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The Making of the Middle Ages

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  711 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
This is an absorbing study of the main personalities and the influences that molded the history of Western Europe from the late tenth to the early thirteenth century. Southern describes the chief forms of social, political, and religious organization.
Hardcover, 292 pages
Published January 28th 2001 by ACLS History E-Book Project (first published 1953)
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Jan 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jonfaith by: Katie
After this brief appearance he vanished from history, and the whole incident might be dismissed as one of those inexplicable approaches of worlds moving in different orbits and disturbing for a moment the even tenor tenor of their course, were it not for what followed.

My reading progression was routinely distracted last week. This is customary, hardly an aberration. A return to Chinese literature was a possibility. The killings at Charlie Hebdo changed that. I really appreciate Dr. Southern's w
Aug 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An acknolwedged classic of european history, R.W. Southern's "The Middle Ages" focuses on the period between 900 and 1200 A.D. His geopgraphic focus is mostly northern france, with some asides to Germany, Italy, Southern France and England. His main thesis is the idea that this period saw the emergence of a personal devotion to faith via monasticism that in turn prefigured the rise of invdividual identity in western culture.

No small accomplishment, that thesis, and no small accomplishment this
Jul 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a favorite text from one of my undergraduate history courses and I have owned it for so long that the Yale University Press paperback edition that cost me $2.45 so many years ago is no longer in print. I'm glad the book is still available, because it is a small (less than 300 pages) gem of intellectual history. The author examines the period from AD 972, when a scholar named Gerbert probably left Rome in order to take up the study of logic at Rhiems, until the fall of Constantinople in ...more
Feb 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is a well written and interesting book, a pleasure to read and illuminating, with many small gems along the way.

It is a commentary really on cultural changes over the tenth and eleventh and twelfth centuries. Its first section concerns the opening up of Western European minds to the existence of very different cultures beyond their boundaries. There was a total absence of strategic, large scale thinking, so that the crusades and the eventual capturing of Constantinople provoked changes tha
Jun 02, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: background
Don't let my 'star-rating' fool ya. This is a really good overview of the essential bits that tie together what made medieval Europe what it was c 900-1205 (and what it would revolve against later). Anyone at least mildly interested in the era should give this take at least a quick once-over look.
Written after WWII it really does seem to be trying to say all that was necessary about this formative period in euro-history, at a time when the western world was wanting to start over, again.
Lee Broderick
Jan 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
All roads lead from Rome? It's impossible to read this book in anything other than the light of the post-War Britain R.W. Southern was writing in: countering the Germanic-worshipping Victorians he remains locked into a discourse of cultural evolution. The German societies of Victorian England were quickly forgotten after WWI, presenting something of an embarrassment and a little of that is present here too.

Southern sets out in this book to write a history of European thought of the eleventh and
From memory a rather top down view of the middle ages, heavily slanted towards the doings of the ecclesiastical hierarchies. To some extent this reflects the sources, but to an extent also the habits of the scholarship of Southern's day. I'd be inclined to recommend Bartlett's The Making of Europe instead.
Cristobo De
May 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this one. If you still think that history books need to read as some sort of novel, if you believe that only biographies can be interesting, then you haven`t grabbed this one yet. The perfect book for a first approach into history ...more
Fateme Maleki
Unfinished translation!
Zachary Olsen
Sep 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Despite its age, Southern's text remains an important, fundamental text to the understanding of how men in the Middle Ages thought about the world around them, and how that really differed from the era of post-Carolingian reconstruction that had preceded them.

Southern approaches the subject in a way that, for me, enabled a better understanding of the period (not to mention retention of what he talks about). Instead of throwing reams of data about this period (he lovingly refers to it as "our pe
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My most recent Crusader-research read: RW Southern's classic The Making of the Middle Ages. In hindsight, this book was quite different to what I expected. It focused on the eleventh and twelfth centuries, which was very helpful, but it was a very birds-eye view of the history. Southern rarely descends to details. In this book he is most concerned with the tides of thought and belief and cultural development occurring between AD 972 and 1206, and so I found the book just a little bit esoteric an ...more
Matthew Dambro
Jul 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The seminal work on the Twelfth Century in Western Europe. Big ideas in a little book. This was actually a rereading for me. Long, long ago in a galaxy far away I was a graduate student studying under Norman Cantor at SUNY Binghamton. He studied under Southern as a Rhodes scholar in the mid 50s. They did not get along. But Cantor admired the man and his ideas immensely. He sought to extend Southern's thesis that a real sea change in Western Civilization occurred in that time and place. It amount ...more
Apr 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The humanization of Christ (born from the changes in monasticism wrought by St. Anselm and St. Bernard), the birth of a new piety of interiority, the move in the arts and in literature from epic to romance -- nothing less than this -- the origins of the modern subjective self, which Southern traces to the new monasticism of the 12th cen -- is the thesis of this final chapter (of which all the earlier chapters are simply prelude). An important book, though the topic itself is predictably dry (med ...more
Aug 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The arc of history is long but it bends toward ... a rather neat stained glass window in Chartres, or Bourges, perhaps ... But besides such visceral evidence, nothing captures so well that ultimately mysterious world than this glowing icon of erudition, scholarship and story-telling

April 2016:
just re-read this. The Southern moves from a difficult generality to the exemplification thereof by way of a carefully reconstructed (and selected) individual, human story, is at times breathtaking. A work
Nov 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Richard Southern's The Making of the Middle Ages is a remarkably good book. I decided to read it after learning in Norman Cantor's Inventing the Middle Ages that Cantor considers it one of the two greatest books on medieval history written in the 20th century, and possibly the most influential. As a layman out to increase my historical knowledge, I figured I'd take the plunge. I'm very glad I did.

The first thing that struck me about this book is that Southern is a phenomenal prose stylist. Very
Mihai Zodian
"Richard William Southern, The Making of the Middle Ages, Yale University Press, 1953, 280 p.

Discuţiile despre schimbările instituţiei suveranităţii în relaţiile internaţionale au condus la o serie de speculaţii, mai mult sau mai puţin potrivite, dintre care recent a reapărut ce referitoare la neomedievalism. Prin aceast termen s-ar înţelege o suprapunere de autorităţui definite prin criterii diferite de cel al monopolului teritorial, un sens originar în studiile lui Hedley Bull şi Ruggie, dar c
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history

Southern's book is one which I have often seen referenced as authoritative in discussions of early medieval society. Perhaps because of this, I had always imagined it as quite a weighty and ponderous text. I was pleasantly surprised, then, to discover that it is actually quite a short and readable book, with a sensible systematic analysis of the themes of the early medieval period livened up with specific examples and quotations. It is by all accounts good history, too, which makes it a rare ach
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Required for class. Yawn. I appreciate the landscape southern is trying to paint in the early chapters but the last few Even though this is one of those canonical works of 12th century european history- skip it. Its been updated by better writers.
Robert Monk
Jul 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Superseded since it came out in the fifties, but still a classic. In this book, Southern brought into clarity the notion that the twelfth century was a time of enormous change: the discovery of the individual, it's been called. This is essentially the story of the transition from the Carolingian period to the High Middle Ages, and it's a time that includes the vibrant 12th Century Renaissance, when the works of the Classical age -- specifically Aristotle -- were first seriously reabsorbed in Eur ...more
Nov 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medieval-history
This was a very good work, covering the mid-tenth century to the beginning of the 13th century. Southern's narrative is very broad in scope; he discusses the geographic boudaries of Latin Christendom and follows this with discussions on society, the church, and the rising intellectualism which led to the formation of the universities. In discussing society, he examines serfdom and the interesting legal foundations of serfdom and its place in northern and central Europe. His discussion of the chu ...more
Sep 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medieval-history
R.W. Southern's "The Making of the Middle Ages" covers the period from the late 10th century through the early 13th (roughly 970-1220). He presents the period as one of transition and preparation for further upheaval, showing the sometimes rapid, sometimes glacial progress of Europe in the various fields of human endeavor -- government, education, foreign policy, religious practice, and literature. Southern's book assumes some prior knowledge of the period, but offers the educated layman a profo ...more
Mar 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this was my brother-in-law's book when he was taking history courses in college in the late 60s. Its focus is what Europe was like during the 11th and 12th centuries; what educated and influential Europeans thought, believed and knew about the world. It was not as difficult a read as I thought it would be, but it's very dense and I wish I knew more Latin.
Nov 25, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Even though it's only 290pages, I struggled to get through 30ish pages. It's very dry and you need to have a lot of back knowledge before going into this book. I ended up dropping it because I couldn't really get interested by 30 pages.
Apr 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely the best intro to why the 12th century matters in western history.
The man wrote it while dealing with a bout of tuberculosis so you have to hand it to him for writing something this incisive while he was so sick.
Excellent book on the causes and effects that went into creating the middle ages. It takes into account the place of the church and monarchy in society and how they effected the growth of thought and philosophy that led into the reformation... a dry, but very interesting book.
Vivian Harmon
Very boring book. I fell asleep reading it 3 times, and still have not finished. It is a very well researched book.
An examination of the eleventh and twelfth centuries in western Europe by one of the greatest medievalists of the twentieth century.
Aug 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It just might make a medievalist out of you.
Geoff Sebesta
This is the book that made me understand how serfdom arose. A great view of a forgotten corner of history -- it pretty much ends in 1000AD.
Jun 23, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very accessible intro to founding of the middle ages, with particularly good blending of social history to political and religious thought of the time.
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Sir Richard William Southern was a noted English medieval historian, based at the University of Oxford.
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“     I was led by the spirit of ambition and immersed myself entirely in the waves of the world. I put God, the Church and my Order behind me and set myself to gather what riches I could, rather than to take what God sent. Forgetting those things which were behind, I reached forth (but not as the Apostle did) to those things which were before. (Phil. iii, 13) … Ambition made me drunk, and the flattering promises of our Prince overthrew me.” 0 likes
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