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The High Middle Ages  By  cover art

The High Middle Ages

By: Philip Daileader,The Great Courses
Narrated by: Philip Daileader
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Publisher's summary

At the dawn of the last millennium in the year 1000, Europe was one of the world's more stagnant regions - an economically undeveloped, intellectually derivative, and geopolitically passive backwater, with illiteracy, starvation, and disease the norm for almost everyone.

Yet only three centuries later, all of this had changed. A newly invigorated cluster of European societies had revived city life, spawned new spiritual and intellectual movements and educational institutions, and had begun, for reasons both sacred and profane, to expand at the expense of neighbors who traditionally had expanded at Europe's expense. This series of 24 lectures, filled with memorable detail, examines how and why Europeans achieved this stunning turnaround. By its conclusion, you will be able to describe and analyze the social, intellectual, religious, and political transformations that set into motion this midsummer epoch of the medieval world - an epoch you will come to know very well through Professor Daileader's vivid descriptions and examinations of its people, including

  • the warrior aristocracy of knights, castellans, counts, and dukes;
  • free and unfree peasants; and townspeople, both artisans and merchants;
  • its vibrant stirrings of religion and intellect, including monastic life and charismatic figures like Francis of Assisi and Thomas Aquinas;
  • the lives of those outside the religious mainstream, especially heretics and Jews;
  • and its major political developments and events, including the First Crusade, the Norman Conquest of England, and the granting of the Magna Carta.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2001 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2001 The Great Courses

Featured Article: Travel to the Middle Ages with These Audiobooks and Podcasts


The Medieval Era, the tumultuous centuries from the fall of the Roman Empire to the advent of the Enlightenment, is one of the most alluring and intriguing periods of human history. Ready to travel back in time? Check out these audiobooks and podcasts, which cover everything from Icelandic sagas and Medieval murder to the queens of Medieval England and the scientific advancements of the Arab World.

What listeners say about The High Middle Ages

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good, but not his best

Of Professor Daileader's Medieval trilogy, this is probably the weakest offering. The reason I say that is mainly because of my own preference for narrative history rather than social/economic history, of which this course embraces mostly the latter.

That being said, I still highly recommend this course for anyone interested in the period. Daileader's delivery is highly entertaining and he even injects a fair amount of humor to the lectures.

Start with the Early Middle Ages though, since I think that is perhaps the best in the trilogy.

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21 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful teacher

I adore the medieval in any form, but this professor makes a period that is so obscure come alive. He doesn't romanticize the period nor does he belittle it. He inserts humor and quotes that still stick with me.

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14 people found this helpful

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Pleasantly surprised

Where does The High Middle Ages rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

In the category of History, this is one of my favorites. I only purchased this to give me some background to help me appreciate current history. I expected a dry, boring lecture, but was surprised to find that it held my interest throughout. I've also listened to The Early Middle Ages, which I found just okay. This one is the more interesting.

What did you like best about this story?

I most appreciated that this was not so much a history of battles and personalities, but more an anthropological survey of how our social, political and religious institutions evolved to what they are today. The information is valuable for understanding class structures, prejudices, and what we hold valuable.

What about Professor Philip Daileader’s performance did you like?

I first thought he did a decent job, considering it was a lecture. I've since listened to other Great Courses lectures and would rate him very highly, both in delivery and content. Looking forward to listening to his other courses.

Any additional comments?

I'm really looking forward to listening to other Great Courses lectures. My local library has a few on DVD. While the DVD format is nice because it provides maps and such, they are frequently damaged. For ease of listening, I prefer the audiobook downloads.

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8 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting, although ..,

It would be impossible for anyone to cover the High Middle Ages in twelve hours, so there was more about some subjects, less about others, than I would have liked. I like the approach by subject, rather than timeline, as it maintained a focus within each lecture. For me, what I somewhat disliked was the narration. The professor is an animated speaker, which was excellent. But he tends to rush phrases to the point of speaking so fast that he drops whole syllables, while drawing out other phrases unnecessarily. So the pace was uneven. Occasionally he drops his voice so low at the end of sentences that I couldn’t make out the last several words. And he frequently sighs heavily in mid-sentence. I doubt I would notice any of this if I were sitting in a classroom, but with no visibility of body language, and with a mic amplifying everything, these became distractors for me. I don’t regret buying the course, though.

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4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great overview of an overlooked period

What's particularly great about this course is how the professor contextualizes this portion of history, which often gets overlooked by historians and students in favor of the more active Renaissance years in Europe. Despite this, the professor constantly reminds the listener what the lasting impacts of certain events are, which is especially helpful for listeners who go on to other lectures about Early Modern European history and such.

The professor clearly takes this era seriously and delivers a nuanced description of the era. You can tell this is important work for him.

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4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

elegantly organized, quickly sequenced, good jokes

Exceptionally enjoyable! Daileader introduces political, religious, governance, social-class, and financial perspectives, allowing a holistic view. His explanation of the economic and religious psychology of the Crusades was illuminating. Daileader showed why knights and commoners stormed the countryside in violent droves, fervently hoping to die en route and reach heaven - guaranteed by the Pope.

Like a tour guide, Daileader takes the listener through medieval brutality, women's declining power, the rise of universities, and contact with the Arab world. The judicial process of the Inquisition was surprisingly calm, if vicious, and it was often better to be tried in a religious court than a secular one. The maze of Holy Roman Empire kings, dukes, popes, and the notoriously independent culture of castellany is so deftly described that even with some unfamiliar vocabulary, it it easy to follow. For me, over the span of 24 chapters, an ocean of detail steadily poured into a increasingly wide, multi-faceted understanding.

I greatly appreciated Daileader's careful but brisk explanation of how Norse Vikings settled in France, changed their language to Norman French, called themselves Duc, invaded England, and became English Kings. Finally, I understand how Scandinavian boatmen came to rule England, France, and Sicily!

There is a massive amount of detail in this lecture series. It is elegantly organized, quickly sequenced, and presented with humor (at least one good laugh per chapter). By the end of the second listen, I had a much clearer picture of this mystifying, distant period of European history. Very well done, and 100% recommended.

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3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Chivalry, Crusades and Cardinals, oh my!

The professor does a great job in bringing this era to life, exploring society high and low during this era, as well as developments in religious thought, education, and political thought.

Very deep, prepare to be blown away.

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3 people found this helpful

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DAILEADER IS THE BEST 🏆🏆🏆🏆

I found Professor Daileader while watching History Channel's - the Dark Ages - video series. He is an excellent lecturer. I love his Early, High and Late Middle Ages Series.

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2 people found this helpful

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My favorite course bar none

I've listened to dozens of Great Courses lecture series and this one is the one I like the most of them all. Daileader is funny, varied, clear, memorable and detailed.

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2 people found this helpful

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Solid, Bright, and Informative

Combining an analytical and narrative approach, Daileader presents the development of Europe between 1000 and 1300 ad in a wah that indicates both development and aspects peculiar to the era and sets the stage for modern European development. Highly recommended.

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1 person found this helpful