By Chris Wickham
Published in November 2016
Thibault’s Score: 2/5
Medieval Europe is a survey history that focuses on institutional change in Europe from 500 until 1500. Due to its brevity, this book does not focus on the specifics, but rather on broad trends shaping states and social institutions.
I didn’t really like this book that much. First, I found that the information was too basic for me, because I have been studying the Middle Ages in depth for several years. However, I also think that this book is likely to be too complicated and too uninteresting for a neophyte who doesn’t have any background in the Middle Ages.
Chris Wickham’s writing style doesn’t jive well with me either. He makes many arguments to “go against” popular or academic conceptions of the Middle Ages. I don’t really care about oppositional statements, and find them very off putting in historical works like this.
The book had a lot of boring sections. Part of this is because the book is neither a narrative or a historiographical treatise. Narrative histories are less accurate and more prone to legends, but are interesting as they have characters and motives. Historiographical histories focus more on the methods of text analysis and archaeology, and are very intellectually stimulating.
This book does not cover many specific narratives as it is only intended to serve as a very broad survey. It also doesn’t cover the methods of historians and archeology.
I thought it was a pretty boring and very milktoast book which doesn’t have very many gems hidden in it. My recommendation is for readers to skip it entirely.
I did not finish the book, only made it roughly two thirds until the end before I put it down.
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