Edwin B's Reviews > A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance: Portrait of an Age

A World Lit Only by Fire by William Manchester
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Dec 19, 14

Read in June, 2012

When the Roman empire fell in 5th century AD, Western Europe plunged into the Dark Ages. For a thousand years, barbarian invasions, despotic kings, mercenary knights, corrupt popes, unreasoning Church dogma, intolerance, brute force, superstition, greed, strife and violence ruled the land.

It was from this millenium of darkness that humanism emerged, and against this backdrop of backwardness that the Renaissance shone. In the 15th century, Western Europe rediscovered the Greek classics. The use of reason, instead of only submission to Church dogma or monarchic authority, became a standard for discourse. Despite the threat of excommunication, or worse, decapitation or burning at the stake, free thinkers propounded liberating ideas. It was a century of exploration and discovery. Erasmus advocated religious tolerance. Copernicus proposed that it was the earth that revolved around the sun. Luther battled an immoral Church. And Magellan, betting his life on the belief that the earth was round, flung his fleet of leaking ships, with insufficient provisions, across 12,600 miles of uncharted ocean (the Pacific), towards uncertain landfall.

Manchester holds you well in his storytelling of these times.
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