After speeding through Guns of August, I expected to fly in a similar fashion through A Distant Mirror. After all, they both won Tuchman a Pulitzer, right?
Most of what I’ve learned from A Distant Mirror I can sum up in three statements:
1. The Middle Ages basically sucked. Peasant, clergy, or noble, you were probably smelly, half of your siblings died in childbirth or poor doctoring, and the plague killed the other half. Oh, and wars and famine. Or somebody just felt like killing them. Actually, how did you survive?
2. I think I’d be more interested if this was new material to me, but apparently my History of the Later Middle Ages professor at UM was pretty thorough.
3. I can’t help feeling superior–morally, emotionally, physically, mentally–to the majority of the population of the 14th century. I know that hindsight is 20/20, which I felt even in Guns of August, but still, people, come on. Not a whole lot of respect for rational thought seemed to go on.
Reading this simultaneously with Rob Roy is interesting, too. Didn’t do that on purpose. More on that later.