End the Middle Ages

End the Middle Ages

The book in English is entitled Those Terrible Middle Ages, but in the original French, the title is "Pour en finir avec le Moyen Age" which roughly translates to "To End the Middle Ages" or "Let's end with those Middle Ages".

The Amazon reviews seem to complain about the poor translation to English, rendering parts of it hard to digest. I don't know, I read it in French, and in its original it's quality work.

Régine Pernoud is a french medieval historian born in 1909. Her doctoral thesis was presented in 1935, "Essai sur l'histoire du port de Marseille", her first book was published in 1944 and her last one in 1998, the year of her death.

"Those Terrible Middle Ages" was published in 1977 and seems to be her shortest. It is now 45 years old, but its fight is not over, the Middle Ages tag applies to a period from 476 and the fall of the Western Roman Empire, to 1453 and the fall of the Eastern Empire. For some it ends in 1492 with the discovery of America. That's thousand years often taught in a few broad strokes, knights, the crusades, the plague, obscurity, ...

What do I take from the book?

The rise / reapplication of roman law broke the custom of medieval people. The condition of women scaled back from person to dependency of the "pater familias", the slow vanishing of servitude until its massive reappearance during the Renaissance, as slavery.

Progress doesn't go in a straight line towards a better place for everybody.

The book focuses on France, and one might argue that the French Revolution, with its numerous ruptures with the past, distanced the country from its Middle Ages. Other european countries might not have so strongly rejected some aspects of their past, on their own trajectory from feudalism, to central monarchy, and then some sort of democracy, each with their jumps and detours.

I regret not having read this book sooner, I came across it on the Discord server of Hectelyon, a french-speaking TTRPG YouTube channel, where it was pointed at by Mickael.

An anecdote? She debunks the story that some old history books told: "serfs had to take turn at night, striking the surface of the pond to prevent the frogs from croaking and thus waking up the lord of the castle".