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Medieval Cities: Their Origins and the Revival of Trade
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Top Customer Reviews
In "Medieval Cities," Pirenne not only sketches the economic disintegration of Western Europe, he also details the revival of trade and the emergence of a flourishing medieval civilization in the 10th, 11th, and 12th centuries. How did Western Europe pull itself out of the dark ages? Pirenne's brief answer is simple: by reclaiming control of the Mediterranean and thereby opening up sea routes to the East.Read more ›
When the crusades and Italian city-states started to take the sea lanes back these cities now had access to trade from the East and went back to using gold coins again. Many turned back to the old methods that had survived, mostly the Roman institutions, but during the time of decline new ways had been invented. The European cities had a middle class and rich merchants, besides the nobles and serfs. Now the cities were to become a mixture of new and old, Roman laws mixed with guilds and population growth. Cities were no longer just military posts and government centers. They became places to live in, work in, invest in and worship in.
The book is a must for any lover of history, World history or European history. It is simple, moves swiftly and even has some humor.
I'm not going to repeat what others have written here but if you are interested in history (regardless what kind) read this book.
Some of the observations herein are astounding in their blunt precision---including the effects on "the very land where civilization had been born" by what Pirrene labels "the Cult of the Prophet" Mahomet. Pirenne writes that Islam turned the Mediterranean, which "had been a Roman lake," over which trade flowed freely, into "a Moslem lake," which from then forth "separated, instead of uniting the East and the West of Europe."
He also brilliantly describes the cataclysmic force "thrown across the path of history" by the 50 years of Moslem conquests that followed Mahomet's death in 632. As many seem to have forgotten, this warrior ideology defeated the Persian Empire in only 7 years (637 to 644), and in only 8 years (634 to 642) violently wrested from the Byzantine Empire, Syria, Palestine and Egypt before taking North Africa and pummeling Spain by 711.
Moreover, from new military bases throughout the Mediterranean basin, they "devastated the coasts of
Provence and Italy and put towns to the torch after they had been pillaged and their inhabitants captured to be sold as slaves." In 889, these plunderers even "laid hold of Fraxinetum," now Garde-Frainet, near Nice, and for nearly the next century "subjected the neighboring populace to continual raids and menaced the roads" across the Alps from France to Italy.
Alas, Pierenne in this volume provides very few footnotes, and even cuts short his bibliography, which for "numerous monographs devoted, in each country, to the history of the particular city," he refers readers to additional references, including his own "L'origine des constitutiions urbaines au Moyen-age," in Revue historique, Vol.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A very good book with a slightly different slant on the origin and rise of towns and cities of the Middle Ages. Recommended.Published 8 months ago by Jonathan Gude
I read Pirenne's Medieval Cities five years ago and still think about it all the time. Explaining the decline and rise of Europe is one of the great challenges of history. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Garett Jones
"The air of the city makes free," is an old German proverb, and would have made an apt title for this informative and lively little book (234 pages). Read morePublished 17 months ago by Ricardo Mio
Haven't finished it yet. Written many decades ago, but very interesting ideas.Published 17 months ago by georgiana