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The Thirteenth: Greatest of Centuries

James J. Walsh

Book Overview: 

All the great issues, forces, and institutions of the thirteenth century are reviewed at generous length-the rise and character, the curricula, and the influences of the early universities; the steps taken towards popular education, both literary and technical; the development of letters; the great books and the great writers of the period; the Latin hymns of the church; Thomas Aquinas, Dante, the Golden Legend, the Romance of the Rose, Jocelyn de Brakelond, Matthew Paris, and Vincent of Beauvais; hospitals; famous women; Marco Polo and the story of geographical exploration; the systematization of law; and the beginnings of modern commerce.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .The scholars are accustomed to wander throughout the whole world and visit all the cities, and their many studies bring them understanding. For in Paris they seek a knowledge of the liberal arts; of the ancient writers at Orleans; of medicine at Salernum; of the black art at Toledo; and in no place decent manners.'"

With regard to the old monk's criticism it must be remembered that old age is always rather depreciative in criticism of the present and over-appreciative of what happened in the past se pueris. Abuses always seem to be creeping in that are going to ruin the force of education, yet somehow the next generation succeeds in obtaining its intellectual development in rather good shape. Besides as we must always remember in educational questions, evils are ever exaggerated and the memory of them is prone to live longer and to loom up larger than that of the good with which they were associated and to which indeed, as anyone of reasonable experi. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Wonderful treasure!

I can’t say enough about this book. It opens the eyes to the silly conceits of our age, our stuffy, smug satisfaction with a vary superficial level of attainment. The Thirteenth Century really was glorious.

The prose style is a bit old fashioned, but it is packed with interesting

this was an interesting read that have a lot of info about a topic I had never really thought about before.

Recently, blogger Ted Urban has been flogging the idea that history should be presented "horizontally" to emphasize cultural connections and cross-disciplinary influences that are missed when historians emphasize the sequential story of particular movements or social developments. I picked up this b