A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century [NOOK Book]

Overview

Barbara W. Tuchman—the acclaimed author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning classic The Guns of August—once again marshals her gift for character, history, and sparkling prose to compose an astonishing portrait of medieval Europe.
 
The fourteenth century reflects two contradictory images: on the one hand, a glittering age of crusades, cathedrals, and chivalry; on the other, a world plunged into chaos and spiritual agony. In this revelatory ...
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A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century

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Overview

Barbara W. Tuchman—the acclaimed author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning classic The Guns of August—once again marshals her gift for character, history, and sparkling prose to compose an astonishing portrait of medieval Europe.
 
The fourteenth century reflects two contradictory images: on the one hand, a glittering age of crusades, cathedrals, and chivalry; on the other, a world plunged into chaos and spiritual agony. In this revelatory work, Barbara W. Tuchman examines not only the great rhythms of history but the grain and texture of domestic life: what childhood was like; what marriage meant; how money, taxes, and war dominated the lives of serf, noble, and clergy alike. Granting her subjects their loyalties, treacheries, and guilty passions, Tuchman re-creates the lives of proud cardinals, university scholars, grocers and clerks, saints and mystics, lawyers and mercenaries, and, dominating all, the knight—in all his valor and “furious follies,” a “terrible worm in an iron cocoon.”
 
Praise for A Distant Mirror
 
“Beautifully written, careful and thorough in its scholarship . . . What Ms. Tuchman does superbly is to tell how it was. . . . No one has ever done this better.”The New York Review of Books
 
“A beautiful, extraordinary book . . . Tuchman at the top of her powers . . . She has done nothing finer.”The Wall Street Journal
 
“Wise, witty, and wonderful . . . a great book, in a great historical tradition.”—Commentary

NOTE: This edition does not include color images.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Beautifully written, careful and thorough in its scholarship . . . What Ms. Tuchman does superbly is to tell how it was. . . . No one has ever done this better.”The New York Review of Books
 
“A beautiful, extraordinary book . . . Tuchman at the top of her powers . . . She has done nothing finer.”The Wall Street Journal
 
“Wise, witty, and wonderful . . . a great book, in a great historical tradition.”—Commentary
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307793690
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/3/2011
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 784
  • Sales rank: 43,896
  • File size: 15 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912–1989) achieved prominence as a historian with The Zimmermann Telegram and international fame with The Guns of August—a huge bestseller and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Her other works include Bible and Sword, The Proud Tower, Stilwell and the American Experience in China (for which Tuchman was awarded a second Pulitzer Prize), Notes from China, A Distant Mirror, Practicing History, The March of Folly, and The First Salute.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 33 )
Rating Distribution

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(26)

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(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 33 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2011

    1 of the 10 books to have if stranded on a remote island

    I have read the Distant Mirror repeatedly over thirty years and now it is in the Nook library. When it was first published I used excerpts while teaching economics to evening school students. The reflections of this critical century in western history remain all around us in daily life. Including why we bless someone for sneezing, the meaning of children's nursery ryhmes, the source of idioms in language, the persistent cause of inflation, the roots of religious intolerance to rival the horrors of the 20th century, and history which reads like a fictional novel. Don't miss your chance to read one of the great books of our time.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 5, 2011

    Great and readable history

    Even those who are not students of medieval Europe will like this book. It has an easy to read and engaging style. The nice thing for the serious and non-serious reader is that Ms. Tuchman found a relatively obscure nobleman who always seemed to be on the edges of the great events of the 14th Century. So it is a history and a biography and something new to find out even for those fairly familiar with the period.

    I have read it twice and am glad to have it in my eBook library.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2009

    And we think we have it bad!

    If you only want to read one book to better understand the 1300's,"A Distant Mirror" is, by far, the best one available! Tuchman's scholarship is impeccable, her writing is beautiful, and her conclusions are provocative.

    What struck me was the utterly horrible conditions that people, especially the poor, had to endure during this period. And there was no possibility of things improving! Starvation, the worst plague in history, unending labor, and the possibility of being pillaged, killed, and tortured were constant worries.

    For generations we have been conditioned to believe that, while there might be "bumps on the road" from time to time, the upward progress of western man was inevitable. During the 1300's this was unbelievable! It is a sobering conclusion.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2006

    An Intimate Look into our Past

    Tuchman takes the tack, in this highly regarded and very informative, classic of cultural history, of tracing the development of an important and increasingly influential family of the time, the Coucy. Tuchman walks us through various economic and cultural rooms of the age, and - at her best - we feel that we are inside the room seeing it for ourselves. Chapters that cover the Black Death and sexual and romantic matters are particularly fascinating and revealing. I suggest reading this book in slices - the best way to enjoy a large feast. An excellent book for the layman and scholar alike.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 25, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    MASTERFUL This is the most absorbing, interesting and engaging s

    MASTERFUL
    This is the most absorbing, interesting and engaging straight history book I have ever read. It uses the device of tracing one protagonist, Enguerrand de Coucy VII, to keep the historical story more intimate, although he is often not in the forefront. It covers a vast array of topics to include the plague, customs and fashions, crusades, the continuous, intermittent warfare between England and France, the foibles of chivalry, the political landscape and dearth of rationale leadership, the papal schism and the moral depravity of the church, economic conditions and insufferable taxation. I have a much better understanding of the papal schism that lasted over seventy years, the Hundred Years’ War, the ability of superior French forces to sustain catastrophic defeat, and the importance and manner of death of Jeanne (or Joan) d’Arc. I would challenge anyone that thinks American or world politics, leadership, morals, and economic and military problems are worse today than at any time in history to look at the fourteenth century. As Tuchman quotes Voltaire, “History never repeats itself, man always does”.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A DISTANT MIRROR... A fascinating look into the 14th century

    A Distant Mirror has it all! It reads like a novel, yet is packed with the pathos of history... The black death, the black prince, the flagellants, and the 100 years' war. No one can write like Tuchman, and this is one of her best.

    You will have a fantastic ride, drop your jaw at Poitiers, and shed a tear for the hubris of the French.

    If you want a real education into the 14th century read this book along with Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie's "Montaillou, The Promised Land of Error". You will gain a real insight into the three estates of medieval Europe...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 13, 2010

    Brings history to life

    One of my favorite books of all time. Brings a little known period of history to life. Fascinating historical facts and accounts based on real people. This period of history left an indelible mark on our culture and society. Every time we sing 'Ring around the rosie' with a child we recall our cultural memory and the impact of this period on Western Civilization. Read this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    An insight into another age

    Fantastic historical writing but most of all a great insight into different times and a different mentality. Not just who and when but how they thought and what motivated them.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2000

    A narrative that follows the French knight who brought a glimpse of hope to a calamitous time

    From besieges to peasantry uprisings. From corrupt officials to demonology and witch-hunts. From the holocaust that was the Black Death to the Hundred Years¿ War when the phrase ¿This is the end of World¿ was axiomatic. The 14th century was indeed one of the most calamitous time periods man has ever witnessed. Indubitably, no contemporary author has ever anatomized the Century, showing readers both the travesties that transpired and the accomplishments of the age, as the world-renowned historian and Pulitzer Prize winner Barbara W. Tuchman in her narrative A Distant Mirror. As the ¿Vehicle¿ of her narrative, Tuchman ingeniously choose one of the most prominent and skillful knights of his time, Enguerrand De Coucy of France. Chosen because his life from 1340-1397 coincided with the time period concerning Tuchman, Coucy truly lived one of the most extraordinary medieval lives, making this narrative a delightfully exhilarating read. Unfortunately, nothing is known about the multifaceted Coucy until he quelled a cataclysmic peasantry uprising at the meager age of 18. In order to paint a vivid picture of Europe¿s condition before Coucys known life, Tuchman devoted the first seven chapters of her narrative to explaining in detail the catastrophic events that materialized before Enguerrand made his mark on history. Enrapturing readers right from the beginning, Tuchman tells the all true tale of the arrogant French King, Phillip IV, who after a dispute with the Pontiff, used his military powers and political connections to elect a new Pope and move the Papacy to the French province of Avignon where it would remain for successions to come. Indeed, at the turn of the 13th Century, France was one of the mightiest powers in the world with narcissistic rulers, a massive army, and a love for Chivalry. As the 14th Century commenced, although French Supremacy reigned, the century was already in trouble. In 1303-1307 an advance of polar and alpine Glaciers started what was to be known as ¿The Little Ice Age¿ lasting until 1700. Farmers suffered from depleted crops triggered by the wintry temperatures. Furthermore, heavy downpours set off huge floods compared to that of the biblical flood. Amid Mother Nature¿s wrath, Political turbulence was brewing. Surprisingly, after territorial disputes with the Phillip IV, Edward III, King of England claimed the right to the French throne. Edward III¿s claim to the throne began what was to be the longest war in recorded history, the Infamous One Hundred Years¿ War. Through Alliances, Spies, manipulation, and marriages, the English obtained formidable strongholds in France. In consequence of England¿s growing strength in French territory, Phillip IV called for the best knights in his kingdom to destroy English forces. Although overwhelmingly outnumbered, the English use of longbow men (scorned by chivalry) annihilated the French Knights. Although the French had garrisons of Longbow men, they were never used, in view of the fact that the French believed it was ignoble to fight from long ranges. Through battle the English obtained Calais, a foothold that gave them a safe route into France. The French effort to take back Calais was prolonged by the most lethal catastrophe in recorded history, The Black Death. Brought to Europe by Italian Traders who recently visited Asia, the Black Death spread rapidly, leaving a worldwide death toll estimated at 23,840,00(1/3 world population). In the next six decades the Black Death would rise six more times. Hardly emerging from the Plague, France moved toward another military debacle with England, this time lead by the king¿s imprudent heir to the throne Jean II. After raising the largest and most daunting army of the century, the French were defeated at the Battle of Poitiers. Extraordinarily, Jean II was captured in Poitiers, an event that would directly influence Enguerrand De Coucy. Maddened by the defeat at Poitiers, taxe

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2014

    History Textbook

    Crammed with facts not presented elsewhere. This is a great reference book.

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  • Posted December 9, 2012

    A Masterpiece, I have read this book at least 3 times, and will

    A Masterpiece, I have read this book at least 3 times, and will probably read it again to catch all the different nuances and facts. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys history and a good story. I have related parts of this story to my children and my parents. History repeats itself in many ways, as the title suggests.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2012

    Great Medieval History

    Though there is a few minor factual errors, this is one of the better medieval histories in the shop.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2012

    Masterful reflections

    I recently gave this book as a gift to a bright young history graduate who loves France. Even though it's years since I read it myself, it came immediately to mind as possibly the most informative, involving and significant account of an amazing time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2012

    I've read this book 3 times and still can't get enough

    I've read this book 3 times and still can't get enough

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  • Posted December 7, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Brings to life a dark period in history

    I first read this just after getting out of college. Re-read it a few years ago. It brings so much of this period to life that you are left with the most true understanding possible. Woven within this text are many tidbits of knowledge such as word origins, the use of the color purple, as well as the attitudes towards children.

    So many books regarding this period of time are dry reads, but Tuchman breathes life into it, into a time when so much is about death. My only wish and disappointment is that this has as yet not come to the nook. I so much want this in ebook form to ease my reading of it once more.

    For anyone interested in knowing what life really was like for people during the black death and this time period, seeing through the eyes of those who lived it this is a must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2004

    A WONDERFUL BOOK!

    Barbara Tuchman has done it again in A Distant Mirror. Her story gives a real look into the lives medieval citizens. A wonderful book. I loved it...BRAVO

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2003

    A view of day to day struggles in the 14th century

    This is a book to savor and read slowly so as to absorb the detail Barbara Tuchmann has included in this book. The day to day lives of common and priviledged alike is set down in detail as well as a timeline that clarifies the main events and the their consequences. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it is one I go back to read every once in a while, a real keeper.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2002

    A Poignant Reflection

    The similarities between medieval Europe and the modern world are there for all to see, but Barbara Tuchman just makes them so much more enjoyable to read about than her peers. Without a doubt the finest book about the middle ages I've read and probably in any historical period. It's just that good, for anyone with the remotest interest in the past this is a must read. By taking the life of a French Nobleman of the time and juxtaposing his life against the background events of his time she created a new and wonderful method of teaching history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2001

    You willl not want the book to end

    This book was incredible. Its perfectly vivid immage of life in the fourteenth century will make you feel as if you are actually one of the characters. Though hard to get into at first, you will not want to put this book down, and when you do, you won't be able to wait until you pick it up again. I recomend this book to any reader who is interested (or wants to be interested) in history, no matter what their favorite era. Even though, before I read it, my favorite time in history was the Age of Imperialism, I got into this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2001

    A Superlative Book!

    All of Barbara Tuchman's books are excellent but this one is just terrific! If you want a good introduction to the 1300's, I have found nothing better. She focuses on a prominent, if enigmatic, French nobleman as a unifying theme to a period that saw the Black Death ravage Europe, the Great Schism weaken the Catholic Church, and the origins of the Hundred Years' War. Besides telling a great story she makes numerous wise observations about humanity in general and the medieval mind in particular.

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