Jim Reviews: The Bright Ages: A New History of Medieval Europe – Matthew Gabriele and David M. Perry.

Bright Ages is not your usual book about the Middle Ages and not just because it seeks to do away with the “dark ages” myth about the fall of Rome and the west. It’s lay out is episodic. It uses events throughout the middle ages to demonstrate how people in the middle ages saw themselves and how we would not be the world we are today without them.

This episodic approach makes the books very approachable. The reader doesn’t have to remember events or years to keep track of the narrative. On the other hand this is not a book for someone who wants to “know what happened.” The approach also means that the authors are forced to gloss over a lot of what happened.

The book draws not only on text sources but on archaeology and material culture. In fact some of my favorite parts of the book are given over to analysis of objects left over from the period.

So to sum up, an easy to read approachable book on a difficult topic. Also a great book if you want to understand how people from 500 AD to 1500 AD thought about the world. Not so good if you want the details of what happened.