The Bright ages was definitely a surprise for me. I will admit that my own historical studies generally shied away from "the dark ages" of medieval times. It did not really interest me and I searched further afield for my own studies. But what if the dark ages was a misnomer? A dismissal of a time period that in all actuality was beautiful and shined in its own way? Then things get interesting! Making the argument that the dark ages were anything but, providing examples of art and science as well as human experiences that are often kicked to the wayside I have to say that this was a truly enlightening read. A book that feels like you are learning so much while you read it, but never falling off and becoming too dry or academic to enjoy this book is a balancing act. I highly suggest this to fans of history, as it is a thoughtful and provocative read that challenges long held assumptions at a time where we are facing our own "dark ages". I think it will bring a little light into your life if you decide to pick it up!— Will B.
A lively and magisterial popular history that refutes common misperceptions of the European Middle Ages, showing the beauty and communion that flourished alongside the dark brutality--a brilliant reflection of humanity itself.
The word medieval conjures images of the Dark Ages--centuries of ignorance, superstition, stasis, savagery, and poor hygiene. But the myth of darkness obscures the truth; this was a remarkable period in human history. The Bright Ages recasts the European Middle Ages for what it was, capturing this 1,000-year era in all its complexity and fundamental humanity, bringing to light both its beauty and its horrors.
The Bright Ages takes us through ten centuries and crisscrosses Europe and the Mediterranean, Asia and Africa, revisiting familiar people and events with new light cast upon them. We look with fresh eyes on the Fall of Rome, Charlemagne, the Vikings, the Crusades, and the Black Death, but also to the multi-religious experience of Iberia, the rise of Byzantium, and the genius of Hildegard and the power of queens. We begin under a blanket of golden stars constructed by an empress with Germanic, Roman, Spanish, Byzantine, and Christian bloodlines and end nearly 1,000 years later with the poet Dante--inspired by that same twinkling celestial canopy--writing an epic saga of heaven and hell that endures as a masterpiece of literature today.
The Bright Ages reminds us just how permeable our manmade borders have always been and of what possible worlds the past has always made available to us. The Middle Ages may have been a world lit only by fire but it was one whose torches illuminated the magnificent rose windows of cathedrals, even as they stoked the pyres of accused heretics.