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EPUB ⛅ A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century Ú The Th Century Gives Us Back Two Contradictory Images A Glittering Time Of Crusades And Castles, Cathedrals And Chivalry, And A Dark Time Of Ferocity And Spiritual Agony, A World Plunged Into A Chaos Of War, Fear And The Plague Barbara Tuchman Anatomizes The Century, Revealing Both The Great Rhythms Of History And The Grain And Texture Of Domestic Life As It Was Lived Tuchman s books are always interesting, but usually they have than one can absorb For this reason, reading them is always a bit of a struggle OK, I am merely speaking for myself I am going to try to keep this review short, maybe a reaction to having just completed Tuchman s extensive opus Not every detail need be explained A Distant Mirror covers thoroughly every single aspect of medieval life It covers in detail the battles of the Hundred Years War What is the Hundred Years War The Hundred Years War was a series of conflicts waged from 1337 to 1453 pitting the House of Plantagenet, rulers of the Kingdom of England, against the House of Valois for control of the Kingdom of France Each side drew many allies into the war..Historians commonly divide the war into three phases separated by truces 1 the Edwardian Era War 1337 1360 2 the Caroline War 1369 1389 and 3 the Lancastrian War 1415 1453.Contemporary conflicts in neighbouring areas, which were directly related to this conflict, included the War of the Breton Succession 1341 1364 , the Castilian Civil War 1366 1369 , the War of the Two Peters 1356 1375 in Aragon, and the 1383 85 Crisis in Portugal Later historians invented the term Hundred Years War as a periodization to encompass all of these events, thus constructing the longest military conflict in history.That is taken directly from Wiki Pay attention to the sentence I have underlined This is a book where the majority of pages are concerned with war and battles Tuchman has chosen to follow one man of nobility through his lifetime, Enguerrand de Coucy VII 1340 1397 He is from Picardy, France, and is married to the daughter of the Kind of England He is a perfect character to follow since he is thus connected to both the French and English nobility, the two warring nations He took part in many of the decisive battles The book follows what he DOES Little attempt is made to understand the psychology of the man That is not the point of the book You observe his actions Who does he marry What battles did he fight in Where did he live How did he die Through him we study medieval life and the Hundred Years War After his death Tuchman quickly summarizes the end of the Hundred Years War So while the Edwardian Era War and the Caroline War are depicted in complete detail as well as related battles with the Bretons, battles in Italy, in Spain, in Belgium and finally in Bulgaria contemporary country names used , only a quick summary of the Lancastrian War is given Enguerrand dies in 1397 at the Battle of Nicopolis in Bulgaria This explains why the Lancastrian War is summarized, in the epilog.Approximately the first fourth of the book establishes the setting Enguerrand was born in 1340 The world he was born into, that is the earlier years of the 14th Century prior to his birth are studied They provide a general overview of how people behaved and thought during the medieval era, while the remainder of the book covers closely the battles I preferred the first part of the book The Black Death, the Schism of the Church, clothing, foods, mysticism, chivalry and how motherhood was perceived it s all here and it is all interesting, but there is too much to grasp given the abundance of details I listened to the audiobook narrated by Nadia May This was excellent, but I do NOT recommend the audiobook There are so many names of places and people it is hard to keep everything straight You need maps and genealogical charts which a paper book can easily provide I learned a lot It is an excellent book, but in terms of my personal enjoyment I can only say I liked it I don t love books describing battles. What an extraordinary read it is when one book is as action packed as thirty riveting novels And if it also contains rich and erudite disquisitions and is narrated in a language as clear and flowing as water from a spring, then the volume must be given a preferential place in one s library.I am not too keen of including quotes in my reviews But given the amount of material that marshals in front of one s eyes, as colorful as overwhelming pageants and breathtaking jousts, and as dense as the tightly woven wefts and warps of a tapestry, there is no way I could attempt to give a glimpse with my own words of what Barbara Tuchman has achieved with this book.But before I present the quote, I would like to draw attention to how shrewd Tuchman has been in the choice of her subject As she explains in her early pages, she set herself to follow one particular character as he lived during a period in history when the actors were on the count of hundreds, and thereby keep one s focus and walk through the maze and the turmoil without getting lost.Enguerrand de Coucy VII was a member of the French nobility at a time when French could also mean English Enguerrand in fact acted as both French and English as he had acquired double allegiance to his own King and to the King and father of his wife And this he did when the two Kingdoms were at war a war that would last for over one hundred years Opportunely Enguerrrand is well documented by one of the most striking chroniclers of the time, Jean Froissart As nothing had been written about him in English before Tuchman, she had found a gold vein for her research and pen to exploit.Here stops my explanation It is time now for the quote This passage is better than an the Index to offer a glimpse to that Distant Mirror that Tuchman has approached to us for our close examination Since he Enguerrad de Coucy had first marched at fifteen against the English, and at eighteen hunted down the Jacquerie, the range of Coucy s experience had extended over an extraordinary variety of combat, diplomacy, government, and social and political relationships As son in law of Edward III, holding double allegiance to two kings at war, his position had been unique He had seen war as captain or one of the to command in eleven campaigns in Piedmont, Lombardy, Switzerland, Normandy, Languedoc, Tuscany, northern France, Flanders, Guelders, Tunisia, Genoa he had commanded mercenaries, and fought as ally or antagonist of the Count of Savoy, Gregory XI, Hawkwood, the Visconti, the Hapsburgs, the Swiss, Navarrese, Gascons, English, Berbers, the Republic of Florence, and nobles of Genoa As diplomat he had negotiated with Pope Clement VII, the Duke of Brittany, the Count of Flanders, the Queen of Aragon, with the English at peace parleys, and the rebels of Paris He had had one temperamental and extravagant wife eight years his senior, and a second approximately thirty years his junior He had served as adviser and agent of the two royal Dukes, Anjou and Orl ans, as Lieutenant General of Picardy and later of Guienne, as member of the Royal Council, as Grand Bouteiller of France, and had wtice been the preferred choice for a Constable He had known and dealt with every kind of character from the ultra wicked Charles of Navarre to the ultra saintly Pierre de Luxemburg. If to the above adventures, narrated ever so smoothly, one is to add the excellent studies of various chapters of Material Life in late Medieval Europe, that help us to shorten the Distance of the Mirror and make reflections become what is reflected, then one can begin to imagine the sheer pleasure that this book offers to whoever decides to open up its pages and read it.As it is often claimed, Tuchman may not be a historian of the academic breed, but in this account she has demonstrated her excellent narrative abilities that many historians and novelists would just love to command as well as she.Brilliant. A vivid and detailed look into a lost world The major players are The Black Death, The Hundred Years War, the sick, uproarious joke of chivalric valor, The Papal Schism, ruinous taxation, serfdom, petty feudal institutions, the utter absence of reason, murderous vengeance, horrendous peculation, brigandry, subjection of women, endless cruelty of mankind, crusade against the infidel, and so on A GR friend said that he was disappointed in this book because it did not offer the narrow focus and sleek thematic underpinnings of Tuchman s The March of Folly I see his point It should be noted, however, that Folly is a very different kind of book Folly is a deft study of the almost systematic loss of rational method leaders experience once they are dazzled by the trappings of ultimate power A Distant Mirror brings before the reader an almost encyclopedic survey of the late Middle Ages Reading it is like being in thrall to an endless film loop of natural disasters, pitiless murders, and roadside accidents Tuchman brings order to this concatenation of relentless self woundings so that try as we might we cannot look away If there is only one book you read on the Middle Ages it might be this one It is not for the squeamish or those afraid of the dark It is not a light beach or inflight read Highly recommended. A Distant Mirrorr by Barbara W Tuchman is, on one level, a seven hundred page encyclopedia of the 14th century s political, military, religious, social, cultural and economic history Since Ms Tuchman is a first rate writer, on still another level, the book is a compelling, personalized account of individual men and women living through these turbulent, disastrous times, especially one Enguerrand de Coucy V11 1340 1397 , a high ranking noble, heralded as the most experienced and skillful of all the knights of France The focus on Lord Coucy is supremely appropriate since this nobleman repeatedly pops up as a prime player in many of the century s key events.The 14th century witnessed ongoing devastation, including the little ice age, the hundred years war, the papal schism, the peasant s revolt and, most dramatically, the black death of 1348 1350, which depopulated Europe by as much as half Ms Tuchman s book covers it all in twenty seven chapters, chapter with such headings as Decapitated France The Bourgeois Rising and the Jacquerie, The Papal Schism, The Worms of the Earth Against the Lions and Dance Macabre.Many pages are filled with the color and morbidity of the times By way of example, here is one memorable happening where the French Queen gave a masquerade to celebrate the wedding of a twice widowed lady in waiting six young noblemen, including the King who recently recovered from a bout of madness, disguised themselves as wood savages and entered the masked ball making lewd gestures and howling like wolves as they paraded and capered in the middle of the revelers When one of the noble spectators came too close with his torch, a spark fell and a few moments later the wood savages, with the exception of the King, were engulfed in flames Afterwards, the French populace was horrified by this ghastly tragedy, a perverse playing on the edge of madness and death nearly killing their King.And here is what the author has to say about the young man who concocted the wood savage idea, The deviser of the affair cruelest and most insolent of men, was one Huguet de Guisay, favored in the royal circle for his outrageous schemes He was a man of wicked life who corrupted and schooled youth in debaucheries, and held commoners and the poor in hatred and contempt He called them dogs, and with blows of sword and whip took pleasure in forcing them to imitate barking If a servant displeased him, he would force the man to lie on the ground and, standing on his back, would kick him with spurs, crying, Bark, dog in response to his cries of pain All of the chapters are chock full with such sadistic and violent sketches.Speaking of the populate, there is plenty of detail on the habits and round of daily life of the common people And, of course, there is a plethora of detail on the lives of the upper classes Here is a snippet of one description In the evening minstrels played with lutes and harps, reed pipes, bagpipes, trumpets, kettle drums, and cymbals In the blossoming of secular music as an art in the 14th century, as many as thirty six different instruments had come into use If no concert or performance was scheduled after the evening meal, the company entertained each other with song and conversation, tales of the day s hunting, graceful questions on the conventions of live, and verbal games As in any age, it makes for comfortable living being at the top rather than at the bottom of the social scale And all those musical instruments speak volumes about how the 14th century was a world away from the plainchant of the early middle ages In a way, the 14th century musical avant garde fit in well with the fashions of the times extravagant headdresses, multicolored, bejeweled jackets and long pointed shoes For those who had the florins, overindulgence was all the rage.Ms Tuchman offers ongoing commentary for example, regarding military engagement, she cites how the 14th century nobility was too wedded to the idea of glory and riding horses on the battlefield to be effective against the new technology of the long bow and foot soldiers with pikes And here is a general, overarching comment about the age, The times were not static Loss of confidence in the guarantors of order opened the way to demands for change, and miseria gave force to the impulse The oppressed were no longer enduring but rebelling, although, like the bourgeois who tried to compel reform, they were inadequate, unready, and unequipped for the task Indeed, reading about 14th century economic upheaval one is reminded of Karl Marx s scathing observations four hundred years later.On a personal note, my primary interests are literature and philosophy I usually do not read history However, if I were to recommend one history book, this is the book Why Because Ms Tuchman s work is not only extremely well written and covers many aspects of the period s art, music, literature, religion and mysticism, but the turbulent, transitional 14th century does truly mirror our modern world Quite a time to be alive.