I picked up this book on a lark from the library shelf. It looked like a fun little browse book, but turned into a good read about everyday life in the Middle Ages.
What I Liked
Most books (even popular ones) about the Middle Ages are either super-academic or focused on the military / political history. This book was neither. It was very readable, and very approachable with excellent graphics and illustrations. The topic was – to me – much more interesting, thought-provoking and personally useful than military / political history from the time. The book was almost like one of those amazing DK Eyewitness Book for kids…but for adults.
The topics were thorough with plenty of connections and no real overlap. It covered every aspect of society from different angles. I came away with a much more rounded understanding of how people, just like me, lived in medieval Europe.
Due to the formatting, it was easy to speed up and slow down depending on the topic / section.
What I Did Not Like
It wasn’t really what I was expecting and took much longer to read than anticipated. In some ways, that was great. But I do wish I had mentally budgeted how much time it would take to read.
Jeffrey Singman does an excellent job of showing how humans lived in medieval Europe. It’s a fascinating time with many parallels to our current time. But it’s also easy to caricature and forget that real people with real lives, thoughts, personalities, and struggles and hopes lived then. Like most of history, war was the exception – even if that’s what dominates history books. But the rule was that humans lived rich daily lives through relationships, trade, their environment and their vocations. Excellent work – definitely worth the read.