The fun continues. My brother and I disagree about both Miriam and Roland. I think it isn't quite believable that Miriam makes the perfect technologyThe fun continues. My brother and I disagree about both Miriam and Roland. I think it isn't quite believable that Miriam makes the perfect technology choices outside of her wheelhouse, biotechnology. My brother, a freelance journalist, thinks it is credible. He thinks Roland is out of a romance novel. I think he has been in DC too long. Olga and Brill continue becoming more interesting; they make a wonderful foil for how emotionally clueless Miriam can be. Her mother's emotional relationships were a pleasant surprise and I found the end really sad....more
What a tease! I have always been confused about the Dark Ages and have struggled to find books that would tell me about them. Who exactly were the MerWhat a tease! I have always been confused about the Dark Ages and have struggled to find books that would tell me about them. Who exactly were the Merovingians? What were the northern Europeans like? What was their religion? Did it involve bison, like in Guy Gavriel Kay's Sarantine Mosaic books? This book uses archaeology to begin to answer these questions, but frustrates me by not going all the way. Why did they throw swords into rivers? What did it mean? How are Christmas trees related to old European religions? If they were talking to the Middle East, were they still trading with the Middle East? What were they trading other than garnets? Peter Wells, you torment me!...more
How could a book with such an awesome title be so boring? Easy. The historian Archibald Lewis decided to write like a mathematician. He made claims anHow could a book with such an awesome title be so boring? Easy. The historian Archibald Lewis decided to write like a mathematician. He made claims and then left the details to the reader to figure out.
I am not a professional historian, but I know a fair bit about France and Japan. I have been to both countries at least twice and have read a fair bit about both places. I took four graduate credits in medieval Japanese history in order to satisfy a requirement for my math PhD(weird, I know, but we were required to take credits outside the math department). Undergrad, I took a course called 'Castles and Cathedrals', which focused on France, especially this era. In spite of this, I was lost for large sections of the book.
For example, one of Lewis' points is that both Japan and Northern France's local powers developed castles in order to avoid an entirely feudal system. The French started building motte and bailey castles, which were cheap if you could make the peasants do the work. What were the Japanese castles like? Were they cheap if you could force the peasants to do the work? Is that what happened? If not, why build the castles? He doesn't answer a single question.
In another part, he talks about how both France and Japan codified their systems, so that peasants no longer fought. This reduced social mobility. Was there social mobility before? Could you give us an example or story? Even if the peasants didn't have swords anymore, did that mean they didn't fight at all? Scythes are scary. You could kill people with those things!
Lastly, I had no idea there were plates in the book until the last couple pages. If you are going to have illustrations, reference them in the text.
This book may very well be brilliant for scholars. The comparison is apt and his arguments were compelling. I doubt that, even among professionals, there are many people who know enough about the medieval history of both Japan and northern France to understand this book. ...more
A beautiful set of short biographies of medieval thinkers, published as a modern version of an illuminated manuscript, that could have used an editor.A beautiful set of short biographies of medieval thinkers, published as a modern version of an illuminated manuscript, that could have used an editor. Some sections of this book educate in truly impressive ways. I studied art history and saw Giotto in person, but this book taught me why Giotto mattered. That is an impressive achievement. On the other hand, Cahill's thoughts on the world(and Catholicism) today intrude far too often on his reflections of earlier Catholic thought and institutions. The structure could have used some help, as well. The last chapter is supposedly about a bad ruler, but the man is not named until the last sentence of the chapter, and his deeds are left to the reader to research elsewhere. It is a pity that Cahill's editor did not prune the text, since it is an excellent introduction to medieval art and thought....more
I read this years ago, so I do not remember the book in great detail. I remember both that I enjoyed it and that chapters of it were a real slog. TheI read this years ago, so I do not remember the book in great detail. I remember both that I enjoyed it and that chapters of it were a real slog. The ending is fantastic, but do not be scared to skip the pages of lists. The writing is dense....more