INVENTING THE MIDDLE AGES
The Lives, Works, and Ideas of the Great Medievalists of the Twentieth Century
In this ground-breaking work, Norman Cantor explains how our current notion of the Middle Ages-with its vivid images of wars, tournaments, plagues, saints and kings, knights and ladies-was born in the twentieth century. The medieval world was not simply excavated through systematic research. It had to be conceptually created: It had to be invented, and this is the story of that invention.
Norman Cantor focuses on the lives and works of twenty of the great medievalists of this century, demonstrating how the events of their lives, and their spiritual and emotional outlooks, influenced their interpretations of the Middle Ages. Cantor makes their scholarship an intensely personal and passionate exercise, full of color and controversy, displaying the strong personalities and creative minds that brought new insights about the past.
A revolution in academic method, this book is a breakthrough to a new way of teaching the humanities and historiography, to be enjoyed by student and general public alike. It takes an immense body of learning and transmits it so that readers come away fully informed of the essentials of the subject, perceiving the interconnection of medieval civilization with the culture of the twentieth century and having had a good time while doing it! This is a riveting, entertaining, humorous, and learned read, compulsory for anyone concerned about the past and future of Western civilization.
About the Author
Norman F. Cantor was Emeritus Professor of History, Sociology, and Comparative Literature at New York University. His many books include In the Wake of the Plague, Inventing the Middle Ages, and The Civilization of the Middle Ages, the most widely read narrative of the Middle Ages in the English language. He died in 2004.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I've resisted reading this for years because of the negative reviews of "gossip", but now wish I had sooner. If for no other reason the list of 125 essential medieval history books in the appendix is worth having. Or, if your a Tolkien fan and want to learn about the real-world connections between Middle Earth and the Middle Ages. Or if you've ever tried reading "Wanning of the Middle Ages", or Sutherland's "The Making of the Middle Ages" and didn't get what all the fuss is about. Cantor puts it all into historical perspective and context and arms the reader with the knowledge needed to approach these books from a high level understanding.
A rather gossipy examination of how it was historians of the Twentieth Century who established medieval studies as a set of historical and critical disciplines after centuries of neglect. Even though the work of these scholars is only just beginning to enter popular consciousness (which still holds the Nineteenth Century view of the period as a "dark age"), it was people like Southern, Bloc, Strayer and Haskins who laid the foundations for future study.How exactly J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis made Cantor's list is more of a mystery. As excellent as their work was, it wasn't in the same league as the others in the book in terms of influence. I suspect Cantor had his eye on non-academic book buyers (most of whom would never have heard of Haskins let alone read Maitland).Nonetheless, a great book and a brilliant history of a field of history.
Full of good information about major medieval historians and their contributions to the field, and how their personal lives affected their understanding of history. However, Norman Cantor has a tendency to get carried away and make really broad overgeneralizations or exaggerations, and I never quite trust him. This book is full of Cantor's assessments of historians' works and personalities, and his view isn't always the generally-accepted view. This book is a good starting point, but should be followed with some further reading to get a better-rounded view.