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Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages

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An epic reappraisal of the medieval world--and the rich and complicated legacy left to us by the rise of the West--from the New York Times bestselling author of The Templars. When the once-mighty city of Rome was sacked by barbarians in 410 and lay in ruins, it signaled the end of an era--and the beginning of a thousand years of profound transformation. In a gripping narrat An epic reappraisal of the medieval world--and the rich and complicated legacy left to us by the rise of the West--from the New York Times bestselling author of The Templars. When the once-mighty city of Rome was sacked by barbarians in 410 and lay in ruins, it signaled the end of an era--and the beginning of a thousand years of profound transformation. In a gripping narrative bursting with big names--from St Augustine and Attila the Hun to the Prophet Muhammad and Eleanor of Aquitaine--Dan Jones charges through the history of the Middle Ages. Powers and Thrones takes readers on a journey through an emerging Europe, the great capitals of late Antiquity, as well as the influential cities of the Islamic West, and culminates in the first contact between the old and new worlds in the sixteenth century. The medieval world was forged by the big forces that still occupy us today: climate change, pandemic disease, mass migration, and technological revolutions. This was the time when the great European nationalities were formed; when our basic Western systems of law and governance were codified; when the Christian Churches matured as both powerful institutions and the regulators of Western public morality; and when art, architecture, philosophical inquiry and scientific invention went through periods of massive, revolutionary change. At each stage in this story, successive western powers thrived by attracting--or stealing--the most valuable resources, ideas, and people from the rest of the world. The West was rebuilt on the ruins of an empire and emerged from a state of crisis and collapse to dominate the region and the world. Every sphere of human life and activity was transformed in the thousand years of Powers and Thrones. As we face a critical turning point in our own millennium, the legacy and lessons of how we got here matter more than ever.


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An epic reappraisal of the medieval world--and the rich and complicated legacy left to us by the rise of the West--from the New York Times bestselling author of The Templars. When the once-mighty city of Rome was sacked by barbarians in 410 and lay in ruins, it signaled the end of an era--and the beginning of a thousand years of profound transformation. In a gripping narrat An epic reappraisal of the medieval world--and the rich and complicated legacy left to us by the rise of the West--from the New York Times bestselling author of The Templars. When the once-mighty city of Rome was sacked by barbarians in 410 and lay in ruins, it signaled the end of an era--and the beginning of a thousand years of profound transformation. In a gripping narrative bursting with big names--from St Augustine and Attila the Hun to the Prophet Muhammad and Eleanor of Aquitaine--Dan Jones charges through the history of the Middle Ages. Powers and Thrones takes readers on a journey through an emerging Europe, the great capitals of late Antiquity, as well as the influential cities of the Islamic West, and culminates in the first contact between the old and new worlds in the sixteenth century. The medieval world was forged by the big forces that still occupy us today: climate change, pandemic disease, mass migration, and technological revolutions. This was the time when the great European nationalities were formed; when our basic Western systems of law and governance were codified; when the Christian Churches matured as both powerful institutions and the regulators of Western public morality; and when art, architecture, philosophical inquiry and scientific invention went through periods of massive, revolutionary change. At each stage in this story, successive western powers thrived by attracting--or stealing--the most valuable resources, ideas, and people from the rest of the world. The West was rebuilt on the ruins of an empire and emerged from a state of crisis and collapse to dominate the region and the world. Every sphere of human life and activity was transformed in the thousand years of Powers and Thrones. As we face a critical turning point in our own millennium, the legacy and lessons of how we got here matter more than ever.

30 review for Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages

  1. 4 out of 5

    Beata

    I have read some of Dan Jones's works so was delighted to have received a copy of his latest book. I did not expect to find a book on the millennium between the fall of Rome and the dawn of Renaissance so fascinating despite my respect regarding the Author. The sheer thought of covering all main events in Europe and Asia that occurred within such a period sounds most challenging, and yet Mr Jones surpassed all my expectations. The amount of information is more than massive and I do not think I wi I have read some of Dan Jones's works so was delighted to have received a copy of his latest book. I did not expect to find a book on the millennium between the fall of Rome and the dawn of Renaissance so fascinating despite my respect regarding the Author. The sheer thought of covering all main events in Europe and Asia that occurred within such a period sounds most challenging, and yet Mr Jones surpassed all my expectations. The amount of information is more than massive and I do not think I will remember everything but I am especially grateful for the panorama of the times in which I take little interest. The Mongolian theme is terrific! It is not easy to find non-fiction unputdownable, this book proved to be such for me.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Henk

    Very immersive and impressive in how Dan Jones manages to summarize a millennium of developments. The medieval age is far from boring when reading this book Dan Jones takes us from the fall of the Roman Empire to the sack of Rome more than 1.000 years later in little over 700 pages. Still Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages manages to achieve quite some depth and is packed with facts and insights on an age I tend to think of as quite dull. The focus is clearly European, with the Very immersive and impressive in how Dan Jones manages to summarize a millennium of developments. The medieval age is far from boring when reading this book Dan Jones takes us from the fall of the Roman Empire to the sack of Rome more than 1.000 years later in little over 700 pages. Still Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages manages to achieve quite some depth and is packed with facts and insights on an age I tend to think of as quite dull. The focus is clearly European, with the whole concept of the Middle Ages being a very European concept as well (read for instance The Story of China: A Portrait of a Civilisation and Its People, where the eb and flow of civilization in the East is subject to a completely different rhythm). The tide of power shifts so often, the metaphore of a wheel of fortune spinning feels quite adequate Anytime there is a power established a counterpower seems to immediately manifests itself and conspires to bring down the other in a Hegelian metronome kind of fashion. Jones manages to keep an excellent helicopter view on the subject matter and intersperses general trends with lives set in the period to make his points. All in all a very interesting read that really changed my perception of the medieval period. Facts and observations: - Decimation being a punishment exacted by the Romans on a legion, where 1/10th of the men, selected by lot, was stoned to death by their fellow soldiers. - The rise of Rome coinciding with a good spell of climate between 150 BC and 200 AD. - The displacement of the Huns caused by climate crisis (draught) in East Asia - Pivotal role of Constantine in making Christianity the state religion and prosecutor instead of prosecuted. If he had lost the battle or saw another omen the whole history of the late Roman Empire and Europe would have been different. - How are provinces Britain, Italy and Spain, with their natural defences like the Alps, Pyrenees and the Channel, so badly guarded by the late Romans? - Justinian the legal reformer and sodomy condemner, dealing with climate crisis due to volcanic eruptions and bubonic plague named after him - The dome of the rock costing 7 times the tax revenue of the entire province of Egypt - I lack some kind of background on papal history and schisma - Likewise the rise of the Arabs, Vikings and later on the Normans feels very sudden, and I don’t feel I completely understand what set them on the spectacular conquests - Vikings aiding the capture of Sidon in the Levant during the first crusade and Innocent blunting the instrument by using it against the Cathars and even the Holy Roman Emperor himself - The audacity of Venice plundering Constantinopel - The meteoric rise of the Mongols, also partly due to favourable weather conditions on the plains and the absolute brutality and sweeping changes to the Middle-East - Marco Polo still taking 3.5 years to get to Xanadu - Opening up of the world and trade routes by the largest landbase empire being established, and leading Chinese and Persian innovations entering into Europe (and the Black Death) - Merchant class rising in Italy, with banking and double accounting taking a prominent role - Where are the guilds? Or Arabs bazars when discussing the development of commerce? - Florentine merchant families loaning 5 times the annual tax revenue of England to the king - Origin of the word bond being a ransom for captured bondsmen of lords and kings, captured on the battlefield - The takedown of the Templars by the French on Friday the thirteenth, revealing the importance of universities to interpret disputes - The founding of the University of Bologna being partly influenced due to geography, the city being on the crossroads of legal disputes between the Holy Roman Emperor and the pope - Cambridge profiting from censoring at Oxford by the English court - 14th century popular revolts as response to the decrease of workforce due to the black death toll of 40% - Portugese ships trading one horse for 9 to 14 slaves in West-Africa - The fall of Constantinopel to the Ottomans heralding a time of westward expansion and making finding a new route to India, avoiding this new Muslim state, more important - Bartholome Diaz taking 1.5 years to get past Africa - Maghelan his first journey around the world leaving only 20 alive of the 300 who set out - St Peters rebuild being so expensive a kind of ponzi-scheme, based on pumping out indulgences in Germany, being set up, indirectly contributing to the Reformation - Henry VIII comes back in a few sentences at the end of the book, connecting this book with the world of the Wolf Hall trilogy

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jenna ❤ ❀ ❤

    Everything I didn't know I wanted to know about the Middle Ages... and more. This is the first time I had a library book expire on me and I had to put another hold on it before I could finish it. Had I enjoyed the first part more, I probably would have bought it rather than wait a couple months to get it again. I might not have even bothered going back in the holds queue if it wasn't that I learned a lot in that first part, cumbersome though it was. The beginning of the Middle Ages was just a bunc Everything I didn't know I wanted to know about the Middle Ages... and more. This is the first time I had a library book expire on me and I had to put another hold on it before I could finish it. Had I enjoyed the first part more, I probably would have bought it rather than wait a couple months to get it again. I might not have even bothered going back in the holds queue if it wasn't that I learned a lot in that first part, cumbersome though it was. The beginning of the Middle Ages was just a bunch of people slaughtering each other: Muslims killing Christians. Christians killing Muslims, pagans, and pretty much everyone who didn't think like them and refused to "convert". Marauders from the North killing Christians and Muslims and everyone else in order to conquer their lands. People talk about how violent the world is today. Ha! Even with the current wars going on, it's nothing compared to the Dark and early Middle Ages. This book isn't easy reading, even aside from all that blood and gore. It's almost overdone in detail. It was a chore to get through and at times felt like a textbook, a very dense textbook. However, some chapters had me totally enthralled: "Monks", "Merchants", "Scholars", "Builders", "Survivors", and the last chapter "Protestants". Those are more than sufficient to redeem the book from the humdrum (for me) parts. This book focuses mostly on the West, but I was glad to note that the author pays homage to the Middle Easterners and Asians from whom we acquired knowledge and technology, something most Western authors prefer to ignore. 3.5 stars rounded up. If you enjoy reading about the Middle Ages, you'll probably want to add this book to your TBR pile.

  4. 4 out of 5

    K.J. Charles

    Massive and wide-ranging history of the Middle Ages centring on Europe, from around 450 to 1500 CE. Covers the Middle East, Byzantium, the Mongols, some stuff on Scandinavia, Russia and Asia mostly as it relates to Europe; moves out to look at India and the Americas again mostly from the perspective of commerce/colonisation/invasion. This is still a huge amount of stuff and it necessarily proceeds at something of a gallop while still being very long. It does manage to make a lot of the pieces fi Massive and wide-ranging history of the Middle Ages centring on Europe, from around 450 to 1500 CE. Covers the Middle East, Byzantium, the Mongols, some stuff on Scandinavia, Russia and Asia mostly as it relates to Europe; moves out to look at India and the Americas again mostly from the perspective of commerce/colonisation/invasion. This is still a huge amount of stuff and it necessarily proceeds at something of a gallop while still being very long. It does manage to make a lot of the pieces fit together in an impressive way, partly by keeping a focus on themes and ongoing ideas rather than just events. I really liked the sections that focus on specific areas (monks, crusades, printing and popular revolt) rather than a country: those again give a very handy overview. Lots of parallels drawn with modern times to varying effect including a frankly stupid section where the author talks about the oppression of new thought in universities as equivalent to 'wokeness' because it's about not letting people dissent or speak unpopular truths. Mm hmm. Because obviously 'woke' people are the ones entrenched in a position of power who don't want change, whereas the people who run universities and newspapers are the brave ones fighting against the establishment and daring to say, uh, the things they've been saying for years. Did anyone even read over this? Which made me increasingly irritated/conscious of an authorial agenda with the other modern parallels, and increasingly aware how very much this is a history of predominantly white men, which, you know, I have read before and don't feel compelled to read again, what with other stories exist. Sorry if that makes me exactly the same as Pope Innocent III. *rolls eyes forever*

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer

    Published today 2-9-21 This book is a comprehensive, enjoyable and easy to read overview of the Middle Ages for the period AD 410-AD 1527. It has a strong and deliberate concentration on Western Europe with other parts of the world included only to the extent that they interacted with (and particularly if they impacted on) the West. It is also a big picture book – concentrating as the title suggests on powers and kingdoms,– this is not the book to read to get an idea of what day to day life was l Published today 2-9-21 This book is a comprehensive, enjoyable and easy to read overview of the Middle Ages for the period AD 410-AD 1527. It has a strong and deliberate concentration on Western Europe with other parts of the world included only to the extent that they interacted with (and particularly if they impacted on) the West. It is also a big picture book – concentrating as the title suggests on powers and kingdoms,– this is not the book to read to get an idea of what day to day life was like for typical members of society at different points in the Middle Ages but to understand the macro forces which acted to bring about changes in society - the forces extending beyond political power to climate, disease, technology, religion and trade. The book is in four main sections – each of four chapters of typically 40-50 pages each. The first section is AD410-AD750:Imperium. The fours chapters are – Romans, Barbarians, Byzantines, Arabs. The first chapter is an overview of Imperial Rome – it successes and its strength almost immediately before its precipitous collapse (illustrated by the Hoxne Hoard and its connection with the collapse of Roman authority in England). This and the next chapter then looks at how climate change and associated mass migration (much of it a domino effect from other migrations – the author I think draws heavily here on Peter Heather’s brilliant “The Fall of Rome) undermined the entire basis on which the Empire was maintained. The resulting “Barbarian” realms in the West, the rise of the new Rome in Byzantium (and its interactions with the West) and the rise of Islam and its impact are then considered in turn. The second section: is AD750 to AD1215: Dominion. The fours chapters are – Franks, Monks, Knights and Crusaders. This section is very much a study in human power – both hard power (the emerging Frankish kingdom and their revival of a pseudo-Roman Empire) but also the softer power of religious orders, the way in which the reliance on heavily armoured horse born soldiers (and the expense of supporting them) lead to the importance of Kinghthood and the invention of chivalry, and then the way in which both (together with the interaction with Byzantium and its own problem with its non-Christian neighbours) all interacted to lead to the Crusades. The third section is AD1215 to AD1347: Rebirth. The fours chapters are - Mongols, Merchants, Scholars and Builders. The Mongols chapter features that the book calls a dramatic shift in geopolitics (caused by an Eastern Empire with a capital in what is now Bejing – with some fairly clear modern day resonances). But the rest of the chapter features some of those whose influences remain to this day – global traders and the financial devices (including banking) they developed around it, the founders of the World’s great Universities and the builders of some of its greatest buildings such as cathedrals and castles. The fourth section is AD 1348 to AD1527: Revolution: The fours chapters are - Survivors, Renewers, Navigators, Protestants. This book is about the end of the middle ages – starting with the devastation of a global pandemic which unlike our present one caused mass mortality and transformed previously feudal economies not by lockdown but by a tragic demand/supply imbalance. The book looks at the Renaissance and the search for new worlds, before finishing with the Protestant Reformation which not just restored Christianity but finished the Middle Ages. My thanks to Head of Zeus, Apollo for an ARC via NetGalley

  6. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    Lots of interesting events and obscure historical details, but the scope of the book is just too broad to be anything other than a race through history. The book covers the medieval world from AD 410 to AD 1527. I listened to the audiobook read by the author. He did a fine job with the narration, but I missed having footnotes and/or a bibliography so I could go deeper into a topic that interested me. Among the subjects that were galloped through were: the Romans, Huns, Byzantines, Arabs, plagues Lots of interesting events and obscure historical details, but the scope of the book is just too broad to be anything other than a race through history. The book covers the medieval world from AD 410 to AD 1527. I listened to the audiobook read by the author. He did a fine job with the narration, but I missed having footnotes and/or a bibliography so I could go deeper into a topic that interested me. Among the subjects that were galloped through were: the Romans, Huns, Byzantines, Arabs, plagues, Vikings, crusades, Mongols, Marco Polo, impact of climate change, Renaissance, exploration, trade, printing press, Protestant reformation and many, many wars, conflicts and usurpations. The stated goal of the author was to inform and entertain. While I enjoyed the book, this was just too much to cover in a single book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    David Eppenstein

    I am giving this book 4 stars though I should probably give it 3. That's not to be construed in any way that I was dissatisfied with the book because I was not. The fact is I was totally satisfied and that is what I expect from reading anything by Dan Jones. For me 3 stars means the book was good and worth the expense of time and money I devoted to it. After thinking about it, however, I decided to up the rating to 4 stars. I did this because Jones has done something here that is rather extraord I am giving this book 4 stars though I should probably give it 3. That's not to be construed in any way that I was dissatisfied with the book because I was not. The fact is I was totally satisfied and that is what I expect from reading anything by Dan Jones. For me 3 stars means the book was good and worth the expense of time and money I devoted to it. After thinking about it, however, I decided to up the rating to 4 stars. I did this because Jones has done something here that is rather extraordinary. He has made a history of the Middle Ages readable. Can you imagine a more boring area of history than the Middle Ages? Really. Can a time period be imagined that could more quickly put a high school history class to sleep instantly? I think not. Nevertheless, Jones succeeds in keeping the reader turning pages and there are 578 pages to turn before the reader reaches the end. Dan Jones is that very rare historian that clearly writes with the belief that his books will be read by the average reader and not just other academics. This book is a marvelous display of that talent as well as Jones' wry sense of humor. My god a historian with a sense of humor actually displayed in print how did he escape academia with that jewel still in his possession? As for the book itself it is long and heavy. My wife wanted to use it as a weight for her yoga class but I rejected that sacrilege. A good history is precious and should be respected. Of course one should expect a history of the Middle Ages to be a book of some length and this one covers a time period from roughly the Third Century C.E. to the 16th century and near the end of the Renaissance. Most histories of this period cover this subject chronologically concentrating on the power centers as they shifted geographically. They also then treat the various medieval tribal influences that affected the power centers. Jones treats the subject in a different manner that is more comprehensive and gives the reader a better appreciation of the period. In addition to covering the Romans, Byzantines, the medieval tribes, and the Arabs he also focuses on cultural, social, religious, and commercial influences that existed and affected the evolution of medieval society. The Middle Ages as rendered by Dan Jones is not as dark, depressing, and violent as what we may have been introduced to in school. Of course there is plenty here that is dark, depressing, and violent and Jones's sense of humor makes this more palatable. Reading a footnote of how some ancient personage met his end can be darkly funny to some. Maybe Jones and I have similar senses of humor. Anyway, an unexpected footnote concerning a rather insignificant bit of trivia has a way of keeping a reader's interest as well as lightening the subject matter. So if you'd like to view the Middle Ages in an entirely new light then this is a book that can give that to you. Enjoy.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Liviu

    Very readable, entertaining with irony, humor and a panoramic view of the period from the 400's to the 1500's. Highly recommended Very readable, entertaining with irony, humor and a panoramic view of the period from the 400's to the 1500's. Highly recommended

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lou (nonfiction fiend)

    Powers & Thrones takes a comprehensive, captivating and entertaining look at the enduring legacy of the Middle Ages in the form of supremely talented historian, broadcaster and award-winning journalist Dan Jones’ narrative nonfiction. This is an epic reappraisal of the medieval world--and the rich and complicated legacy left to us by the rise of the West. When the once-mighty city of Rome was sacked by barbarians in 410 and lay in ruins, it signalled the end of an era--and the beginning of a tho Powers & Thrones takes a comprehensive, captivating and entertaining look at the enduring legacy of the Middle Ages in the form of supremely talented historian, broadcaster and award-winning journalist Dan Jones’ narrative nonfiction. This is an epic reappraisal of the medieval world--and the rich and complicated legacy left to us by the rise of the West. When the once-mighty city of Rome was sacked by barbarians in 410 and lay in ruins, it signalled the end of an era--and the beginning of a thousand years of profound transformation. In a gripping narrative bursting with big names--from St Augustine and Attila the Hun to the Prophet Muhammad and Eleanor of Aquitaine--Dan Jones charges through the history of the Middle Ages. Powers and Thrones takes readers on a journey through an emerging Europe, the great capitals of late Antiquity, as well as the influential cities of the Islamic West, and culminates in the first contact between the old and new worlds in the sixteenth century. The medieval world was forged by the big forces that still occupy us today: climate change, pandemic disease, mass migration, and technological revolutions. This was the time when the great European nationalities were formed; when our basic Western systems of law and governance were codified; when the Christian Churches matured as both powerful institutions and the regulators of Western public morality; and when art, architecture, philosophical inquiry and scientific invention went through periods of massive, revolutionary change. At each stage in this story, successive western powers thrived by attracting--or stealing--the most valuable resources, ideas, and people from the rest of the world. The West was rebuilt on the ruins of an empire and emerged from a state of crisis and collapse to dominate the region and the world. Every sphere of human life and activity was transformed in the thousand years of Powers and Thrones. As we face a critical turning point in our own millennium, the legacy and lessons of how we got here matter more than ever. A richly informative, magnificent and eminently readable history of the Middle Ages in which Jones takes present-day preoccupations and analyses them, playing them out in a different time. Just as A Distant Mirror was about the calamities of the twentieth century reflected in the fourteenth century, this focuses on twenty-first-century preoccupations, things like climate change, big migrations of people, big technological changes, the emergence of nations and the relationship between individual states and big dominant superstructures. It is looking at all of the things we think about now, concerning the Middle Ages. Highly recommended.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Juliew.

    This was a long one but very well researched and written.For whatever reason I was only particularly drawn to certain chapters that were of interest to me such as Romans,Barbarians, Byzantines,Arabs,Monks,Knights,Merchants and Builders.Some chapters I got a little lost in the unfamiliar names and stories.Overall though I learned new to me information and I would definitely pick up this author again.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Selkis

    I'll post a review soon - as soon as I've got a bit more time. I really enjoyed this book though, but it's looong XD I'll post a review soon - as soon as I've got a bit more time. I really enjoyed this book though, but it's looong XD

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melisende

    It should come as no surprise that Jones has decided to take on 1000 years of history and condense it into one tome. To be perfectly blunt, I can take or leave Jones as an author - its nothing personal. I've read his books and find them entertaining enough, but to be honest he is not one of my "go to" authors - I don't go all "fan girl" when I see his books. Having said that, this is quite a good, well-rounded read, that will appeal to the masses. It is broken down into four parts, and four sub t It should come as no surprise that Jones has decided to take on 1000 years of history and condense it into one tome. To be perfectly blunt, I can take or leave Jones as an author - its nothing personal. I've read his books and find them entertaining enough, but to be honest he is not one of my "go to" authors - I don't go all "fan girl" when I see his books. Having said that, this is quite a good, well-rounded read, that will appeal to the masses. It is broken down into four parts, and four sub topics, that flow in a linear timeline. The focus encompasses both Roman Empires (East & West), Europe and the UK. Its only when discussing the Arabs and Mongols does Jones veer from a predominantly Euro-centric narrative. The aim here is to entertain and inform, and Jones does this remarkably well; and there is - of course - plenty of notes and references for the avid history buff to go exploring further on their own. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a slightly different take on the history narrative - and for all fans of Jones! Edit: see fuller review @ Melisende's Library wherein I break down the chapters.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    Dan Jones is a talented writer, but, in this work, he attempts to cover far too much material. The result--especially in the book's early chapters--is often a barrage of names and events that resonates only with those who already know the subject matter. However, such knowledgeable readers will find little of interest in this superficial overview. The narrative does improves later in work when Jones shifts from a chronological to a topical approach. The section on the age of exploration is parti Dan Jones is a talented writer, but, in this work, he attempts to cover far too much material. The result--especially in the book's early chapters--is often a barrage of names and events that resonates only with those who already know the subject matter. However, such knowledgeable readers will find little of interest in this superficial overview. The narrative does improves later in work when Jones shifts from a chronological to a topical approach. The section on the age of exploration is particularly well done.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Boudewijn

    An interesting book with a rather misleading title: this is not a book about kings and dynasties, power or thrones, but more a theme-based tale about various topics during the middle ages. Themes include, amongst other, science, monastery life, the rise of the Mongols and the rise of Islam. It starts with the sacking of Rome and ends with Columbus's discovery of the America's. All in all an enjoyable read and a nice (new?) perspective on the Middle Ages. An interesting book with a rather misleading title: this is not a book about kings and dynasties, power or thrones, but more a theme-based tale about various topics during the middle ages. Themes include, amongst other, science, monastery life, the rise of the Mongols and the rise of Islam. It starts with the sacking of Rome and ends with Columbus's discovery of the America's. All in all an enjoyable read and a nice (new?) perspective on the Middle Ages.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah - All The Book Blog Names Are Taken

    I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. (I complained on Twitter about not getting approved or denied so maybe Dan Jones told them to give me a copy just so I would shut up about it.) Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I know, I know. I obviously can't be objective because it's Dan Jones, is what you're all thinking. Well, I CAN! This book is just THAT GOOD. Literally all of my favorite people, places, and things from history, in one ginormous volume, covering roughly 1,000 years of everything that h I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. (I complained on Twitter about not getting approved or denied so maybe Dan Jones told them to give me a copy just so I would shut up about it.) Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I know, I know. I obviously can't be objective because it's Dan Jones, is what you're all thinking. Well, I CAN! This book is just THAT GOOD. Literally all of my favorite people, places, and things from history, in one ginormous volume, covering roughly 1,000 years of everything that happened from the Fall of Rome to those Tudors coming in and shaking things up. We're talking this one might be rivalling The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England as my most fave Dan Jones book. That's HUGE. I first learned about Eleanor of Aquitaine from The Plantagenets so Dan Jones basically named my baby. (Side note: I always remind Eleanor that she is so lucky that I learned about Eleanor of Aquitaine BEFORE Boudicca, or she might have a very different name.) BUT THIS ONE IS SO GOOD. You also might be thinking, "Do we need ANOTHER book about the Middle Ages?" Again, the answer is yes. What Jones has managed to do once again is combine his massive amount of knowledge, tying it all together across place and time, and present it in a highly informative yet highly readable way. I was lucky to have teachers who really made history come alive for me, even going back to middle school. History has been my love for as long as I can remember. I get that non-fiction is not for everyone. A lot of people don't even give it a chance because history was taught to them in a boring recitation of facts and dates and names. This book though, is something different; an extraordinary feat that Jones should 100% be proud of. (And I assure you he is, because who wouldn't be?) He brings these historical figures to life and makes them real once more. It's hard sometimes to think about people this way, to imagine them living and working and dying in a world so different from our own. But Jones has the skill to share this knowledge and research in such an engaging way that you feel as though you could actually reach back in time and walk along Hadrian's Wall (which you actually can do if you're in the UK, which I am not and that is sad), to sit in a Great Hall and take in all the sights and sounds and smells of life at a royal court, to race along the Asian Steppes with Genghis Khan, watch as Rome is sacked time and again (six altogether in this span that Jones covers), and more. SO MUCH MORE. Really, truly. I was actually nervous about how I was even going to write up this review because there is so much material to address. Otherwise I would have had it up days ago. I really love how Jones divided up each section. First there is Imperium, Latin for what amounts to absolute power, which Rome once had, which covers 410-750. Here we find chapters on the Romans, Barbarians, Byzantines, and Arabs. Next comes Dominion, spanning 750-1215, with sections entitled Franks, Monks, Knights, and Crusades. Third is Rebirth, 1215-1347, detailing the time as it related to the Mongols, Merchants, Scholars, and Builders. Last comes Revolution, 1348-1527. We learn of Survivors, Renewers, Navigators, and Protestants. As you might expect, there is an extensive section of notes and from Jones you should expect no less. The text ended at 77% in my advanced digital copy, with notes taking up the next 13% of the content. Primary sources cover another 4%, with journal articles and theses ending at 96%. The remainder right up to 100% is footnotes. I can promise that if you pick this one up and settle in for a good bit of reading time, you will not be disappointed. Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages is the new standard against which to measure all others books covering the same topics. Without a doubt, this is the best book of 2021 for me and I don't believe that anything the rest of the year can top it. Highly, highly, highly recommended. ****************************************** OBVIOUSLY. EDIT 7-18-21: I have no idea how on earth I’m actually going to review this book because how do I review a book that encompasses 1000 years of history, including every person place and thing I love to read about all in one volume. Fantastic. Review to come. Text ends at 77% Notes ends at 90% Primary sources ends at 94% Journal articles/theses ends at 96% Footnotes 96%-100%

  16. 5 out of 5

    pennyg

    An expansive, ambitious 1000 years of history beginning with the fall of the western Roman Empire, ending with the Protestant Reformation told in less than 600 pages of text with end notes, foot notes, pictures, and maps. Dan Jones writes with an ease and humor that I have come to expect and appreciate, presenting history in a very accessible format. Decidedly and admittedly told from a western prospective, its a fairly easy read given the scope. There is an understandable overlap with some of h An expansive, ambitious 1000 years of history beginning with the fall of the western Roman Empire, ending with the Protestant Reformation told in less than 600 pages of text with end notes, foot notes, pictures, and maps. Dan Jones writes with an ease and humor that I have come to expect and appreciate, presenting history in a very accessible format. Decidedly and admittedly told from a western prospective, its a fairly easy read given the scope. There is an understandable overlap with some of his other books ( the Crusaders, the Plantagenets, the Templars). The book is divided into four sections with four chapters in each section beginning with the Romans.There was a tremendous amount of suffering and killing in the name of power and religion in 1000 years. Not a lot of women mentioned, no fault of the author. There was also climate change, pandemics, and technology changes that greatly affected the middle ages, mirroring today. Only a few quibbles. To my eyes there were a few generalizations; Muslim's inherent zeal, pg. 109 and native Chinese aptitude for technological invention, pg. 337. His use of 'woke' and 'cancelled' I thought was silly, pg. 414-416. Also, I didn't see the ' point of contrast' or distinction he was trying to point out in his statement below; Page 23 " Roman slavery was not per se racist(and here is an important point of contrast with slavery in the Caribbean or American south), but it was taken for granted that " barbarians " from outside the empire were infinitely more suitable for enslavement than Romans themselves. " All considered, a fascinating easy to understand, easy to read look at the middle ages, a 1000 years of history. To quote the author in the introduction, " All I can say is that my aim with all my books is to entertain as well as inform." He certainly does that! Thanks so much to the publisher and Goodreads for providing me with a free copy for review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    ‘This book covers more than a thousand years, and its geographical scope encompasses every continent save Australasia and Antarctica.’ The book has sixteen chapters divided across four parts: Imperium (c 410 AD – 750 AD); Dominion (c 750 AD – 1215 AD); Rebirth (c 1215 AD – 1347 AD) and Revolution (c 1348 AD – 1527 AD). This history takes us on a journey between the sacks of Rome in 410 AD and 1527 AD. Within this structure, Mr Jones identifies three key themes that have underpinned the success of ‘This book covers more than a thousand years, and its geographical scope encompasses every continent save Australasia and Antarctica.’ The book has sixteen chapters divided across four parts: Imperium (c 410 AD – 750 AD); Dominion (c 750 AD – 1215 AD); Rebirth (c 1215 AD – 1347 AD) and Revolution (c 1348 AD – 1527 AD). This history takes us on a journey between the sacks of Rome in 410 AD and 1527 AD. Within this structure, Mr Jones identifies three key themes that have underpinned the success of the west: conquest, commerce, and Christianity. It is an epic history, covering the period between the retreat of the Roman Empire in the west and the 16th century Reformation. What makes this book particularly interesting is that it ventures beyond the political timeline. In addition to the power struggles between emperors, kings and tribal leaders, Mr Jones also writes of the impacts of pandemics, of demographic changes, and of climate change. Exploration, religious conquest, commercial growth, decline, and rejuvenation are all part of the history. I am reminded of the power of the Byzantine Empire, diminished after the 7th century but still standing until the fall of Constantinople in 1453, of the impact of the Mongol invasion in the 13th century, of the rise of commerce. There’s a lot to consider. I could get lost in reading about William Marshal, Sir Richard (Dick) Whittington, El, Cid and Leonardo da Vinci, or the impact of printing on the power of the Catholic Church. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to expand their knowledge (and appreciation) of the period we in the west refer to as the Middle Ages. Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Head of Zeus/Apollo for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  18. 5 out of 5

    Brian Mandel

    Powers and Thrones is a well written, efficient, and enjoyable overview of the Middle Ages. As the author explicitly states, writing a history of the entire Middle Ages is a gargantuan task that can come nowhere close to being comprehensive. Rather, this is a great overview of a handful of important topics, larger trends, and an investigation of what makes the years between the Fall of Rome and the Renaissance unique and distinct. In particular, I really enjoyed Jones' insights into the Crusades Powers and Thrones is a well written, efficient, and enjoyable overview of the Middle Ages. As the author explicitly states, writing a history of the entire Middle Ages is a gargantuan task that can come nowhere close to being comprehensive. Rather, this is a great overview of a handful of important topics, larger trends, and an investigation of what makes the years between the Fall of Rome and the Renaissance unique and distinct. In particular, I really enjoyed Jones' insights into the Crusades, monastic culture, the Black Death - and the concluding chapters delving into the waning days of the Middle Ages. Jones also has a brisk and entertaining writing style that sets him apart from other history writers (he also injects a sense of humor occasionally, which I wish he did more). If you are looking for a relatively short one-volume history on the Middle Ages - or want a starting point to explore topics more in-depth, this will suit you well.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Ballard

    Beginning with the decadence and decay of the Western Roman Empire, Dan Jones masterfully takes the reader on an informative, intriguing, and richly entertaining journey through the whole of the Middle Ages. From the splendors of the Byzantine Empire whose capital of Constantinople was regarded as the “Queen of Cities,” to the opulence of Kublai Khan’s court at Xanadu, from Charlemagne to the Crusades, & the Renaissance to the Reformation, this book immerses the reader in the fascinating history Beginning with the decadence and decay of the Western Roman Empire, Dan Jones masterfully takes the reader on an informative, intriguing, and richly entertaining journey through the whole of the Middle Ages. From the splendors of the Byzantine Empire whose capital of Constantinople was regarded as the “Queen of Cities,” to the opulence of Kublai Khan’s court at Xanadu, from Charlemagne to the Crusades, & the Renaissance to the Reformation, this book immerses the reader in the fascinating history of the Middle Ages. While his focus is predominantly from a European perspective of the events, he still manages to highlight the histories and various successes of the Arab, Persian, & Mongolian Civilizations, which were all instrumental in shaping the Medieval World. For instance, his discussion of the Abbasid’s “House of Wisdom,” which was a magnificent library in Baghdad that served as a critical repository of a number of classical works that had fallen out of favor with the realms of Christendom, and the expansion of many critical trade networks that were linked by Mongolian hegemony, were deeply fascinating topics concerning these civilizations and the impacts that they had on the larger Medieval World outside of Europe. I personally loved how he touched on so many unique and distinct elements of the Middle Ages from the constructing of awe inspiring Gothic cathedrals to the knightly chivalric code, which was, in part, inspired by Arthurian Romances, to all the legends of Prester John and hidden kingdoms all brimming with wealth in the forms of gold, jewels, fabrics, and spices to the maritime adventures that actually led to the extraordinary discoveries of new worlds that were in fact quite old to the unprecedented artistic explosion led by figures like Jan Van Eyke, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Rafael in the Renaissance to the truly revolutionary views on religious doctrines that were espoused by individuals such as Jan Hus & later Martin Luther during the events that became the Protestant Reformation. This is an excellent read for anyone who is interested in gaining a greater understanding of the world during the Middle Ages.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Marks54

    This is good single volume history of the Middle Ages written for a general audience. It is arranged on a general chronological line with a focus on particular topics. The author is a popular and well published historical writer and it is clear that Dan Jones is well read and thoughtful, along with being an effective writer. Mr. Jones places the principal issue with a one volume history like this clearly - each chapter is not only a broad topic but an entire scholarly area, with scholars focusing This is good single volume history of the Middle Ages written for a general audience. It is arranged on a general chronological line with a focus on particular topics. The author is a popular and well published historical writer and it is clear that Dan Jones is well read and thoughtful, along with being an effective writer. Mr. Jones places the principal issue with a one volume history like this clearly - each chapter is not only a broad topic but an entire scholarly area, with scholars focusing their entire careers on topics in the area. So this is like the one semester history survey you wish you had sat for as an undergraduate. Along with his topical organization, Mr. Jones is effective at sampling from original documents along the way and also at picking out noteworthy individuals to organize portions of each chapter around. I have to wonder at how the audience gets targeted for a volume like this. There are fairly intense scholarly one volumes - Johannes Fried’s The Middle Ages comes to mind. There are focused one volume histories focusing on regions (Africa, for example - see Fauvell’s The Golden Rhinoceros or Hartnell’s book on Life and Death in the Middle Ages, focusing on health, medicine, and science, such as it was). There are also volumes focusing an historical survey with travel information, for example see Simon Winder’s amazing books on Central European history - Lotharingia, Germanic, and Danubia. These are all good books - and all different from the others. Powers and Thrones worked well for me as a readable general history with nuggets of new information and considerable value for review and refreshment. I recommend it highly.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Katy Beaumont

    Phew, that was epic and took me 9 months to read! I learned so much. The side-notes on parallels to today really added something (and were often amusing), so don’t skip the footnotes. The early medieval stuff was a bit confusing with all the different groups, but after that I got on with it better.The Mongols chapter was surprising and it’s a shame people don’t know more about them. The early colonialism was depressingly familiar. So it seems lots of things never change, including what happens w Phew, that was epic and took me 9 months to read! I learned so much. The side-notes on parallels to today really added something (and were often amusing), so don’t skip the footnotes. The early medieval stuff was a bit confusing with all the different groups, but after that I got on with it better.The Mongols chapter was surprising and it’s a shame people don’t know more about them. The early colonialism was depressingly familiar. So it seems lots of things never change, including what happens when you give lots of angry young men weapons led by deluded, despotic leaders. Climate, technology and pandemics are always shaking things up. And of course the lack of women in history points to the fact that they were always there in the background picking up the pieces and stopping everything from totally falling apart. What an achievement for Dan Jones.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Steph (semi-break)

    And that’s why he’s one of my all-time favourite historians <3

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mal Warwick

    Today the term “medieval” implies ignorance, backwardness, and barbarism. It’s the fruit of the long-held belief that the millennium between the implosion of Rome and the fall of Constantinople in 1453 were the “Dark Ages,” when monks were hunched over manuscripts in candlelight and little of consequence happened. Historian and journalist Dan Jones puts this shibboleth to rest in his insightful new popular history of the Middle Ages, Powers and Thrones. Dipping into the latest research in archae Today the term “medieval” implies ignorance, backwardness, and barbarism. It’s the fruit of the long-held belief that the millennium between the implosion of Rome and the fall of Constantinople in 1453 were the “Dark Ages,” when monks were hunched over manuscripts in candlelight and little of consequence happened. Historian and journalist Dan Jones puts this shibboleth to rest in his insightful new popular history of the Middle Ages, Powers and Thrones. Dipping into the latest research in archaeology, climate science, and the history of technology as well as new historical research, he examines with a fine eye the evidence of change in the Middle Ages, sussing out the events that suggest parallels with our own time. A BROADER VIEW OF CHANGE IN THE MIDDLE AGES Most historians view the Middle Ages as consisting of three periods. The years from about 500 to 1000 CE constituted the Early Middle Ages. The High Middle Ages ran from 1000 to 1300 CE. And the Late Middle Ages encompassed the years from about 1300 to 1453 or 1500 CE, when the European colonization of the New World was underway. Dan Jones doesn’t follow that outline. He dates the beginning of the era to 370, when the Mongols crossed the Volga River and began pressuring the Gothic tribes on the western shore to advance further into Europe, a movement that ultimately led to the fall of Rome. And he treats the early decades of the 16th century, with the Renaissance and the settlement of the Americas well underway, as the final years of the Middle Ages. But these are academic distinctions. They matter little. AN ETHNOCENTRIC HISTORY What matters more is that Powers and Thrones isn’t, properly speaking, a history of the Middle Ages. It’s primarily a history of medieval Europe—Western Europe in particular, and Britain above all. Jones treats the growing power of Islam and the Mongol Empire largely in terms of their impact on the nations of the West. Missing from this account are the equally monumental and engaging events and personalities of China, India, Africa, and the Americas in the millennium between 500 and 1500 CE. Ethnocentrism strikes again. To be fair, of course, there was no corresponding “medieval” period in other regions of the world. But equally compelling stories can be told about developments in those places between the last gasps of the ancient world and the first glimmering of the modern era. Change was a constant everywhere in the world in the period we call the Middle Ages. Despite these drawbacks, Powers and Thrones is an illuminating piece of work. In thirteen chapters, Jones traces the history of Western Europe and the forces that impinged on it. The book is organized within four broadly chronoiogical sections. Along the way through the history, he devotes individual chapters to what today we would call the principal “ethnic groups” or “nations” (though it would be many hundreds of years before those terms would be used): Romans, Barbarians, Byzantines, Arabs, Franks, Mongols. Other chapters explore the emblematic occupations of the era: Knights, Crusaders, Merchants, Scholars, Builders, Navigators. Three other chapters, interspersed among the others, cover cross-category topics: Survivors, Renewers, Protestants. It’s a highly readable approach. ANSWERING SOME OF HISTORY’S BIGGER QUESTIONS When we read history, most of us are likely to accept what we read as simply what happened. Change simply takes place, whether in the Middle Ages or in our own time. We don’t often stop to wonder why and how things turned out the way they did, other than merely to assume that one thing led to another. But a more careful reading raises questions. And some of the answers clearly emerge in Dan Jones’ account. Two examples follow. There are numerous others throughout Powers and Thrones. WHERE DID ALL THOSE MONASTERIES COME FROM? The Middle Ages was a violent and turbulent era. There were few defined boundaries in Western Europe between the kingdoms, principalities, city-states, and the fiefs of minor lords and knights. They were constantly at war with one another. Those “Christian warriors” needed a way “to make sure that they did not go to hell for their sins. Monasteries provided a neat solution. To atone for sins, the Church recommended penance and prayer. This was time consuming, uncomfortable, and impractical for people who had jobs to do fighting and killing one another. “Fortunately, the Church was very open-minded about how penance was to be done, and Church authorities had no problem with the rich paying others to do their penance for them. . . The result was that from the ninth century onward, founding, endowing, or donating to monasteries became a popular pastime for rich men and women.” Perhaps there’s a parallel here to the proliferation of charitable foundations today in the United States. At the latest count, there were nearly 120,000 of them. Are the rich in America buying penance for their sins? WHY DID THE MUSLIM WORLD BECOME THE WEST’S CENTER OF LEARNING AND SCIENCE? For centuries, historians termed the period following the fall of Rome as the Dark Ages. The time was “dark,” in their view, because the early Christian church disdained the study of classical knowledge, which they regarded as grounded in pagan values. So, Aristotle, Plato, Archimedes, and the great poets and writers of Rome were no longer fit subjects for study. Like the madrasas of the Middle East today where religious scholars focus exclusively on the Qu’ran and the Hadith, ignoring all other avenues to understanding the world, medieval monasteries permitted study only of approved Christian literature. The West descended into “darkness.” CHANGE BEGAN AROUND 700 CE But the rise of Islam in the 7th century brought change to the Middle East. “Around the year 700,” Jones writes, the Caliph “al-Malik ordered that public servants across the Umayyad world should use one language only: Arabic. The commonest tongues used by the non-Arabs who made up the vast majority of the caliphate’s population were Greek and Persian. Al-Malik made no provision against people speaking them as they pleased—but he decreed that they could no longer do so while working for him. At a stroke, the Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians who had found gainful employment as scribes, middle managers, and bureaucrats were faced with a stark choice. Unless they knew or very quickly learned Arabic, they were out of a job. MAKING ARABIC THE LINGUA FRANCA “By enforcing [Arabic’s] use as a universal tongue across the caliphate, he transformed it into a global language of record and inquiry. Arabic became a lingua franca every bit as potent as Latin and Greek. As a result it was as useful to scholars as it was to civil servants. During the Middle Ages Arab scholars compiled, translated, and preserved hundreds of thousands of texts from across the classical world, and the Arab-speaking Islamic world inherited the Greek and Latin world’s position as the west’s most advanced intellectual and scientific society.” COMPARING THE WORLD’S EMPIRES As Jones makes clear in his introduction and in the book’s title, Powers and Thrones is principally about the empires that dominated the period: Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, Mongol. As I read his account, I began to wonder how those empires stack up historically against others that have risen and fallen in the course of 5,000 years of recorded history. Digging around online, I constructed the following table to compare the biggest empires in history at their greatest extent. Each is identified by the (arbitrary) year when it reached its peak, by its land area, and by the percentage of the world’s population it held at the time. Empire Year Square miles % of world’s population British 1938 13.0 million 20% Mongol 1279 9.2 million 25% Russian 1913 9.1 million 9% Spanish 1740 7.7 million 12% Chinese 1851 5.7 million 35% Muslim 720 5.0 million 30% Roman 117 2.3 million 33% At the point of its greatest expansion in the second century CE, the Roman Empire housed a population of approximately 60 million. Its contemporary, the Chinese Empire, was estimated to have a population of roughly the same number, and its land area was comparable. The two empires encompassed about two-thirds of the world’s population in their time. But they were small in both population and land area compared to later empires. It’s also interesting (for me) to note that today the USA sprawls over some 3.8 million square miles and China over 3.7 million. The American population of approximately 330 million is only about 4% of global population. By contrast, China, with 1.4 billion people, comprises 18 percent. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Wikipedia tells us that Dan Jones (1981-) “is a British historian, TV presenter and journalist. He was educated at The Royal Latin School, a state grammar school in Buckingham, before attending Pembroke College, Cambridge.” His parents were Welsh. Powers and Thrones is the ninth of the history books he has published, most of which delve into the Middle Ages for their subject matter. Jones also has built a career presenting historical documentaries for Britain’s Channel 5. As a journalist, he writes a column for a major London newspaper and has produced articles for other leading British newspapers and magazines. He lives in Surrey with his wife, two daughters and son.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Lopez (on sabbatical)

    “In the autumn of AD 312, as Constantine was preparing to fight his rival, Emperor Maxentius, at the Milvian Bridge (…) he looked to the heavens and saw a blazing cross above the sun, accompanied by the words, ‘In this sign, conquer.’ He took this to be a message from the god of the Christians—clearly a god who at that moment appeared to be more interested in battles and politics than in His Son Jesus Christ’s program of charity, forgiveness, and reconciliation.”

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nikki Brooks

    I haven't read any of the authors other books but I'm a total history junkie (Discovery & History Channels are my faves). I loved the series he did on British Castles so this was a no-brainer for me. I do have a degree in History and Classical Studies but you could be just a bored lay-person or military veteran and you could get a great deal of knowledge and enjoyment from this book. It does encompass a vast time period (from 400AD-Renaissance). It has a distinct focus on Western Europe and the p I haven't read any of the authors other books but I'm a total history junkie (Discovery & History Channels are my faves). I loved the series he did on British Castles so this was a no-brainer for me. I do have a degree in History and Classical Studies but you could be just a bored lay-person or military veteran and you could get a great deal of knowledge and enjoyment from this book. It does encompass a vast time period (from 400AD-Renaissance). It has a distinct focus on Western Europe and the peoples that they were directly in contact with/influenced by. It's not your day in the life of kind of read -it concentrates more on the forces that can be outside factors on the power bases- such as the movement of people, diseases and ideas, and the big game-changer - religion. The sections are broke down into easy to manage chunks and you could easily just go to whatever chapters interested you most. I'm more of a Classical History buff so I loved the earlier chapters dealing with the decline of the Roman Empire in the West. There are great maps that help you to track shifting borders/powers and a HUGE selection of further reading in various topics contained within the book for anything which might have piqued your interest. I received an ARC via NetGalley and I'm volunteering to leave this review for a wonderfully informative book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Stelling

    An enjoyable and easy-to-read summary which achieves what Jones says it will in the introduction. This book is popular history at its best, covering over 1000 years of history in 700 pages, spanning multiple continents and areas of history stretching from military history to religious, social and medical history. For me, I felt I was too familiar with the material having covered a lot of it recently at university which detracted from my enjoyment in parts which I felt were oversimplified or wher An enjoyable and easy-to-read summary which achieves what Jones says it will in the introduction. This book is popular history at its best, covering over 1000 years of history in 700 pages, spanning multiple continents and areas of history stretching from military history to religious, social and medical history. For me, I felt I was too familiar with the material having covered a lot of it recently at university which detracted from my enjoyment in parts which I felt were oversimplified or where Jones simply chooses the most salacious, rather than most accurate, account. My only other gripe was the conclusion, which I felt was too rushed. Although the author clearly intended to let the book speak for itself - and the final quote from Luther was a great, witty one-liner - I felt a book of this size and scope needed a concluding chapter to sum up and pull together many of the themes of change identified by such a long text.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joachim

    The adjective in the subtitle "new" is not entirely warranted; most of the material is the same stuff anyone who has read a textbook on the Middle Ages will recognise. Familiar figures such as Constantine the Great and Henry the Navigator will appear, although some of these characters are sketched out in much more detail than in other overviews of the Middle Ages (Philip the Good, Jan Van Eyck, Arab Caliphates,...). The analysis and theories pushed forwards for the events such as the barbarian m The adjective in the subtitle "new" is not entirely warranted; most of the material is the same stuff anyone who has read a textbook on the Middle Ages will recognise. Familiar figures such as Constantine the Great and Henry the Navigator will appear, although some of these characters are sketched out in much more detail than in other overviews of the Middle Ages (Philip the Good, Jan Van Eyck, Arab Caliphates,...). The analysis and theories pushed forwards for the events such as the barbarian migrations are also not new, but they are clear and more palatable thanks to the authors' light and agreeable writing. While, as its title suggests, the book is very much a traditional political history, with a bird's-eye view of the the broad historical developments, the author often stops to focus on a single person or event in greater detail. With about a thousand and one other textbooks covering the same material as this one, the reason I would recommend this one over many others is the ease and wit of Dan Jones' writing, which makes it more agreeable reading over other textbooks I've read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michael Kenan Baldwin

    A fantastic book on a period about which for too long I've known too little. The structure is particularly strong in this book, not just bookending the Middle Ages with two epic sacks of Rome, but also within the four major sections, each chapter itself flowed through very logical and narrative headings. I learnt all sorts of things from how environmental factors made and slayed empires and modern economics all began in the English wool trade, to meeting surprising proto-Protestants in the form A fantastic book on a period about which for too long I've known too little. The structure is particularly strong in this book, not just bookending the Middle Ages with two epic sacks of Rome, but also within the four major sections, each chapter itself flowed through very logical and narrative headings. I learnt all sorts of things from how environmental factors made and slayed empires and modern economics all began in the English wool trade, to meeting surprising proto-Protestants in the form of Dante and William of Ockham.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tina

    That was long and I’m not sure why it has the word ‘new’ in the title, but excellent nonetheless.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    Do you really think Marco Polo is a reliable narrator for history? I know I don’t. This author did and H. G. Wells did in his Outline of History. One can gleam tidbits from Marco Polo, but most of it just seemed to be fantastic drivel that is mostly relevant to show how gullible people thought about themselves in 1300. This author did point out that Prestor John or the coming of King David’s grandson was most likely rumors of the rampage that the Mongols and Genghis Kahn were unleashing. Marco P Do you really think Marco Polo is a reliable narrator for history? I know I don’t. This author did and H. G. Wells did in his Outline of History. One can gleam tidbits from Marco Polo, but most of it just seemed to be fantastic drivel that is mostly relevant to show how gullible people thought about themselves in 1300. This author did point out that Prestor John or the coming of King David’s grandson was most likely rumors of the rampage that the Mongols and Genghis Kahn were unleashing. Marco Polo made Prestor John real, as well as a blind Christian living in Persia able to move a mountain, and a local tribe that offered their young women as gifts with no expectation of money in return, and a host of other obviously bogus stories. This book is not without merit. I do like the connections the author draws out, but overall, I think there are better books that cover the middle age with more depth such that the reader doesn’t have to doubt some of the statements such as thinking Marco Polo is a reliable narrator for history. Oddly, when H. G. Wells relied on Marco Polo, I wasn’t bothered because the way Wells was telling history it was part of his outline.

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