Historical atlases of the Middle Ages have a long pedigree as fundamental reference works both for beginning and more advanced students of medieval history who have used them to situate social and political change both spatially and chronologically. This new Historical Atlas of the Medieval World , although perhaps somewhat more streamlined than some of its predecessors, continues this trend, but also has a number of advantages over them.
The atlas is divided into four sections, three of which have a chronological orientation (the early Middle Ages, the revival of Europe, and the later Middle Ages) with a valuable additional section that addresses Europe's relations with its neighbours over the longue durée . Each section is preceded by a succinct but quite comprehensive assessment of the key developments in spheres ranging from political life, migration, invasion, economic and urban development, architectural change, monasticism, intellectual life, as well as the Black Death and the Hundred Years War.
The section on the revival of Europe is appropriately the largest, focusing on the period 1000-1300, which witnessed the most dramatic changes of the medieval era in terms of the consolidation of Western kingdoms and political structures, the expansion of Christianity in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, the development of the papacy, pilgrimage, the economy and the built environment.
In this, Andrew Jotischky and Caroline Hull reflect recent trends in the historical literature on mutationisme , which has emphasised with varying degrees that this period of transformation represents the formation of not simply European institutions but indeed of European civilisation as we now know it.
This volume has many important and useful features. Of particular value is the comparative timeline that enables the reader to situate developments in Western European political life against developments in Eastern Europe and Byzantium, religious and cultural life, and the Muslim world, but also the wider world and its civilisation.
The individual entries within each section provide inevitably selective, but also balanced, accounts that are based on current and revisionist historiography, and the individual maps moreover are supplemented by other illustrations and a brief quotation from a contemporary text. The chief drawback concerns the book's format, which means that the maps, though generally clear, have been reduced in size rather more than one would have liked. One hopes that this will be rectified in a subsequent edition.
That aside, this is an extremely useful, well up-to-date atlas of the medieval European world that will be of benefit to students and lecturers alike.
Kathleen Cushing is senior lecturer in medieval history, Keele University.
The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Medieval World. First Edition
Author - Andrew Jotischky and Caroline Hull
Publisher - Penguin
Pages - 144
Price - £12.99
ISBN - 0 141 01449 0