Book Review of The Medieval World Complete by Robert Bartlett

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The book is divided into chapters which outline the way the Middle Ages began and ended, with other sections covering religion, the church, nations & laws, daily lfie, art, architecture, scholarship, philosophy and the world beyond Christendom.

Perspectives on the Medieval World

The book opens with an introduction which explains how the Middle Ages has been viewed by different generations, from the Renaissance through to the twentieth century. Often, the medieval age has been viewed as a backward and primitive age, yet editor Robert Bartlett seeks to show just how sophisticated this era was, through the copious illustrations which enrich each chapter – 800 in total, with more than 600 in colour.

Everyday Life in the Middle Ages

The Medieval World Complete explores both the mundane and the splendid. Everyday life is explored through paintings of women at home, domestic life, and through photographs of artefacts which illustrate medieval craftsmanship, such as a fourteenth century tailor measuring a customer and a blacksmith at work at his furnace. The agriculture section explores how the majority of medieval people made their living – with images of a reaper sharpening his scythe, a shepherd with his sheep and a team of oxen ploughing a field.

The Salvation of the Soul in Medieval Times

The salvation of the soul chapter covers how the Christian faith was celebrated throughout Europe. The stunning photographs include images of stained glass scenes of baptism, marriage and extreme unction, and colourful representations of medieval saints, including St Barbara and St Christopher.

The final section of the book has 36 pages of biographies of key medieval personalities, accompanied by illustrations and detailed family trees. Each biography includes the dates of the person’s birth and death, with key facts about their life. There are also medieval timelines, maps, a glossary, gazetteer and bibliography, meaning that the researcher has a wealth of information to hand within one volume.

Summary

The Medieval World Complete is a sumptuous book, full of detail and colour which is a real treat for anyone interested in the period. The detailed illustrations bring the period to life, with the help of the informative and succinct commentaries. The large size of the pages mean that the illustrations have been reproduced in a large size, to make the details even more striking. A fascinating and detailed book.

Publication Details

Bartlett, Robert (ed) The Medieval World Complete [Thames & Hudson, 2010] ISBN 9780500283332, 336 pages