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131 of 136 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well done
After spending too much of my life on technology and engineering, I have been spending my last 10 years reading History for Fun. It is my pleasure and my passion.
I'm still learning a lot about history so I can't claim to be an expert.
I can't claim that Bauer is "correct". But at this point, I read multiple histories from multiple authors to generate my own...
Published on June 17, 2010 by LikeBooksTooMuch

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39 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Better than a textbook, but not quite popular history
I have pretty mixed feelings about this book. It's certainly more entertaining than most history textbooks, and probably a good introduction to Medieval history. Still, I wouldn't really recommend it as a popular history book that one could relax and read. It jumps around too much and throws out too many names, dates, and events too quickly. After reading it through, I...
Published on June 2, 2011 by Enjolras


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131 of 136 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well done, June 17, 2010
This review is from: The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade (Hardcover)
After spending too much of my life on technology and engineering, I have been spending my last 10 years reading History for Fun. It is my pleasure and my passion.
I'm still learning a lot about history so I can't claim to be an expert.
I can't claim that Bauer is "correct". But at this point, I read multiple histories from multiple authors to generate my own view.

But Bauer's book is a great place to start to get a readable over-view of "medieval" history to allow one to start to drill down into areas and times of particular interest. (Or maybe just get enough to move on to the next era.)

But this, by far, is the most readable history books that cover such a long period of time over such a wide area (the whole earth).

Why?

The chapters average around 10 pages. Each chapter will cover a period of about 20-50 years in a particular area (Western Europe, Middle East, India, Korea, Japan, China, etc). It makes a nice nugget. As time change, an area may be "West Francia", "Spain", or "North Africa".
Each chapter is relatively self-contained, as much as possible, within the context of a 600 page continuing narrative. Each chapter is easy to read, fascinating, and there always seems to be a little "humor" in the background.

This is a narrative; about kings, queens, popes, dukes, eunuchs, states, nations, wars... "Classic narrative history", it doesn't spend any time talking about what it meant to be a young boy in Korea in 814 or marriage rites in Persia or bathing habits in France. (Thank God.)

Susan Bauer is a great writer, but paired with Norton Press, it makes a great book. The production is just great.
Each chapter has at least one map. The map covers the area being discussed in the chapter. Every city, river, tribe, clan, state mentioned within the text is marked on the map. (There were a few little slip-ups but it became a game for me, as I love maps). There are so few productions that take the time to make sure that a map relates to the text and the text relates to the map.

The other great production part of the book is that there are 2 different footnotes. Footnotes that reference original sources are placed in the back of the book; footnotes that are really sidelines, are at the bottom of the page. I hate books that mix source references and side notes; it is just lazy publishing. But Norton does Bauer's work well. Side-lines, and there are not that many, are at the bottom of the page; you don't have to switch back and forth. (A sign the publisher cared about people actually trying to read the book.)

Third great feature of the book is that each chapter ends with a timeline, actually parallel timelines that cover major events and rulers in surrounding areas. It allows one to re-anchor the last 10-15 pages into the bigger context of time and space.
It is a long book, but if you have any interest in understanding the world between 400-1100, I think this is a great place to start. I wish this had been available 10 years ago.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable, organized history, January 1, 2011
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This review is from: The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade (Hardcover)
Susan Bauer has written a fabulous history of the time period often referred to as the "dark ages." It was, of course, an enormous task to summarize 1000 years of history into 650 pages, but Bauer did a wonderful job. It is superbly organized, and Bauer's prose is engaging. Each chapter has at least one map marking places indicated in the text, and the chapters are brief. It's organization also makes it easy to use as a reference if some readers aren't ambitiously motivated to read the entire volume. I heartily recommend this book for the family library.
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39 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Better than a textbook, but not quite popular history, June 2, 2011
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This review is from: The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade (Hardcover)
I have pretty mixed feelings about this book. It's certainly more entertaining than most history textbooks, and probably a good introduction to Medieval history. Still, I wouldn't really recommend it as a popular history book that one could relax and read. It jumps around too much and throws out too many names, dates, and events too quickly. After reading it through, I felt I could barely remember much of it. I'd recommend using this book more asa reference or reading chapters about certain periods of interest. The chapters don't really connect in any significant way anyways. Ultimately, I'd like to see this book - or one like it - used as a high school textbook.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good overall narrative, February 27, 2012
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This review is from: The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade (Hardcover)
I picked this book up because I didn't know much about the time period it covers, from about 300 - 1100 CE, and this is probably as perfect a book as you can get for filling in the information about the general narrative of the time. Although the book is very informative, it obviously cannot fit everything that there is to know about the era into 666 pages -- consider it an introduction, not comprehensive. Most of the juicy details and day-to-day experiences and thoughts of the people in this time period are left out because the book focuses on sweeping political changes like conquests and regime changes. The author has decided to include all of world history in this book, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Middle Eastern, European, and American, although the Muslim and Christian world get the vast majority of the space. Except for when the armies of Islam were extending their borders from Spain to India, I felt like this inclusion of all of world history into one short book was awkward and telling too many disconnected stories at once. Since I have no interest in Asian history during this period, I could have skipped those chapters entirely and have lost none of the narrative. I will leave it to other readers to determine whether or not an all-inclusive approach is best.

I only give this book 4 out of 5 stars because it takes a just-the-facts approach, which will bore most general readers looking for a good story. If you're not at all interested in the struggles of royal families to hold onto power, this book is not for you. Dynasties and their territories receive far more attention than peoples, culture, and dramatic events here.

Since I consider this book a good introduction to the time period, I will research the subjects that I found interesting in other books, which seems to be the best use of this book.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive, big-picture political chronology, April 13, 2011
This review is from: The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade (Hardcover)
The book is a political chronology of the known world from about 300 to 1100 AD. Its common threads are the efforts at political control, the role of religion in politics, and the nearly constant (military) interactions between diverse and growing populations, the proto-nationalities that gradually gel into the nations we know today. There is little information on culture, economy, engineering and the like. Instead, you get an overall feel for what a medieval empire meant, to quote the author: "a conquered mass of peoples, some in constant rebellion, with on-going struggles for power at the top and an ever-present tendency for the whole thing to fly apart." You also get a feel for how the modern religions took shape and spread. In particular, the author illustrates the political advantages to having a single, homogenous religion with uniform doctrine, perhaps begging the question that asks why so many people insist on a god in the first place.

It is a clear, fast-paced, well-written narrative. The short chapters are arranged so that if you wish to skip the sections on certain regions in order to keep your focus on another area, you can do this without skipping a beat. And as one reviewer pointed out, at least one map plus a timeline of rulers is placed in every chapter, immensely helping a non-historian (me) keep track of the locale and people covered by that chapter. Highly recommended for a big-picture view of the period, as a reference to political and demographic change, or simply as food for thought.

If I may, for those seeking a detailed study of the political, economic and social structures of ancient Rome that carried on in various forms after the empire ceased, might I suggest, "The Inheritance of Rome", by Chris Wickham. For a perspective on the political influence of Christian doctrine, consider, "The Closing of the Western Mind", by Charles Freeman.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Book, November 26, 2011
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J. Swavely (Easton, PA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade (Hardcover)
The Medieval World, also known as the Middle Ages or Dark Ages, is often glossed over in "History of Civilization" or "World History" classes. At least I know it was in my high school and college courses that were so named. But there is a lot of really interesting history from the time of the decline of the Roman Empire until the Renaissance. And Susan Wise Bauer presents a meaty overview of that time period that is both very thorough and often spiced with a little humor as well. While there cannot be great depth in such a broad treatise, it is heavily foot/end noted for anyone who would like to study certain topics further. Chapters are relatively short with timelines of the various material covered at the end of each, so it is an easy book to pick up and read for a short time, then come back to later. I highly recommend this for anyone who is curious about History and enjoys reading about it.
This is a companion volume to Ms. Bauer's "The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome" which is also excellent.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wise-Bauer scores again with a tested format, March 4, 2013
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This review is from: The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade (Hardcover)
For anyone who has read any of Susan Wise-Bauer's other books they will recognise the easily readable format immediately. Like the author's large volume on ancient history this offering covers the history of the Medieval world in small easily digestable bites. The flow of time progresses through the text as events are tracked in various locations in both the west and east. Readers should be warned that you can leave the valley of the Rhone in the 9th Century and be wisked away to China in the following chapter. There is a cast of thousands and plenty of dates but the clipped, concise nature of the chapters helps the reader absorb the blizzard of information far easier than longer chapters might allow for. The sudden change in geography also helps implant the information as events happening in the East and West, while togther in time, are often quite different in nature so that information is easily categorised and stored in one's memory.

This book is a joy to read and the format makes for steady advances through the chapters. In each sitting one might read only one ten page chapter, on the next snowy day ten or more can be digested with ease. Wise-Bauer's style is, in turn, easy and friendly, witty and sharp. It is almost as if the author is on the other side of a table in a comfortable discussion over coffee. "The History of the Medieval World" has something for everyone from the casual reader (despite being a long book) to the more deeply read on the period.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic follow up...must for history buffs and recommended for all, August 3, 2011
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Derek's Kindle Books (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Admittedly this type of content can be 'dry' for many who are non-readers. Bauer does a fantastic job though of keeping the chapters short and quick. She also keeps a strong objective perspective, which I found important. History is literally written by victors and rulers (as displayed in the volume History of the Ancient World).

I really enjoyed being able to see from a high level how the various civilizations around the world developed. Particularly since in school we typically cover just one group of people and/or time period. It was interesting to see issues that we as a society still struggle with or haven't been able to solve.

The overall perspective on the world you receive is worth it. I hope she is working on a third volume!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Only Book You'll Ever Need on the Middle Ages, January 16, 2011
This review is from: The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade (Hardcover)
After covering the history of pre-civilization on through antiquity in her first tome with The History of the Ancient World, Susan Wise Bauer returns with the next volume in the four-book series, The History of the Medieval World. Weighing in at over seven hundred pages, Bauer has once again outdone herself covering the fall of Rome in the third to fourth centuries on up to the first crusade in the eleventh century. What makes Bauer's work so beneficial as well as important is that she is not simply covering the history of Europe, but concurrently relates to the reader the rise and fall of rulers and people of the Middle East and India, as well as Asia; in The History of the Medieval World, Bauer even has a number of chapters dedicated to the Americas and the growth of Mesoamerica.

Perhaps what makes these works so seminal is Bauer's telling concurrently of all these civilizations' events, happenings and histories, providing interrelating details and facts to link everything together. While this may seem somewhat overwhelming in a block of text, Bauer breaks this up with numerous maps - at least one per chapter - explaining where the events are happening and to who, as well as occasional photos to further illustrate a point. At the end of each chapter is an invaluable table that lists the chronological events of the chapter with dates, as well as other columns listings events of other civilizations in previous chapters.

In this way the reader never becomes lost or confused, with all these facets that help keep him or her on track. Of course, there is also an extensive bibliography and a lengthy index to provide easy referencing, as well as a full table of contents with one-sentence chapter summaries. It appears inevitable now that when the last two volumes of this series are complete, the four-book set will be an important collection for any fan of history, be they teacher, student, or amateur historian.

Originally written on May 3 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

For over five hundred more book reviews and exclusive author interviews, go to BookBanter ([...]).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, enjoyable history of the Middle Ages, February 18, 2012
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This review is from: The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade (Hardcover)
This is a very readable, generalized history of the Medieval Period. I bought this primarily for Western history, although it includes Eastern and New World history as well.

The text is a bit dry for my liking, but I'm probably in the minority on this.

Thank you for writing this, Susan. I look forward to reading more of your works.
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The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade
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