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The 14th Century Was a Nonstop Thrill Ride If You're Thrilled By Dirt and Illiteracy

I'm reading Barbara Tuchman's book, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, and OH is it good. How good is it? So good I had a nigh-ecstatic experience when I read the following:

"Taxation like usury rested on principles that were anything but clearly defined and so muddled by ad hoc additions, exemptions, and arrangements that it was impossible to count on a definite amount of returns."



Her dad has his own Wikipedia page. Because she comes from a Family (my friend Katie-Anne: "Like the mob?"), meaning her father was an "investment banker and philanthropist." So his daughter was able to go to Radcliffe and write books about the 14th century. This is some Room of One's Own shit right here. *Virginia Woolf nods sagely*




She takes the 14th century -- GIANT undertaking that it is -- and decides to look at it from the perspective of one of its noble families, as peasants' lives were not recorded, and kings lived decidedly abnormally. The first part of the book (i.e. the part I'm on) is setting up background information on the century, and OH it is fantastic. Because she is subtly funny.

Simply summarized by the Swiss historian , J. C. L. S. de Sismondi , the 14th century was “a bad time for humanity.”

Or the people she quotes are. ALSO she gets history. Aw yeah. She gets it. Because some people seem to think learning dates is pointless and just something thrust upon them by teachers who don't want to get into humanity and its grey areas, so they pick something concrete like a date to make their students learn, PERHAPS AT THE COST OF THEIR BETTER EDUCATION, and I get that, but those people who think that are wrong.

Dates may seem dull and pedantic to some, but they are fundamental because they establish sequence— what precedes and what follows—thereby leading toward an understanding of cause and effect.

AMAZING -- GOOD JOB BEING SUPER GREAT. Most authors I read are dead, but I am rarely actually sad about it.

I would write Barbara Tuchman the most badass letter, and she would write me back and we would have a CORRESPONDENCE about history and why it is super-awesome and how people should totes appreciate it more. And then one day I would visit New York and we would get coffee somewhere and she'd be like "Alice, you are the only one who truly understands my work. I now bequeath unto you this 14th century ring, for only the True Lover of History may wear it," and then I would go on quests, wielding the power of Hrothmir, Ring of History.

And that is why I think these kinds of books are fun.

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