Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Civilization of the Middle Ages” as Want to Read:
The Civilization of the Middle Ages
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Civilization of the Middle Ages

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,813 Ratings  ·  72 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.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Civilization of the Middle Ages, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Civilization of the Middle Ages

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken FollettThe Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoThe Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey ChaucerWorld Without End by Ken FollettBeowulf by Unknown
Best Middle Ages Books
65th out of 910 books — 1,168 voters
John Adams by David McCullough1776 by David McCulloughThe Guns of August by Barbara W. TuchmanTeam of Rivals by Doris Kearns GoodwinThe Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer
Best History Books
235th out of 1,794 books — 1,773 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jun 08, 2007 Jennifer rated it liked it
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
Jun 10, 2012 David Withun rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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
Feb 08, 2016 Lora rated it it was ok
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
William Ramsay
Oct 08, 2009 William Ramsay rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 20, 2009 Rhesa rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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 liked it
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
May 23, 2012 John-andrew rated it liked it
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 really liked it
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
Dec 06, 2014 Charles Lewis rated it liked it
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
Russell Robinson
I have mixed feelings about the book. This is one of those cases where the authors know a lot about his area but then he extends himself into other areas where I can tell you for a fact that he is simply not correct about thigns he states. Interestingly enough I discovered on amazon people who come from different backgrounds than myself saying EXACTLY THE SAME THING!! Ha! How do you like that?! That made me feel better because they were complaining about the same thing I was and in asimiliar man ...more
Gregory Weber
Aug 18, 2015 Gregory Weber rated it liked it
I had fond memories of the Civilization of the Middle Ages but, much like Jurassic Park, it just doesn’t hold up to repeat viewings. I guess I was expecting knights in shining armor and damsels in distress, but what I got was a three-tiered feudal culture struggling with the interaction between church and state.

Really, I should have known better. I mean, the average life expectancy in 1200 A.D. was thirty years. A lot of the kings were teenagers when they took over. When you’re seventeen you’re
T.J. Radcliffe
Jun 09, 2015 T.J. Radcliffe rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Norman Cantor comes close to the standard set by Michael Grant for semi-popular history. Like Grant, he's expert at moving between abstract synthesis and particular detail. His history lives and breathes, but it isn't just one damned thing after another. There are causes and effects, however obscurely recognized by ourselves and even moreso by the people of the time.

He starts in the Late Roman period and takes his own sweet time getting the period we normally think of as "the Middle Ages" (say b
Sep 08, 2014 Jc rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 26, 2008 Howard rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 08, 2014 Justin Tapp rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 02, 2010 Jason Reeser rated it really liked it
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.
Erik Graff
Aug 19, 2013 Erik Graff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Medievalists
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
A good, well written, popular history of Medieval Europe later expanded and updated as The Civilization of the Middle Ages. The text would be suitable for an introductory undergraduate course.
Mike Anderson
Jan 07, 2011 Mike Anderson rated it it was amazing
Detailed and thorough exposition of the Middle Ages from the fall of Rome to the renaissance.
Lynn Weber
Mar 18, 2011 Lynn Weber rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Every page is interesting (if you're interested in this kind of thing).
Sep 06, 2015 no rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A proper primer (or my faves) introduce arguments rather than subjects, discourses rather than just dates. Cantor's survey is shot through with cask-strength opinion, so recommended as much as beginners (or experts looking to unwind and quibble) can spot Cantor's more problematic characterizations. Like, Cantor's content considering Anglo-Saxon England a cultural backwater after Bede, yet what of Alfred or the Anglo-Latin tradition in England under Benedictine reform? Or, oh man, Cantor's freewh ...more
Jul 19, 2013 mwr rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pre-30-s, history
Delightful read--Cantor has a historians wit (as the good ones do).
Sharon Miller
Mar 22, 2016 Sharon Miller rated it really liked it
This following blog or meditation is entirely a personal reaction and not much of a formal review. Oh my goodness this book. It took me forever to finish. Note to self, don't read dense sweeping History over the holidays, or when a bit overwhelmed. This book challenged my concentration and while reading it I really didn't read anything else. Well, A handful of romance novels and some Nancy Drew, but does that count? Anyway...The book boasts that "no better explanation of medievalism is available ...more
Dec 25, 2014 Alex rated it liked it
Shelves: history
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
Jul 27, 2014 Tiamatty rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
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.
May 05, 2009 Themistocles rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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.
Jun 26, 2014 Marilaine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 13, 2010 Melanie rated it really liked it
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Making of the Middle Ages
  • The Middle Ages
  • The Waning of the Middle Ages
  • Feudal Society, Volume 1
  • Life in a Medieval City
  • The Civilization Of Europe In The Renaissance
  • The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph & Diversity 200–1000
  • The Ties That Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England
  • Aristotle's Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Middle Ages
  • The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages, 400-1000
  • 1066: The Year of the Conquest
  • Medieval Cities: Their Origins and the Revival of Trade
  • The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History
  • The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade
  • A Short History of Byzantium
  • A History of the Crusades, Vol. I: The First Crusade and the Foundations of the Kingdom of Jerusalem
  • The Hundred Years War: The English in France 1337-1453
  • The Black Death
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...

Share This Book