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Posted June 21, 2004
Modern history (in the good and bad sense)
Overall, I loved this book. It is very easy to read, and is packed with real information that makes the 1300s come alive. The author obviously knows enough to be able to 'condense' his knowledge into easy-to-read, yet rich text. The book covers a lot of ground effortlessly. I would highly recommend this book. The only thing I did not like is that the author injects very modern categories of thinking into the 1300s. For example, he keeps emphasizing that homosexuals were an outsider group. I doubt that people in the 1300s thought of it that way. That is a modern category that he is putting on the 1300s. For example, he states that Jews and homosexuals were persecuted and were outsider groups. I doubt that homosexuals were as persecuted as Jews, and no doubt, a homosexual could cover it up much better than a Jew could [several English kings were homosexuals, so how bad could they have had it ? whereas it was impossible for a Jew to become King]. Homosexuals have always been thought of as 'other' and not normal in Christian countries, but to view them as a group is a very modern way of seeing it. Also, the author states that Gaunt's wealth - relative to today, was 'about half a billion dollars'. Well, I seriously doubt that. That is relative wealth, not absolute wealth. Being rich back then meant you had a fire all the time, could raise an army of thousands, and could buy people off. But does anyone really think that Gaunt's wealth in an absolute sense was anything like Bill Gates' ? I found those modern categories a bit detracting from an otherwise excellent, readable book.
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