Cover image for Europe in the high Middle Ages
Europe in the high Middle Ages
Jordan, William C., 1948-
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, 2003.

Physical Description:
xi, 382 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm.
General Note:
Originally published: London : Allen Lane, 2001.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
D116 .J67 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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It was an age of hope and possibility, of accomplishment and expansion. Europe's High Middle Ages spanned the Crusades, the building of Chartres Cathedral, Dante's Inferno, and Thomas Aquinas. Buoyant, confident, creative, the era seemed to be flowering into a true renaissance-until the disastrous fourteenth century rained catastrophe in the form of plagues, famine, and war. In Europe in the High Middle Ages, William Chester Jordan paints a vivid, teeming landscape that captures this lost age in all its glory and complexity. Here are the great popes who revived the power of the Church against the secular princes; the writers and thinkers who paved the way for the Renaissance; the warriors who stemmed the Islamic tide in Spain and surged into Palestine; and the humbler estates, those who found new hope and prosperity until the long night of the 1300s. From high to low, from dramatic events to social structures, Jordan's account brings to life this fascinating age. Part of the Penguin History of Europe series, edited by David Cannadine.

Author Notes

William Chester Jordan, former director of the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies, is professor of history and director of the Program in Medieval Studies at Princeton University. His previous book, The Great Famine, won the Haskins Medal of the Medieval Academy in 2000

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

A glimpse of light between early medieval chaos and a plague-infested fourteenth century, the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were an era of significant cultural and economic progress as well as the time of most of the things we traditionally associate with the Middle Ages, including Gothic cathedrals, knights, Crusades, and courtly love. Contextualizing these and other high points, this book gives a balanced, comprehensive description of Europe's first renaissance. Jordan is both concise and thorough, covering all geographic regions and supplementing his political narrative (who begot whom, who beheaded whom) with occasional discussion of cultural advances and everyday life (as well as ever-helpful genealogical tables). He is also somewhat fast moving, assuming at least a basic understanding of the most major events as he points up the underlying themes that define the High Middle Ages: the increasing power of the papacy, the effect of philosophical and violent contact with Islam, difficulty in succession, and others. The third in Penguin's eight-part series in European history is highly accessible yet academic enough to be valuable as a collegiate text. --Brendan Driscoll

Publisher's Weekly Review

As Jordan shows, the Middle Ages in Europe were indeed the best of times and worst of times. The beauties of Gothic architecture, the revivals of Latin literature, the rise of the university, the lyrical romances and chivalric chansons formed the high points of years that also witnessed famine, plague, political and religious squabbles, and the Crusades. Princeton historian Jordan (The Great Famine) marvelously weaves the many and various events of the years 1000-1350 into a splendid historical tapestry. He discusses how various European countries experienced the Middle Ages, putting to rest the notion that the era was monolithic and affected everyone the same way. The conflict between the Catholic Church and the state lies at the heart of the medieval period, and Jordan adeptly chronicles that struggle. As the monarchy gained power, the Church found that even voices within, such as monastic movements like the Franciscans and the Dominicans, sought reform. By the end of the Middle Ages, the Church found itself in a crisis that laid the groundwork for the Protestant Reformation. Jordan's magisterial survey indicates how rich and significant the Middle Ages were in forming European culture. That this is the inaugural volume in the Penguin History of Europe augurs very well for the series. Illus., maps. (On sale Jan. 27) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This volume inaugurates Viking's new series, which under the editorship of David Cannadine will eventually encompass eight volumes. Jordan (medieval studies, Princeton Univ.; The Great Famine) ranges from the 11th century to the beginning of the 14th century-a time of major growth and reform. The population of Europe increased significantly as a result of new agricultural technologies, the spread of the iron plow, and new practices such as the clearing and settlement of the vast forests of central Europe. This era witnessed the rise of great church reformers like Pope Leo IX and Abbot Hugh of Cluny and the creation of Dante's Divine Comedy and Thomas Aquinas's philosophy. Jordan surveys this society from high to low, from the worker in the fields to the popes and secular rulers, giving students and lay readers who are already interested in the era an excellent introduction that will build their enthusiasm. This should be the benchmark for judging a survey volume; highly recommended for large public and academic libraries.-Robert J. Andrews, Duluth P.L., MN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. vii
List of Mapsp. ix
Acknowledgementsp. x
Note on Namesp. xi
Prologuep. 1
Part I Europe in the Eleventh Century
1 Christendom in the Year 1000p. 5
2 Mediterranean Europep. 20
3 Northern, Celts and Anglo-Saxonsp. 38
4 Francia/Francep. 52
5 Central Europep. 66
Part II The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century
6 The Investiture Controversyp. 85
7 The First Crusadep. 100
8 The World of Learningp. 113
9 Cultural Innovations of the Twelfth Century: Vernacular Literature and Architecturep. 129
10 Political Power and Its Contextsp. 143
11 Political Power and Its Contexts IIp. 161
Part III The Thirteenth Century
12 Social Structuresp. 181
13 The Pontificate of Innocent III and the Forth Lateran Councilp. 194
14 Learningp. 213
15 The Kingdoms of the Northp. 226
16 Baltic and Central Europep. 243
17 The Gothic Worldp. 259
18 Southern Europep. 271
Part IV Christendom in the Early Fourteenth Century
19 Famine and Plaguep. 289
20 Political and Social Violencep. 302
21 The Church in Crisisp. 314
Epiloguep. 327
Appendix Genealogical Tablesp. 329
Referencesp. 344
Suggested Readingp. 348
Indexp. 355