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Publisher's Summary

The millennium between the breakup of the western Roman Empire and the Reformation was a long and hugely transformative period - one not easily chronicled within a single volume. Yet distinguished historian Chris Wickham has taken up the challenge in this landmark book, and he succeeds in producing the most riveting account of medieval Europe in a generation.

Tracking the entire sweep of the Middle Ages across Europe, Wickham focuses on important changes century by century, including such pivotal crises and moments as the fall of the western Roman Empire, Charlemagne's reforms, the feudal revolution, the challenge of heresy, the destruction of the Byzantine Empire, the rebuilding of late medieval states, and the appalling devastation of the Black Death. He provides illuminating vignettes that underscore how shifting social, economic, and political circumstances affected individual lives and international events. Wickham offers both a new conception of Europe's medieval period and a provocative revision of exactly how and why the Middle Ages matter.

©2016 Chris Wickham (P)2017 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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Average Customer Ratings

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interesting but dry

I found my mind wondering often and then being totally lost. tough book to absorb through audiobook format. Interesting content though. I'd recommend reading it instead though.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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outstanding, absolutely outstanding.

learned a great deal about something I thought I already understood. narration.was excellent and in.proper english

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Obscure language, excellent otherwise

Would you try another book from Chris Wickham and/or Derek Perkins?

While the book is well-researched and neatly organized, its significant shortcoming is the overly complex language used for the sake of complexity itself. Sometimes the language makes it really hard to see "the forest behind the trees" and understand the original thought of the author. For example, instead of "corruption" it is "the culture of giving money in the hope of getting favors in return" and there are numerous other examples of such sophistry.In this regard the author is a bit similar to the famous Greek historian Polybius, whose histories were really one of a kind once you get past the elusive language of the author and start seeing the flawless logical analysis of the events. Unfortunately, back in the time not everybody would have enough patience to decipher the meaning hidden behind complex grammatical forms and most of his history works were eventually lost as a result.I think the point of using the language and professional terms is not to make books sound more sophisticated and academic, but rather to skillfully illuminate the ideas presented and put them into the right context. I am not sure that this book always succeeds in doing that.But if you manage to get past through the obscure language and get to the point then this book will not disappoint.

6 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Unlistenable

What would have made Medieval Europe better?

Less dates and places thrown at you at high speed, more linear story line. I know history isn't fiction, but still - one can make it more interesting than dates and places... Felt like I was back in a college history class where the prof just droned on ad on with nothing of import.

What was most disappointing about Chris Wickham’s story?

'Story'? There was no story. Just dates and places, sprinkled with an occasionally interesting bit. I wanted to know what life was like, what they wore, what they ate, how they obtained it, what their worries were, how they coped with them, gentry and religious issues, and so on. The author just glanced over that and went back to his dates and places. I couldn't take more than half of chapter two.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

The reader was excellent- he had a fine tonal quality and speech pattern and read the droll, boring material as best he could.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment. I expected better than this droll regurgitation of the thousand other books written on this material.

Any additional comments?

Returning this one...

7 of 12 people found this review helpful

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not for me.

I consider myself a novice history buff and can follow along most books, but this one was difficult.

7 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Jim
  • 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.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Keith
  • 10-23-17

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.