of knowledge of and command over the interpretation of events of the Middle Ages, Cantor has presented a highly readable book. For one thing he bravely gives us starting and ending dates for this period of history (400 - 1500), trusting that we will heed his reminder that events flow and overlap each other, and the start and end of a century as well.

Cantor has been criticized for writing sweeping statements and he does. He also does not provide footnotes which might he
Wow. Dense and jam packed with information, and a little scattered in the beginning chapters. I had to print out a few maps I found online just to help me follow the complex and somethmes vaguely described events (invasions, battles, pilgrimages, etc.). But I am committed to finishing, as I find this period of history fascinating and have enjoyed other books by this author.
Ok, just finished. It took me months. A very difficult read. Focus is mostly on the politics of the time period. Exhausti
Jackson Cyril
This work dispels the annoyances one experiences in other works of Medieval history; namely that they focus exclusively on the political story and end up being just a list of the names. Dr.Cantor's history departs from this in that it focuses a great deal on the vibrant cultural, intellectual, societal and economic changes -- without neglecting a considerable amount of space to the political and papal history of the age-- that Europe underwent in the period between the decline of the Western Emp ...more
This is a very good, though at times very dense, book on the Middle Ages. I chose it for homeschool reading based on recommendation in Susan Wise Bauer's The Well-Trained Mind. I did not hand this one off to my kids - I'm sure many high schoolers could engage with it but we used it as a read-aloud/discussion book. The sections on philosophy were a bit much for my kids (and for myself, to be honest). But they got a good introduction to the times, and the book provided some anchor points for futur ...more
Another title I am recalling from my look at previous journals. Here are some impressions at the time:

>>I have learned about the cultural climate of the Middle Ages. Particularly interesting is the monastic movement's development as it applies to the Church's gradual rise to power. In History class (I was teaching high school at the time), we recently studied the early Christians, and Cantor places our studies in context. Some of the book will be helpful. The book itself is interesting an
Lengthy, authoritative and worthwhile summary of the evolution of (European) civilization from 400 to 1500. Certainly comprehensively filled in a yawning gap in this non-historian's awareness of the turbulence currents of the dark ages. A small but inadequate section late on partially addresses the lives of ordinary people, but in general it suffers from the Great Man theory - the idea that history can be explained through the stories of leaders alone. In this case, that's the frequently self-in ...more
Christina Maria
This is one of my favorite books on the middle ages. You get a broad overview of the era and more detail on various issues, a sense of how everything developed, as well as beginning focused on how the middle ages were influenced by the time before it.

Not one to read if you're more interested in specific people and events; Cantor's weaknesses are definitely are on the microscale. But if you want to get into "the medieval mindset", this book is a good place to start. (if you can find interest in
It's very, very hard to cover "the middle ages" in a book this short (566 pgs). So far I think things are going well. Cantor definitely assumes you are reading the book straight through instead of picking out the chapters on your topic of choice. I found that out by reading all the chapters on development of church authority, being mildly confused, then starting over from the beginning. Things made much more sense once I knew what the Gelasian doctrine was and could tell the difference between M ...more
As an overview of this time period, and with my having zero prior knowledge, this is a great place to start. I found myself wanting much more detail in many areas, as I felt as I was simply on a timeline capturing many of the high points as I went along. And there are tons of them. Also, without a single map of the area I was confused at times by who went where and where they came from. But I am inspired to know more which is probably the best indicator of a good book. On to Barbara Tuchman.
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Born in Winnipeg, Canada, Cantor received his B.A. at the University of Manitoba in 1951. He went on to get his master's degree in 1953 from Princeton University and spent a year as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford. He received his doctorate from Princeton in 1957 under the direction of the eminent medievalist Joseph R. Strayer.

After teaching at Princeton, Cantor moved to Columbia Univ
More about Norman F. Cantor...
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