This week, we are starting a new feature called A Really Great Read. In which we invite you, the readers to tell us of, not a book you can do with, but one you can’t do without. Did it teach you things you didn’t know? Did it make you laugh/cry/fall asleep? Was it special at some time in your life? Tell us. A reader is like a traveller to a foreign land. Maybe the rest of need to know about what you discovered there.
Purely to start the ball rolling, we will begin with the following
A History of Medieval Europe by RHC Davis.Longman I came across this book at a time of great personal and economic difficulty. And I figured, well the Middle Ages were a time of great difficulties, if they can jolly well get through it, then so can I! And that has stood me in good stead ever since.Yet there are many, many books on the Middle Ages. What is so good about this one, I hear you ask.Well read for yourself. But as you do so answer these questions:
Is it the clarity of style?The structure of the Roman Empire was based on the unity of the Mediterranean, its people and its gods….It was first cracked by the claim of the Christian Church to be the guardian of absolute truth, because that claim made religious compromise impossible. It was further cracked by the determination of barbarian invaders to prefer the law of their ancestors to the law of reason, since that preference implied the superiority of loyalty to one’s race over loyalty to the civilised world. It was shattered when traders lost the freedom of the sea. When that happened , the greater part of Europe reverted to an agricultural economy in which there was no place for the cities which made men civilised.
In a nutshell, or what?
Is it: unites a whole range of themes effortlessly?
Dip into Chapter Nine and you will be thrown into a single weave: The great Medieval Trade Fairs, Byzantium, Arabs, Mongols, rising prosperity, shipping, cloth, and the origin of Banks. Enough for one Sunday morning? Well, there’s a lot more in the chapter. But it won’t half help you appreciate all those funny old buildings you see in places like Barcelona or Bruges.
Is it the amazing little fact?
Under the Islamic Empire there were banks with branches in the most important cities, and
It was possible to draw a cheque in Baghdad and cash it in Morocco
( explainer:there were no cash points in the ninth century; but they sure were doing alright for the time)
Is it: The vast sweep?
We start in a collapsing Roman Empire, move on to the barbarian Invasions ,the rise of the Church and the Franks, the Islamic Conquests and the ninth century simultaneous attacks of beastly hordes like Vikings, Hungarians and Saracens. We draw breath with an economic survey of Europe before the door opens to the more successful High Middle Ages, A time of new buildings and art, booming trade and military success. This was the age in which the foundations of modern science, commerce and Universities were firmly laid; only to be dampened somewhat by the arrival of the Mongols and the Black Death.
And finally A note of odd bravery. I leave it to Professor Davis-and you
(at the end of the thirteenth century)
The conservative might lament the passing of the old order, and try to reconstruct it, but the task was beyond them. The significant figures were the friars who set out to find the Mongols and explore the unknown, however fearsome it might be.
#rhcdavis #ahistoryof medievaleurope #middleages