How can I even describe this book? It has such a massive scope. I felt like I just went on a tour of history. It is a 600+ page book about 1000 years of history. It cannot possibly go into depth about all the events, but he certainly gives a good overview of the important events, movements, and trends in the Middle Ages and why they were important then (and now!).
I knew bits and pieces of this history before reading this book but Dan Jones links it up so well that I really learned a lot. I also learned that there is so much more that I want to learn more about many of these interesting moments in history. I want to learn about van Eyck, whom many say invented oil painting. I want to learn more about the Venice banks and how they were the beginnings of 20th century capitalism. I want to learn more about the Crusades, especially from the perspective of the Muslims. I want to learn more about the Pope wars, and the Antipopes.
An example of how he links up these things is the example with the fall of Constantinople in 1453. This made it more difficult for Western Europe to trade with the East. This pushed the European countries to start exploring for a Western route to the riches of the East. This, of course, led to the colonization of the New World.
So many events from the Middle Ages still reverberate to this present day. As I struggle to come up with examples, I remember from the book that the word algebra comes from the Arabic word ‘al-jabr’. Why do we have this Arabic word in English? Because the Middle East is one of those places that has been hotly contested with it changing hands from the West and the East many times. This is the arcane knowledge I fill my head up with.
The table of contents gives you a good idea of how the Jones’ organizes the book. I like the groupings, and how it makes it easy to follow.
- PART I: Imperium: c. AD 410- AD 750
- PART II: Dominion: c. AD 750 - AD 1215
- PART III: Rebirth: c. AD 1215 - AD 1347
- PART IV: Revolution: c. AD 1348 - AD 1527
“The Black Death’s first wast lasted from 1347 until 1351. During that time, in the worst affected countries, up to 60% of the local population died.”
As we all have disease on our mind, this quote stuck with me. I guess we have another 3 years go to? :|
Throughout the book, Jones makes use of maps. He keeps all the plates at the back of the book. I wish they were linked in the text when they were mentioned. I didn’t discover these until finishing the book.
Book #6 in my My 2022 Reading Challenge