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The Bright Ages: A New History of Medieval Europe

The word “medieval” conjures images of the “Dark Ages”—centuries of ignorance, superstition, stasis, savagery, and poor hygiene. But the myth of darkness obscures the truth; this was a remarkable period in human history. The Bright Ages recasts the European Middle Ages for what it was, capturing this 1,000-year era in all its complexity and fundamental humanity, bringing to light both its beauty and its horrors. 

Moving through ten centuries and crisscrossing Europe and the Mediterranean, Asia, and Africa, this magisterial history casts new light on familiar people and events, including the Fall of Rome, Charlemagne, the Vikings, the Crusades, and the Black Death, as well as the multireligious experience of Iberia, the rise of Byzantium, and the genius of Hildegard of Bingen and the power of queens.

The Bright Ages reminds us just how permeable our man-made borders have always been and of what possible worlds the past has always made available to us. The Middle Ages may have been a world “lit only by fire” but it was one whose torches illuminated the magnificent rose windows of cathedrals, even as they stoked the pyres of accused heretics. Paperback, 336 pages.

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