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Those Terrible Middle Ages: Debunking the Myths Paperback – March 1, 2000

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Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 179 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Press (March 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898707811
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898707816
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,442 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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178 of 182 people found the following review helpful By Carl E. Olson on June 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
When the average person thinks about the "Middle Ages", that period from about 500 to 1500 AD commonly called the "Dark Ages", they usually have visions of gore, torture, famine and poverty. Is that a correct understanding?
Régine Pernoud, the famed French historian and archivist (1909-1999), writes that it is not. The author of numerous books about the Middle Ages, including widely acclaimed books about Joan of Arc and other women of the period, Pernoud is not afraid to express her anger and frustration with the lack of accurate teaching about the Middle Ages. She causticially notes that the "Middle Ages is privileged material: one can say what one wants about it with the quasi-certitude of never being contradicted." Although originally published in 1977 and intended for a French audience, "Those Terrible Middle Ages!" is both a helpful introduction to the real Middle Ages and a fine commentary on the importance of a sound education in history, something many Americans would be all the better for having.
Although the book (the translation?) occasionally reads awkwardly, Pernoud's ability to right the record by turning stereotypes and fallacies upside down shines through. Her major concern is that what passes for an education in history within public schools is often little more than a string of stereotypes held together by the glue of gullibility: "The Middle Ages still signifies: a period of ignorance, mindlessness, or generalized underdevelopment, even if this was the only period of underdevelopment during which cathedrals were built!
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57 of 57 people found the following review helpful By L O'connor on November 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
Regine Pernoud stoutly defends this most maligned of historical periods in this splendid book. She clearly shows how mistaken are the ideas about the middle ages as a period of ignorance and superstition. She writes eloquently about the glories of the middle ages, the wonderful cathedrals and abbeys, illuminated manuscripts, music and poetry. She shows how nonsensical is the myth of the 'renaissance' the alleged rediscovery of classical learning. The peopleof the medieval period were quite familiar with classical authors, they simply didn't feel the need to copy them slavishly, unlike the people of the supposedly enlightened period that followed. Nor was the Middle Ages a period of static social order, as she points out, the son of goatherds became a Pope. A very revealing passage describes how the old medieval mystery plays, performed by the guilds, were outlawed due to the jealousy of the professional theatre, actors disliked the idea of 'common people' being allowed to act for the benefit of other common people. The famed 'renaissance' was actually a period of regression, when the common people were deprived of liberties they had enjoyed in previous centuries, and the position of women in particualr became very much more restricted due to the influence of classical misogyny. This is a terrific book, take advantage of Amazon's offer and buy this with Women in the Age of the Cathedrals, they are both marvellous books.
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Regine Pernoud's book THOSE TERRIBLE MIDDLE AGES:DEBUNKING THE MYTHS is a brief but instructive book which both undermines popular history (popular nonsense) of the loosely defined Middle Ages (c.500-1500 AD). This book refers to documents and the use of reason to debunk the notion that the Middle Ages were sterile and oppressive. One should note that Miss Pernoud also gives her readers an important lesson on how to learn history and how to produce historical works.

Father Buckley, SJ, has a short but useful forward to this book. He gives examples of a brilliant age during which people saw the abolition of slavery, "checks and balances" on abosolutism, great architecture (the Gothic Cathedrals), the invention of the codex (bound book), the musical scale, and the mechanical clock. He could have easily included the development of bookhand or standard penmanship, and the remarkable achievement of Scholastic Philosophy and its insistence on logic and clear reason.

Among the myths that have been perpetuated is that of the Medieval serfs. These people lived better than slaves during Ancient History, and these people had absolute rights such as access to their land. These men and women could not be removed from their land. While these people could not easily leave, they did indeed have social mobility. Furthermore, Miss Pernoud refers to documents such as deeds, bills of sale, etc., whereby serfs, including women, expanded their land holdings and could improve social mobility. She indicates that some who were serfs were able to go the Medieval monastic schools and later universities and rise in the rank of the Catholic Church and political structure. Miss Pernoud cites women such as Heliose, Peter Abelard's wife, who knew Latin and Greek and composed literary works.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Cheryl Metzger on August 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
Despite what you've learned in Western history class, the Middle Ages was not a generation lost to poverty, slavery, serfdom and plague. Regine Pernoud in Those Terrible Middle Ages gives a good short history of the culture, society, art and architectural progress during 500 to 1500.
What we hear is so little compared to the length of time that period covers - a millenium. Pernoud does a good job in explaining the Inquisition - why society allowed it to begin, how it progressed, etc., as she clarifies the role of the Catholic Church, rightly pointing out that during much of the time period the popes were hiding and trying to survive, not politically ruling the West with terror and money-grabbing hands.
The place of women and their loss of rights near the end of the Middles ages when the ruling and educational systems of society returned to the ideas of old Roman law (much of which we still live with today) was a surprising element.
You'll want to read it twice to catch all the facts.
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