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Publisher's Summary

"Traveling easily through a thousand years of history, The Bright Ages reminds us society never collapsed when the Roman Empire fell, nor did the modern world did wake civilization from a thousand year hibernation. Thoroughly enjoyable, thoughtful and accessible; a fresh look on an age full of light, color, and illumination." (Mike Duncan, author of Hero of Two Worlds: The Marquis de Lafayette in the Age of Revolution)  

A lively and magisterial popular history that refutes common misperceptions of the European Middle Ages, showing the beauty and communion that flourished alongside the dark brutality - a brilliant reflection of humanity itself.

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. 

The Bright Ages takes us through 10 centuries and crisscrosses Europe and the Mediterranean, Asia, and Africa, revisiting familiar people and events with new light cast upon them. We look with fresh eyes on the Fall of Rome, Charlemagne, the Vikings, the Crusades, and the Black Death, but also to the multi-religious experience of Iberia, the rise of Byzantium, and the genius of Hildegard and the power of queens. We begin under a blanket of golden stars constructed by an empress with Germanic, Roman, Spanish, Byzantine, and Christian bloodlines and end nearly 1,000 years later with the poet Dante - inspired by that same twinkling celestial canopy - writing an epic saga of heaven and hell that endures as a masterpiece of literature today.  

The Bright Ages reminds us just how permeable our manmade 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.  

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

©2021 Matthew Gabriele and David M. Perry (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers

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Does exactly what it claims to clarify

Laborious and written as if by or for high schoolers. It will age very poorly.
The contemporary snipes and obsession on minutae or strawmen is borderline insufferable.

The narrator is satisfactory.

14 people found this helpful

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Brilliant! (See what I did there? 😂)

So this is not the kind of book I would normally jump into, but it was time for a non-fiction and it sounded pretty interesting.

WOW! Very well done. Very readable. Reframes a completely misunderstood era into a far more nuanced and fascinating period. Not a super deep dive into medieval Europe, but more than enough to turn a passing interest into a rewarding appreciation of a time we typically breeze past with so many unfair misconceptions.

9 people found this helpful

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Brilliant, entertaining, careful

Absolutely brilliant. Very well written, careful use of sources with fascinating examples rarely cited in surveys. Love the use of Ravenna and Galla Placidia as a framing device. The last 2 chapters covering the material I know best are breathtakingly brilliant. I don’t think I know of a better discussion of the complexity of medieval urban communal life.

7 people found this helpful

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Nice Historical Timeline

I learned many things I didn’t know, and it’s driving me to other research. The one odd thing is the author ties parallels to mid-evil misunderstanding to modern day white supremacy. Multiple times. But chose to never mention a much more relevant scenario which is Islamic extremism. I’d like to understand that.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Ky
  • 01-19-22

Amazing!

So poignant and necessary to our times. This book takes popular myth and toxic ideas and gently shows how they have no basis. Hope.

3 people found this helpful

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fantastic

This book did an excellent job at revisiting ideas we have about medieval history, examining different perspectives and revealing what the narrative you might have heard was trying to sell you (normally white- suprematism.) I can’t recommend this enough!

3 people found this helpful

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Bright? Really?

The authors fail to make the case for the premise stated in the title. Sure, there were cultural and intellectual currents that trickled through from the Roman Empire to the Renaissance, but the era they describe was as brutal and greedy as you always thought - you might say like ours, minus the technology. One disappointment is that the book covers the exploits on the nobility, clergy and military, saying very little about the lives of ordinary people.

Something that interested me is that a lot of time in devoted to Louis IX of France, without ever referring to him as St. Louis. He didn't deserve the title, but as a resident of the eponymous city it got my attention.

2 people found this helpful

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Going Beyond

this book reads more like a tapestry, weaving threads around and between the events of the purported dark ages. I love it when an author points to events and people and shows the interconnectedness rather than just the outcome. I thought I was well read on this stage of European history but there were tons of new things presented in this book that made my understanding better.

2 people found this helpful

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A different view

I truly enjoyed this view of Medieval Europe. Very helpful in writing for my thesis, but also provided me additional views to regard in researching my thesis

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very enjoyable

Very good introduction to the emerging new narrative of the Middle-ages, in which the spotlight is on the usually neglected "bright" elements (art, philosophy, social advancements etc.) of this complex (and centuries long) part of European and Mediterranean history. Positive aspects that are presented without forgetting the well-known "dark" elements of violence and religious fanatism.
Interesting and well-balanced reading!

1 person found this helpful

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  • MR TJ PILLINGER
  • 03-06-22

Well read, except place names

Book content interesting, if a touch rambling.

Narrator struggled with English place names such as Hartlepool.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mr A G Armstrong
  • 02-25-22

Superb history and enlightening

Brilliant take on the "Dark Ages". highly recommended even if mispronouncation of place names

1 person found this helpful

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  • willm
  • 06-19-22

Brilliant refreshing look at the " dark ages "

I absolutely loved this book and the excellent narration. Please ignore the anti-woke brigade and take the time to form your own opinion. Highly recommended.

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  • Eve
  • 05-04-22

A Rare Request for Refund From Me

I’ll tolerate a lot of bad narration for a good book and vice versa, but this manages to simultaneously be badly narrated and badly written; derivative while claiming to be original, obsessional and skewed in familiar ways while claiming to present a new point of view. I’ve heard better narration from mid-range text-to-speech software, too.

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  • Literary Hawk
  • 03-06-22

interesting but narrated badly

I don't recommend this as an audio book because the reading sounded as if it were read by a robot....maybe it was. The content was sometimes interesting and presented from a new angle which was pertinent to our times.