Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on June 3, 2009
I'm trying to work with The Story of the World, Vol. 2: The Middle Ages. With respect, how does one write a history of the Middle Ages and leave out:

Cathedrals ("The medieval cathedrals of Europe--there are over a hundred of them--are the greatest accomplishments of humanity in the whole theatre of art." P. Johnson, Art: A New History [New York: HarperCollins, 2003]; p. 153): they were the center of both secular and religious life in the Middle Ages.

An explanation of how the monks in Ireland kept Western Civilization alive and re-introduced it to the continent.

The Rule of Benedict (a foundational document for Western civilization, right up there with the Magna Carta, that has influenced everything from constitutional government to corporate organization.)

Scholasticism & Humanism (yes, it began in the Middle Ages): Thomas Aquinas and his Summa Theologica, marrying Greek rationalism and Christian theology, which has made Western Civilization the unique creation it is, arguably the most successful and influential civilization the world has seen to date. Aquinas developed, among other things, the concept of natural law and God-given rights. The line from Aquinas to Jefferson is profoundly important.

Guilds (the valuing of labor, the attendant social mobility that came with guilds, including the beginnings of a middle class)

The founding of universities by the Church

The establishment of hospitals by the Church

The cessation of slavery in Western Europe because of Christianity

In sum, the book does not report the pre-eminent role and the great contributions of the Church in creating what we have come to know as Western Civilization. Consider what Kenneth Clark writes:

" ... [T]hree or four times in history man has made a leap forward that would have been unthinkable under ordinary evolutionary conditions. One such time was about the year 3000 BC, when quite suddenly civilization appeared, not only in Egypt and Mesopotamia but in the Indus valley; another was in the late sixth century BC, when there was not only the miracle of Ionia and Greece--philosophy, science, art, poetry, all reaching a point that wasn't reached again for 2000 years--but also in Indian spiritual enlightenment that has perhaps never been equaled. Another was around the year 1100. It seems to have affected the whole world; but its strongest and most dramatic effect was in Western Europe--where it was most needed. In every branch of life--action, philosophy, organization, technology--there was an extraordinary outpouring of energy, an intensification of existence. ... These changes imply a new social and intellectual background. They imply wealth, stability, technical skill and, above all, the confidence necessary to push through a long-term project. How had all this suddenly appeared in Western Europe? Of course there are many answers, but one is overwhelmingly more important than the others: the triumph of the Church. It could be argued that western civilization was basically the creation of the Church." (K. Clark, Civilisation [New York, 1969], pages 33-35)

That story is missing from Bauer's account of the Middle Ages.
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