The Bright Ages takes us through ten centuries and crisscrosses Europe and the Mediterranean, Asia and Africa, revisiting familiar people and events with new light cast upon them. We look with fresh eyes on the Fall of Rome, Charlemagne, the Vikings, the Crusades, and the Black Death, but also to the multi-religious experience of Iberia, the rise of Byzantium, and the genius of Hildegard and the power of queens.
Ambitious ... The result is a comprehensive, if whistle-stop, look at medieval Eurasia over a millennium ... The strengths of the Bright Ages are several, but what is most pleasurable to see as a medievalist is the way its authors use sources. Each chapter is anchored by references to art and artworks from the time and place that it is describing ... In terms of written sources, the authors have also been incredibly astute ... The Bright Ages is steeped in the sort of nuance that allows audiences to gently reconsider their preconceived ideas ... The Bright Ages gets that we don’t have to accept a straight-forward dichotomy about the past, and explains how to become comfortable with that ... While all of this is the sort of stuff that professional medievalists love to see, the thing I like most about Perry and Gabriele’s effort is that it is fun. The Bright Ages is written in such an engaging and light manner that it is easy to race through ... You can tell how much the authors love the subject matter, and that they had a great time choosing stories to share and evidence to consider. I repeatedly laughed out loud as I was rushing through ... The beauty and levity that Perry and Gabriele have captured in this book are what I think will help it to become a standard text for general audiences for years to come. Medieval historians aren’t interested in the period because it is dull. However, few of us have succeeded in conveying to audiences the fact that the complexity and subtlety of the Middle Ages allows for fun as well as drama. The Bright Ages is a rare thing.
Here Gabriele and Perry offer an imaginative and supremely inviting look at the Dark Ages, which they ingeniously repackage ... They aren’t suffering from an intellectual form of achromatopsia, the rare visual defect where individuals can only see black and white. There are plenty of brilliant colors in this volume along with (lest us not forget) the moments of extreme darkness. But in a brisk book that illuminates an enormous historical period—a thousand years in 336 pages: what a relief!—they shine a light on an age they argue is misunderstood and mischaracterized ... This argument is incandescent and ultimately intoxicating ... for as the chapters progress, it dawns...on the reader that those who lived in this period were more conventional than the cardboard figures of schoolday narratives, that they were composed of unbounded good along with unimaginable evil or were, if we dare trip the light fantastic verbally, possessed of brilliance and darkness.
An engaging overview of a complex, yet often oversimplified era ... Gabriele and Perry center individuals and perspectives of the so-called Dark Ages that are typically left unexamined, namely women, people of color, and Indigenous Americans, who are all given space in the counternarratives produced in this 'new history.' In addition to offering in-depth historical analysis, the authors also situate their subjects within modern frameworks, calling for increased scrutiny of the adoption of medieval symbols by white supremacists ... The Bright Ages offers a refreshingly critical look at an era burdened with misconceptions and it’s sure to become a new standard for those seeking a comprehensive and inclusive review of medieval times.