Since the fifteenth century, when humanist writers began to speak of a middle period in history linking their time to the ancient world, the nature of the Middle Ages has been widely debated. Across the millennium from 500 to 1500, distinguished historian Johannes Fried describes a dynamic confluence of political, social, religious, economic, and scientific developments that draws a guiding thread through the era: the growth of a culture of reason. Beginning with the rise of the Franks, Fried uses individuals to introduce key themes, bringing to life those who have too often been reduced to abstractions of the medieval monk or knight. Milestones encountered in this thousand-year traversal include Europe s political, cultural, and religious renovation under Charlemagne; the Holy Roman Empire under Charles IV, whose court in Prague was patron to crowning cultural achievements; and the series of conflicts between England and France that made up the Hundred Years War and gave to history the enduringly fascinating Joan of Arc. Broader political and intellectual currents are examined, from the authority of the papacy and impact of the Great Schism, to new theories of monarchy and jurisprudence, to the rise of scholarship and science. The Middle Ages" is full of people encountering the unfamiliar, grappling with new ideas, redefining power, and interacting with different societies. Fried gives readers an era of innovation and turbulence, of continuities and discontinuities, but one above all characterized by the vibrant expansion of knowledge and an understanding of the growing complexity of the world."
Written by one of the most original historians of his generation, this survey of western European medieval history covers the decline of Rome to the eve of the Reformation with verve and intelligence. Fried argues that modernity and the Enlightenment, despite having forgotten their debts to the Middle Ages, actually owe to the period their most valued characteristics: rationality, method, empiricism, doubt, modern science, global interests, citizenship, and last but not least, freedom. --Philippe Buc, University of Vienna
Fried conjures images that linger in the mind long after the book has closed ... When discussing the immense value of royal libraries in the ninth century, we learn that to make a single book in vellum required an entire flock of sheep... for large-format luxury tomes, huge numbers of animals were slaughtered . This is more than vivid phrase-making Fried s book has been through three editions in Germany, where it was published in 2009, and where it is admired as a definitive guide to the history of the age. Fried s breadth of knowledge is formidable and his passion for the period admirable ... those with a true passion for the Middle Ages will be thrilled by this ambitious defense." --Dan Jones, Sunday Times
[T]here is little doubt that (this two volume work) will be accepted as the most authoritative biography of Napoleon that we have or are likely to have in the foreseeable future. (...) As for the content of the book, there can only be full marks. (...) Two cheers for the presentation of the book in its (American) English version. (...) At least two further cheers, however, and perhaps another half, for the excellent index [...] and the scholarly notes. Nothing can detract from the quality of the book and the research that has gone into its creation. On top of giving us all that, Gueniffey has left us with an enticing idea of what may be to come. Having skilfully drawn the developing portrait of the young man (...) he leaves us with an arresting image of the Napoleon of April 1802." -- History Today
"This is certainly not the first book to tackle established conventions but certainly one of the best. Johannes Fried s The Middle Ages is an absolute must-read for anybody with an interest in the Middle Ages and caters for all backgrounds and levels of previous knowledge. LSE Review of Books
"Monumental" is an overused word for historical works, but it may be applicable here. The book has the ambition, scope and, above all, plausibility. There is an enormous amount of ground covered in nearly 600 pages, and with an impressive narrative fluency [...] You may wonder what the point is of learning about all this but, apart from spotting alarming modern parallels, there is a joy in learning for its own sake. On practically every page something extraordinary is going on. - --The Guardian