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Europe in the High Middle Ages: Penguin History of Europe (Penguin History of Europe) Hardcover – January 27, 2003

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (January 27, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670032026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670032020
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #449,527 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As Jordan shows, the Middle Ages in Europe were indeed the best of times and worst of times. The beauties of Gothic architecture, the revivals of Latin literature, the rise of the university, the lyrical romances and chivalric chansons formed the high points of years that also witnessed famine, plague, political and religious squabbles, and the Crusades. Princeton historian Jordan (The Great Famine) marvelously weaves the many and various events of the years 1000-1350 into a splendid historical tapestry. He discusses how various European countries experienced the Middle Ages, putting to rest the notion that the era was monolithic and affected everyone the same way. The conflict between the Catholic Church and the state lies at the heart of the medieval period, and Jordan adeptly chronicles that struggle. As the monarchy gained power, the Church found that even voices within, such as monastic movements like the Franciscans and the Dominicans, sought reform. By the end of the Middle Ages, the Church found itself in a crisis that laid the groundwork for the Protestant Reformation. Jordan's magisterial survey indicates how rich and significant the Middle Ages were in forming European culture. That this is the inaugural volume in the Penguin History of Europe augurs very well for the series. Illus., maps. (On sale Jan. 27)
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

A glimpse of light between early medieval chaos and a plague-infested fourteenth century, the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were an era of significant cultural and economic progress as well as the time of most of the things we traditionally associate with the Middle Ages, including Gothic cathedrals, knights, Crusades, and courtly love. Contextualizing these and other high points, this book gives a balanced, comprehensive description of Europe's first renaissance. Jordan is both concise and thorough, covering all geographic regions and supplementing his political narrative (who begot whom, who beheaded whom) with occasional discussion of cultural advances and everyday life (as well as ever-helpful genealogical tables). He is also somewhat fast moving, assuming at least a basic understanding of the most major events as he points up the underlying themes that define the High Middle Ages: the increasing power of the papacy, the effect of philosophical and violent contact with Islam, difficulty in succession, and others. The third in Penguin's eight-part series in European history is highly accessible yet academic enough to be valuable as a collegiate text. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Amrit on January 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is part of a multi-volume series covering the history of Europe from Classical times to the present day.The work provides a basic coverage of the era from about 1050 to 1250 CE. The main contours of Western European history are dealt with - and the focus is political history. There is a discussion of the events and processes underlying the consolidation of the power of the French and English monarchies and the failed attempts by the German Emperor to achieve the same thing. Unlike some earlier histories, there is also a fair coverage of the formation of Poland, Hungary and the Bohemian state. The role of the Church and Papacy in particular in the formation of Western Christendom also receives a good overview. In addition to the chapters addressing these subjects, there are separate chapters dedicated to intellectual life, art and architecture. There is a particularly good discussion of the impact of famine and plague that brings the period to a close. This indeed is an area of specialist expertise for the author.

The author however leaves out some important parts of the story. That the High Middle Ages represents an important period of growth and arguably is the era when Western Europe first developed a distinctive culture that stood as an equal to that of its neighbours cannot be doubted. The author sets out well enough a broad outline of the narrative of these developments but if you are interested in a deeper understanding of why this transformation occurred, the discussion does not go much further than the basic narrative.
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106 of 130 people found the following review helpful By charles falk VINE VOICE on June 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
William Chester Jordan is one of America's most prominent medieval historians. He heads the program in Medieval Studies at Princeton. His previous book, THE GREAT FAMINE, won the Haskins Medal in 2000. He has edited a multi-volume medieval history, written a medieval history for young people, as well as influential articles about France's expulsion of the Jews and about credit and women in medieval society. Jordan is a frequent speaker at symposia and conferences both in the United States and Europe. Small wonder that David Cannadine tapped him to contribute a book to Penguin's History of Europe series. Given his credentials, EUROPE IN THE HIGH MIDDLE AGES ought to be better than it is.
The organization and writing is workmanlike. Jordan's schema divides the period first by century and then by region. This inevitably leads to repetition when the same event impacts dfferent regions and when Jordan backtracks or foreshadows events from other centuries in order to establish context. It is impossible to create a smooth narrative in such a rigid framework. The organization lends itself to spot referencing rather than reading cover to cover. Jordan may not be a prose stylist, but his writing is clear and concise.
There are no footnotes nor endnotes. The "References" section is a scant four pages long and is made up mostly of secondary sources. Jordan makes an occasional historiological feint, but without any real substance. One is left feeling the book is neither fish (a serious academic history) nor fowl (a popular history for the general public).
The most glaring defect in the book, for this reader, is its treatment, or rather non-treatment, of Muslim rule in Iberia and Sicily.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a solid but unexceptional survey by a distinguished Medieval historian. Europe in this case means essentially Catholic Europe, which ranges from Greenland to the eastern borders of Poland. The author attempts a combination of narrative and thematic chapters. The narrative chapters, largely the basic political history, are arranged by region; Northern Europe includes Britain and Scandinavia, Southern Europe mainly the Iberia and Italy, etc. The thematic chapters cover basic social history, intellectual history, and some art history. A major theme running through the book is the growing power, sophistication, and institutional complexity of the Catholic Church, particularly the Papacy, and its frequent conflicts with secular powers. Another major theme is the efforts of monarchs, successful in some cases, unsuccessful in others, to develop more centralized states. The best features of this book are the good coverage of the basic political history, which shows nicely the considerable heterogeneity of political and social structures in Medieval Europe, and the solid writing.

As pointed out by another reader-reviewer, this book is significantly shorter than the other published volume in this series, Timothy Blanning's quite good book on 18th century Europe, and consequently provides less depth. Areas where more discussion would have been useful would be more description of economic history, some discussion of history of technology, and some history of Medieval science. Two disappointing features of this book (and Blanning's book as well) are the absence of footnotes and only a short bibliography.
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