Ecclesiam res et talia sermocinamur -

We talk about the Church, stuff, and such

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Book Review Review

I'm cheating a little bit. I haven't actually read A Vanished World : Medieval Spain's Golden Age of Enlightenment, but I did read a soon to be published review of it (I work for the book review section of a history journal). And, amazingly, it sounds like a book that doesn't repeat the same old tripe about the middle ages and the Church. It's amazing how many seemingly intelligent people out there still ascribe to the myth of the "dark ages," the belief that the period between the fall of Rome and the Enlightenment was some sort of intellectual void in history in which nobody thought anything. The only problem with this theory is that it is complete bunk -- the Church made more contributions to the development of art, literature, science, and philosophy during this time period than just about any other era of human history has seen, if one were to control for some technological and communication factors.

That seems to be Lowney's thesis here: that the real cultural Golden Age for Spain took place during these supposed dark ages of religious oppression and backwards dogmatism. He talks about the Dominicans, the artists, St. Isidore, Gregory VII, and some of the Muslim thinkers in Spain (who, despite being infidels, and despite being falsely credited by modern "scholars" with inventing Just About Everything, did make some important contributions to mathematics). He demonstrates that just about every off the shelf popular perception about the middle ages, and especially about Spain, which is often overly reviled because of the twisted and perverted legacy of the Inquisition, is wrong. And that's something that definitely needs to be said.

Some of the people on Amazon indicated that the book is multiculturalist mush -- I can't vouch for or against that, our reviewer didn't mention that. But if you believe what reviewers write about books, it seems like this one could be worth checking out.

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