History of Medieval Europe

Lynn Thorndike


This is, clearly, a book about the history of medieval Europe. It starts out in the days of Rome, goes through the collapse, and then the Germanic invasion. Then it goes to the church, spread of Christianity and the development of a monastic culture. Then it cuts to Arabia and the spread of Islam, and then back to Europe and the political system. Then the crusades and the growing power of the Pope, then moves to science and art. It wraps up with the Hundred Years War, the split of the German HRE and Italian HRE, and finally the changes that sent Europe of the Middle Ages.

Section that interested me the most

  • Italian politics
  • "republics"
  • lots of money/mints

Passage 1

"Innocent often said that he preferred that the heretics should be converted rather than exterminated, and that they should be won back by preaching rather than by force. ... Innocent went ahead and in November offered the feudal lords of central and northern France the same remission of sins as for crusaders to the East," (351).

This shows that Innocent was a resourceful ruler. He was a good Catholic, and wanted to accomplish as much as he could with peace and discussion, without going to war. But when he realized that he couldn't get anywhere doing that, he did what he had to and called a crusade to preserve the Church unity.

Something that surprised me

  • The author says some tribes/people are "barbaric"
  • Mongols, steppe tribes, Germanic tribes
  • "Mohammedans"

Rating of the book

  • 4
  • Dry at times: art, trade, daily life
  • Much info about wars and politics is a plus
  • Also many maps; maps are awesome
  • If you like history, not a bad book

Passage 2

"But by far the grandest architecture of the time was ecclesiastical. Indeed, the remains of medieval religious architecture which have survived to our time surpass in number, interest, and artistic merit the ruins from any previous period of the world's history. A cathedral was the external expression in material but artistic former of the vast power of the Church in those days and of the religious spirit of the Middle Ages." (484).

I like this passage because it shows what religion motivated to work for something good can produce. These buildings are some of the most beautiful buildings ever produced, and are filled with amazing art commissioned by the Church. People still today go to these cathedrals just to see the stained-glass and the paintings.

3 concepts/principles

  • Even misguided efforts can produce beneficial results- the Crusades
  • Similar situations must be treated with unique solutions- Albigensian v. Bohemian Crusades
  • Sometimes, winning at all costs is a bad idea- France v. England after 100 Years War: France lost 1/3-1/2 of population, England has strong national ID

Author's Purpose

  • Inform
  • Author includes mostly facts
  • As much entertainment as he can
"This book will trace the history of Europe and of parts of Asia and Africa adjacent to the Mediterranean and thus closely connected with Europe. It will trace the history of those lands..." (1).