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. In THE BRIGHT AGES: A New History of Medieval Europe, medieval historians Matthew Gabriele and David Perry refute common misperceptions of the European Middle Ages, showing the beauty and communion that flourished alongside the dark brutality.
Praise for THE BRIGHT AGES
“The Bright Ages shines a light on an age too often obscured by myth, legend, and fairy tales. Gabriele and Perry show the medieval world was neither a romantic wonderland nor a deplorable dungeon, but instead a real world full of real people with hopes, dreams, and fears making the most of their time on earth.”— Mike Duncan, author of The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic
“A lively, searing, and transformative reimagining of the medieval world, The Bright Ages is brilliant in every way, both lucid in its arguments and sparkling in its prose. A gripping and compulsive read.”
— Bruce Holsinger, author of A Burnable Book and The Gifted School
“In this engaging new history of the Medieval period Gabriel and Perry achieve a feat: they have written something eminently readable, suffused with academic rigor, and ethically responsible.”
— Candida Moss, author of The Myth of Persecution
Understanding this time period is more important than ever before. The Middle Ages are still with us, everywhere. Not just in the explosion of fantasy medieval like Game of Thrones, or the History Channel’s The Vikings, but imagery from the Middle Ages has also been co-opted approvingly by the Far Right, emblazoned on shields at Charlottesville, peppered across the screed of by a mass murderer in New Zealand, even attached to the proposed wall on the southern border of the United States. In order to reclaim the meaning of the period away from the nefarious forces who have wielded it against humanity today, we must first understand and re-examine it.
THE BRIGHT AGES, a lively and magisterial popular history, takes us through ten centuries and crisscrosses Europe and the Mediterranean, and moves into Asia and Africa, revisiting familiar people and events with new light cast upon them. Gabriele and Perry 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, the genius of Hildegard of Bingen and Marie de France, and the power of queens.
They 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 in Ravenna—writing an epic saga of heaven and hell that endures as a masterpiece of literature today. THE BRIGHT AGES confronts all the things people “know” about the Middle Ages with the most recent research made digestible and woven into a coherent story.
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.