Currently $1.99: An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser. 2010: Odyssey Two, by Arthur C. Clarke. A Passage to India, by E.M. Forester.
Currently $2.99: The Cruelest Month, by Louise Penny. Berlin Diary, by William L. Shirer. Edward III: The Perfect King, by Ian Mortimer. The First World War: A Complete History, by Martin Gilbert.
Throughout the later part of 1999, many programs were dedicated to showing the impressive change in the 20th Century over any other time in the previous 1000 years. Author Ian Mortimer thought this was presumptuous and decided to research to find which century of Western civilization in the previous millennium saw the most change. In Centuries of Change Mortimer presents the fruits of over decade worth of research to general audience.
From the outset of the book Mortimer gives the reader the scope and challenge about defining and measuring change, especially when focusing in specific 100 year periods. Avoiding the cliché answers of bright, shiny objects and larger-than-life historical figures from the get go, Mortimer looked for innovations of cultural, political, societal, and technological significance that fundamentally changed the way people lived at the end of a given century than when it began. Throughout the process Mortimer would highlight those inventions or well-known historical individuals that defined those innovations of change which resulted positively or negatively on Western civilization. At the end of each chapter, Mortimer would summarize how the ‘changes’ he highlighted interacted with one another and which was the most profound in a given century and then identify an individual he believe was ‘the principle agent of change’.
The in-depth analysis, yet easily readable language that Mortimer wrote on each topic of change he highlighted was the chief strength of this book. The end of chapter conclusions and identification of an agent of change is built up throughout the entire chapter and shows Mortimer’s dedication to providing evidence for his conclusion. Whether the reader agrees or not with Mortimer, the reader at least knows why he came to those decisions. When coming to a decision about which century of the past millennium saw the most change at the end of the book, Mortimer’s explanation of the process in how he compared different periods of time and then the results of that process were well written and easily understandable to both general readers and those from a more scholarly background, giving the book a perfect flow of knowledge and thought.
Centuries of Change was geared for the general reading audience instead of a more academic one. While I do not think this is a negative for the book, it did allow for those editing the book as well as Mortimer in reexamining his text to miss several incorrect statements on events and personages that while minor do to missing a word or two, just added up over the course of the book.
While looking at the progression and development of Western civilization is always a challenging process, Ian Mortimer’s Centuries of Change gives readers glimpse of how different types of innovations impacted just a 100 year period of time. Very readable for general readers and a nice overall glimpse for more academic readers, this book is a thought-provoking glimpse in how human’s bring about change and responds to change.
Ian Mortimer believes, not that Edward III was actually a "perfect king," but that he was striving towards it - that it was one of his goals in life to live up to the great prophecies made at his birth in 1312.
Edward III was the grandson of Edward I, "Hammer of the Scots," and the son of Edward II, a weak king, and Isabella of France, daughter of Philip IV "the Fair." (The latter epithet relates to Philip's hair color, not his personality; he was a tough king, and sometimes a very cruel one.) Isabella would be the only one of Philip's four children (he also had three sons) to produce male children who would live to adulthood, which would result in great tragedy for France for the next hundred years.
Few English kings can have come to the throne in a more perilous situation - he was a boy of fourteen, and the puppet of his mother and particularly of her lover, the ambitious Roger Mortimer, Earl of March. For diplomatic reasons he was almost immediately married to the twelve-year-old Phillipa of Hainault (a principality in what is now Belgium). He had few friends, and little time not monitored by either Isabella or Mortimer. He was told, and spread the news far and wide, that his father, Edward II, died of grief in September of that year, while in confinement at Berkeley Castle.
At seventeen, in 1330, already a father, and aware of how precarious his situation was, he took an enormous chance, and personally overthrew Mortimer in the middle of the night, while they were staying at Nottingham Castle. He would rule alone for the rest of his life, which would be long (he died only in 1376).
However, Mortimer argues, Edward III already knew that he had been lied to in 1327, and that his father still lived. It's a really interesting argument, and I think he has pretty good evidence. (Mortimer has a fairly long article on his webpage laying out the general lines of his argument: http://www.ianmortimer.com/EdwardII/death.htm .)
Edward III's future prowess as a warrior king is legendary - he would lead the English to victories over the Scots, at Halidon Hill, and the French, at Crecy, Poitiers, and Sluys (the great naval battle of the Hundred Years' War). What may be less famous is his attention to, and building up of, the English Parliament, his great building projects (he had hot and cold running water in his bathroom!), or his fascination with the new inventions and machinery, such as clocks. (There's also an interesting bit about Edward III as a model for Arthur in medieval romances.)
It may have taken me a year to finish, but I kept getting distracted. I blame you lot, as I keep thinking "well, that book looks interesting..."
A drier read than his Guide to Mediaeval England, but I still found several of the chapters to be quite interesting even if some of the others dragged a bit.
For example, the hierarchy of water sources did help to explain some of their attitudes toward baths. That is, it’s not so much that they didn’t bathe as they didn’t generally have sufficient quantities of “safe” water in which to do it.