Had to read and review this for my history class, so I'll just paste my essay below. ;)
In Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Cent...moreHad to read and review this for my history class, so I'll just paste my essay below. ;)
In Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, Ms. Tuchman explains that she chose to write the book because of her fascination with the Black Death of 1348-50. As her curiosity for the outbreak grew, Ms. Tuchman realized it was more than just the plague itself which caused such a violent and tortuous period of time, and some even believed it was “Satan triumphant” (xiii). To narrow such a vast age, Ms. Tuchman wanted to write from one perspective. The point of view from whom she chose was that of Enguerrand de Coucy VII, “last of a great dynasty and ‘the most experienced and skillful of all the knights of France’” (xv). He was noble, yes, but he was not a king or queen, and he definitely was not a commoner. This placed Coucy at correct spot for Ms. Tuchman to study what really happened during that era.
For the first seven chapters, Barbara Tuchman takes the reader on a journey through time and what events took place before Enguerrand de Coucy VII appears in history. We, as the readers, are able to see who marries whom in the royal courts, what wars raged on, as well as whose kingdoms crumbled beneath their feet. Ms. Tuchman even examines the castle in which the Coucy dynasty lived—from the surrounding countryside to the scale of its stateliness. The Coucy castle was in a perfect position. Formidable foes could be seen well in advance, time enough that Coucy was ready and waiting for their attack. But also from the castle, the Coucys married royalty, departed for crusades, were convicted of crimes, and desecrated the Church.
Enguerrand de Coucy VII lived from 1340 to 1397, during the strongest period of turmoil in the Middle Ages. He lost his mother to the plague, married the eldest daughter of the King of England, played a role in every public drama of his time, and became a patron of a contemporary chronicler, Jean Froissart. Had he not done the latter, we would virtually know nothing about him.
Since Coucy was a knight and chivalry was their code, Ms. Tuchman delved into the problems that arose when there wasn’t chivalry anymore, when those that were there to benefit the people all but abandoned them. Everything became corrupt—the people, the lifestyle, the kingdoms, the Church. The people (or commoners) were without those who once fought for them. After men straggled home from crusades and war, they pillaged homes, even as the people tried to keep up with constant oppression and high taxes. The Church cared more about the balance of power between earthly kingdoms rather than what they should have focused on—their faith and those struggling to survive in the dark epoch. Those of nobility challenged each other in a never-ending game of who had the most alliances. And all the while war and plague moved to the forefront.
Because of the blow to social structure, the Black Death had an effect on the Catholic Church as well, which resulted in a widespread prosecution of Jews, foreigners, beggars, etc., since they were thought to be the original harbingers of the disease. The Jew was considered to be “the outsider who had separated himself from the Christian world, whom Christians for centuries had been taught to hate, who was regarded as imbued with unsleeping malevolence against all Christians” (109). The Church spread the word that Jews were poisoning well water, and beggars, lepers and foreigners were under the supervision of Jews. Burning of Jews and their followers continued until 1357, when all but a few lingered.
Barbara Tuchman spent a lot of time weaving war and plague throughout the novel. While Coucy remained the main point of view, through his eyes readers are able to see just how terrible and miserable the lives of every rank became. The Black Death was believed to have traveled along the Silk Road, spreading through Europe and killing over one-third of the world’s population. Because of this outbreak, Europe underwent a series of emotional, political, religious and economic mayhem, as described above. It took Europe one hundred and fifty years to regain what was lost due to this unfortunate event in history.
Barbara Tuchman gives an accurate, detailed and well-researched account of the events of the fourteenth century. To some, the amount of details might be onerous. To others, the obvious scope to which Ms. Tuchman goes to find answers is remarkable. I believe she wanted to ensure that no segment, description or name was left out of this experience. (less)
I'm not a vegetarian myself, but I am looking forward to improving my eating habits, and being healthier is at the top of my to-do list. Several mouth...moreI'm not a vegetarian myself, but I am looking forward to improving my eating habits, and being healthier is at the top of my to-do list. Several mouth-watering recipes are included in this cookbook. The majority of these recipes are easy to make, and the ingredients can be found at a local grocery store. Can't wait to try all of them!(less)