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The Middle Ages Paperback – February 26, 2001

44 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0618057030 ISBN-10: 061805703X Edition: New edition

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Mr. Bishop . . . says here almost everything of transcending importance about the Middle Ages and says it better than it has been said before." --LOUISVILLE COURIER-JOURNAL

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Product Details

  • Series: American Heritage Library Series
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; New edition edition (February 26, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 061805703X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618057030
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

131 of 132 people found the following review helpful By J. Hart on December 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
For most of my adult life, I have been interested in learning about the medieval era. I've been frustrated by the books I have read in the past because I either could not keep track of all the unfamiliar names and places thrown at me, or because they spoke only of political events and gave no information about what it was like to "be alive" back then.

This book is the best I have read for allowing me to wrap my arms around the Middle Ages. The first and final chapters cover the political history in brief summary. It is written for the layman and does not assume that you already know your Pippen's from your Louis'. It broadly sketches the major events that occurred and why they were important, and it also tells why the Middle Ages differed from what came earlier (Antiquity) and what followed later (Early Modern era).

The intervening chapters (the bulk of the book) describes each of the different social groups (nobility, peasantry, clergy, merchants, etc) and what it would have been like to have lived as a member of each class. It also describes the major institutions and how they functioned (Church, kingship, demesnes, free cities). Finally, the book gives a lot of solid and interesting information about medieval art, letters, and architecture.

Those who are fairly advanced in knowledge about the Middle Ages will probably find little in this work that they don't already know. It is, after all, a relatively short book that covers almost 1,000 years in short, broad strokes. However, for those like me, who are interested in the period but really don't know much about it, this book is a wonderful place to begin your study.
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83 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Tim F. Martin on December 30, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
_The Middle Ages_ by Morris Bishop is an enjoyable and witty overview of the history, culture, and society of Medieval Europe. The first chapter, "The Long Dark," looks at the beginning of the medieval period, the author arguing that the Middle Ages should be seen as both a continuation of the language, institutions, and artistry of not only old Rome but also of cultures independent of it, such as that of the Franks and Saxons and a formation, the beginning of our modern world, the end of pagan classical civilization. Charlemagne is a major figure in this chapter; his coronation as the first Roman emperor in the West in more than 300 years (in the year 800) marked a major shift in power, from the East to the West, the development of a culture that was not a satellite of Byzantium but rather firmly European, and the very birth of European civilization.

Chapter two focused on the history of the High Middle Ages, focusing in large part on the year 1000 as a major turning point, that despite Viking threats "one could point to certain gains, to certain justifications for hope," as the West was in generally a better shape and the broad outline of the major modern states had begun to take form. Technology continued to advance, with the advent of the spinning wheel, mechanical weight-driven clock, compass, and fixed rudder. Notable in the chapter is King Henry II (who laid the foundations of English common law and the institution of limited monarchy).

The next chapter focused on knights and the crusades. Bishop noted that the crusades were "the first wars fought for an ideal" and that they were promoted with all the tools of the propagandist, among them atrocity stories, lies, and inflammatory speeches.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Anonymous on October 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is unbeatable value! Whether you want to know more about the feudal system, monastic life, the merchant class, courtly love, the Crusades - social, political, military, cultural, church history, of both England and mainland Europe - it's all here. All delivered in easy, accessible language.
As a teacher, I find this an indispensable reference source. As a student, always learning, it's a revelation for me.
A must-have for any bookshelf.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is not an all inclusive history of the middle ages, but rather an overview of most of the different aspects of this time. A lot of detail is skipped over in order to include such a variety of topics, but the finished product is worth the effort. If you are looking for an introduction to the middle ages, or are just a little curious about this time period, this book is the ticket.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By AJD on July 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
Arguably the best survey on the Middle Ages (my favorite time period).
Bishop includes just the right amount of anecdotes and eyewitness accounts to keep the reader's interest.
A terrific resource to have -- I've read my copy so many times, the pages are coming apart!
A must for any history buff's library.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By "m_peror07" on January 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
The Middle Ages is a very good introduction to the period, and I thought it was a great book overall. In nearly every paragraph there's a little kernel of knowledge that caused me to go "Wow!". Bishop explains everything from medieval outhouses, the origin of the word "bank", the origin of European last names, to the average day for a monk. There is a lot missing (the Byzantine Empire and the Muslim empire are barely mentioned for example) but there is enough to keep a historical novice interested. I heartily recommend it.
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