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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb rehabilitation of the middle ages, 24 Nov 2009
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This review is from: God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science (Paperback)
This book is an excellent discovery. Thanks to previous reviewers on here who recommended it. Having just read it, is my turn to recommend it now.

There are several reasons to recommend this book. Firstly it is a good historical drama with a rich cast of interesting characters and contexts. The author is a good narrator and takes us through the stories briskly and thoroughly. He gives enough detail to make the point, and if you need further evidence there is a useful reference list as well.

Secondly this book is good at separating the events that happened during the middle ages from the myths and pejorative labels that have been attached to the middle ages by later observers for their own purposes. This book shows that there were never many believers in a flat earth. This book shows that the Christian milieu provided a fertile growing ground for science and was not opposed to science. Conflicts between a literal reading of the bible and science were resolved sensibly and quickly.

The people living in the middle ages did not know they were in the middle of anything. They were humans with their own strengths and weaknesses trying to make sense of the world they found themselves in. They struggled with this as well as they could do and made huge intellectual and technological progress, which we in turn have built on. This book is a glorious story of people and how they used knowledge to better their understanding of the world. It is a glorious example of a historian writing to explore and understand how the world appeared to his subjects, rather than to impose his modern views on a past people.

This book increases our respect for the great medieval scholars and their work, and its role in helping us to get to where we are now. It is a great rehabilitation exercise on an often unjustly mocked period of history. I can recommend it highly to other readers.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 17 Jun 2010 16:25:29 BDT
Last edited by the author on 17 Jun 2010 16:26:14 BDT
ScepticSam says:
Ahem, what about the burning at the stake of witches and heretics, the vilifying of Galileo etc etc
Take your blinkers off please

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Jul 2010 21:02:33 BDT
Eggball says:
You first.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Mar 2011 17:23:22 GMT
Last edited by the author on 18 Mar 2011 18:18:40 GMT
As a student of medieval history, I am glad to see that somebody is challenging the myths and misconceptions about the middle ages that are sadly still so prevalent today.
Historians have been saying similar things to Dr Hannam for years, especially regarding the nonsensical idea that everyone believed the earth was flat.
Unfortunately, there are still some people who are unable or unwilling to accept the truth about medieval knowledge and learning.
I believe this is largely a result of thier own prejudice, and the arrogant belief that people in middle ages must have been stupid because they did not have the scientific knowledege, or technological advancement as modern people do, and engaged is some practices we regard as superstitious.
What C.S Lewis so aptly described as 'the snobbery of chronology' 50 years ago is still very much alive and well today. So I think Eggball, you are right in saying that ScepticSam should remove his blinkers.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Mar 2011 19:02:30 GMT
Last edited by the author on 11 May 2011 17:44:54 BDT
Sceptic Sam, the burning of heretics did indeed take place in the middle ages, but was not nearly as common as movies or novels depict it to be. All too many people believe that medieval church lived in paranoid fear of scientific knowledge and , but this is largely erroneus nonsense.
The clergy did not burn any old woman who owned a black cat, or had warts on her neck in the medieval period. In fact, many beliefs and practices such as astrology, herbalism, and fortune telling, were not only tolerated, but even encouraged by the church.
Astrology is a good example, as noblemen, priests and bishops often had thier own astrologers, indeed many astrologers were clergymen.
People would only get into trouble if they questioned or challenged some aspect of the churches' teaching or practice. Hence, groups such as the Cathars who taught that Christians should live in poverty, and denounced the disproportionate wealth and avarice of much of the church would be seen as heretics. Also, people who engaged were thought to have engaged in practices that were expressly forbiddden by church law, such as necromancy, or incest as part of a religious ritual could be burned at the stake.
This is why some alleged witches were burned, not for witchcraft but for herecy.

The church had no objection to scientific learning or experimentation, as long as the people engaging in such things were mainstream and orthodox in thier religious beliefs.
We arrogantly, and wrongly assume that men like Galileo were condemned for thier science, when really the churches' persecution of them had more to do with thier political and religious opinions.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Mar 2011 19:14:28 GMT
Last edited by the author on 18 Mar 2011 19:16:15 GMT
I am curious to know one thing of all those people who criticise Dr Hannam's work:

Do they disagree or object to the content of this book because they believe it to be incorrect, invalid or misleading in a terms of the authors' historical claims and observations? Or rather because the author presents a new and different angle on the Middle ages which threatens to undermine or challenge thier own biased preconceptions, and prejudices?

Posted on 13 May 2013 17:56:57 BDT
E. McGowan says:
"Conflicts between a literal reading of the bible and science were resolved sensibly and quickly."

Yes, and a good thing too, otherwise ignorant Biblical literalists would still be trying to block the teaching of scientific facts that don't conform perfectly to their worldview. Oh, hang on...
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