By Susan Wise Bauer
The History of the Medieval World is a true world history, linking the great conflicts of Europe to the titanic struggles for power in India and Asia. In its pages, El Cid and Guanggaeto, Julian the Apostate and the Brilliant Emperor, Charles the Hammer and Krum the Bulgarian stand side by side. From the schism between Rome and Constantinople to the rise of the Song Dynasty, from the mission of Muhammad to the crowning of Charlemagne, from the sacred wars of India to the establishment of the Knights Templar, this erudite book tells the fascinating, often violent story of kings, generals, and the peoples they ruled.
“Bauer (The History of the Ancient World) continues her witty and well-written examination of world history with a volume that is rich in detail and intriguing in anecdotal information. In describing dramatic events (such as the worldwide impact of the eruption of Krakatoa in 535 C.E., or civil war among the descendants of Charlemagne), near-legendary individuals (like the great general turned mercenary El Cid), and decisive historical movements from the fourth century C.E. to the beginnings of the 12th century, attention is effectively paid not only to western and eastern Europe but to North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, the Far East, South Asia, and the Americas. The political and military rise and fall of rulers or would-be rulers and the prominence of religion in matters of conscience and state give force and power to the narrative as does the constant impact of simple human emotion and ambition on the flow of history. A bit overwhelming in its scope, Bauer’s work nevertheless proves perfectly, and entertainingly, that the more things change, the more they stay the same.–Publisher’s Weekly
“Demonstrating insight about invariably partial sources, humanism about actors’ motivations, and an apt dramatic touch, Bauer parlays her capacious knowledge of history into the exciting and terrifying subject it can be.”–Booklist
“The History of the Medieval World is a simple yet strikingly apt title for historian Susan Wise Bauer’s quietly audacious tour de force. This comprehensive and colorful work spans the entire globe, from Europe and the Mediterranean to the Indian peninsula, Southeast Asia and Mesoamerica, during the period of civilizational upheaval that began with the fourth-century Roman Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity and ended with the founding of the Knights Templar in the 12th century. The organizing concept in this volume of Wise Bauer’s history is religion, and its mutually transformative relationship with state power: the redirection of violence into the paths of righteousness. While the kings profiled in her previous bestseller, The History of the Ancient World, ruled by sheer might, the rulers of the Middle Ages, across all geographical regions, cultures and civilizations, turned to faith and the conceit of ‘divine right’ to justify their dominion. From the Orthodox Christianity of the Eastern Roman Empire to the Mahayana Buddhism of northern China, the influence of religion on this period of world history has seldom before been surveyed on such an all-encompassing scale. Parallels and connections emerge between such seemingly disparate events as the schism between Rome and Constantinople, Muhammad’s establishment of Islam, the rise of China’s Tang dynasty (and its fall at the hands of the Turks), the romance of Emperor Justinian and the actress Theodora, Pope Leo’s successful mission to turn Attila the Hun away from the gates of Rome, the once-innocuous clubs of chariot-racing fans that devolved into mobs of guerrilla warriors driven to brutal battle by doctrinal differences, the unification of the German kingdom under Henry the Fowler, the repeated invasions of Britain by Norsemen and Normans, and the hideously bloody Crusades to impose Christian rule upon the Holy Land. Just about every reader will discover intriguing new characters and fascinating new stories. At more than 600 pages, the book is concise yet comprehensive; 46 maps dynamically illustrate the thrusts of armies and the flux of national borders, while dozens of fascinating timelines depict the parallel courses of events across cultures whose histories are rarely juxtaposed. The author has an uncommon ability to convey the sweep of history in intimately personal terms, taking care to depict the impact of momentous events on the general population. She has crafted a volume that will be read cover to cover with great enjoyment and consulted often as a reference work. With two further installments in preparation, Susan Wise Bauer is well on her way to completing a landmark narrative history of the entire world.”–Book of the Month Club