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.
A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance: Portrait of an Age Paperback – June 1, 1993
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently Bought Together
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
The opening section entitled "The Medieval Mind" is especially, embarrassingly, bad. In it, Manchester reduces an entire millennium to a quick and spotty sketch (this must account in part for the vagueness of my memories) which is full of over-generalizations (the medieval world wasn't a bona fide "civilization"), simplifications ("there was no room in the medieval mind for doubt; the possibility of skepticism simply did not exist"), and absolute howlers (medieval peasants went naked in the summer; the medieval mind had no spatial and temporal awareness or self-consciousness).
Less bad--but still bad--are the succeeding two sections, both much longer than the opening one on the medieval period (this, despite the book's subtitle). One of the sections is on the Renaissance and Reformation, the other focuses on Magellan and the European "discovery" of the New World (which Manchester tells us was the germ from which the entire book grew). There are some interesting biographical vignettes in the Renaissance section that probably account for my pleasant memories--Savonarola, da Vinci, and Erasmus in particular--but there's no real effort on Manchester's part to wrestle with the meaning of the new humanism that fueled the Renaissance or to explore the intricacies of the Reform revolt against Rome. Instead, he falls back on tired stereotypes; his long account of Martin Luther is especially hackneyed.Read more ›
As a young man, William Manchester served in WWII. He then pursued a career in journalism, spending time overseas. At some point he shifted to an academic career and compiled, probably in part from experience, biographies of Churchill, McArthur, and J. F. Kennedy -- safe territory for a journalist. His list of works include some fiction and essays; we can surmise that first and foremost, he is a writer, not an analyst, and certainly not a researcher.
As his "Author's Note" reveals, at the age of 70 during a convalesence, he decided to write a "portrait" of the 16th Century as a backdrop to a study of Magellan. In roughly two years he churned out "AWLOBF," notwithstanding the fact that his background in the 16th Century was no more than "the general familiarity of an educated man." As a result, his efforts to deposit ink on paper yielded a work that has an uncanny resemblance to recently used toilet paper.
Anyone should be suspicious of a book that provides firm dates for the death of Arthur and Robin Hood. (Chronology, p. X). Carless mistakes such as misidentifying Grand Duke Ivan III as the first Tsar of Russia (p. 35; Ivan IV (1533-1584) = first Tsar) serve only to shred its credibility.
As Manchester himself states, the book is "a slight work with no scholarly pretensions. All the sources are secondary, few are new. I have not mastered recent scholarship on the early sixteenth century." In fact, turning to his "Acknowledgements and Sources," we find that he gives credit above all to the Will Durant's "Story of Civilization" (ca. 1954) and the Encylopaedia Brittanica. In other words, we are blessed with a careless synthesis of dated general compilations, themselves compiled from dated secondary sources.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
William Manchester can make drying paint interesting. Read his other books and essaysPublished 3 days ago by matthew powers donald
An absolutely fascinating account of the Middle Ages -- Learned something new, constantly. May be one of Manchester's best books (that I never heard of).Published 20 days ago by J. Bruce Miller
Rife with error; Manchester unfortunately follows and then perpetuates 18th and 19th century myths about the Medieval era that were designed to flatter the contemporary era (both... Read morePublished 1 month ago by James H. Ruhland
Spends more time running through historical gossip, much of which is known to be untrue, than explaining history. Tries too hard to be entertaining.Published 1 month ago by JN
This guy probably knows his subject but the book was slow going for me. I never got excited by medieval history and this didn't change my attitude.Published 1 month ago by Tom Edison
Manchester does an incredible job of portraying this time period as it was, while providing details and information that enhance the experience of reading and give amazing insight... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Kindle Customer