This is a wonderful book about the Middle Ages, well written and comprehensive. If you are interested in books about medieval times, I would also suggest Sea of Faith by Stephen O'Shea and Mysteries of the medeval World by Thomas Cahill. (All non-fiction)
For the reader who has good foundation in Medieval and Renaissance history. This is an interesting book because aside from accurate historical details about events, William Manchester also tells us about the more mundane and everyday details of the lives of the peasants, clergy and nobility. It is such an age of deceit and brutality and doesn't deserve the name of "AGe of Chivalry". Genny
It was a bit more scholarly than I expected based on the other reviews. Not too hard, just a bit "thick" for enjoyment reading. However I learned a lot and there were many interesting factoids about daily life during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. I enjoyed those bits more than the many discussions of historical figures that neither I nor probably 99% of readers have heard of. As stated, good but a bit dense.
Wow! This author is really opinionated! This is about people in addition to politics and Manchester doesn't mince words about just how colorful the people were. I will never think about the Protestant Reformation the same way. I had no idea that millions (really!) of people were slaughtered during that time. Easy to read and accessible, but I would not recommend it for young people, though.
Andrea W. reviewed A World Lit Only by Fire : The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance - Portrait of an Age on
Helpful Score: 1
This was arguably one of the worst books on late medieval Europe that I have seen. It made uncritical use of the hoary comparisons between medieval and modern thought. I used the book's introduction in a couple of introductory courses. Students read Manchester's introduction in the first week of the course, and almost all agreed with him. At the end of the course I trotted out the same reading, and asked students to review it. How did they feel about Manchester's introduction after a full semester -- different (how and why)? The same (why)? Ambivalent? I would say 90% of the students in every class were disenchanted with Manchester's approach. They pointed out places where he plays fast and loose with chronology in order to make his point, places where he relies on a single contrary source to the exclusion of a wealth of evidence pointing toward a different conclusion, bias in his choices of adjectives and juxtaposition of evidence, and the like. I finally put my copy (along with the DaVinci Code) into the recycle bin rather than perpetuate such a take on the Middle Ages.
story tellings of what it was like to live in this dark age, what they believed, their supersitions and the like ..a great book for any history buff..i personally am not good with nonfiction but loved the book
I really enjoyed the parts of this book that I enjoyed, and seriously questioned the parts that I found raised too many questions in my mind about the author's credibility and methods of research. I will say that near the end, I was lying in bed wondering how Magellan would handle things before he died, and I think that is testimonial that much of this book was well written. The whole thing with Erasmus was a page turner for me. The Luther part went on a bit much and made me wonder what parts of the same time period we were glossing over so we could concentrate on Luther. Not that he isn't exceptionally significant...but he got the lion's share of the author's attention. Tyndale, who I really hoped to read more about, only got a few sentences. It's an example of how I wondered at the methods the author used to determine which aspects of the middle ages he would focus on. But then, that is part of the fun of personal research. I want to go read more on the questions raised.
I should also comment here on the way some modern researchers seem to obsess about the sex of the time period they're researching. Not so much the sexual mores, unless it's to prove a Christian person as a hypocrite as though there are no other such hypocrites, but the sex. This was not only unevenly dealt with in this book, but used as a wedge to forcibly prove some assumption of the author's. It was distasteful.
This is a magisterial study in the history of emerging western civilization as it struggled up out of the Dark Ages. The title is one of my all-time favorites, reminding us that our assumption of the easy access to nighttime lighting is, in the long reach of human history a very recent thing. Ponder that when you are curled up late one night reading this wonderful book.