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A Distant Mirror

The Calamitous 14th Century
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
A Distant Mirror
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Random House, Inc.
Barbara W. Tuchman—the acclaimed author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning classic The Guns of August—once again marshals her gift for character, history, and sparkling prose to compose an astonishing portrait of medieval Europe.

The fourteenth century reflects two contradictory images: on the one hand, a glittering age of crusades, cathedrals, and chivalry; on the other, a world plunged into chaos and spiritual agony. In this revelatory work, Barbara W. Tuchman examines not only the great rhythms of history but the grain and texture of domestic life: what childhood was like; what marriage meant; how money, taxes, and war dominated the lives of serf, noble, and clergy alike. Granting her subjects their loyalties, treacheries, and guilty passions, Tuchman re-creates the lives of proud cardinals, university scholars, grocers and clerks, saints and mystics, lawyers and mercenaries, and, dominating all, the knight—in all his valor and “furious follies,” a “terrible worm in an iron cocoon.”

Praise for A Distant Mirror

“Beautifully written, careful and thorough in its scholarship . . . What Ms. Tuchman does superbly is to tell how it was. . . . No one has ever done this better.”The New York Review of Books

“A beautiful, extraordinary book . . . Tuchman at the top of her powers . . . She has done nothing finer.”The Wall Street Journal

“Wise, witty, and wonderful . . . a great book, in a great historical tradition.”—Commentary

Baker & Taylor
The prize-winning historian traces the major currents of the fourteenth century, revealing the century's great historical rhythms and events and the texture of daily life at all levels of European society

Authors: Tuchman, Barbara W. (Barbara Wertheim), 1912-1989
Title: A distant mirror
the calamitous 14th century
Publisher: New York : Knopf, c1978
Characteristics: 677 p. ill.
Bibliography: Bibliography: p. [599]-617
Local Note: Published also by Ballantine
Subject Headings: Coucy, Enguerrand de, 1340-1397 France History 14th century Nobility France Biography
Topical Term: Nobility
LCCN: 78005988
ISBN: 0345349571
0394400267
Branch Call Number: 944.025 T
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A dramatic portrayal of the disintegration of the medieval world.


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I find Tuchman's book to be mediocre to submediocre --- one would be much better served in reading about the similar period covered by Swiss historian, Johann Huizanga. Although I enjoyed Tuchman's "Stillwell and the American Experience in China" - - it was really Stilwell's diary excerpts which were most illuminating and entertaining, Tuchman really had nothing much to offer. No rating, I'm afraid.

Jan 16, 2013
  • EleventyOne rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Of the 100 or so histories I've read in my life, on any topic, I would put this one in the top 3 or 4. The story of the 14th century in Europe is incredibly compelling, and relatively unknown. Barbara Tuchman does a masterful job of relaying it, partially using a specific French/English nobleman and his comings and goings and war travels, to focus it. Thank you Ms. Tuchman!

Dec 03, 2011
  • zipread rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

A Distant Mirror

Barbara Tuchman, an accomplished historian and author of numerous histories did in 1989. She wrote a Distant Mirror in 1978. It must be a major display of hubris to attempt to write a history of a whole century and of at least half a continent: there is enough here for two or three works. To say that the Fourteenth Century is calamitous may be somewhat an understatement. The period say major changes brought about by the incursions of the Black Death; the period saw more or less continuous warfare, significant political change in both England and France and the development of the framework for the future development of Protestantism.
And yet, it is something Tuchman accomplishes with polish. Her writing style is not quotidian rather it is more elegant than prosaic. Is it well written --- of course.
In truth, this is a huge and weighty tome made to seem small only through the use of small print. Reading it in its entirety might br enough to tax the attention and tenacity of anyone except the m ost dedicated student of this particular time and place in history.

Dec 21, 2008
  • 21288004246712 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

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