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Old 06-01-2006, 12:06 AM
don Jaime is offline
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Recommend history books about the Dark Ages


I'm looking for good but not overly dense things to read about the early medieval period, from the fall of the Western Roman bits through to the First Crusade. Late Antique pagans, early Christians, Goths, Germans, Vikings, Byzantines, you name it. Anything about the foundations of Islam would be nice, too. Thoughts?
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Old 06-01-2006, 07:55 AM
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Old 06-01-2006, 08:34 AM
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This might fall into the category of "overly dense", but I found The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity to be very illuminating about how and why Christianity continued to spread after Rome fell.
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Old 06-01-2006, 09:22 AM
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Barbara W. Tuchman's A Distant Mirror is a wonderful overview of the 14th century, incl. lots of good stuff on the Black Death, chivalry and the Hundred Year's War. Check it out.
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Old 06-01-2006, 09:48 AM
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I liked "The Civilization of the Middle Ages" by Norman Cantor. And a second recommendation for Barbara Tuchman's book.
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Old 06-01-2006, 09:55 AM
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I'm away from my library right now, but "Dark Ages" has fallen out of favor with most scholars. Many prefer "Early Middle Ages"--which you used, as well.

"Late Antiquity" covers the late Roman Empire. The western part, that is. The Eastern Empire was "Byzantium" & was never dark during those years.

"The Migrations Period" is the more current way of referring to the Barbarian invasions. It's more accurate & less insulting to the descendants of those barbarians--most Europeans, that is.

"How the Irish Saved Civilization" is a look at one part of Europe that wasn't Dark. Not heavyweight scholarship, but a good introduction.

Of course, Islam arose during this period. Moorish Spain was another area that mostly avoided "darkness."

All these "periods" overlapped considerably. Stuff you probably did NOT learn in history class, but quite fascinating. I'll be back with a few recommendations.
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Old 06-01-2006, 09:59 AM
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From my classroom library:

A History of Private Life: Revelations of the Medieval World - Duby, editor

A World Lit Only By Fire - Manchester

Medieval Europe: A Short History - Holister

Medieval Society - Cantor & Werthman
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Old 06-01-2006, 10:05 AM
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How about The Medieval Worldview
William R. Cook and Ronald B. Herzman? It's a good survey.
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Old 06-01-2006, 10:58 AM
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Sorry to contradict silenus, but avoid Manchester. It's the most anti-medieval book about the middle ages that I've read. Given your paramaters, it sounds like Tuchman wouldn't work either, although I usually do recommend her book (I'm more of a late medieval guy myself).

Southern's The Making of the Middle Ages is a bit dated but still worth a look. Ditto for Pirenne (esp. Medieval Cities--which obviously is a little more limited in scope). Bark's The Origins of the Medieval World sounds like it might be good match for the criteria in the OP.
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Old 06-01-2006, 11:00 AM
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"paramaters," obviously, referring to a set of tomatoes.
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Old 06-01-2006, 11:46 AM
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I enjoyed Terry Jone's Midieval Lives quite a bit.
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Old 06-01-2006, 11:59 AM
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You might like "The Year 1000" by Lacey/Danziger. It's an easy read - as well as being super cheap used (try amazon.com).

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Old 06-01-2006, 12:17 PM
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The Waning of the Middle Ages by Johan Huizinga
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Old 06-01-2006, 01:07 PM
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The Age of Faith by Will Durant, part of his Story of Civilization series.
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Old 06-01-2006, 02:10 PM
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Not so much history as history of technology, but still very good (short, informative, very readable): Cathedral, Forge and Waterwheel: Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages by Joseph and Frances Gies. "Straight" history books tend to neglect the material culture, and there were a lot of important technological changes that affected medieval society in myriad ways.
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Old 06-01-2006, 03:36 PM
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As a reference guide, try The Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, general editor Norman F. Cantor. Be aware that there are some typos/errors that might be misleading, but no more than in any other encyclopedia. (I swear, those things are edited by rabid monkeys sometimes.) It's a nice resource when you get confused by all the names and dates that are tossed around.
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Old 06-01-2006, 08:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Renob
The Age of Faith by Will Durant, part of his Story of Civilization series.
Second, Durant also spends a lot of time with medieval Islam and Judaism.
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Old 06-02-2006, 01:46 AM
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I loved "Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett. When I finished the book I was almost angry that the story was over. Good stuff.
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