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By William Manchester

From stories of chivalrous knights to the barbarity of trial by way of ordeal, no period has been a better resource of awe, horror, and sweetness than the center a long time. In handsomely crafted prose, and with the grace and authority of his awesome present for narrative historical past, William Manchester leads us from a civilization tottering close to cave in to the grandeur of its rebirth--the dense explosion of strength that spawned a few of history's maximum poets, philosophers, painters, adventurers, and reformers, in addition to a few of its such a lot superb villains--the Renaissance.

Using in basic terms secondary assets, Manchester plunges readers into the medieval state of mind in a charming, marvelously brilliant renowned background that humanizes the tumultuous span from the darkish a while to the sunrise of the Renaissance. He delineates an age whilst invisible spirits infested the air, while tolerance was once visible as treachery and "a mafia of profane popes desecrated Christianity." along with re-creating the laborious lives of normal humans, the Wesleyan professor of background peoples his tapestry with such figures as Leonardo, Machiavelli, Lucrezia Borgia, Erasmus, Luther, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Manchester ( The hands of Krupp ) devotes a lot consciousness to Magellan, whose globe-straddling voyage shattered Christendom's implicit trust in Europe because the heart of the universe. His portrayal of the center a while as a time while the powerful and the smart flourished, whereas the ingenious, the cerebral and the unlucky suffered, earrings real.

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Extra info for A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance - Portrait of an Age

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Alinari/Art Resource, NY. Page 72 Pope Julius II. Detail from fresco The Mass of Bolsena, by Raphael. Alinari/Art Resource, NY. Page 75 Alexander VI, the Borgia pope. Detail from mural The Resurrection, by Pinturicchio. Alinari/Art Resource, NY. Page 77 Giulia Farnese. Detail from painting The Transfiguration, by Raphael. Alinari/Art Resource, NY. Page 78 Lucrezia Borgia. Detail from mural La Disputa de Santa Caterina, by Pinturicchio. Alinari/Art Resource, NY. Page 81 Cesare Borgia. Painting by Marco Palmezzano.

Chain mail had been replaced by plate, which, though more effective, was also much heavier; horses which were capable of carrying that much weight were hard to come by, and their expense, added to that of the costly new mail, was almost prohibitive. Worse still, the mounted knight no longer dominated the battlefield; he could be outmaneuvered and unhorsed by English bowmen, Genoese crossbowmen, and pikemen led by lightly armed men-at-arms, or sergeants. Europe’s new armies were composed of highly trained, well-armed professional infantrymen who could remain in the field, ready for battle, through an entire season of campaigning.

Trade on the Mediterranean, once a Roman lake, was perilous; Vandal pirates, and then Muslim pirates, lay athwart the vital sea routes. Agriculture and transport were inefficient; the population was never fed adequately. A barter economy yielded to coinage only because the dominant lords, enriched by plunder and conquest, needed some form of currency to pay for wars, ransoms, their departure on crusades, the knighting of their sons, and their daughters’ marriages. Royal treasury officials were so deficient in elementary skills that they were dependent upon arithmetic learned from the Arabs; the name exchequer emerged because they used a checkered cloth as a kind of abacus in doing sums.

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