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Publisher's Summary

A lively and fascinating narrative history about the birth of the modern world.

Beginning in the heady days just after the First Crusade, this volume - the third in the series that began with The History of the Ancient World and The History of the Medieval World - chronicles the contradictions of a world in transition. Popes continue to preach crusade, but the hope of a Christian empire comes to a bloody end at the walls of Constantinople. Aristotelian logic and Greek rationality blossom while the Inquisition gathers strength. As kings and emperors continue to insist on their divine rights, ordinary people all over the world seize power: the lingayats of India, the Jacquerie of France, the Red Turbans of China, and the peasants of England.

New threats appear, as the Ottomans emerge from a tiny Turkish village and the Mongols ride out of the East to set the world on fire. New currencies are forged, new weapons invented, and world-changing catastrophes alter the landscape: the Little Ice Age and the Great Famine kill millions; the Black Death, millions more. In the chaos of these epoch-making events, our own world begins to take shape.

Impressively researched and brilliantly told, The History of the Renaissance World offers not just the names, dates, and facts but the memorable characters who illuminate the years between 1100 and 1453 - years that marked a sea change in mankind's perception of the world.

©2013 Susan Wise Bauer (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

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The 2nd Half of the Medieval World

The History of the Medieval World gave us that history up to the end of the First Crusade, with this book picking up in the wake of that around 1100 and carrying us to 1453--the approximate beginning of the Renaissance. So why is this book labeled like this when practically every other historian agrees on the labeling? As near as I can tell, it's because this is when the texts of the Ancient Greeks were first rediscovered, just as the title claims. I realize the devil's in the details, but that's pedantic. This book, like the two volumes before it, is for general audiences that want to see how the pieces fit together. Confusing people with something that arbitrary seems pointless.

What is not pointless is this book. As with the Ancient and Medieval World volumes before it, this book covers all of the hotspots of the globe, East and West. To see how the world of the Samurai line up with that of the Crusaders or the Mongols is just astounding. If you've not read the previous two volumes, get them. Everything in these books serves to show the cause and effect of historical events and the people who rode through them. Names and dates are there as references, but the personalities are touched upon so as to give the overview some meaning and provide that perfect springboard for future learning.

I really want a book on the Renaissance and Reformation now so as to continue the flow of these works. When viewed through the long lens, it's easy to see how the world we live in today is built upon all of that which has gone before. To the people who lived back then, it's always the modern world, just as ours is for us. Why there aren't more history books written like this, I'll never know. Kudos all around for this book and for its predecessors for making history both broad enough to see the big picture and detailed enough to understand it in context as the sum of its parts.

28 of 28 people found this review helpful

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Almost Great

Any additional comments?

This was a very enjoyable listen. It took a little while but once I settled into this book I really enjoyed John Lee's reading. I am not a student of this time period in history and this book gave me a great broad understanding of and exposure to many events I had heard of (and many I had't) but would have been hard pressed to explain or put in context. This sparked my interest in specific subjects that I can delve into deeper. I doubt a knowledgable history buff would learn much new or hear any critical insights.

In the end that is where the book fell a bit short for me. I suppose there was so much material to cover that there was little room for historical retrospective. I was also hoping for more background on the influence of ancient writers and thought and how it shaped events.It would have been more engaging if there was more focus on the development of thought and knowledge and the struggles it caused.

Ultimately the history of this time period (and alas much of human history) can be summed up thus .... dates, Kings, Popes, conquests, mass murders, ruthless power struggles and untimely deaths ... rinse and repeat. There were very few heros beyond the inventors, artists and thinkers.

24 of 24 people found this review helpful

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This happened, then that happened

I listened to this dutifully with no enjoyment. It's like eating vegetables, you do it because it's good for you. Sometimes historians are guilty of creating a narrative that is just not there. Well, not here. This is basically a chronicle of the events that happened and the people who made it happen. In order words, you're just handed fact after fact, as though you're reading an almanac. I'm glad I listened to it, though. Just wish it were more compelling.

19 of 20 people found this review helpful

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  • 4GO
  • Saratoga Springs USA
  • 02-16-16

The Title is a bit misleading....

I wanted a book about the Renaissance; not the period leading up to the Renaissance .
Those looking for tales of art and enlightenment should look elsewhere. This book ends just before the Renaissance begins.
A good work to be sure, but hopelessly (however literally) misnamed.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Not. about the. Renaissance

A. good history but not really about. the. Renaissance. Covers the time around the start but only touches the Renaissance at the start and end of the book. Disappointing.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Mostly about wars leading up to the Renaissance

While this was an entertaining book, it was not really about the Renaissance period. It spends most of its time talking about the wars and Intrigue leading through the medieval period of time to the Renaissance. it bounces Asian, mongul, American, European history.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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not about the renaissance

What disappointed you about The History of the Renaissance World?

This history of the renaissance is misnamed. it is simply an account of everything going on in the known world in the late 11th and early 12th centuries. (I don't actually know how far it goes since I am dropping it halfway through.) But if you bought this book, odds are you weren't expecting a history of sri lanka or japan or peru, but that's what you get - in addition to European history. but even there, it's all political/military. I have yet to hear of an artist. why does the author even refer to the renaissance? it would be more apt to entitle it: history of the world 1170 - 1300.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Lots of details but not much insight

I understand that historians today believe it is their job to report facts without critiquing them, however, this book could have been a lot more interesting had the author made some attempt to weave these disparate histories into some kind of narrative on the drivers influencing the Renaissance. The time spent covering societies in south and mesoamerica made it clear that the author didn't have any interest in explaining the relevance of the various stories with the supposed subject of the book. The abrupt ending was also disconcerting without any type of closure or explanation for why this particular event in SE Europe should signal the end of whatever era she was claiming to cover.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Gary
  • Las Cruces, NM, United States
  • 08-28-18

Earthlings observations at 50 yr intervals

I found this volume the weakest of the three. Based on this volume, I can’t tell you the meaning of the ‘Renaissance’, what the author defines as the period from 1100 – 1452 or what most others would call the ‘Early Modern Age’. Oh, it has meaning, but when the story is told as this author does strictly chronologically with an eye to the events in themselves as an end in themselves sometimes the meaning, the reason and the modern day significance gets lost in the shuffle.

The story is told by this author in this volume as if an alien spectator from another planet was compiling a set of diverse worldwide events from on high and dwelling mostly on the movement of local fiefdoms as they rubbed up against each other and reporting that to their overlords on a distant planet on a 25 to 50 solar year basis. I enjoyed the story telling of Genghis Khan and his hoards, a segue from England and the Magna Carta all told in a serial fashion, and all the various events related such as a very detailed 50 year history of Sri Lanka from 1150 to 1200 and even the African nation of Chad which is one of my first times understanding its importance of itself, but never quite understanding exactly how Chad or Sri Lanka intersected with the world as a totality, or how all the events related as if by an alien observer gave meaning to the ‘renaissance’ period with itself or to today or as a continuation of history from itself.

Europe and its dysfunctional family of rulers, cousins and petty family squabbles never fail to amaze, but I still challenge a reader of this book and using this book alone to tell me the meaning of the ‘Renaissance’. I think it has meaning for today, I think all history has meaning. I think those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it and are liable to end up with narcissistic ruler who appeals to our hate in order to control us by creating an alternative set of facts which transcend the real world of historical facts. The claim of ‘fake news’ can only work on those who are ignorant of the truth and the meaning inherent from our common history. Hungary and Poland today are returning to their xenophobic totalitarian core and both states are mentioned in detail within this book and to understand what is happening today sometimes the context of history enlightens, but even in this book’s telling the contextual meaning and significance was obscured by the chronological event telling.

Were the scholastics even mentioned in this book? I guess some were (I don’t remember which, but if they were they were only briefly mentioned). The period of time covered in this book is when ‘love of wisdom’ goes from grammar as the root of understanding to logic as the gateway and then to rhetoric for the rediscovery of the old Latin masters (thank you, Petrarch and Florence) as role models (or in other words, from the pre-scholastics, to scholastics to what most people refer to as the Renaissance). None of the depth or complexity of thought that emerges from this time period gets any detailed treatment within this book.

The Early Modern Age has meaning beyond the events themselves observed and transcribed by an alien from another planet. (The author used the word ‘Renaissance’ in her title, it’s her book and she can title it anyway she pleases but I don’t think she should have if she was writing a story about the Renaissance in the sense that most people think about the Renaissance. She probably should have called it ‘Early Modern Age’, but even then she still owes the reader the reason why the period of time has meaning for today and the time period itself).

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Nothing to do with the Renaissance

I’ve generally liked her work, but in this case I got the book because I wanted to know about the Renaissance, but this book, literally doesn’t even get there. It is a book about the late Middle Ages and ends before the Renaissance even starts. Quite disappointing.

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  • JohnWK
  • 04-27-17

Bit of a struggle

Any additional comments?

I struggled with this then eventually gave up part way through. I know I should be broad-minded and all-embracing but the narrative 'jumps' all round the globe and in parts is very difficult to follow.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful