A Distant Mirror

A Distant Mirror

The Calamitous 14th Century

Book - 1978
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The story of the fourteenth century seen principally through the experiences of a French knight who lived from 1340 to 1397.
Publisher: New York : Knopf, 1978.
Edition: 1st trade ed.
ISBN: 9780394400266
Branch Call Number: 944.02 TUC
Characteristics: xx, 677 p., [20] leaves of plates : ill. ; 25 cm.


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Nov 17, 2017

I was curious about parallels of medieval times to our own. This book’s cover blurb says, “Tuchman examines not only the great rhythms of history but the grind and texture of domestic life: what childhood was like; what marriage meant; how money, taxes and war dominated the livers of serf, noble, and clergy alike.” I appreciated the explanation of royalty’s frivolous spending and taxing to support their vain pursuit of honor and glory. I had never heard of the Free Company that threatened peaceful existence between wars. I was enlightened by the various uprisings among the commoners that almost changed society but foundered on lack of a common goal and enduring leader. But, I had to infer that serfs and laborers get the dreary dregs, because we get no details on them. With sources like Froissart and the Monk of St. Denis, we see only the childhoods and weddings of knights and dukes. Tuchman confines our view of domestic life to the castle, and occasionally, the guild hall. With the title “A Distant Mirror” I had hoped to find more distinct parallels between Tuchman’s calamitous 14th century and our increasingly disturbed 21st century. I didn’t find many because she shows the effects of war, plague, marauding Free Companies, and religious schism almost exclusively from the viewpoint of nobles, with brief mention mechants and guild members.

Oct 14, 2017

chapter 4

Jan 12, 2016

very interesting and thoughtful history of the era and how it relates to modern times

Feb 23, 2013

I find Tuchman's book to be mediocre to submediocre --- one would be much better served in reading about the similar period covered by Swiss historian, Johann Huizanga. Although I enjoyed Tuchman's "Stillwell and the American Experience in China" - - it was really Stilwell's diary excerpts which were most illuminating and entertaining, Tuchman really had nothing much to offer. No rating, I'm afraid.

Jan 16, 2013

Of the 100 or so histories I've read in my life, on any topic, I would put this one in the top 3 or 4. The story of the 14th century in Europe is incredibly compelling, and relatively unknown. Barbara Tuchman does a masterful job of relaying it, partially using a specific French/English nobleman and his comings and goings and war travels, to focus it. Thank you Ms. Tuchman!

Dec 03, 2011

A Distant Mirror

Barbara Tuchman, an accomplished historian and author of numerous histories did in 1989. She wrote a Distant Mirror in 1978. It must be a major display of hubris to attempt to write a history of a whole century and of at least half a continent: there is enough here for two or three works. To say that the Fourteenth Century is calamitous may be somewhat an understatement. The period say major changes brought about by the incursions of the Black Death; the period saw more or less continuous warfare, significant political change in both England and France and the development of the framework for the future development of Protestantism.
And yet, it is something Tuchman accomplishes with polish. Her writing style is not quotidian rather it is more elegant than prosaic. Is it well written --- of course.
In truth, this is a huge and weighty tome made to seem small only through the use of small print. Reading it in its entirety might br enough to tax the attention and tenacity of anyone except the m ost dedicated student of this particular time and place in history.

Oct 20, 2008

time travellor


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