The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade MP3 CD – Unabridged, March 3, 2010
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About the Author
John Lee has read audiobooks in almost every conceivable genre, from Charles Dickens to Patrick O'Brian, and from the very real life of Napoleon to the entirely imagined lives of sorcerers and swashbucklers. An AudioFile Golden Voice narrator, he is the winner of numerous Audie Awards and AudioFile Earphones Awards.
- Item Weight : 2.61 ounces
- ISBN-10 : 1400164931
- ISBN-13 : 978-1400164936
- Product Dimensions : 5.3 x 0.6 x 7.4 inches
- Publisher : Tantor Audio; MP3 - Unabridged CD Edition (March 3, 2010)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,819,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Let me start by saying something critical that actually is a positive. This is the reason I give the book just four stars. It is also the reason I like the book so much and highly recommend it:
This is old fashioned history, the way our grand parents learned history. The focus is on kings, queens, emperors and the generals who served them. I am half way through the book and long ago lost track of all the wars, assassinations and uprisings. Discussions of how the common people lived? There is none of that. There is no mention of developments in science, commerce, the arts, philosophy, etc. Slavery? Taxation? The treatment of women? You will have to look elsewhere.
I say this is a strength because the Middle Ages spans an enormous period of time. I could read ten books on the period and still feel I was only scraping the surface. But you have to start somewhere just to get "oriented" to the period, and learning about rulers, wars and shifting borders is an excellent orientation. Who were the Franks? Who was Justinian? Who were the Vandals? Who were the Persians? Who was Leo the Great? These are the sort of things you need to know before you can delve more deeply into other aspects of the history, and these are the sort of things Bauer covers.
OK, let me tell you what is awesome about this book.
1. It is highly readable. The book is broken down into short chapters that are like "episodes." Each episode is almost like a short story, but they fit together into a complete history. The writing is engaging, with enough focus on rulers' foibles, adventures and intrigues to fill a bookshelf of novels.
2. Maps!!! There is a map accompanying almost every chapter. I haven't been paying close attention, but I don't recall a single chapter without one. These aren't generic maps the publisher dropped in, with place names unrelated to what is discussed in the accompanying chapters. No. Each map is drawn specifically to clarify the text. My only problem with the maps is that, in the Kindle edition, they are very low resolution. If you can't read a place name in one of the maps, zooming in probably won't help. The zoomed name will be pixelated.
3. World view: Bauer does not limit herself to Europe. She also covers North Africa, the Arab world, Persia, India, Tibet, China, the Eurasian Plains, Korea, Japan and even, briefly, the Americas. Most people will read this book because they are interested in Europe, but you would miss much focusing exclusively there. Reading Bauer, you see Islam and the Tang Dynasty rising simultaneously as the Byzantine Empire falters. What happens in one part of the world does impact others. For example, the rise of Islam places pressure on Byzantine, which gives the Lombards the chance they need to evict most of the remaining Byzantine troops from Italy — and hopes of restoring the Western Roman Empire quietly fade.
Let me close by qualifying one thing I have said. While topics such as science, commerce or the lives of common people receive little mention, religion is covered extensively and well. You can't understand the Middle Ages if you don't understand the role of religion. Bauer covers Christianity, the religions that preceded it, heresies, ecumenical councils, the rise of Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism and more, all with insights into how rulers exploited religion to unify or control subjects. I have learned much. For example, I never knew Islam was built on a pre-existing Arab religion that already embraced a deity called Allah and a holy city Mecca.
Overall, this is a highly readable introduction to the Middle Ages. It is not history at its best, but that flaw is its strength.
Largely this is a recounting of the various leaders in these regions, and how one tribe would gain a foothold over its neighbors for a few decades, and then largely atrophy before a full collapse, where one of its neighbors takes its turn.
Entertaining book. It was sometimes hard to keep up with all the names, but otherwise enjoyable.
Top reviews from other countries
highly entertaining, like a 'real' version of game of thrones. battles, betrayals, inter marriages, relationships, the evil catholic church launching crusade after crusade for purely personal gain, heresies being burnt at the stake - great fun. highly recommended for people like myself, who are not really 'historians' but want something entertaining which will give them an decent overview of the main events and stories from the medieval age.
this review also applies to the same book of the renaissance - i also bought the audible version, loved it, then bought the hardback version and also love it.
the books themselves - maybe a bit expensive at 20 plus pounds - are however lovely quality, nice pages, decent maps and diagrams, and will be with me for many years and in a few years the kids i am sure will be using them for school history stuff. So overall 5 stars and thanks to Susan Wise Bauer for writing such great books.
Only gripe i have is - Dear Miss Bauer - why no 4th book on early modern history? what are we to do from the 15th century to 20th?
Amazingly, the author achieves their goal very well indeed. Each chapter deals with a different culture, moving forward slowly in time to indicate clearly the evolution of the period from each perspective. However, this is never overwhelming. The 'story' of each land/culture flows well (and often humorously), and never becomes dry or just a barrage of names or titles. Societies and influences are clear, and it's easy to get an idea of what is happening, where and why.
As an overview of a very long period over a very wide area, it is excellent and (miraculously!) never unwieldy. There's enough detail for readers who find appeal in a particular time or location to then look for further, more detailed accounts elsewhere.
An excellent text, recommended.