The History of the Renaissance World
By Susan Wise Bauer
Published in September 2013
Thibault’s Score: 2/5
This book is a survey history of the late middle ages that covers part of the renaissance until the fall of Constantinople(roughly the period from 1100 until 1453). The book does a few things well, but the execution is botched. First, it covers events happening in unusual places during the period - North America, Sub-Saharan Africa, India, Asia, and the Middle East. That aspect of the book is really cool. Also, it comes with over 150 maps which really helps.
Despite the interesting and ambitious topic, the book is a complete snoozefest. It fails from its own overambition. I’ve read other survey histories by Susan Wise Bauer that had exactly the same problem, and am likely done with this author.
First, the book jumps around chaotically. It was very hard for me to follow events anywhere, especially in places in the Americas and Africa that I wasn’t familiar with. I had barely gotten used to reading about one area when she randomly jumps to the other side of the world, only to pick up later. She also doesn’t go in strict chronological order either which further adds to the mess. Its like I’m reading 6-7 books that were poorly stitched together.
Then, the topics she covers seem random to me. She goes into the details of random political events concerning the rise of the Mamluks, the fights in between Chingghis Khan’s successors, or the castration of Peter Abelard. These are not at all the events I would have chosen, and presenting them in the way that she does is quite odd.
Finally, this book has no real target audience. It is too simple for people who are well versed in the periods covered, and too detailed (with weird details covered) for people who are new. I am both a novice and a journeyman in different areas that the books covered, and I hated both sections.
The maps are stunning, and the idea is cool. But the book was too ambitious, and Bauer wasn’t up to the task. I stopped reading it a little more than halfway, and do not recommend it.
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