I'm a newcomer to GoodReads. This is the first book I happen to be reading since signing up. This review is more like book notes, since the field forI'm a newcomer to GoodReads. This is the first book I happen to be reading since signing up. This review is more like book notes, since the field for private notes only allows 100 characters. It is not meant to be a definitive review of this book. Also, I add to it as I read, so it will seem disjointed. Like all interesting books, I've learned a lot from this; for instance, that the Huns were once the Hsiung-nu. They attacked Russia after being turned away at the Great Wall of China, and easily defeated the once formidable Goths. Manchester describes how truly dark the Dark Ages were, and how the Church replaced the Roman Empire as the social glue. Interesting paradox of religion and violence, but then Christianity was not practiced the way Christ taught it. The popes of the Middle Ages were certainly nothing like the person they were supposed to emulate--St. Peter. All the paradoxes and ironies of "the Medieval Mind" are described here; a good list on pg. 27-28 of men who disrupted that mindset and introduced the Renaissance. But Manchester does not pay enough attention to the scholars of Toledo and the cross-fertilization that took place there, or the power of cultural cross-fertilization in general. The only mention of Aristotle concerns his ideas about the rotundity of the earth, except for a brief mention on pg 25 of "the rediscovery of Aristotelian learning." And only a passing reference to Neo-Platonism (pg. 8). Seems to me that Manchester neglected to read Aristotle's Children. Aristotle's Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Middle Ages Just checked--Manchester can be forgiven, since his book came out years before Aristotle's Children was published. There is an excellent description of the trials and travails and odd personal traits of Martin Luther, not an easy person to get along with, and surprised by the upheavals his ideas created. The other character I learned about was Erasmus, who was far more interesting than I had thought. The title presumably refers to a world where technology and invention were little known, the age before electricity, I suppose. But perhaps he's talking about the ferment of the Renaissance. The introduction does not explain. ...more
From reading this book, I realized that the casting for Lion in Winter was all wrong. Peter O'Toole would have been a perfect Thomas Beckett, and RichFrom reading this book, I realized that the casting for Lion in Winter was all wrong. Peter O'Toole would have been a perfect Thomas Beckett, and Richard Burton should have been Henry II, based on their physiques and their personalities. Wish they could do it over.
As for the book itself, it is very readable, although there is a lot of stringing together of facts. It's a very challenging sort of book to write....more
This is a scholarly work, based on existing, and sometimes conflicting, documents. Not one of the many fictionalized accounts of strong medieval womenThis is a scholarly work, based on existing, and sometimes conflicting, documents. Not one of the many fictionalized accounts of strong medieval women. Nothing romantic about this book, which makes it all the more trustworthy....more
I'm reading this very slowly because Runciman is not as good a writer as John Julius Norwich, and I finished Norwich's "The Normans in Sicily" beforeI'm reading this very slowly because Runciman is not as good a writer as John Julius Norwich, and I finished Norwich's "The Normans in Sicily" before starting this; it suffers by comparison....more