143 of 144 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2001
My parents are medieval historians (their books are available on Amazon!) and I remember seeing the original version of this book around the house. I was fascinated by it, and it taught me not just history but economics, geography and plenty of English. The maps are intoxicating, but it's the text that accompanies them that is the true star. That being said, let me add praise for the maps, in particular for the revolutionary idea of using the same basic map over and over, which creates a kind of flipbook effect---you can see the Arabs surge out of the deserts and overwhelm North Africa and the Near East, then fracture, you can see the Mongols surge in from Asia and recede, and you can see the little kingdoms of Europe condense into France, England, Poland and the Holy Roman Empire. The Middle Ages were an incredibly diverse and energetic time, and it's hard to imagine a standard history text doing such a thorough job of describing them in so few words.
60 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2000
Most of us, especially in America, have received a very slanted view of medieval history in Europe. It takes something as simple as this book to put things into perspective. In the nearly fifty maps included, you get a great feeling for the progression of the many empires that rose and fell from the time of Rome to the Age of Discovery. When compared to the more comprehensive 'Atlas of Medieval Europe', this title falls short in the amount of depth covered, but is far superior in organization and consistency of information. A must for any medieval enthusiast.
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 1999
If you're looking for a very detailed history of the times between 362AD to 1478AD, this is not the work for you. It is a very broad overview of the era, however, with political maps every 40 years on average, and every two or three centuries a map showing the divisions between the eastern and western church and trade routes. Each map is accompanied by a narrative that tries to concisely cover the history of the area shown (Europe, North Africa and the Middle East). A truly excellent reference that I would highly recommend to anyone who is studying this era in a more detailed text.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2001
This atlas may benefit from more recent research results and from a slightly better base map, but it lacks the charm of the older version. No longer are we treated to ironic asides about history never being fair, for example. In what might be an attempt to permit the use of the atlas by American high school students, the vocabulary has been dumbed-down a notch or two (though not quite as far as it was for the Atlas of African History). This is a loss; one of the pleasures of reading McEvedy was the sense that you were in the presence of a acerbic, witty and somewhat old-fashioned English don.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2006
If you want to learn about the who, what, when, and where [emphasis on the last two] of Europe/the Near East during the Middle Ages, then this is the book for you.
The maps are highly detailed; the text is informative and easy to read. You won't get lost in a labyrinth of meaningless jibberish. Buy this book--you will not be sorry. I promise.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2005
I read the old edition, from the library, and it is completely one of the most fascinating books I've ever read. It was recommended as background reading for a history of Western Christianity course I took. This book is perhaps not as furnished with specific details as some would prefer, but as a comprehensive overview of the Mediterranean world in the middle ages it is extremely successful. It is true that the book focuses only on Europe and the world specifically surrounding it (North Africa, the near East, Scandinavia and some of Russia) but I think it is also arguable that we consider "the medieval world" to be specifically that area in light of the social and cultural history associated with the Middle Ages. Using the same map over again is extremely useful and makes the book easy to understand (producing an enjoyable flip-book effect, as another reviewer said). The text is wonderful: though dense, it is extremely easy to understand and McEvedy brings an enjoyable personal flavor to his narration. The absence of most significant landmarks on the map is sometimes inconvenient; I found myself turning to the full map in the index quite frequently. However, I feel that not cluttering the maps with excess print is probably worth the inconvenience. Throughout the book, specific people are identified by an elaborate shading-and-bordering system that, once one has adjusted to it, makes reading the maps very easy. If you are looking for an informative and fantastically compelling broad history of the middle ages, this is a most desirable book.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2008
This entire series is superb and is absolutely essential for any lover of historical atlases. I have been an owner of virtually all of them for at ten years and I can honestly say that they are most read books of all that I own.
The reason is their unique portability and scope. Most historical atlas are huge, heavy and expensive. They are difficult to read unless you are sitting at a table and very difficult to carry. This limits their utility (even though I still love them). Most history books have lots of dense detail about one nation or one period. Virtually none cover the broad sweep of an entire region over centuries.
This atlas cover Europe, North Africa, and parts of western Russia, Iran and Arabia. It starts in 362 AD and 1478 and has a total of 40 maps. It is spaced approximately 50 years apart, although the exact date used varies.
Like all Penguin Historical Atlases, it is small, light, reasonably priced and incredibly broad in scope. These atlases offer a unique perspective on history than is otherwise impossible to achieve. Their size and weight make them perfect for travelling. Whenever I go on a trip, I take the most relevant ones with me. That way I can brush up on my history of the region.
The format is extremely useful. Each two-page layout represents a specific time period. On the right is a historical map. On the left is a very brief overview of the important events that happened since the previous map. Each event usually consists of one paragraph or at most a few paragraphs, just enough to peak the interest. Most of the maps document boundaries and note a few key cities or battlegrounds. Occasionally, the maps focus on population, religion or economics.
What is most fun for me is to trace the history or one nation, province or sub-region through the entire atlas. In just a few minutes I can learn as much as spending days reading an entire book. You can also see how individual nations interact with each other, a subject often left out of typical history books.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2010
This is a rather small book for an atlas - bad on me for not looking at the posted dimensions. Now I understand the one-star reviewer's complaints about the maps. They're just too small to have labels for major rivers or other landmarks. And if you're anywhere close to middle-age you'ld better have your reading glasses handy because the type is exceedingly small. I'm still glad to have the book. I just would prefer to have it in a normal-sized book (rather than a "mini-me" version).
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2011
This is a joy of a book to encounter! I have little to add to what other positive reviewers have mentioned. I'd like to say that I stumbled across it in the bookshop in Lewes, East Sussex, right at the base of the castle ruin; it's part of the castle shop.
With occasional cheek but also great care and respect for the subject at hand, McEvedy takes the reader/viewer/learner/audience (he's presenting a history, atlas, work of reference, and entertainment all at once) on a great historical journey. You stay still. The map, too, is fixed. But over, along it, on its edges, into its middle, through it, and in various directions upon--like a living thing alive with lines and borders of various purposes--the proto-nation groups, designated most often by their linguistic group in the book, dance around and into each other over the course of 30+ maps.
Note, the book is not "4-color print." It's actually only a 2-color book: blue and black. All the gradations on the maps are made with blue, shades of blue, black, shades of black, and blue or black symbols (hashed lines, dots, etc.). This is, quite frankly, printing on the cheap (albeit on nice semi-gloss paper of fairly solid stock). A future edition might treat the reader with more color and at least one geographical map as reference showing the names of all principle rivers and lakes, and a scale of miles and km. (No, there isn't one in the book. Bit of an oversight that, I think.) I also think the book would benefit from a Table of Contents/Maps (by page number) at the front, in which the map year could be given but also a summary title, e.g. "p. 77, A. D. 1230, Mongol Khanate", etc.
McEvedy should get the last work about the topic of his mighty little atlas.: "The theme of the medieval centuries is not the decline and fall of the Roman Empire but the emergence of Islam and western Christendom. It is a better theme than Gibbon's. For a westerner it is the supreme story of defeat turned into victory, but it is also much richer than that. It is a marvelous catalogue of vices and follies, cunning and cruelty, greed, ambition and achievement. Plus a cast of thousands. Don't miss it."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2007
This new edition of a classic overview of Medieval Europe is well worth the small price. It makes clear that the Middle Ages was a period of tremendous change and flux. Empires rose and fell almost overnight. Recommended for anyone who wants to more fully appreciate this period. (The maps and the text are all much better than in the previous edition, which was excellent.)