I’m a fan of history and have generally been interested in most time periods—with the exception of the Middle Ages. The era’s very title implies a period of time between more important periods of time. Ancient history of Greece and Rome fascinates me. Religious and political history of the last few hundred years is critical to understanding where we are today. But the Middle Ages, also referred to as the Dark Ages, has always seemed a bit of a historical no-man’s land, and I’ve never been sure where to begin. Fortunately, I was recently given a copy of Morris Bishop’s book, “The Middle Ages”.
Bishop, now deceased, was a professor at Cornell University and one of the world’s preeminent medieval historians and authors during his lifetime.
His brilliance and subject mastery are on full display in his ability to concisely unpack the 1000-year history between the fall of Rome and the Reformation in a way that’s interesting, humorous and accessible to the reader. Importantly, he leaves you with an appreciation of the Middle Ages as a significant period of progress, however slow at times, and our modern day connections to its culture, language, art, philosophy, as well its social, political and religious institutions.
The best part of “The Middle Ages” is that it’s written by someone who obviously enjoys his subject and wants his readers to do the same. From the way he adds color to personalities to his dry-humored commentary throughout the book, Bishop brings his subject matter alive. He doesn’t’ spend too much time on one person, place or subject—just enough to provide color and illuminate the picture he’s trying to paints on a given topic. You may, however, find yourself doing follow-up reading because your interest has been piqued on related topics.
If you like history, a good read and don’t know much about the time period between 500 and 1500 AD, “The Middle Ages” is worth adding to your summer reading list.