Good Book on Middle Ages


#1

I’m presently reading this book, The Mysterious Stranger, by Mark Twain. It is extremely anti-Catholic, and portrays the Catholic Church at the time as extremely superstitious and as repressive. Twain portrays the Catholic Church as essentially a slave master keeping the lay people in the dark.

I already possess a few books on the Middle Ages. However, these are more popular than academic works; and as such, they appeal to the modern stereotypes that portray the Middle Ages as a time of ignorance and repression by the Catholic Church. Does anyone know of any good works that discuss the Church’s role in the Middle Ages more according to the context of the times? I’m not necessarily looking for a book that completely justifies everything that happened in the Middle Ages; I’m really looking for a book that looks at the Middle Ages in objective context according to the times. Thanks! :yup:


#2

I would view The Mysterious Stranger more as an anti-religion piece of fiction rather than specifically anti-Catholic. On the other hand, he wrote a favorable book on St. Joan of Arc.


#3

Originally Quoted by JimG:

I would view The Mysterious Stranger more as an anti-religion piece of fiction rather than specifically anti-Catholic. On the other hand, he wrote a favorable book on St. Joan of Arc.

I agree with you on that one. Twain is not only critical of Catholicism, but of evangelicalism as well. The book, therefore, has a larger target than Catholicism in itself. Nevertheless, the book is highly anti-Catholic.

It is important I believe to discern why Twain wrote a favorable biography of Joan of Arc. It was not because of her Christian piety; he favored her because she was poor, a woman, and uneducated, who nontheless rose above the restrictions of the times and became something in the world. It is a bizarre irony that Mark Twain was in many ways like Joan of Arc. Both came from poor roots, both were origianlly from the country as opposed to the cities, and both were constantly driving themselves towards a certain material end.

The following line from his biography of Joan of Arc reveals his ever-present criticism of religion:

She asked for nothing for herself, but begged that the taxes of her native village might be remitted forever. The prayer was granted, and the promise kept for three hundred and sixty years. Then it was broken, and remains broken to-day. France was very poor then, she is very rich now; but she has been collecting those taxes for more than a hundred years.

You can see the rest if you want.
catholic-forum.com/saints/stj05003.htm


#4

I have not read any of them myself but the books in Warren H. Carroll’s History of Christendom Series have been highly recommended by the apologists at Catholic Answers:
Volume 1, Founding Christendom.
Volume 2, The Building of Christendom. (covering from Constantine to about A.D. 1000)
Volume 3, The Glory of Christendom. (covering from about A.D 1000 to about 1500)
Volume 4, The Cleaving of Christendom. (covering the Reformation)


#5

Anything by:

Owen Chadwick
Henry Chadwick
Jaroslav Pelikan (I think I got that last name right.)
Kenneth LaTourette (Another tricky last name.)
Paul Johnson
Eaun Cameron (A tricky first name!)

People to avoid like the plague:

James Carroll
John Boswell
Elaine Pagels

– Mark L. Chance.


#6

The Talisman, by Sir Walter Scott, is probably more in the line of Twain’s book but a good read nevertheless.


#7

Religion and the Rise of Western Culture by Christopher Dawson.

It’s based on a series of lectures he gave at Oxford.


#8

Thanks!

Btw, Elaine Pagels came to my college last year, but I decided not to attend her event.


#9

[quote=Madaglan]I’m presently reading this book, The Mysterious Stranger, by Mark Twain. It is extremely anti-Catholic, and portrays the Catholic Church at the time as extremely superstitious and as repressive. Twain portrays the Catholic Church as essentially a slave master keeping the lay people in the dark.
[/quote]

Believe it or not, this book was quite instrumental in me re-discovering my Catholic Faith. Uncatechised as a child, I dimly regarded myself as a Catholic, but had never asked myself the tough questions that lead one to seek the Lord. When I read the book at age 20 or so, I enjoyed it, but it left me with a feeling that there must be answers for the challenges and questions raised in the story. Years later, when I discovered apologetics. it all came back to me and I was now flooded with answers to the questions that had dogged me all those years.

It’s kind of a round-about way to the Faith, and I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone, but God used it on me in a powerful way.


#10

Originally Quoted by Fidelis:

Believe it or not, this book was quite instrumental in me re-discovering my Catholic Faith. Uncatechised as a child, I dimly regarded myself as a Catholic, but had never asked myself the tough questions that lead one to seek the Lord. When I read the book at age 20 or so, I enjoyed it, but it left me with a feeling that there must be answers for the challenges and questions raised in the story. Years later, when I discovered apologetics. it all came back to me and I was now flooded with answers to the questions that had dogged me all those years.

It’s kind of a round-about way to the Faith, and I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone, but God used it on me in a powerful way.

Yeah, wow. That’s like someone coming to the Catholic faith through reading Jack Chick. :smiley:


#11

Madaglan,

If you like history “straight”, you might like Eamon Duffy’s books “The Stripping of the Altars” and “The Voices of Morebath”, both regarding the late Middle Ages at the time of the Reformation. Duffy can be somewhat dry, but that is because he is careful not to paint a too fantastic picture from the available historical evidence. “Altars” is a much larger work than “Morebath”.


#12

Henri Daniel-Rops had a number of volumes on church history as well that may fill the bill.“The Chuch in the Dark Ages” was one of them.


#13

Hilaire Belloc’s The Crusades proved invaluable to helping me understand Medieval Europe.


#14

Originally Quoted by Patrick2340:

Hilaire Belloc’s The Crusades proved invaluable to helping me understand Medieval Europe.

Interesting. I read Belloc’s How the Reformation Happened. While it shed some light on the political and economic stimuli of the Reformation, I feel (instinctively) that Belloc went a little too far with the first Protestants–claiming that most of them were out for loot and not for higher religious purposes.

One of my professors mentioned that Belloc was a popular historian, not necessarily a scholarly one. So, I’m not too sure about the objectiveness of his works. However, I might take a look at the book you mentioned as a comparison with other works I read.

I definitely will check out the other books mentioned. :slight_smile:


#15

To directly answer your question, consider this book, called “Those Terrible Middle Ages: Debunking the Myths”:

amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0898707811/102-0440575-8913754?v=glance

Here is a sample review:

This book is not only a wonderful debunking of the popular myths used to define the Middle Ages, but, in the last chapter, a wonderful justification of the importance of the study of history (though if you are interested in reading this book then you probably already believe in history’s importance).

The entire work is wonderfully researched and, even through the admitedly sometimes rough translation, Pernoud’s passion for her subject is obvious. The book is both informative and entertaining, and it is a wonderful book to use to introduce oneself to the subject of the Middle Ages while avoiding the negative mythology of that era that is expounded in public school or other books (such as A World Lit Only by Fire).

The Middle Ages were not, as often is thought, a horrible period marked by ignorance, famine, plague, and constant war. At least no more than any other period is marked by those things. This book clearly proves that point and does it in a fantastically entertaining way.


#16

R. W. Southern has a good book on the Church in the Middle Ages. I don’t remember the exact title right now.

Pernoud is a well-respected historian. I haven’t heard of this particular book but it sounds interesting. Maybe I can get my Western Civ students to read it. . . .

Edwin


#17

[quote=Contarini]R. W. Southern has a good book on the Church in the Middle Ages. I don’t remember the exact title right now.

Pernoud is a well-respected historian. I haven’t heard of this particular book but it sounds interesting. Maybe I can get my Western Civ students to read it. . . .

Edwin
[/quote]

I don’t exactly know to whom you are responding when you mention Pernoud (Regina), but I would recommend her Those Terrible Middle Ages. Subtitle is debunking the myths. Check Ignatius press for this.

Anna


#18

[quote=Madaglan]Interesting. I read Belloc’s How the Reformation Happened. While it shed some light on the political and economic stimuli of the Reformation, I feel (instinctively) that Belloc went a little too far with the first Protestants–claiming that most of them were out for loot and not for higher religious purposes.

One of my professors mentioned that Belloc was a popular historian, not necessarily a scholarly one. So, I’m not too sure about the objectiveness of his works. However, I might take a look at the book you mentioned as a comparison with other works I read.

I definitely will check out the other books mentioned. :slight_smile:
[/quote]

A very good introduction to Christianity in the middle ages and what was going on at the time is found in this short introduction which prefaces one of the most beautiful spiritual works of Christianity.

ccel.org/t/theo_ger/theologia04.htm


#19

Etienne Gilson: The History of Medieval Philosophy, the Spirit of Medieval Philosophy, Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages

Jacques Maritain: Aquinas

Dom David Knowles: The Evolution of Medieval Thought

Marie-Dominique Chenu: Theologie aux douzieme Siecle (eng. trans. Nature, Man and Society in the 12th century)

R.W. Southern: Church and Society in the 12th Century

C.H. Haskin: The 12th Century Renaissance

Christopher Dawson: Religion and the Rise of Western Culture, Medieval Essays

Frederick Copleston: Vol II and III of History of Philosophy, Medieval Philosophy

Josef Peiper: Aquinas

and many more


#20

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