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Medieval Europe

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  364 ratings  ·  43 reviews
The millennium between the breakup of the western Roman Empire and the Reformation was a long and hugely transformative period—one not easily chronicled within the scope of a few hundred pages. Yet distinguished historian Christopher Wickham has taken up the challenge in this landmark book, and he succeeds in producing the most riveting account of medieval Europe in a gene ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published November 29th 2016 by Yale University Press (first published 2016)
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3.66  · 
Rating details
 ·  364 ratings  ·  43 reviews

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Jun 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Not a bad book. But I learnt little. The analysis itself is interesting. And it does give an interesting bird's eye view of European developments. At the same time it lacks sufficient detail - so the story feels diluted. And it is also an unnecessarily painful read! Clearer, simpler sentences would have done the job too.
I have not read a solid overview of the time between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance, and this book does an admiral job of providing a survey of the time period, with more detail on what used to be called the "dark ages" than I have come across. That said, it was quite a slog to get through, as much as I am interested in the information. The writing is overly cumbersome at times and hard to digest.

I would love to have him as a professor, though.

My favorite parts where the chap
Adam Marischuk
"Wickham is the most ambitious and provocative of medieval historians" (Peter Thonemann, TLS)
"Fascinating, judicious, authoritative" (Paul Freedman, Yale)
"Writing with great wit, style and clarity" (John Arnold, Cambridge)
"a model of clarity and accessibility...that remains compelling throughout...engages his reader in his arguments, choices and interpretations and keeps them on their toes" (Mayke de Jong, Utrecht)

These are just some of the raving reviews found on the dust jacket of this incredi
Chris Jaffe
Oct 22, 2017 rated it liked it
So....why didn't I like this book more than I did.

It isn't just that I'm giving it a mere three stars. It's that I really like this author. Seven years ago I read his "Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages" about Europe from 400-1000 and thought it was fantastic. I got a lot out of it. This one? Well, there's good stuff here, but I can't say it made a big difference to me.

Two related issues explain it: 1) I know more than I did then, and 2) this book covers twice as many years in about
Apr 21, 2019 rated it liked it
I LOVED the emphasis on tracing the socioeconomics of the region and era before one can look at anything else, most especially the Church. The treatment of women and gender could have used a bit more of a focus on how the patriarchy was structured and what it gained by the systemic subjugation of the female 51% of the population, but maybe other medievalists have tackled that? IDK. I'm also curious about how colonialism/empire worked, but that's probably in another book too.

The overuse of the wo
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio, non-fiction, 2010s
Covers a thousand years and a huge geographic tapestry in a surprisingly brisk treatment. Bracingly no-nonsense and occasionally contrarian, but Wickham plays fair and lets you know when he's submitting a minority report. A lot of the popular stories of the middle ages, defenestrations and royal eccentricities and the like, are conspicuous by their absence, but Wickham is probably correct in thinking that just because something is famous and well documented doesn't necessarily mean it was all th ...more
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
As Chris Wickham states in the introduction, this is an interpretation rather than a comprehensive account of European history between 500 and 1500. Exploring the processes whereby the monolithic structure of the Roman empire transformed into the multifarious polities of Western Europe, he focuses on a series of key moments of change. These he identifies as the fall of the western empire, the eastern empire's confrontation with Islam, the Carolingian experiment, the expansion of the tenth to the ...more
Dec 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Any work that seeks to wrap up a millennium of history across Europe would understandably face the same challenge - the tension between generalization and specificity, which is evident throughout the book. To Wickham's credit, he tenaciously and conspicuously battles the temptation to generalize, by often summarizing the histories of various European polities in different periods, and by emphasizing the differences among them. At the same time, in each chapter, he still manages to lay out the st ...more
Mar 26, 2018 rated it liked it
This is the best book I have read yet on the Medieval Period. About half the book is the typical period history giving the reader the names and dates of hundreds of rulers and the wars that they fought. I have zero interest in these names and wars.
The other half of this book is about the culture and economy of the period from the year 500 to the year 1500, which is what I am interested in.
The big story here is that from 500 to 800 there is little growth and little is known, but in the next 300 y
Mary Catherine Pace
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: History students, some background helpful
Well-organized study of Medieval Europe from an historian who is not a sexy modern-narrative-type historian. Wickham's scholarship is sound and no-nonsense, as befits a system-centered Marxist-trained historian, blessedly free of massive quaint anecdotal asides to distract the reader from the chronology and major conflicts and developments of the periods addressed in this concise history. His organizational and presentation skills are amazing, and he covers all of European Medieval history in a ...more
Tariq Mustafa
Dec 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Medieval Europe has so influenced so much of our current world that it must be explored in depth. This book is not a straight chronological simple history of what happened before and what happened after it. Rather, the author has focused on the reasons and factors of European reformation from the ashes of the Roman empires.

The author's flow of writing is surprisingly riveting for a subject like Medieval European history. Subsequent reading of other books around the European history and historic
Ed Greening
I read for fun, and dreaded picking this up to continue the slog. I felt relieved every time I could get off the bus or metro and stop reading. Somewhere buried deep inside is a good book; thematically it is excellent, and the author has clearly done reams of research. But my God I have never been so bored reading a book before.
Mar 09, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A textbook on how to suck all the life and juice out of a rich and fascinating topic. Maybe it's just that the reader sounds like he's having a hard time staying awake--but more likely it's the author's focus on large social trends and economic generalities that left me totally not caring that my loan period (borrowed it from the library) ran out before reaching the end.
Apr 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Short, but hard to finish. There isn't much detail, unsurprisingly for a 258 page book covering a thousand years of history, but generalities about political change from the Byzantine Empire to Scotland aren't really engaging.
Peter Mcloughlin
Straight forward history of the middle ages. A little dry had a hard time getting into it.
Jul 19, 2017 rated it liked it
I suppose I came to Chris Wickham’s Medieval Europe with the wrong expectations. It's tempting to see history as the deeds of men and women, related by chroniclers. I do not mean necessarily the deeds of kings and queens, but those of knights, townsmen or common peasants. In the writing of Chris Wickham, all these individuals are merely units to be aggregated to envisage the the economic and the sociological trends of the age.

This makes for rather dry reading – even if the subject is ambitious a
Apr 14, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is like the opposite of Dan Carlin's hardcore history. In spite of 800 pages or something like that of text, it manages to say very little of controversy that can't be disputed. On the one hand, this is desirable, I had just quit reading A World Lit Only By Fire because of its juicy but in many parts unfounded claims about the Middle Ages. This is a welcome respite from that, but in the pursuit of academic truth, the book manages to be rather dry and repetitive. Obviously keeping a nar ...more
Ian Hulstein
Jan 28, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
This was not a good book. The writing is dry and academic, and the sentences are needlessly convoluted. The author seems to think a sentence isn't worthy unless it causes the reader to choke and gasp for air while waiting desperately for a period. Seriously, the run-on sentences in this book are truly magnificent.

I was looking for a narrative history, about people, places, and events, but I suppose that kind of history isn't fashionable anymore, as I seem to be having a hard time locating one. T
Feb 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Table of Contents

List of illustrations and maps
1 A new look at the middle ages
2 Rome and its western successors, 500–750
3 Crisis and transformation in the east, 500–850/1000
4 The Carolingian experiment, 750–1000
5 The expansion of Christian Europe, 500–1100
6 Reshaping western Europe, 1000–1150
7 The long economic boom, 950–1300
8 The ambiguities of political reconstruction, 1150–1300
9 1204: the failure of alternatives
10 Defining society: gender and community in late medieval Europe
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A great overview of the immense period of 500-1500 CE. It's difficult, to say the least, to cover so much in a relatively short book, but I think Chris Wickham manages it well. It goes beyond simply which nobles fought each other, touching on the evolution of cultures and governments, the shifting of ethnicities, and influence of technology and philosophy. It proves that the Middle Ages were not a period of darkness and stagnation, but rather a dynamic period that helped lay the groundwork for t ...more
Sep 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Flawed history book. The broad scope, both in time and space, belies the author's actual focus on Britain (where he is highly knowledgeable). The Italian cities and the Low Countries are cited frequently as an economic powerhouse, but that doesn't translate in any specific focus on that area. A pro-Brexit spirit seems to pervade, with statements against European unions of any kind sprinkled throughout the book. The general thesis, as spelled out in the book's conclusion, is rather too vague to b ...more
John Davis
A brisk trot through the ages between the transformation of the late Roman empire into the middle ages of Europe through the more well documented late medieval period. Visigoths,Vandals,Franks, and emphasis on the Eastern Roman empire (Byzantium) fill a good portion of this history. Covered also is the changing roles and functions of lords,clergy, and common folk including an in depth look at the place of women in society. Not too bad for an over all glance at a very wide span of history.
Sara Wilbourne
Dec 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an extraordinary achievement: the panoramic command of sources, the steady accumulation of themes that wend and weave like tributaries to broad rivers of change across the continent t. I found the all so helpful to understand more of the fabric of towns and cities in which we walk and of many of the systems that ruled our ancestors and still are familiar today. I will use this book to follow one or two of tributaries.
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
c2016 (1): This was perhaps a little too academic for my tastes. Written by an esteemed historian, one should expect no less than a very serious discussion on the topic. Sadly, it was not what I was hoping it would be. I can see this being of great interest and enjoyment to the academics within the normal crew. "All the same, everywhere in Europe the centuries after 1200 brought both clarity and restriction for the aspirant aristocrat."
Jan 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dinero, guerra y muerte; Heregias, engaños, sexo, religion y poder; las mujeres que son mas propensas a ser poseidas por demonios; amor cortes y arturo; esa rara Inglaterra donde se practica la estraña costumbre de permitir que las mujeres hereden las propiedades de sus maridos....asi se resume la edad media, pero en 450 paginas. Ya tiene merito!!!
Kevin Moynihan
Incredible book. Optimistic, insightful survey of one thousand years. Provides a great starting point on numerous subjects yet also offers many overarching themes. Will revisit many chapters in the future.
Jul 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Jam packed full of information, but as others have said not a great read. I listened to the audiobook version off Downpour, which was excellently done, but the writing can be difficult to focus on sometimes.

Great for the info, but it's a grind.
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is perfect for someone who has a little familiarity with European history from Rome to the Renaissance, but wants to learn the how and why. Chris Wickham keeps his eye on the ball and dispenses with common myths clearly and directly.
Sardar Usman Farooq
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
It’s a laborious 257 pages of reading. Way too many trivial details and yet lacking a great many significant ones.
Ana Beatriz Esteves
Useful book for an overview of the medieval period however it has some imprecisions and I would love for someone to review the terms and descriptions used within it.
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How does this title differ from: Inheritance of Rome? 1 5 Dec 13, 2016 06:31PM  
Chris vs Christopher 1 6 Sep 19, 2016 06:51PM  
  • The Middle Ages
  • Europe in the High Middle Ages
  • The Restoration of Rome: Barbarian Popes and Imperial Pretenders
  • The Three Orders: Feudal Society Imagined
  • Æthelstan: The First King of England
  • The Knight Who Saved England: William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217
  • The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization, and Cultural Change, 950-1350
  • Lineages of the Absolutist State
  • The Romantic Revolution
  • Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians
  • The Middle Sea: A History of the Mediterranean
  • Britain After Rome: The Fall and Rise, 400 to 1070
  • The World of Late Antiquity 150-750
  • Venice: A New History
  • Streams of Gold, Rivers of Blood: The Rise and Fall of Byzantium, 955 A.D. to the First Crusade
  • Medieval Christianity: A New History
  • Henry II
  • Heart of Europe: A History of the Holy Roman Empire
"Chris Wickham is Chichele Professor of Medieval History, and Faculty Board Chair 2009-12.

I have been at Oxford since 2005. Previously, I was Lecturer (1977), Senior Lecturer (1987), Reader (1988), and from 1995 Professor of Early Medieval History, University of Birmingham; and I was an undergraduate and postgraduate at Keble College, Oxford, from 1968 to 1975.

I am a Fellow of the British Academy,
“homicide levels in English medieval villages matched those of the most violent US cities of the twentieth century.” 0 likes
“There is a common medieval literary trope, and some actual cases, of enemies being invited to a meal to make peace, and then being killed while eating and drinking; it may have been a sensible strategy, for people’s guards were down, but it was very dishonourable indeed.” 0 likes
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