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By Jim on 03-03-17
Life's Rich Pageant
A previous review suggested that this might be hard work but I found it to be an engrossing listen. Wickham combines a great deal of learning on a dense patchwork of medieval societies from Iceland down to Moorish Spain and from Russia out to the Irish clans. Due to the scope and erudition of the thing there were times when I had to go back and listen to something a second time but it was always worth it.
The book manages to create a deeply immersive picture of what life was like in the various parts of Europe from the Roman Empire's reinvention as Byzantium to the establishment of Protestantism as a state religion in many parts of the north. Wickham provides a nice balance of material about what Kings, Popes and nations were doing while drawing on diaries that have come down to us from ordinary people who long after their deaths can give us a glimpse into what it might feel like to live a medieval life. It's an added bonus that the author has a dry sense of humor which becomes increasingly amusing as the book goes on.
I like history and don't mind wrestling with quite dry books if they have something new or interesting to say but in this case I'd describe Medieval Europe as a serious historian's idea of popular history. It's written for the general public, there are great stories and engaging personality portraits but to get the most from it you have to concentrate from time to time.
17 of 19 people found this review helpful
By Keith on 23-10-17
Concise and complex
Enjoyed this history of a period I have read a number of books on over the years. It’s quite concise in that it gets broadly the 1000 years from 500 - 1500 in a not significant length. However, it is very complex, especially when dealing with the political arrangements of the period, even has he makes these complex points well and interestingly. I did find the political chapters harder to take in while listening as opposed to reading. The social, religious and conflict chapters were excellent.
PS: the use of the phrase ‘that is to say’ is overused.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful