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Those Terrible Middle Ages: Debunking the Myths Paperback – March 1, 2000
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Original Language: French
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Top Customer Reviews
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!Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
EXCELLENT BOOK! DEBUNKS MANY OF THE MYTHS AND LIES ABOUT THE MIDDLE AGES; PROPOSES A BETTER SOLUTION, BASED ON IMPROVED HISTORICAL RESEARCH. Read morePublished 3 months ago by refq
This is a great book to understand and debunk many myths about the so-called Dark Ages. The Medieval Times were a time of profound changes, social and cultural evolution, and much... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Luca
Régine Pernoud (1909-1998) was a French historian and medievalist; she wrote many other books, such as The Crusaders, Joan of Arc: Her StoryThe Templars: Knights of Christ,... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Steven H Propp
This book is a quick read and if you are curious about what society was like during the Middle Ages it is definitely worthwhile reading.Published on March 4, 2013 by AJCCCM
Book is translated from French and is ridicklously hard to read.
There are better books out there about the medieval ages.
I purchased this book because I was looking for a historical perspective on life in the middle ages that was actually written by a historian. Read morePublished on January 13, 2013 by Phillip C. Wright
This is a nice book, a little dated, but overall is a good read and is still pertinent. The style is a bit harsh and academic, but is funny.Published on August 12, 2012 by studentbuyer89
This is an absolutely brilliant book which has the edge on all other historical works in that Pernoud is an archivist - she uses first sources not other's works . Read morePublished on February 16, 2012 by Devonia
Pernoud begins with a lament as to how poorly medieval Europe is regarded: "medieval" is often used as a pejorative term, if not an outright insult. Read morePublished on February 21, 2011 by Mark S