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Europe in the High Middle Ages [Copertina flessibile]

William Chester Jordan

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Amazon.com: 3.2 su 5 stelle  12 recensioni
25 di 25 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
3.0 su 5 stelle Good but incomplete 10 gennaio 2010
Di Amrit - Pubblicato su Amazon.com
Formato:Copertina flessibile
This is part of a multi-volume series covering the history of Europe from Classical times to the present day.The work provides a basic coverage of the era from about 1050 to 1250 CE. The main contours of Western European history are dealt with - and the focus is political history. There is a discussion of the events and processes underlying the consolidation of the power of the French and English monarchies and the failed attempts by the German Emperor to achieve the same thing. Unlike some earlier histories, there is also a fair coverage of the formation of Poland, Hungary and the Bohemian state. The role of the Church and Papacy in particular in the formation of Western Christendom also receives a good overview. In addition to the chapters addressing these subjects, there are separate chapters dedicated to intellectual life, art and architecture. There is a particularly good discussion of the impact of famine and plague that brings the period to a close. This indeed is an area of specialist expertise for the author.

The author however leaves out some important parts of the story. That the High Middle Ages represents an important period of growth and arguably is the era when Western Europe first developed a distinctive culture that stood as an equal to that of its neighbours cannot be doubted. The author sets out well enough a broad outline of the narrative of these developments but if you are interested in a deeper understanding of why this transformation occurred, the discussion does not go much further than the basic narrative. An end to raids by Vikings, Hungarians and Arabs, population growth, an expansion of agriculture, technological change such as the spread of the heavy plough, the development of trade and cities, the establishment of deep and durable connections with Islam and Byzantium all made their contributions to the transformation of Europe but any real discussion of how these factors worked to bring about that transformation and what were the most important is missing.

The absence of any real overview of economic history thus is a specific weakness. For example, the workings of the feudal system and indeed any discussion of what it was or whether it really existed outside certain parts of France could add to the narrative. The importance of the revival of trade especially long distance trade that connected the Champagne fairs to far off parts of the world is a major omission from the work, particularly given the importance of this trade to urban life - and to the broader context - see below. The revival of a vibrant urban life was an important feature of the period.

The treatment of links with the Islamic world is disappointing. Although the Crusades are well covered as are aspects of the Reconquista, relations with Islam are portrayed essentially as a political conflict with Western Christendom resulting in defeat for Christians in the Holy Land and victory in Spain. Apart from some reference to the influence of Avicenna and Averroes on Christian thought, there is little or no discussion of the important positive role that interaction with Muslims played on the transformation of Europe. This included diffusion of technology such as the astrolabe, ship building, irrigation and new crops such an oranges and rice. The long standing relationship/alliance between Venice and Egypt a key partnership with Muslims was one of the cornerstones of inter-State relations during the period. This relationship was to a great extent a foundation plank of Venice's power and wealth and therefore a key part of the story of the times. This gets no airplay. There is also no discussion of the tolerance that could and did exist alongside political and religious conflict especially in Spain and Sicily under both Muslim and Christian rulers. It was that tolerance that allowed Christians, Muslims and Jews to work together and develop much of the intellectual groundwork for what later became the Western tradition. There is complete absence of any discussion of life in Muslim ruled states in Spain and Sicily. This too is part of Europe and its past. No discussion of the High Middle Ages could be complete without some coverage of the subject but this is missing.

There are specific instances where the lack of coverage of Muslim Europe and its multi-faceted relationship and engagement with Christian Europe can lead the author to make incomplete or even wrong statements. For example, he refers to the introduction of the astrolabe as a "new" instrument. In fact it was not new at all but used previously in the Islamic world before being transmitted to Christians. He also makes the statement that there were no universities in Spain. This may be correct in the sense that universities following the Western model were not founded in Spain during the era but the statement misses the leading role that equivalent Islamic centres of learning in Andalusia played in the development of new knowledge. Roger Garaudy makes the case that the real "renaissance" of learning during the High Middle Ages began there and later spread to Christian Europe. This may or may not be on point but suggests a general development of knowledge that encompassed both the Christian and Muslim world (in which the Muslims (and Jews) took an early lead) as part of a common process that underpinned the era.

The coverage of Eastern Europe is also wanting. There is a good coverage of Poland, Hungary and Bohemia and to this extent, Jordan's book goes further than older histories to provide a more complete narrative. However, there is little or nothing on Orthodox Europe ie Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania. Byzantium itself is discussed but only insofar as it's interactions with Crusaders makes its way into the narrative. As a part of the narrative in its own right, Byzantium gets little mention. This too is a significant omission given the importance of the Greeks in the rise of Venice and the expansion of Christianity into the Slavic lands. The Russian connection is also important for example the contest between the Teutonic knights and Alexander Nevsky that in the end established the boundary between Orthodoxy and Catholicism within Europe. This gets little coverage.

The failure to engage adequately with Islam and the Orthodox lands results also in missing the importance of long distance trade that linked Europe not just with Islam, Byzantium and Russia but also India and ultimately China. Europe during the High Middle Ages was sharply distinguished from earlier centuries by the beginning of its enduring links with a newly globalised world that had become possible because of the Pax Mongolica and Islamic trade routes across the Indian Ocean. It was of course that long distance trade that become so important towards the end of the period in question that eventually propelled the developments of the fifteenth century taking Western Europeans across the Atlantic and directly into the Asia. That globalised world that began during the High Middle Ages, described by Janet Abu Lughod in her groundbreaking work "Before European Hegemony" is the ancestor of the world today. The High Middle Ages for Europe was not just a key formative period in more than one way but the global context is missing from the narrative.

Despite these significant omissions, Jordans work is a good basic introduction to part of the story. To complete that basic introduction, the reader will need to look elsewhere. The classic work of Henri Pirenne, Marc Bloch and Georges Duby might be a good start to looking at the economic history of the era although a serious reader will need to look further to contemporary works. The writings of the two Gies might provide a good overview of medieval technology and the story of its diffusion from as far away as East Asia. The globalised context is described admirably by Abu Lughod. A definitive general history of High Medieval Europe needs to integrate the story told by Jordan with the broader context set by the Islamic and Orthodox World and the economic and technological dimension that takes the narrative into a global setting. That definitive history is yet to be written.
106 di 130 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
3.0 su 5 stelle NEITHER FISH NOR FOWL 21 giugno 2003
Di charles falk - Pubblicato su Amazon.com
Formato:Copertina rigida
William Chester Jordan is one of America's most prominent medieval historians. He heads the program in Medieval Studies at Princeton. His previous book, THE GREAT FAMINE, won the Haskins Medal in 2000. He has edited a multi-volume medieval history, written a medieval history for young people, as well as influential articles about France's expulsion of the Jews and about credit and women in medieval society. Jordan is a frequent speaker at symposia and conferences both in the United States and Europe. Small wonder that David Cannadine tapped him to contribute a book to Penguin's History of Europe series. Given his credentials, EUROPE IN THE HIGH MIDDLE AGES ought to be better than it is.
The organization and writing is workmanlike. Jordan's schema divides the period first by century and then by region. This inevitably leads to repetition when the same event impacts dfferent regions and when Jordan backtracks or foreshadows events from other centuries in order to establish context. It is impossible to create a smooth narrative in such a rigid framework. The organization lends itself to spot referencing rather than reading cover to cover. Jordan may not be a prose stylist, but his writing is clear and concise.
There are no footnotes nor endnotes. The "References" section is a scant four pages long and is made up mostly of secondary sources. Jordan makes an occasional historiological feint, but without any real substance. One is left feeling the book is neither fish (a serious academic history) nor fowl (a popular history for the general public).
The most glaring defect in the book, for this reader, is its treatment, or rather non-treatment, of Muslim rule in Iberia and Sicily. Jordan finds time to tell us the sad story of Isaac, a Christian hermit, who persisted in reviling Muhammad in the streets of Cordoba in 852 and was executed after being warned to desist. Yet there is no mention of the Ummayad dynasty that had unified the Iberian peninsula into the Caliphate of Al Anadluz, whose officials put Isaac to death! At the beginning of the 11th Century Al Andaluz may have been the richest, was probably the most tolerant, and was certainly the most cultured region of Europe. Jordan devotes far more space to the "Reconquest" than he does to the Arabic culture and language that dominated the peninsula throughout the period covered in his book. The library at Cordoba contained 400,000 books and manuscripts at a time when the largest libary in Europe north of the Pyrenees had less than 500. Jordan begins his chapter, "The World of Learning" by connecting the start of "...a long period of renewal and creativity in Europe" to the First Crusade. In fact, the translations of classic Greek works of philosphy and science he says fueled the development of the schools of Paris and other universities came from Arabic texts translated by Muslims and Jews in Toledo at the behest of Abbot Hugh of Cluny. More than a page in the chapter on vernacular literature is devoted to the Song of Roland without noting that the chanson commemorates the retreat of Charlemagne before the armies of the first Ummayad Caliph Abd al Rahman. Jordan writes of the freebooter El Cid and "...his struggles with the Muslims", failing to mention that El Cid fought for Muslim rulers as well against them. In the extensive genealogical tables at the end of the book one finds lists of every Christian dynasty from Byzantium to Norway, but no mention of any Muslim dynasty. The first "King" of Portugal listed is Afonso I who ruled midway through the period with which the book is concerned. No earlier Muslim ruler is listed. The same thing is true of the rulers of Spain, Sicily, Tripoli, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Christian rulers of the period are listed, but nary a Muslim monarch. Jordan seems to have gone out of his way to render Muslim participation in and contribution to Europe's high middle ages invisible.
4 di 4 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
3.0 su 5 stelle Solid But Unexceptional 14 dicembre 2008
Di R. Albin - Pubblicato su Amazon.com
Formato:Copertina flessibile
This is a solid but unexceptional survey by a distinguished Medieval historian. Europe in this case means essentially Catholic Europe, which ranges from Greenland to the eastern borders of Poland. The author attempts a combination of narrative and thematic chapters. The narrative chapters, largely the basic political history, are arranged by region; Northern Europe includes Britain and Scandinavia, Southern Europe mainly the Iberia and Italy, etc. The thematic chapters cover basic social history, intellectual history, and some art history. A major theme running through the book is the growing power, sophistication, and institutional complexity of the Catholic Church, particularly the Papacy, and its frequent conflicts with secular powers. Another major theme is the efforts of monarchs, successful in some cases, unsuccessful in others, to develop more centralized states. The best features of this book are the good coverage of the basic political history, which shows nicely the considerable heterogeneity of political and social structures in Medieval Europe, and the solid writing.

As pointed out by another reader-reviewer, this book is significantly shorter than the other published volume in this series, Timothy Blanning's quite good book on 18th century Europe, and consequently provides less depth. Areas where more discussion would have been useful would be more description of economic history, some discussion of history of technology, and some history of Medieval science. Two disappointing features of this book (and Blanning's book as well) are the absence of footnotes and only a short bibliography.
14 di 19 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
3.0 su 5 stelle Good as far as it goes ... 15 agosto 2007
Di A. Lowry - Pubblicato su Amazon.com
Formato:Copertina flessibile
... but how far is that? There's the occasional nod to eastern Europe, but as usual "Europe" turns out to mean "England and France and Germany" for the most part. Cultural issues are touched upon enough to claim that they've been covered, but not so as to provide much understanding.

For all its faults, Cantor's "The Civilization of the Middle Ages" is the better book. I wish that Jordan had written, or been allowed to write?, a book twice as long -- more the length of "The Pursuit of Glory" in the same Penguin series. Perhaps there will be a second edition.
1 di 1 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
4.0 su 5 stelle Good But Not Enough 25 marzo 2013
Di David Hoffman - Pubblicato su Amazon.com
Formato:Formato Kindle|Acquisto verificato
Europe in the High Middle Ages by William Chaster Jordan is the third book in the series The Penguin History of Europe. The High Middle Ages is the name given to the period of medieval history from 1000 to 1350. During these years, European civilization reached heights not seen in the West since the fall of the Roman Empire. The political situation in Europe stabilized somewhat, trade increased, cities grew, universities were established and learning flourished. The nations of Europe ceased to be helpless victims of foreign invasion and, through the Crusades even began to project power outside the continent.

Although the nations of Europe began to take their modern shape during the high middle ages, political power was extremely decentralized, especially in France, more than in the period immediately before and afterwards. The Papacy became more prominent on the international stage and powerful Popes could even challenge kings and emperors for influence. It all ended in the middle fourteenth century with a change in climate that caused a decade of famine. Then the horrors of the Black Death struck Europe in 1349. No institution in Europe survived unscathed, and the optimism and vitality of the High Middle Ages was gone. When Europe began to recover from these disasters, it was no longer the Middle Ages, but the Renaissance, and the West was moving in a new direction.

William Chester Jordan brings this fascinating period of history to life in his book. Like the other books in The Penguin History of Europe, The High Middle Ages focuses less on a detailed chronology of events and more on a general overview of cultural and historic developments, especially including the political development of the emerging nation states of Europe and their relationship with the Papacy. There is also a lot of information on the intellectual trends of the High Middle Ages as well as a good account of how it all seemed to fall apart in the fourteenth century. Unfortunately, the author breaks of the story in 1350, just as the Black Death is ravaging Europe, leading to a kind of cliffhanger effect. Still, I can recommend Europe in the High Middle Ages for anyone who wants to learn more about that fascinating period of history.

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