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Publisher's Summary

The Middle Ages harshly tested every aspect of human perseverance, imagination, and survival. Living conditions were squalid for almost everyone except the ruling elite, and most of the riches of Western culture were preserved in monasteries and on other continents. And into this setting came widespread famines, prolonged wars, and plagues that marked Europe's late medieval period as one of the most harrowing in recorded history. But Europe was not broken by these crises. Instead, it renewed itself and spawned fundamental artistic, religious, romantic, and political ideas that continue to shape our world to this day. This series of 16 engrossing lectures transports you to 14th-century Europe to experience a hero's tale of cultural trial, suffering, and triumph. It guides you through 200 years of stunning transformations in how people viewed themselves, how they worshiped, and their relationship to land and country, addressing key concepts that include national boundaries, church-state separation, individuality, and sovereignty - all of which find root in the medieval world.

The series is divided into three main sections that provide you a framework for understanding medieval society through detailed descriptions of what life was like for peasants, merchants, and monarchs; show you how this rigid but well-entrenched social structure was shaken to the core by crises like the Hundred Years War and the Black Death, and let you experience the glorious renewal that followed, including the spread of Renaissance ideas and styles; the creation of the modern nation in Castile, France, and England; the "rediscovery" of Plato, and the far-reaching voyages of discovery.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©1996 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)1996 The Great Courses

Featured Article: Travel to the Middle Ages with These Audiobooks and Podcasts


The Medieval Era, the tumultuous centuries from the fall of the Roman Empire to the advent of the Enlightenment, is one of the most alluring and intriguing periods of human history. Ready to travel back in time? Check out these audiobooks and podcasts, which cover everything from Icelandic sagas and Medieval murder to the queens of Medieval England and the scientific advancements of the Arab World.

What listeners say about Medieval Europe: Crisis and Renewal

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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent Course & Presentation

What did you love best about Medieval Europe: Crisis and Renewal?

The lecturer.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Medieval Europe: Crisis and Renewal?

The story about the boy who wanted a girl (geese). The lectures on romantic love.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The blending of high and popular culture. The end of the conclusion. I did not want the lecture to end and wished for more.

Any additional comments?

This lecture changed my life by virtue of expanding my perspective and helping me "tie down" old and hazy ideas that I've had since college and law school. I wish I were younger and a history student at UCLA. I especially liked his lecturing style. I liked that he was not afraid to think out loud. By this not only did he provide the idea but also the road map to it. Because of this, I got way more out of the lecture. He lectures like a grown up. Trust me, I speak in public for a living and this is rare quality indeed. He is a wise man and great and engaging lecturer.

15 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

new favorite professor

I re-discovered Prof. Ruiz through his lectures at Context, and followed back to Audible to listen to this series. He is an amazing thinker and lecturer and I loved all the connections that he made in these presentations. I listened to some of the segments more than once, and look forward to listening again in the future.

I'm surprised about the critical comments about his accent. I didn't have any troubles understanding and I thought he had a lovely speaking voice.

I will say that I'm not sure this is the first Great Courses I would listen to for the Middle Ages. I would start with Prof. Daileader's three part series to get a working knowledge of the events, people,, etc. if you (or a homeschooling student) is new to the topic. If you are already interested and somewhat familiar, then this is superb.

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars

A Poor & Redundant Middle Ages History

While Prof. Ruiz may have good teaching skills for Spanish speaking students, the professor has a far too thick Spanish accent in English for Anglophones to understand without great effort, much repetition of lessons or parts of lessons, mental endurance, etc. to give this course much value. in giving 2 stars, I felt overly generous and grading based on pity rather than inherent value.
Besides "berry poor uhEnglish uhskeells," some of Prof. Ruiz' knowledge of the Middle Ages conflicts with established and confirmed (many times over) history, especially Church history.
Bottom line: Avoid this course.

2 people found this helpful

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Informative and Intresting

I loved this lecture. It did drag for me a bit only because of how in depth it was. Which is a good thing. I'd consider myself a middle ages efficenato and have been reading up on the time period for going on a decade. There were things I've never heard before, because they were things about the period I personally wasn't interested in the time period but if someone wants a nice all around picture looking more into how people lived then how they died I couldn't reccomend this enough. It is strongly focused on Italy in particular which is also not a normal location of study for me when I'm reading up on the medieval era.

But the narrator is fair never seeming too biased and revealing any he may have. I also love his accent and can't recommend this enough to anyone interested in the subject material. Great read for my lunch break and after class.

1 person found this helpful

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3/10 compared to previous 10 Great courses

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

I believe several things prevented from enjoying this course. First, fairly thick accent. Second, inefficient use of time and often repetitive remarks. Third, socialistic / atheistic perspective on the history. Fourth, while Prof. Ruiz attempts to tell quite many illustrations they often appear to be less than scientific: stories are more a hearsay rather than facts based on cited historical documents. I decided to purchase another Medieval Europe course to give it another listen. Hope someone else enjoys this recording more than me.

11 people found this helpful

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First rate

I have read many histories of the Middle Ages. This one was unique. it wasn't so much about historical events, although those were covered. It was more about the factors that brought about change to the very way the people thought about themselves and their world in the 13th and 14th centuries. Factors like war, and plague, and famine, and rebellion, and the profound impact these had on the very fabric of society. The emergence of secularization, changing politics, a sense of nationality... Special focus was given to marginalized people, like Jews, and Muslims, and lepers, and women. In short, I highly recommend this listen to anyone interested in the dramatic transformations that began taking place in this period.

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I love his accent

And his sense of humor. So it’s Saturday night, and this is what I do to unwind. I listen to Profesor TEO tell me about the Middle Ages with my feet up and an occasional cup of cocoa. And I play Spider Solitaire. I am exquisitely happy. Thanks Audible, for making nights like these possible.

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hard to hear

I really like the Great Courses lectures, but this professors voice is very difficult to follow in the truck. I've given it two tries because I'm sure its got some good content.

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Out of Date

This is the old story of history professor's not bothering to keep up to date with current know this was ten years out of date when it was recorded and 10 years later it is just more out of date.

Don't waste your time unless you want to know what we "knew" 20 years ago.

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Outstanding lectures and professor...

I really enjoyed these series of lectures on the middle ages. Professor Teofilo Ruiz is an engaging and exceptional teacher. I would highly recommend this to anyone.

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  • mr
  • 12-06-14

Good overview

Good overview, with an emphasis on Spain which was nice. Worth a listen but I wouldn't get too excited.

2 people found this helpful

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  • phil
  • 03-04-21

Very clear on position and terms

Teo is superb at clarifying his position and his terms. Methodologically his arguments are easy to follow. Lecture 1 might bore some lessons as it very procedural, but it's a very important lecture for understanding history as a professional discipline and for understanding Teo's perspective in later lectures.

This is not a dry technical series, these preliminaries are essential to a proper critical understanding of the material you're presented with.

I really wish more historians were this well organized.

Teo says in lecture 1 he's happy to be contacted about material in this lecture series; indeed, he gave a very insightful response to a question I posed on some seminar reading for my master's degree in history.

I noted the below from lecture 1.

Purposes of this course

1) History from below i.e. the history of ordinary people.

2) Evaluate how the middle ages forged and created new forms of spirituality, new systems of values, new ways of conceiving if space, of thinking of land, of thinking of property, of thinking of charity, of thinking of women, of new ideas of sexuality and of marriage, the creating of what is perhaps incorrectly termed 'perescution societies' in the C14 & C15

3 parts

Pt1 (E1-4) Stage: sets up the stage of how Europe looked in 1300. What were the basic economic and political structures? What were the boundaries of this world?

What we want to do is set up the geographic, demographic and linguistic boundaries of this Europe.

Pt2 (E5 -8) Great Crisis: famine of 1315-17, wars btwn France, England and Castile 1337-1453 (Hundred Years War), the Plague 1348 onwards (returned every generation until the C17), rebellion form below when peasants rose up e.g. in Florence 1378.

Pt 3 (final 8 lectures) Responses to Crisis: e.g. creation of new institutions and secularization.

What you'll hear throughout these 16 lectures is a specific kind of interpretation. I speak from a very specific methodological point of view. Most of my work has appeared in French in the journal Annales. I'm an Annalist, I'm interested in change over the longue durée, I'm interested in structural change.

1 person found this helpful

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  • A_M
  • 11-13-18

Excellent introduction to Medieval History.

Thorough and interesting look at Medieval Europe not just from the big personalities but also the broader social, economic & political developments. Lecturer is passionate about subject and communicates beautifully with an expressive and engaging manner.

1 person found this helpful