Item description for Those Terrible Middle Ages: Debunking the Myths by Regine Pernoud & Anne Englund Nash...
Overview As she examines the many misconceptions about the "Middle Ages", the renown French historian, Regine Pernoud, gives the reader a refreshingly original perspective on many subjects, both historical (from the Inquisition and witchcraft trials to a comparison of Gothic and Renaissance creative inspiration) as well as eminently modern (from law and the place of women in society to the importance of history and tradition). Here are fascinating insights, based on Pernoud's sound knowledge and extensive experience as an archivist at the French National Archives. The book will be provocative for the general readers as well as a helpful resource for teachers. Scorned for centuries, although lauded by the Romantics, these thousand years of history have most often been concealed behind the dark clouds of ignorance: Why, didn't godiche (clumsy, oafish) come from gothique (Gothic)? Doesn't "fuedal" refer to the most hopeless obscurantism? Isn't "Medieval" applied to dust-covered, outmoded things? Here the old varnish is stripped away and a thousand years of history finally emerge-the "Middle Ages" are dead, long live the Middle Ages!
Publishers Description As she examines the many misconceptions about the "Middle Ages", the renown French historian, Regine Pernoud, gives the reader a refreshingly original perspective on many subjects, both historical (from the Inquisition and witchcraft trials to a comparison of Gothic and Renaissance creative inspiration) as well as eminently modern (from law and the place of women in society to the importance of history and tradition). Here are fascinating insights, based on Pernoud's sound knowledge and extensive experience as an archivist at the French National Archives. The book will be provocative for the general readers as well as a helpful resource for teachers.
Scorned for centuries, although lauded by the Romantics, these thousand years of history have most often been concealed behind the dark clouds of ignorance: Why, didn't godiche (clumsy, oafish) come from gothique (Gothic)? Doesn't "fuedal" refer to the most hopeless obscurantism? Isn't "Medieval" applied to dust-covered, outmoded things?
Here the old varnish is stripped away and a thousand years of history finally emerge -- the "Middle Ages" are dead, long live the Middle Ages
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Studio: Ignatius Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 7.9" Width: 5.2" Height: 0.7" Weight: 0.5 lbs.
Release Date Mar 17, 2000
Publisher Ignatius Press
ISBN 0898707811 ISBN13 9780898707816 UPC 008987078111
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More About Regine Pernoud & Anne Englund Nash
Regine Pernoud, a pioneer women's historian, was a member of the French Academy and founder of the Centre Jeanne d'Arc in Orleans.
Marie-Veronique Clin is Director, Museum of the History of Medicine in Paris.
Jeremy Duquesnay Adams is Professor of History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.
Regine Pernoud was born in 1909 and died in 1998 and has an academic affiliation as follows - University of New Hampshire.
Reviews - What do customers think about Those Terrible Middle Ages: Debunking the Myths?
Important polemics Feb 11, 2008
Ask a student of history to write a paragraph about the middle ages. Or write one yourself. Then count the number of pejorative terms that the paragraph includes: chances are there will be many. Few hold the middle ages to be much more than a time of decadence, disease and oppression. Indeed, in current parlance, particularly in ecclesiastical circles, to assert that a position "belongs to the middle ages" is to damn it conclusively.
Régine Pernoud, a French medieval scholar, reacted to such groundless assumptions by writing this book in 1977. Its recent translation into English makes her popular defence of this important historical period available.
Pernoud's analysis makes much of the essence of the period historians call the renaissance of the sixteenth century onward which was, of course, a period that sought to bring about the re-birth of classical antiquity which ended around the fifth century. The renaissance period, and all those including modern civilisation who live under its influence, Pernoud argues, simply ignore the thousand years in between, the `middle' ages, as being less than civilised.
Yet, Pernoud argues, the middle ages were thoroughly civilised. Custom, not individualism, legalistic casuistry, or even the absolute will of any sovereign power, was at the heart of its civilisation. Pernoud defines custom as:
"That collection of usages born of concrete acts and drawing their power from the times that hallowed them; its dynamic was that of tradition: a given, but a living given, not fixed, ever susceptible to change without ever being submitted to a particular will."
One does not need to know terribly much history to recognise that the abandoning of custom (theologically, of living tradition) by potentates formed the basis of campaigns of so-called reform from the protestant reformation in the sixteenth century, through those of the enlightenment philosophers, various class revolutions and nationalistic and religious conflicts, to the abuses of individualistic twentieth century dictators and their slightly more acceptable democratic successors, let alone the innovations of theologians and liturgical reformers who dismiss living tradition as irrelevant. In all these, the "particular will" of a key person or persons overrides living tradition. The strife-ridden results of such abhorrent chapters of history make the middle ages look more like the garden of Eden than a desert of culture and humanity as many suppose.
Not that Pernoud argues that it was Eden. She simply asserts that it had a more wholesome grasp of the relationship of man to man, man to the world, and of man and God, than did succeeding eras including our own individualistic one. She goes to some length to demonstrate that the "play of interdependences that made an extremely dense fabric of medieval society" included the assurance of the personal dignity and rights of the serf, the placing of duties towards those under him on the local lord, and the exaltation of women to the extent that they were certainly not second-class citizens excluded from exercising power and influence in their times.
The crusades and the inquisitions are often held up as transparent proofs of the utter barbarity of the middle ages. Pernoud devotes a chapter to such accusations, which she confronts with an historian's balance and perspective. Her discussion concludes with a question that puts the argument into context: "For the historian of the year 3,000, where will fanaticism lie? Where, the oppression of man by man? In the thirteenth century or the twentieth?"
This is polemical book, and an important one. It was written well before such scholarly works as Eamon Duffy's Stripping of the Altars successfully attacked the revisionist view of medieval England as a dank papist fiefdom, and unfortunately cannot not take account of this and other recent works of medieval scholarship. Yet it is a valuable primer which will serve to redress the libels our age has spread about those captivating middle ages, from which we may have much to learn.
A Lesson on Carefully Examining a Brilliant Age of 1000 Yeras and What Honest History Means Aug 9, 2006
Regine Pernoud's book THOSE TERRIBLE MIDDLE AGES:DEBUNKING THE MYTHS is a brief but instructive book which both undermines popular history (popular nonsense) of the loosely defined Middle Ages (c.500-1500 AD). This book refers to documents and the use of reason to debunk the notion that the Middle Ages were sterile and oppressive. One should note that Miss Pernoud also gives her readers an important lesson on how to learn history and how to produce historical works.
Father Buckley, SJ, has a short but useful forward to this book. He gives examples of a brilliant age during which people saw the abolition of slavery, "checks and balances" on abosolutism, great architecture (the Gothic Cathedrals), the invention of the codex (bound book), the musical scale, and the mechanical clock. He could have easily included the development of bookhand or standard penmanship, and the remarkable achievement of Scholastic Philosophy and its insistence on logic and clear reason.
Among the myths that have been perpetuated is that of the Medieval serfs. These people lived better than slaves during Ancient History, and these people had absolute rights such as access to their land. These men and women could not be removed from their land. While these people could not easily leave, they did indeed have social mobility. Furthermore, Miss Pernoud refers to documents such as deeds, bills of sale, etc., whereby serfs, including women, expanded their land holdings and could improve social mobility. She indicates that some who were serfs were able to go the Medieval monastic schools and later universities and rise in the rank of the Catholic Church and political structure. Miss Pernoud cites women such as Heliose, Peter Abelard's wife, who knew Latin and Greek and composed literary works.
Another myth re the Middle Ages is that of the status of women. Miss Pernoud cites documents of women who were in certain trades and businesses. The Catholic Church authorities were very opposed to arranged marriages,and the Canon Law jurists argued that since marriage was a Holy Sacrament which had to be voluntary, arranged marriages were not binding at least in theory. This is not to say that the Catholic authorites prevented arranged marriages. One should note that women of noble birth could be rulers and queens. One should note that St. Louis' mother was his active regeant until he could assume power and ruled from 1226 to 1270. Women who entered the religious life held land tenure and even controlled both convents and monastaries. Miss Pernoud invites readers to look at documents and sources rather than media nonsense whose talking heads have little or no knowledge of anything.
Miss Pernoud destroys the notion that Medieval women did not have souls. Those who propagate this nonsense refuse to acknowledge the number of Medieval women who achieved sainthood. Miss Pernoud again refers readers to documents rather than popular history (popular nonsense).
One should also note Miss Pernoud's remarks on Medieval law and contractual arrangements. The idea of a Medieval king being an absolute monarch was almost impossible. Kings, lords, and vassals had obligations and rights in their legal and political relations which limited trends towards absolute power. The Catholic Church authorities also worked to inhibit trends of centralized power.
Another important issue that Miss Pernoud examines is that of the Inquisition which has been so badly portrayed. A Medieval inquisition was simply an invesitation based on some problem or complaint. It was simply an attempt of the Catholic authorities to investigate and possibly solve problems. Those who cite the Catholic authorities prosecuting heretics as some sort of evil obviously have little knowledge about the challenge a well organized heretical movement presented. Of particular interest is the challenge presented by the Albigensians. When these heretics caught the attention of the Catholic authorities during the late 12th and early 13th centuries (the 1100s and 1200s), the Catholic authorities made an investigation and did not apply sanctions. However, when Catholic repesentatives were murdered, the Catholic authorities had to act. One must also realize that the Albigensians had political and military support from the southern French and northern Spanish nobility who were only interested in land and conquest. One must also understand that the Albigensains were so dualistic that they were fanatical and dangerous. The Albigensians were opposed to contrats in an age when rights and security were based on contractual relations. Miss. Pernoud mentions that the Albigensians worked against anything that promoted life such as marriage and birth. For these heretics to murder pregnant women or the elderaly was common as the Albigensians destroyed anyone who promoted life. To use a current expression, the Albigensians endorsed the culture of death.
Miss Pernoud uses modern examples of modern inquisitions even though they do not go by that name. Rights groups and humanitarian organizations often make investigations (inquisitions) into serious problems and incidents. These moderns then make suggestions or recommendations. The comparison is obvious.
Another aspect of the inquisitions is one of comparison. Miss Pernoud is clear that very few of those summoned by Medieval inquisitions were even sanctioned or punished. Yet, the 20th century moderns witnessed mass murder, concentration camp brutality, mass slaughter of civilians, etc., all in the name of political ideology and affiliation. One should note that that Medieval inquisitors had to honor due process and paid careful attention to evidence to avoid unjust prosecutions. As Miss Pernoud indicates the abuses of the Inquisiton came later during the eras of the Renaissance/Reformation and the Age of Absolutism. When secular authorities got control of the Inquisiton after the Middle Ages, the abuses mulitiplied. One should note that Catholic authorities protested these abuses.
When popular media types talk about the Renaissance, they betray their lack of knowledge as Miss Pernoud clearly indicates. The Renaissance scholars did not add the Latin and Greek learning. They simply repeated it. On the other hand, the Medieval Scholastics embellished Ancient Greek thought and Latin learning. Medieval vernacular learning was rich and creative,but the Renaissance literature was simply too structured and to imitative of the Ancient Greeks and Romans.
Finally, Miss Pernoud examines the historical methods. Essentially, she argues that history without documents is simply empty opinion and so much propganda and nonsense. One should note that Miss Pernoud gives readers brief excerpts of manuscripts, documents, etc., which refute Media Land historical nonsense.
Obviously, this reviewer is impressed with Miss Pernoud's THOSE TERRIBLE MIDDLE AGES: DEBUNKING THE MYTHS. She carefully makes her case as a historian should. She is clear that historical study should not be politicized nor pander to popular bias. One should read this book to find why, "A man of science, the historian is, delegated by his fellow man to the conquest of truth (p 141). Miss Pernoud makes this quote meaningful.
Chivalrous, Generous France Jul 19, 2006
My title comes from a letter in Phillip Hailey's Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed (recommended despite the critics) written to encourage those hiding Jews in occupied France. The French at that time suffered such indignities as a nose museum, meant to denigrate the Jewish nose in relation to the German's mythic Aryan Man.
The outright blasphemy against the image of God in man (imago dei) perpretated across Europe expecially against the Jews is generally thought to be the resurgence of an attitude prevalent in the Middle Ages, or as they are popularly known, the Dark Ages. Is this an accurate picture or is it a charicature, yet another revisionist myth of anti-semitic propaganda?
Pernoud shows that the the myth of the Middle Ages as a time of widespread ignorance and violence is largely unfounded. Nevermind that is has been perpetrated in popular culture for the last century by historians like Will Durant, commentators like H.L. Mencken, textbook publishers like Time-Life and popular producers like Disney. In short, everyone.
So why four stars? Given my great love of Paris, I yet only know a little French which, like a little dynamite, is just enough to blow my brains out. This book would be great for someone familiar with all the Paris place names and French historic events. For casual readers like myself, I'd like the next edition to have far more copious footnotes and explanations. Regardless, this is a fascinating debunking that reveals the true heart and soul of Generous, Chivalrous France.
If the author wasn't French, everybody would know this book May 6, 2006
I cannot think of another explanation why this book isn't more widely known. This is ought to be a milestone in historical analysis. You will never see the Middle Ages or the Renaissance in the same light again.
Art. Literature. Education. Politics. Social justice. The author makes a compelling case as to why the Renaissance actually produced regression in all these areas, and explains how the prejudices arose which have led us to believing otherwise. She does not bore you with minutiae or extensive footnotes which makes for quick reading, but she writes with the authority of one who doesn't need fastidious documentation to make her point. She clearly has read almost everything that has been written from these periods and unquestionably knows what she is talking about.
If you are looking for a book that will shatter your preconceptions about anything and stimulate your mind, this is it.
A Tonic For Uninformed Pronouncements Oct 14, 2004
Regine Pernoud's Those Terrible Middle Ages! is a wonderful book. Throughout one's life you always hear the usual myths about the period of history known as "The Middle Ages." Pernoud shows that the Middle Ages were a time, for the most part, of peace and learning. She brilliantly shows that the Middle Ages were a time of wonder and acomplishment and juxtaposes that against the cynicism and skepticism brought on by the so-called "Age of Enlightment." This book should be in every history lover's library. Keep it handy when someone, who usually has not actually read a history book, spews forth on the following subjects, women in the "dark ages," the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, witches and cats and the usual nonsense one hears from the unread and uninformed nowadays.