Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Last Knight: The Twilight of the Middle Ages and the Birth of the Modern Era” as Want to Read:
The Last Knight: The Twilight of the Middle Ages and the Birth of the Modern Era
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Last Knight: The Twilight of the Middle Ages and the Birth of the Modern Era

3.38  ·  Rating details ·  325 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
A portrait of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and celebrated knight, is set in a context of the late-fourteenth-century pre-Renaissance era and identifies him as Europe's richest man, a patron of Chaucer, a last leader of the Plantagenet family, and a founder of the Lancastrian Dynasty. 50,000 firs
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 25th 2004 by Free Press (first published 2004)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Last Knight, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Last Knight

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Will Byrnes
Oct 19, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Cantor is an irascible academic who flourishes in the field of the Middle Ages. He takes as his focus one John Gaunt, a high-born aristocrat who also embodies the values of the time. Using Gaunt, Cantor provides us with a wide ranging look at the times in Europe as changes flowed through the world with varying degrees of resistance. There is so much information in here that it can make one's head ache. I wished sometimes that he had focused even more finely on fewer themes. His style is very acc ...more
Nikki
May 13, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
I read two chapters and put it down in disgust. Refers to people who are not heterosexual as 'gays' constantly, overstates 'facts' that cannot actually be proven (protip: if William Rufus, Richard II and Edward II were attracted to men, we will still never know for sure, and their eras concepts of sexuality were wholly different to ours), and has some kind of obsession with seeing John of Gaunt as a modern-day billionaire.

I'll have to look for a different biography of John of Gaunt. This one sim
...more
David R.
Almost too many flaws to itemize, including: (A) Shallow research -- or at least a compendium of superficialities about the Middle Ages, (B) Far too much repetition, (C) Little focus on the presumptive central character (John of Gaunt), (D) Made-up (and shockingly bad) "personal statements", (E) Ridiculous conclusions, (F) Simplistic writing (aimed at middle schoolers?,) and (G) a weird obsession with "billionaire capitalists" (a phrase that comes up so often I lost count.) Cantor has the academ ...more
Sarah -
Jun 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
I must've read a different book than others because, while it is certainly not without flaws, it is a good read about an important historical figure. Full review to come.

-------------------

http://allthebookblognamesaretaken.bl...

www.facebook.com/AllTheBookBlogNamesA...

www.twitter.com/SarahsBookNook

Rating: 3.5 Stars

While this book is not without its flaws, I feel like other readers and I must have read a completely different book. I found it to be a good read about a highly important historical f
...more
Judie
Jan 26, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
By delving into the life of John of Gaunt, Cantor explores the end of the Middle Ages. It read like an overview of the people of that time--their lifestyle, politics, religion, wars, and attitudes. I enjoyed reading this book and having a different view John of Gaunt.
John-Paul
This is a short book and a quick read. Quick as in some of the paragraphs are two sentences long and Cantor makes sure that he's always making a point, even if he's already made the point, or even if the point isn't really supported by evidence. That's not always so bad, as at least Cantor is clear about why he wrote this book: more people should know about John of Gaunt, and one reason is to understand that wealthy elites haven't changed much, however much society seems to have changed. Gaunt w ...more
Teaberry
Sep 02, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: medieval die-hards who don't mind slogging through jumbled-up mishmash content
Shelves: history, nonfiction
Good heavens, this book seriously needs an EDITOR! The first three chapters are nearly unreadable, the writing is so poor. From Chapter 4 on, the author seems finally to be interested in his own topic, and things flow a little more smoothly, but still, I was constantly distracted by the author's personal asides and political commentary. I understand his intent in so many asides and digressions, but they, too, are rather poorly executed and just made me roll my eyes, even when I agreed with him.

T
...more
Jenn
Aug 12, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you already maintain a rough understanding of the Middle Ages, dates, royal lines, and maps, than you will probably enjoy. This is however not a book for a novice looking for an interesting history book. Cantor's parallels between our current concept of class and economy to those found during the twilight of the Middle Ages are intriguing. And, upon completion of the book, I am interested in reading further material, which is always a positive. Yet, I am not certain I am ready to jump into an ...more
PastAllReason
Jun 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cantor's book is very accessible. His biography places John of Gaunt within the context of the times in which he lived, and the role he played in society. The book therefore presents both a portrait of John of Gaunt but also of England in the transition to the post-medieval world. Well worth reading.
Debbie
Apr 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Just finished Katherine - and wanted to reread this again. John of Gaunt is one of my most favorite historical characters...this place him within the customs, institutions, economical, religious context of his times with chapters on politics, the church, women, peasants, warfare, Chaucer, etc.

I enjoyed it just as much the second time around.
Tracy
Jan 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book--very easy to read!
Jacob
Jul 01, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Meh. Took way too much liberty with this Annales school idea of long term history. He suggests that the linking of capitalism with the early enlightenment and renaissance shows that nothing changed for over 800 years until the early 19th century. He suggests 1855 should be the end of the medieval era as nothing changed for the 95 percent of the peasant population for 800 years. He's generalizing wayyyy too much on this assumption. The mid 1300s and 1600s were times of peasant revolt and alterati ...more
Joel Mitchell
From this book's cover I assumed that this was primarily a biography of John of Gaunt. However, the book's subtitle gives a better indication of the author's focus: the waning years of the middle ages (in which John of Gaunt was a major player). Rather than tell about John's life in chronological order, the author breaks down the society of the late middle ages into a number of categories which he discusses, using John of Gaunt as an occasional illustration (with increasing frequency as the book ...more
J.S. Graustein
First the good: The typographer of this book really knocked it out of the park. He/she is the only reason I didn't rate this book with one star.

Now the rest: This book reads like it was dictated and transcribed, then clumsily edited. There are tangents and repetitions, huge leaps of logic, and statements of fact that are actually conjecture. The words suggest, imply, and seem should have been used throughout the text...but they weren't. I had purchased this book as background research for a proj
...more
Cate
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Cantor is a funny writer, and he doesn't shy away from topics like homosexuality the way some other historians do. His bibliography is excellent as well. However, I felt that this book was a little cursory in some aspects. The chapters are very much: this is a basic outline of a Medieval thing...and John of Gaunt was connected tangentially to that because he was a Medieval guy. Still, it's short and a pretty quick read so even if you know more about a certain subject than he goes into, you'll fi ...more
Bruinrefugee
The second book I've read by the author and they just get worse. This barely squeaks over the "two star" line because buried in it are some interesting facts about one of the two English princes in the 100 Years' War whose offspring's conflicts define about 200 years of its history.

It's also a quick read, if only because it doesn't feel the need to support even the broadest assertions with any reference to fact or close argument. I read this while also reading the magisterial After Tamerlane. I
...more
Joy
Nov 25, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
THE LAST KNIGHT reads like an overview all the way through. I sometimes felt the author had caught the essence of John of Gaunt, and sometimes felt he had been writing from memory without checking his facts. There were times when Cantor would set a generalization down flatly before us, and I would wish he would offer some support for it. He gives great credit to the Gaunt bios by Goodman, Armitage-Smith and Russell, and says in effect that if we want details we should read them.
Ann
Jun 17, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It gives a general background on Gaunt.
However, it is not focused; there's a lot of repetition. Also, and more problematically, there's a lot of speculation. Cantor speculates many times on what might have happened. He also is also very liberal with tossing around the homosexual brand to different historical figures, calling them out as gay with no real basis or proof for his statements -- and he makes it sounds like fact.

Interesting historical facts are to be found here and there.
Caleb Guillotte
Apr 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really fascinating look at a lesser-known yettruly pivotal figure in history. John of Gaunt was the richest man in europe not a crowned monarch. He influenced the major players in western Europe with his wealth and familial ties (he was the second son of Edward III of England & father of Prince Henry "the navigator" of Portugal). He was the Rockafeller of his day and a player in social and religious movements and was, perhaps, the last great player in the Middle Ages.
Daniel Kukwa
Jan 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It’s a book that reads quickly and simply, but seems packed full of sumptuous detail, along with the acknowledgement of various theories and past works on certain events in relation to John of Gaunt & the Middle Ages…and where exactly Cantor stands in relation to those previous works. An excellent handbook on an exciting era of transition, it’s almost disappointing that it ends as quickly as it does.

Aaron DeMott
Feb 10, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, all
I've been working on this one for a while. I tend to read a chapter or two, read another whole book or three, then come back to it.

The content is a fascinating look into life in the middle ages, but the writing style is a tad dry. Perhaps it's just because I prefer reading Historical Fiction which flows more like a story...
Jason
Feb 23, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I gave this book a good shot - got 'bout half way thru...and that was a chore. This book is so random, scattered and overall poorly written, i'm not sure how it even got published. The title seems to have nothing to do with the subject...but then, the subject is all over the place so...who can tell.
Stuart
Jul 12, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
An in depth look at John of Gaunt, son of Edward III, and brother to The Black Prince, and the world in which he lived. Towards the end of Medieval England, and during the Hundred Years War, it's also a look at Englands progression and move into the Rennaissance, and the discrepancies between the aristocracy and peasants during a period of upheaval.
Mk100
Dec 04, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
An interesting read, although not nearly as interesting as Cantor's book on the Black Death. I prefer Tuchman's writing style. But if you're interested in this period of history, it is overall a reasonable away to spend a few pleasant hours.
Cody
Mar 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this too far back to remember all the particulars as to why I liked it - but I did! It may something to do with my decade long (give or take a few years)affinity for all-things-middle-ages. Finding connections from that time in history to ours fascinates me.
Sue
Jun 10, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Started out good but really started to drag towards the end. Interesting but too much like a history textbook after a while. I think I just am in need of some mindless entertainment reading!
Oliver Bogler
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fun read, and history of a central figure of the late middle ages.
Karen
Jun 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
An excellent biography.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Plantagenet Chronicles
  • The Three Orders: Feudal Society Imagined
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings (Harvard Paperbacks)
  • The Ties That Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England
  • Medieval Women
  • Katherine Swynford
  • Heloise & Abelard: A New Biography (Insight (Concordia))
  • Women's Lives in Medieval Europe: A Sourcebook
  • 1066: The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry
  • The Middle Ages
  • Blood & Roses: the Paston Family and the Wars of the Roses
  • The Kindness of Strangers: The Abandonment of Children in Western Europe from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance
  • The Kingmaker's Sisters: Six Powerful Women in the Wars of the Roses
  • The Life and Times of Richard III (Kings and Queens of England)
  • A Medieval Family: The Pastons of Fifteenth-Century England
  • Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II
  • Elizabeth Wydeville: The Slandered Queen
  • The Oxford History of Medieval Europe
26219
Born in Winnipeg, Canada, Cantor received his B.A. at the University of Manitoba in 1951. He went on to get his master's degree in 1953 from Princeton University and spent a year as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford. He received his doctorate from Princeton in 1957 under the direction of the eminent medievalist Joseph R. Strayer.

After teaching at Princeton, Cantor moved to Columbia Univ
...more
More about Norman F. Cantor...

Share This Book