The Civilization of the Middle Ages
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Civilization of the Middle Ages

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  1,159 ratings  ·  53 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)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken FollettThe Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoThe Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey ChaucerBeowulf by UnknownA Distant Mirror by Barbara W. Tuchman
Best Middle Ages Books
67th out of 719 books — 877 voters
John Adams by David McCullough1776 by David McCulloughTeam of Rivals by Doris Kearns GoodwinThe Guns of August by Barbara W. TuchmanThe Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer
Best History Books
232nd out of 1,224 books — 1,150 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,569)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Jennifer
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...more
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...more
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
Rhesa
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...more
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...more
John-andrew
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
Mel
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...more
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...more
Alex
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...more
Howard
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.
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).
mwr
Delightful read--Cantor has a historians wit (as the good ones do).
Themistocles
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...more
Melanie
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...more
Margaret
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
Angel
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...more
Boghall
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
Eileen
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
Katlady
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.
Jesús Rodriguez
A must read for any who are interested in this area of history!!!!! So many fantastic details; the Franks-the division with them the north and the south franks, constantine donation, the byzantine empire and there quest for survival among the many tribes, nations, and nomads; and the quest between the papal and the secular/monarch government to control the legacy of western europe and eventually all europe, and much much more. Highly recommended read.
Hannah
This book was very thorough and functioned as an excellent overview, while also providing me with new information, particularly about the evolution of the Catholic church.
However, it was also a little tedious, and it was very easy to get a little lost and confused as Cantor switched from country to country. This book is not meant for someone with little to no knowledge about the Middle Ages.
Sean Chick
I quit after the first error-ridden chapter, complete with sweeping generalizations. To be fair, Cantor made some good observations, such as the appeal of Stoicism and the continuity within the aristocratic way of life. But, while I know antiquity fairly well, I do not know the Middle Ages that well. I cannot risk reading such an uneven book when my knowledge is so incomplete.
Coinboy
This is a book I've had for years, and I finally picked it up, remembering that once, many years ago, I was a history major. It took a while to get through, being so densely packed with factual content on every page to absorb. But it was not a difficult read for an academic history book, entertaining to a geek like me!
Kevin
I was looking for something on the Crusades and this is the closest I got. Pretty dry. And repetitive. And I wanted more of the juicy stuff--crazy kings, horny popes. Instead long explications on Platonic thought and its impact on the theology. Pretty disappointing. I skipped a lot.
Taylor
Probably one of the best "survey" books on the Middle Ages. Just outstanding. The author really concentrates on the socio-political evolution of Europe throughout the time period and does a fantastic job explaining the "whys" as well as the "whats". Anyone interested in the period should read this.
AmblingBooks
Aug 17, 2012 AmblingBooks marked it as to-read
Shelves: audiobook, history
"No better explanation of medievalism is available to the general reader." � Booklist

Listen to The Civilization of the Middle Ages on your iPhone, desktop, or smartphone.
Kevin J. Rogers
This in an outstanding, concise history of the Middle Ages, written for the lay reader, yet packed with erudite observations on the mores, morals, politics, and passions of that most transitional of periods in human history. Entertaining, informative, and highly recommended.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 85 86 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Middle Ages
  • The Making of the Middle Ages
  • The Waning of the Middle Ages
  • Feudal Society, Volume 1
  • Life in a Medieval City
  • The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages, 400-1000
  • Medieval Civilization 400-1500
  • The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph & Diversity 200-1000
  • The Ties That Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England
  • The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade
  • The Civilization Of Europe In The Renaissance
  • A History of the Crusades, Vol. I: The First Crusade and the Foundations of the Kingdom of Jerusalem
  • Aristotle's Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Middle Ages
  • The Oxford History of Medieval Europe
  • The Hundred Years War: The English in France 1337-1453
  • 1066: The Year of the Conquest
  • The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History
  • The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy
26219
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
More about Norman F. Cantor...
In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made Inventing the Middle Ages Antiquity The Last Knight: The Twilight of the Middle Ages and the Birth of the Modern Era Alexander the Great: Journey to the End of the Earth

Share This Book