Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century Paperback – July 12, 1987
|New from||Used from|
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
In this sweeping historical narrative, Barbara Tuchman writes of the cataclysmic 14th century, when the energies of medieval Europe were devoted to fighting internecine wars and warding off the plague. Some medieval thinkers viewed these disasters as divine punishment for mortal wrongs; others, more practically, viewed them as opportunities to accumulate wealth and power. One of the latter, whose life informs much of Tuchman's book, was the French nobleman Enguerrand de Coucy, who enjoyed the opulence and elegance of the courtly tradition while ruthlessly exploiting the peasants under his thrall. Tuchman looks into such events as the Hundred Years War, the collapse of the medieval church, and the rise of various heresies, pogroms, and other events that caused medieval Europeans to wonder what they had done to deserve such horrors.
“Beautifully written, careful and thorough in its scholarship . . . What Ms. Tuchman does superbly is to tell how it was. . . . No one has ever done this better.”—The New York Review of Books
“A beautiful, extraordinary book . . . Tuchman at the top of her powers . . . She has done nothing finer.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Wise, witty, and wonderful . . . a great book, in a great historical tradition.”—Commentary
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
I someway stumbled on the Kindle enabled edition. I don’t know how. The original print edition would have been mightily enhanced with an internet. When it was first published, “A Distant Mirror” was a Dewey Decimal System exploration in extrimis. There were simply too many side alleys to be explored
I read the book as soon as it was published around 1982. The ‘distant mirror’ that the early ‘80’s reader related to was the memory of the 70’s becoming the '80's … hot and cold war, economic “malaise”, pandemic swine flu, upward economic stagnation and class struggle, 16% usurious mortgage rates, gas lines week end and out, a predicted ice age, etc, etc. … it was bad, really bad. How bad could it get?
Tuchman had perfect timing and an intuitive narrative to 'parallels' from the 14th century that frankly no one had much knowledge of at the time. In my 25-30 year-old mind, Tuchman captured my rapt attention. The book remains in the top 10 historicals for me for the reason that there are no other similar historicals following the life of one little known Enguerrand de Coucy. The first reading has stayed with me for many years. I would have rated it a 6-star at the time. The re-read goes to show that my memory was not as crisp as I once imagined.
This Kindle enhanced re-read revealed one thing I don't recall noticing at the time. The elephant in the room is Tuchman's 20th century moral/social critique to the 14th century. Her opinion was not necessary for the narrative to be excellent. How could I have missed that Tuchman was a non-historian and elitist of old Morgenthau wealth? I don't know. I'm more discriminating in historical authors these days before committing to a 600-page read. If George Soros today opinioned a history of the 14th century, it may not likely deviate from Tuchman.
99.5% of the narrative is still amazing. .5% is naïve and materially questionable. Modern historical deep dives simply don't follow the Tuchman pattern today for a reason. Who are we to judge a nearly 600 year-old generational period when half of the people you know died of the plague then half again died 20 years later? Most of your family today would have never survived birth then. Without the Capetian and Valois propaganda and fake 'chivalry' source Froissart, and ref'd sources source from Froissart, Tuchman's sourcing is narrow.
I can’t believe I’m critical. This was an historical monument to my fascination in deep diving history. Tuchman’s decidedly sharp positions and determinations have not survived the test of our greater historical knowledge today.
The Kindle read is phenomenal. What was a full-on Dewey Decimal System labor has become instant access to sources, places, names and opens lines into other dimensions and 14th century dynamics. I may have spent more time venturing into references than the book.
Finally, I so wanted to re-visit the sense of my first read. Perhaps I was bound for some disappointment. The 14th century, the 13th century … whatever century was nothing comparable to the present any more than the present is akin to the future. History frankly is not what repeats. The base nature of our species constructs and behavior are unsuppressed and this is what is repeated.
In the current context of socio-historical writing, 4 stars. I would doubt the book would be the huge success if it was a new History release.
14th century France managed to combine possibly the worst of all possible outcomes. After the political and military triumphs of Philip the Fair (IV) in the early years of the century, a lengthy period of dynastic uncertainty continued throughout the period, with only the reign of Charles V to demonstrate rare competence in government.
France, probably more than any other, was a prisoner of chivalry as the Middle Ages waned. This meant that knightly valor overwhelmed simple good sense as demonstrated again and again and again during four spectacular military disasters, Crecy, Poitiers, Nicopolis and Agincourt. In each case the French were overwhelmed by the failure of their own tactics and an inability to understand the need to sacrifice glory, the knight's prerogative for the expediency of developing formations and tactics that could respond to superior English long bows and superior Turkish tactics. The Hundred Years lasted as long as it did due an insistence of the French nobility on fighting as its enemy preferred it to fight, rather than in a way likely to ensure victory.
Tuchman uses the French nobleman Enguerrand de Coucy as the prism to view the century's disasters. His father died at Crecy, he died after Nicopolis in Turkish hands. In between he married a daughter of Edward III, served the realm in diplomatic and military capacities and survived the plague that decimated Europe.
It is appropriate for Tuchman to use a member of the nobility as her "every man" as this is the class that had the greatest impact on French and English history during this period. This impact was not necessarily a positive one, with rebellions and treason being more routine than bathing. Moral guidelines are generally absent with the Catholic Church torn by the spectacle of two, sometimes three, popes during the great schism. While the Kings were sometimes mad, the nobility was generally bad.
This is a marvelous book which I forgot just how good it was, having last picked it up in 1979. The 14th century is a place worth encountering through Tuchman's prose.
I bought this book instead of "A World Lit Only By Fire" upon reading that Manchester had apparently not been overly factual in his overview of the era. This book's title implies an overview of sorts of the 14th century.
In actuality this book is quite specific in covering the relations and wars between England and France, and in particular the life of a certain French knight, during that time. While some other countries have "bit" parts, make no mistake, this is a very detailed study of England and France in the 14th century.
This book contains an astounding (to the lay person approaching medieval history) amount of minutiae on all aspects of the English and French courts, down to the number and nature of courses served at (many) specific dinners. While initially interesting (and who could fail to be interested to discover that records of this sort of thing from this long ago exist) to me, these details became tiresome after a while and I think the book would not have suffered if some of them had been omitted.
Overall this is an astoundingly well researched and often fascinating book, if not quite what I was expecting. I will be buying some of Tuchman's other books after having read this one, but I have to admit I will be reading a few "lighter" books before then, heh.