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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Book Review: The History of the Medieval World

hmwSusan Wise Bauer is already known for the engaging conversational style of her popular series of history books for children, Story of the World. Her latest work, The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade, is the second in a series of books written for adults.

This is definitely not just a dry recital of the facts. Bauer weaves an intriguing narrative, attempting to capture the real people behind the tumultuous period some call the Dark Ages. You’ll catch glimpses of the personalities and characters of the men who claimed a divine right to rule, and the personal and political influences that drove them. The book attempts to juggle events throughout the west, middle east and the east to give a full picture, and the use of timelines throughout helps to keep track of all the parties involved.

What I like:

The relatively short chapters are a bonus for someone like me with a kid induced short attention-span. The inclusion of timelines to show me what’s happening in various parts of the world at the same time and frequent maps was a tremendous help.

I love Bauer’s conversational style and her ability to “paint a picture” as she fills in the details for a clearer understanding of not just the who and what of what happened, but the how and why.

And what’s not to like?

Over 800 years (from 312 – 1129 AD) of history full of wars and upheaval is a lot of ground to cover, even in over 700 pages. I found myself wishing for two volumes and a fuller understanding of the people involved. While the background information and details given put a human face on events, it’s not really enough to provide a full understanding. After a while, the text still tends to read like a blow-by-blow description (this happened, then this happened, then this happened…). It’s intended as an overview, and the book accomplishes that goal nicely, but it’s really only a starting point for studying medieval history. Overall, a good way to get a handle on events and to use as a quick reference. Would work well for a high school history course.

The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade by Susan Wise Bauer is available in hardcover from Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.

I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes. I received no other compensation.

1 comment:

  1. The History of the Medieval World is a true world history, linking the great conflicts of Europe to the titanic struggles for power in India and Asia. In its pages, El Cid and Guanggaeto, Julian the Apostate and the Brilliant Emperor, Charles the Hammer and Krum the Bulgarian stand side by side.


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