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Extended Audio Sample A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, by Barbara W. Tuchman Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (9,489 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Barbara W. Tuchman Narrator: Wanda McCaddon Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: March 2009 ISBN: 9781455183388
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The fourteenth century reflects two contradictory images: on the one hand, a glittering time of crusades and castles, cathedrals and chivalry, and the exquisitely decorated Books of Hours; and on the other, a time of ferocity and spiritual agony, a world of chaos and the plague.

Barbara Tuchman reveals both the great rhythms of history and the grain and texture of domestic life as it was lived. Here are the guilty passions, loyalties and treacheries, political assassinations, sea battles and sieges, corruption in high places and a yearning for reform, satire and humor, sorcery and demonology, and lust and sadism on the stage. Here are proud cardinals, beggars, feminists, university scholars, grocers, bankers, mercenaries, mystics, lawyers and tax collectors, and, dominating all, the knight in his valor and “furious follies,” a “terrible worm in an iron cocoon.”

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Barbara Tuchman at the top of her powers…A beautiful, extraordinary book…She has done nothing finer.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “Beautifully written, careful, and thorough in its scholarship…What Ms. Tuchman does superbly is to tell how it was…No one has ever done this better.”

    New York Review of Books

  • “Wise, witty, and wonderful…A great book, in a great historical tradition.”

    Commentary

  • “[Wanda McCaddon] renders interesting even Tuchman’s most pedantic moments of scene-setting…[McCaddon’s] reading, with impeccable French and English accents, immerses the reader in the lengthy narrative, mixing politics with the personal. Humorous asides, especially commentary from peasantry…enliven the telling.”

    AudioFile

  • Winner of the National Book Award for • History
  • ANew York Times Bestsellerfor Nonfiction in 1979

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Aaron Benedict | 2/17/2014

    " An excellent overview of the 14th Century. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Janice Oneill | 2/12/2014

    " I couldn't get myself to finish it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rick McNeely | 2/12/2014

    " An impressive work of narrative history that will vastly increase your understanding of medieval life. Well-written, well researched, but not for those who find history tedious. A great book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Andrew | 1/30/2014

    " Definitely will read more Tuchman. Wonderfully detailed and informative "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Karl Kenny | 1/23/2014

    " This was the first Barbara Tuchman book I had ever read, it blew me away, who knew history could be this interesting? This book was a page-turner, I could not put it down and at over 720 pages that is saying something. Its a cliche to say she brought history to life, but she really did make it more accessible - She also positions the 14th Century as the foundation of our current modernity with The Plague and wars liberating so much of Europe from serfdom and allowing modern history to begin "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Geri Hoekzema | 1/12/2014

    " Am re-reading after first read nearly 20 years ago. I always like NF history that reads like fiction (which this does), and this book is esp. interesting in light of current times. On one hand, we still have war, disease, drought, extreme poverty and an enormous gap in living conditions between rich & poor. On the other hand, we're much less likely to simply accept these as "the way things are," which I find hopeful. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Hannah | 12/30/2013

    " Okay. I admit it. I've never read this all the way through--its very long. I keep reading the first half over and over again, and each time I am struck with Tuchman's insights. Maybe I should start from the middle next time. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Craig Coleman | 12/25/2013

    " Just revisited this fine book. Amazing. She manages the tell this history of the middle ages through a thorough investigation of a single French nobleman. The plague, the hundred years war, the catholic church, the crusades, slavery and freedom, and the beginnings of democracy. They're all here, and, as in all Tuchman books, the story plays out like a thriller, even though you basically know how the story ends. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Paul | 12/5/2013

    " All writings of Barbara Tuchman. The past is prologue, as it says over the door of the Smithsonian. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mia | 12/2/2013

    " My favorite history book ever, I think. I've bought it twice and had it given to me once; not a book I want to be without. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Diane | 11/28/2013

    " I read this book a several decades ago. I still own it. I still refer to it. Pages are falling out. I believe this was the book that inspired my interest in the middle ages. This is probably the best history book I ever read. Why don't they use books like this in school? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ted Haussman | 11/27/2013

    " A fantastic study of the 14th century and the end of the Middle Ages. Tuchman is a brilliant writer and historian. This book has spurred my interest to read more about this period and the years immediately following. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Howard | 11/23/2013

    " It is a great book marred by a heavy style. It's a MUST READ but could the author have injected a bit more pace? "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Steph | 5/30/2013

    " One of best books of all time. Couldn't put it down. Everyone should own it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Barbara Lovejoy | 3/24/2013

    " Even though this was a fascinating book, it took me a long time to plough through it. My background knowledge about this time period is quite limited which made it hard for me to follow the book at times. I might even consider reading it again. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 John Hudson | 12/16/2012

    " Snapshots don't work, and sometimes half of a millennium or more have a pass before you can begin to evaluate the impact from events long ago. A thorough look at western Europe in the 1300s. I'm still not much of a fan of the French. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Comicfairy (Leanne) | 8/24/2012

    " As my Medieval History Professor stated, "'A Distant Mirror' is a great work of FICTION." Keep in mind that this is is NOT a History book and you'll be just fine. ;) "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Danielle | 6/14/2012

    " It started out good, but i could not plow my way all the way through to the end. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 David Cerruti | 4/17/2012

    " Wow! What a feast. More like an endless banquet. How she managed all that research is a mystery to me. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ohyassi | 2/4/2012

    " Starts out great, drags towards the end. Really could've used a good edit. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Laura Griffith | 1/6/2012

    " The most incredible book I have ever read. My appreciation for history and the people who preceded us on this earth was immensely increased by reading it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Martin | 1/4/2012

    " Brilliant. Captivating. Fascinating. A must read, even though it's like a million pages. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jackie | 12/2/2011

    " painfully long ... couldn't even finish it, not even using the audio book "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Glenn | 9/19/2011

    " Wonderful insights to medival life annd times. Want to re read it after 30 years... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 RJ | 7/14/2011

    " Dense thorough volume of "the calamitous 14th century". Tuchman details the medieval world of the 1300's, the Black Death, the Hundred Years War, but more importantly the human condition and the way people thought and lived. There are riches in every chapter. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tracey Johnson | 7/2/2011

    " A fascinating account of 14th century Europe. I acquired this book from my grandmother years ago & finally decided to read it. It's one of my all time favorites! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 John | 6/30/2011

    " Think things are bad now? Take a peek back to the 14th century. . . "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Schulz | 6/20/2011

    " This was an interesting book, but it dragged. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Charlene | 6/18/2011

    " Very interesting but I had to look up a lot of words. :) "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Schaefme | 6/2/2011

    " One of my most favorite books ever. Not for the faint of heart-it is a committment "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Steven | 4/30/2011

    " I read this title when I was an undergrad, so I hardly remember any of it. However, I do remember largely being bored, so perhaps the title was seminal in my rejection of Eurocentrism? "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Scott | 4/21/2011

    " This book is a thriller as much as it is an history. Remarkable. Highly recommended "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Derrell | 4/7/2011

    " I read this 30 years ago and have it on my list for a re-read. A Distant Mirror fueled a life long fascination with history. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Christie | 4/4/2011

    " An amazing text that doesn't talk down to the reader. This really brought the 1300's to life for me. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Pik | 3/16/2011

    " I read this book on holiday in USA back in the 1970's and it was my introduction to the history of a period of which I have enjoyed ever since "

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