Europe in the High Middle Ages

Europe in the High Middle Ages

by William Chester Jordan
     
 

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"The Penguin History of Europe series... is one of contemporary publishing's great projects."—New Statesman

It was an age of hope and possibility, of accomplishment and expansion. Europe's High Middle Ages spanned the Crusades, the building of Chartres Cathedral, Dante's Inferno, and Thomas Aquinas. Buoyant, confident, creative, the era

Overview

"The Penguin History of Europe series... is one of contemporary publishing's great projects."—New Statesman

It was an age of hope and possibility, of accomplishment and expansion. Europe's High Middle Ages spanned the Crusades, the building of Chartres Cathedral, Dante's Inferno, and Thomas Aquinas. Buoyant, confident, creative, the era seemed to be flowering into a true renaissance-until the disastrous fourteenth century rained catastrophe in the form of plagues, famine, and war. 

In Europe in the High Middle Ages, William Chester Jordan paints a vivid, teeming landscape that captures this lost age in all its glory and complexity. Here are the great popes who revived the power of the Church against the secular princes; the writers and thinkers who paved the way for the Renaissance; the warriors who stemmed the Islamic tide in Spain and surged into Palestine; and the humbler estates, those who found new hope and prosperity until the long night of the 1300s. From high to low, from dramatic events to social structures, Jordan's account brings to life this fascinating age. Part of the Penguin History of Europe series, edited by David Cannadine.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As Jordan shows, the Middle Ages in Europe were indeed the best of times and worst of times. The beauties of Gothic architecture, the revivals of Latin literature, the rise of the university, the lyrical romances and chivalric chansons formed the high points of years that also witnessed famine, plague, political and religious squabbles, and the Crusades. Princeton historian Jordan (The Great Famine) marvelously weaves the many and various events of the years 1000-1350 into a splendid historical tapestry. He discusses how various European countries experienced the Middle Ages, putting to rest the notion that the era was monolithic and affected everyone the same way. The conflict between the Catholic Church and the state lies at the heart of the medieval period, and Jordan adeptly chronicles that struggle. As the monarchy gained power, the Church found that even voices within, such as monastic movements like the Franciscans and the Dominicans, sought reform. By the end of the Middle Ages, the Church found itself in a crisis that laid the groundwork for the Protestant Reformation. Jordan's magisterial survey indicates how rich and significant the Middle Ages were in forming European culture. That this is the inaugural volume in the Penguin History of Europe augurs very well for the series. Illus., maps. (On sale Jan. 27)
Library Journal
This volume inaugurates Viking's new series, which under the editorship of David Cannadine will eventually encompass eight volumes. Jordan (medieval studies, Princeton Univ.; The Great Famine) ranges from the 11th century to the beginning of the 14th century-a time of major growth and reform. The population of Europe increased significantly as a result of new agricultural technologies, the spread of the iron plow, and new practices such as the clearing and settlement of the vast forests of central Europe. This era witnessed the rise of great church reformers like Pope Leo IX and Abbot Hugh of Cluny and the creation of Dante's Divine Comedy and Thomas Aquinas's philosophy. Jordan surveys this society from high to low, from the worker in the fields to the popes and secular rulers, giving students and lay readers who are already interested in the era an excellent introduction that will build their enthusiasm. This should be the benchmark for judging a survey volume; highly recommended for large public and academic libraries.-Robert J. Andrews, Duluth P.L., MN Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A chronicle of high ideals and cherished dreams—as well as famine, plague, holy war, and other apocalyptic horsemen in the making of Europe from the 11th to the 14th centuries. The year 1000, Haskins Medal–winner Jordan (The Great Famine, 2000) writes, saw the arrival of remarkable change in Europe. The lifting of the Dark Ages brought with it a huge gain in population (from two million to ten million in England, from four to fourteen million in German-speaking countries, and so on) and great advances in technology, including the adoption of three-field farming and the heavy plow. All of this led to prosperity and happier times for long-suffering peoples. At the outset of this period, Jordan (History/Princeton Univ.) reminds us, the Church had comparatively little power and influence: "To be a Catholic in the year 1000 required little change in traditional behavior, in part because there were so few people who were actively monitoring behavior on behalf of that vague body so conveniently yet deceptively referred to under the monolithic label, the Church." Three hundred years later, things were different: Political and ecclesiastical powers were centralized, orthodoxies were in place, crusades had been fought, heretics had been routed and burned. In a wide-ranging narrative that embraces most of the continent and takes in enlightened rulers (Stephen of Hungary, Henry II), adventurers (Richard Lion-heart, Tancred), despots (Fulk Nerra, Henry III), and assorted saints and sages (Dominic, Thomas Aquinas), Jordan charts the course of this growing centralization and its eventual collapse under the weight of famine, disease, incompetence, and gunpowder. He writes elegantly and ironically ("therewas curiously little pacifism in the High Middle Ages"), giving the reader a broad but not dumbed-down view of medieval society and its complexities, which must have seemed to contemporaries very bewildering indeed. A splendid start to Penguin’s History of Europe series and a first-rate work in its own right.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780140166644
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/24/2004
Series:
History of Europe Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
255,559
Product dimensions:
5.11(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

William Chester Jordan is Professor of History at Princeton University and the author of The Great Famine.

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