A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara W. Tuchman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
So thanks to my friend Clint in Baton Rouge I picked up “A Distant Mirror” and started reading it. Then I put it down and picked it up again to start reading again. Then once again I picked it up and this time I finished it. I didn’t put the book down those times because of the book being boring. Nope it was great. It is just that it is rather long and the French names, for one who has never studied the French language, can be a little taxing to focus on. Therefore, I gave myself a few breaks in finishing the book.
I had forgotten what a monumental century the 14th century was in European history. You have the Black Plague, the Hundred Years War, various uprisings, the advancing of the Islamic forces of the Ottoman Empire, and, most interesting to me, the Papal Schism where at one time you have three different popes claiming to be the legitimate claimant to the Apostolic See. It really is a fascinating period of history.
One of the things that I was most intrigued by was Barbara Tuchman’s description of the 14th century tendency to romanticize the past. In other words they looked back at the blurry past through rose colored glasses, remembering and exaggerating the positive points of it, while minimizing and often forgetting the negative aspects. In the 14th century it wasn’t uncommon for people to claim that the present age was falling a part and the past was actually the model for life. Sound familiar? Yeah it would seem this is a pretty common human trait. <SARCASM> Not that anyone would do this now</SARCASM>.
Anyhow it was a great book and well worth the read even if it did take me a year to finish the book.