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Comment: 1994 Harper Perennial Pub. softcover. No writing or highlighting. Tanning on page edges. Creasing on back corner of cover and last 20 pages. 1/4 inch tear and minor wear on edges. Good otherwise.
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The Civilization of the Middle Ages: A Completely Revised and Expanded Edition of Medieval History Paperback – June 3, 1994

ISBN-13: 978-0060925536 ISBN-10: 0060925531 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (June 3, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060925531
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060925536
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"No better explanation of medievalism is available to the general reader." -- --Booklist

About the Author

Norman F. Cantor was Emeritus Professor of History, Sociology, and Comparative Literature at New York University. His many books include In the Wake of the Plague, Inventing the Middle Ages, and The Civilization of the Middle Ages, the most widely read narrative of the Middle Ages in the English language. He died in 2004.

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Customer Reviews

If you enjoy history, I would most heartily recommend this book.
You can't understand the development of Western civilization and government without understanding the development of the Church.
Dr. Cantor's book presents much opinion, few facts, and no citations.
Erik Z. Ellis

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

71 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Richard R. Carlton on October 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
The confusion with all of the different opinions on this classic college introductory European medieval history text are clearly due to the differences in the backgrounds of the various readers.

Cantor has produced a book that is absolutely wonderful in it's ability to pull together the twisted history of both major and minor events throughout Europe and relate them to one another. Being able to understand how Papal politics impacted the Germanic Princes and then caused reactions in England and the Low Countries, which then produced French political events that influenced the Papacy.....great stuff when it can all come together like this!

Cantor can read like an enjoyable novel if you have an active interest in the medieval period, he points out the seeds of feminism and does a good job of placing them in the context of the period, he does the same for heresy, piety and the monastic movements, law and politics, the development of monarchism, the growth of the bourgeoisie, and a host of other factors and elements from the middle ages.

There are valid criticisms of his work though....some of his facts are wrong (some he should have know and others have now had additional historical thought added to them)....for example, the Turks taking Constantinople and the details of the death of Thomas a Becket. More serious to me though is the lack of footnotes (which are so essential to credibility that the readability issues must take second consideration) and the total lack of maps to help with orientations (especially important for those not intimately familiar with medieval European geography).

I've created lists that provide Amazon links to Cantor's top 10 medieval books and top 10 films, if you want to continue to follow the syllabus for medieval understanding that he lays out in the book.
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120 of 135 people found the following review helpful By Graham Henderson on July 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a book you should buy if you wish to understand the Middle Ages. But I must tell you that I was very nearly put off it by the author's tragically flawed understanding of Greek and Roman society. Greek and Roman culture are my areas of interest so I do feel I have some basis upon which to offer this critique.
The fact that his understanding of ancient society is flawed is rather frightening, because, as Cantor himself says, "...the heritage of the ancient world set the conditions for medieval society." So as I waded further into his book it was with considerable trepidation. If he got Greece and Rome so very, very wrong, how on earth could he get the Middle Ages right?
For example, reflect upon this near polemical attack on the Roman educational system (which seems to be to blame for a lot if Cantor is to be believed):
"The Romans were psychologically damaged by their educational system, as evidenced by their violence, aggression, sadism, hostility to women, and other unattractive characteristics. Children were treated badly, indeed, and many of them grew up to be sadomasochists."
It gets better. He goes on to remark that "...vestiges of this system have lived on into the twentieth century. The educational system of the medieval church was based on the Roman, and there were a good many neurotic educated adults within the medieval church."
And what exactly are the characteristics of the Roman educational system that produced this race of monsters? "It is a natural system for an aristocratic society, which needs to train its young people only to accept power handed on to them." The men who taught these benighted children were, and I QUOTE: "often slaves and frequently frustrated, sadistic men."
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Dirrenberger on January 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
As a newcomer to the history of the Middle Ages, this book was my first in the subject (other than textbooks from college on Western Civilization). I have truly enjoyed it and it has given me a decent overview of the vast era (and he has an excellent list of further reading, including movies!), but it definitely wasn't what I was expecting, as it is more of a narrative than a simple laying out of the facts. Being a narrative has its advantages (it makes for a more interesting read, almost like a novel at times), but it can certainly be confusing. As expected, the book has a general trend of moving chronologically forward from the disintigration of the Roman Empire to the beginnings of the Renaissance, but the subjects are organized more by theme than date, and this can be very confusing for a newcomer to the field. As one reviewer mentioned, not having any maps and some sort of timeline to put everything together is a big problem, something which is really needed to give the book cohesion.
I found the way Cantor introduced the Middle Ages to be highly enlightening. He starts from the late Roman Empire and seamlessly flows into the Middle Ages, so seamlessly that I didn't even realize the "introduction" had ended and that I was now into the Middle Ages. I was expecting it just to start abruptly like most history books, but Cantor spends the first 4-5 chapters developing the background from which the Middle Ages sprung. It makes it clear how hard it is to define the beginning of the Middle Ages (like almost any age of history).
Cantor's style of writing tends to use long, run-on sentences and many different terms for referring to the same concept or idea (have a dictionary handy!), so it sometimes requires more effort than needed to understand what he's saying.
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