Empty Shelf: Even more history

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After listening to the history of the entire ancient world, I decided to continue the march through time since there’s so much more history to learn.

Title: A History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade

Author: Susan Wise Bauer, read by John Lee.

What’s it About: All of written history from the conversion of Constantine (A.D. 312) to the end of the first Crusade (A.D. 1129.)  The five parts in this volume are Unity, Fractures, New Powers, States and Kingdoms, and Crusades. The bulk of the book deals with the West, including the rise of Islam in the Middle East, but it also covers India and a considerable portion deals with the Far East: China, Korea, and Japan. The New World makes a brief appearance, but there are really very few written records available. Of course, there are other cultures and civilizations not covered in the book. But if they wanted to be in history books, they should have kept better records, shouldn’t they?

Why I read it: Well, it was the sequel. I like to know how the story ends. Of course, it doesn’t end, but it does push on for another 700 years. I don’t guess I’ll ever get to read the end.

What I thought: To me, history is always interesting, but not always pleasant. The ruthlessness of those who led or wanted to lead nations is sometimes overwhelming. This time period is also when some of the nations that we’re familiar with began to take their shape. The Rus appear; German tribes transform into German kingdoms; Francia and the Bulgarians emerge. It was interesting to hear about places like the Khyber Pass that played a role in the conquest of kingdoms over a millennium ago and is still important in today’s conflicts. The pace of this book was certainly much faster than the first volume — covering only seven hundred years in the same space that the first covered several thousand. The next volume, The History of the Renaissance, covers only 350 years. This is what happens when people start writing stuff down.

A note on listening to the audio version of a book this complex: while you can certainly get the feel of the subject — the ebbs and flows and the big picture, you can’t really grasp the fine points just by listening. At least not how I listen to audiobooks: while cleaning, or shopping, or doing other mindless chores. However, since I plan to use these volumes for my kids’ high school history, I know I’ll revisit them in printed form, giving them the attention they deserve. Not that there is no value in listening to the audio books, but some things require the whole-minded attention that only comes with reading to truly grasp.

Where you can buy it: Here for the printed book. If you want to get the CDs, they are much cheaper from Peace Hill Press than from Amazon. Of course, if you have an Audible subscription, it’s cheaper still.

One response to “Empty Shelf: Even more history”

  1. […] OF THE WHOLE WORLD! series. Previous installments are The History of the Ancient World, and The History of the Medieval World.  These are well-written, interesting narratives covering huge territory in both time and space. Bauer […]

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