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A General Overview for Students and Interested Non-Experts,
This review is from: The Oxford History of Medieval Europe (Paperback)
The Oxford History of Medieval Europe is a good but not great introduction to the Medieval World, from the fall of Rome to the dawn of the Renaissance. I've read The Oxford History of Prehistoric Europe and the Oxford History of The Classical World, but this is the poorest of the group. That said, this is in no way a bad book. Most of the diffculties I had with the book when I first read it came from my lack of knowledge of the era in question, but after I began to learn the background to the events described, the book began to make sense. With that in mind, this book is probably not a good starting point for those with no knowledge of Medieval Europe, but it's a definate must buy for first year university students or those with some grounding in the period.
The book starts with a look at what occured in post Roman Europe, as the Germanic Barbarian tribes began to unite into small kingdoms and principalities, especially those of the Mediterranean, such as the Visigoths. The book then turns to Northern Europe of the same period (400-900) with an analysis of the Vikings and the Carolingians. The next two chapters discuss the society and history of the High Middle Ages, including a look at how Northern peoples such as the Normans came to dominate Mediterranean areas such as Sicily.
The two final chapters discuss the Society of the Late Middle Ages, with its courts and cities, and its transition to the Renaissance.
The book does cover a dozen subjects in its course, such as the rise and dominance of Christianity, the Papacy, Europe's relations with Byzantium and the Muslim World, The Italian City-States, The Kingdom of France, Knighthood, the Black Death, the Hundred Years War, trade and economy, literature, and much more.
Each section is written by a different author, which makes the book seem rather uneven in style. For instance, in the first chapter Thomas Brown discusses art and literature of the mediterranean (AD 400-900), but on the next chapter on Northern Europe of the same period by Edward James, he does not dedicate a section to this topic.
That aside, this is a good book. It also comes with a short eight page section of black and white colour plates that display the art and architecture of the Middle Ages, but these are often small and lacking in detail. This is worth a look if you are thinking of serious study of the Middle Ages, or if you have a big interest in the period.