Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
This is the third volume in a projected four-volume history of the world (e.g., The History of the Ancient World, CH, Jan'08, 45-2759; The History of the Medieval World, CH, Sep'10, 48-0418) by Bauer, who has published widely on writing and education. Ninety-four short chapters narrate political and military intrigues between 1100 and 1453, supported by a time line at the end of every chapter and numerous helpful maps. Bauer peppers her informal prose with numerous quotations, which are entertaining but often uncritically presented. For example, she reports events in 12th-century Spain by quoting a 16th-century epic poem, and quotes Coleridge on the construction of Kublai Khan's summer capital Shangdu (also known as Xanadu). Each chapter provides a readable if superficial narrative of a particular historical moment, but unfortunately they do not connect, a problem exacerbated by Bauer's chronological approach (thus, chapters 31-33 treat the Latin Empire of Constantinople, the first Delhi Sultanate of India, and the French Albigensian Crusade, respectively). The book's only overarching narrative is found in the three-page preface, which tries unconvincingly to explain Bauer's decision to title a work covering 1100-1453 a "history of the Renaissance world." Regrettably, the overall effect of these decisions is more confusing than illuminating. Summing Up: Optional. Public libraries only. C. E. Benevs New College of Florida
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Readers hoping for a glimpse into the life and times of Michelangelo and Da Vinci will be disappointed by Bauer's newest (after The History of the Medieval World): "This is not a history of 'the Renaissance.' Rather, it is a history of the world during. a rebirth of interest in classical learning." That said, this volume is still rife with captivating figures, momentous movements, violent wars, and climactic upheavals. Beginning with the 12th-century rise of the Plantagenets in England and ending with the 1453 Ottoman overthrow of the Byzantine Empire, Bauer ranges far and wide, touching on everything from the gruesome murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury; the ascendancy of the first king of the Incan Empire; the terrorization of the Asian Steppe by Mongol hordes; the relocation of the papacy from Rome to Avignon; the birth of the Inquisition in Toulouse, France; the beginnings of the African slave trade; and the bubonic plague's decimating sweep across Europe. In five sections (Renaissances; Invasions, Heresies, and Uprisings; Catastrophes; Regroupings; and Endings), Bauer covers a bewildering amount of territory in her attempt to offer a tantalizing global perspective of a tumultuous epoch. Unfortunately, she too often sacrifices depth for breadth. 22 illus. & 96 maps. Agent: Richard Henshaw, Richard Henshaw Group. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.