A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century

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A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century

A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century

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Unlike some authors of ambitiously long and complicated books, Tuchman doesn't peter out near the end and leave the reader feeling cheated. I am now reading Tuchman’s The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam and I hope it will be equally good.

His reviews generally give valuable insights into a book and unfortunately far too often have me adding books to my ‘to read’ list that I really will probably never get around to reading – but if I ever do read any of them I will read purely due to Eric’s recommendations. So while the Edwardian Era War and the Caroline War are depicted in complete detail as well as related battles with the Bretons, battles in Italy, in Spain, in Belgium and finally in Bulgaria (contemporary country names used), only a quick summary of the Lancastrian War is given.A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century is a narrative history book by the American historian Barbara Tuchman, first published by Alfred A. The strict hierarchy meant that everyone knew their place: “ the clergy had to pray for all men, the knight to fight for them, and the commoner to work that all might eat” [1978: 24]. The book opens with the description of the castle of Coucy in Picardy, northern France, a magnificent structure, which showcased the extent of the power of the clan of Coucy in the region in the 14 th century: “ the Coucy maintained a sense of eminence second to none and conducted their affairs after the usage of sovereign princes” [Barbara Tuchman, 1978: 14]. Seaborne enterprise liberated by the compass was reaching toward the voyages of discovery that were to burst the confines of Europe….

To get an idea of the eventfulness of the 14th Century, let’s take a brief look at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356. Five thousand mostly French with some English knights encased in their head to toe plate armor attacked the Berber stronghold of Mahdia in Tunisia. But what I didn’t know was that after their little parades (where people would come over to them and either drink or use their blood as some odd form of ‘protection’ or treatment) they would then generally head around to the local Jewish quarter and kill as many people as they could get their hands on.Afterwards, the French populace was horrified by this ghastly tragedy, a perverse playing on the edge of madness and death nearly killing their King. Here is King Charles the VI of France being followed through the forest of Mans by a strange, ragged man saying, “Ride no further, noble King! lawyers are said to 'make and unmake matrimony to money' and a man might get rid of his wife by giving the judge a fur coat. To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Full of information and telling an amazing tale about the massive changes that take place over the course of a century.

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