History has a reputation for being a little dry, so I couldn’t recommend this book more to those who struggle with the subject. Manchester skips over all the dull facts, the stiff economics, the endless recitation of dates that might give you traumatic flashbacks or induce narcolepsy. Instead he transports readers into the very world as it was five hundred years ago, describing in detail what life was like for the average citizen in some obscure European duchy, complete with all the disconcerting details of sex, squalor and superstition.
It’s incredible how much actual history is left out of our daily curriculums. The corruption of the papacy is eye-opening to say the least, as well as the shockingly lascivious behavior of popes and all their minions alike. No wonder the details aren’t common knowledge, they certainly don’t paint the Vatican in a particularly rosy light.
Manchester is an exceptional writer: clever, astute, and wonderfully articulate, the book offers a great deal of humor not only as a result of his prose, but simply by the nature of its content: Luther’s holy revelations while sitting on the toilet; Anne Boleyn’s laissez faire attitude about her slender neck about to get the chop.
While the section dealing with the Reformation might seem to drag a bit, Manchester rounds out his book with the circumnavigation of the globe. No tedious facts about Magellan and what days he sailed where for King Peter the Portly, 27th of his name, but rather, what it was actually like to step onto a ship in Europe and simply pray to make it across the ocean. The anxiety, the adventure, the terror of life adrift in the Pacific, and then the discovery of paradise in the Philippines—or so it seemed.
A fascinating story about our own barbaric history as it unfolded across Europe during the Renaissance; what we were like, what we thought, and how we survived against all odds during the Dark Ages and beyond. One of the most compelling history books I’ve ever read. here to edit.
4.7 / 5.0