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From bestselling historians Joseph and Frances Gies, whose books have been used by George R.R. Martin as source material for Game of Thrones, comes a classic book on innovation and technological change in medieval Europe In this account of Europe’s rise to world leadership in technology, Frances and Joseph Gies show how early modern technology and experimental science were From bestselling historians Joseph and Frances Gies, whose books have been used by George R.R. Martin as source material for Game of Thrones, comes a classic book on innovation and technological change in medieval Europe In this account of Europe’s rise to world leadership in technology, Frances and Joseph Gies show how early modern technology and experimental science were direct outgrowths of the decisive innovations of medieval Europe, in the tools and techniques of agriculture, craft industry, metallurgy, building construction, navigation, and war. The Gieses report that many of Europe’s most important inventions—the horse harness, the stirrup, the magnetic compass, cotton and silk cultivation and manufacture, papermaking, firearms, and “Arabic” numerals—had their origins outside Europe, in China, India, and the Middle East. Europe synthesized its own innovations—the three-field system, water power in industry, the full-rigged ship, the putting-out system—into a powerful new combination of technology, economics, and politics.


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From bestselling historians Joseph and Frances Gies, whose books have been used by George R.R. Martin as source material for Game of Thrones, comes a classic book on innovation and technological change in medieval Europe In this account of Europe’s rise to world leadership in technology, Frances and Joseph Gies show how early modern technology and experimental science were From bestselling historians Joseph and Frances Gies, whose books have been used by George R.R. Martin as source material for Game of Thrones, comes a classic book on innovation and technological change in medieval Europe In this account of Europe’s rise to world leadership in technology, Frances and Joseph Gies show how early modern technology and experimental science were direct outgrowths of the decisive innovations of medieval Europe, in the tools and techniques of agriculture, craft industry, metallurgy, building construction, navigation, and war. The Gieses report that many of Europe’s most important inventions—the horse harness, the stirrup, the magnetic compass, cotton and silk cultivation and manufacture, papermaking, firearms, and “Arabic” numerals—had their origins outside Europe, in China, India, and the Middle East. Europe synthesized its own innovations—the three-field system, water power in industry, the full-rigged ship, the putting-out system—into a powerful new combination of technology, economics, and politics.

30 review for Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel: Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages

  1. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    To be fair, I should preface this review by saying that this book has been my bathroom reading for the better part of a year. Since I'm guessing that's not how this book was intended to be read, it probably had a somewhat deleterious effect on my perception of the book. And now that I've over-shared to an alarming degree, on to the review. This book was a little academic for my taste. A little dry. And the information density isn't quite what I'd hoped for either. That said, the book does do a g To be fair, I should preface this review by saying that this book has been my bathroom reading for the better part of a year. Since I'm guessing that's not how this book was intended to be read, it probably had a somewhat deleterious effect on my perception of the book. And now that I've over-shared to an alarming degree, on to the review. This book was a little academic for my taste. A little dry. And the information density isn't quite what I'd hoped for either. That said, the book does do a great job of showing how technology changed throughout the course of the middle ages. It talks about everything from farming, to ironwork, to masonry, to transportation and exploration. It also refutes several commonly-held beliefs about the middle ages. Stuff that I learned in grade school and never questioned until now (Though it's obvious in retrospect that some of these things were nonsense.) All in all, a good read. But it would probably be better if you didn't read it 2-3 pages at at time over the course of a year like I did...

  2. 4 out of 5

    G. Branden

    Mostly excellent. My only real criticism of this title is that it should contain a glossary of technological and mechanical terms. Since it does not, it may pay to either be a really well-read mechanical engineer or to have a reference close to hand. For example, I know that an "adze" is a hand tool but I always forget what the head looks like, and what it's for. It's not an axe or a hammer, and when was the last time you went to a hardware store for an "adze"? Probably never if you're not a carpen Mostly excellent. My only real criticism of this title is that it should contain a glossary of technological and mechanical terms. Since it does not, it may pay to either be a really well-read mechanical engineer or to have a reference close to hand. For example, I know that an "adze" is a hand tool but I always forget what the head looks like, and what it's for. It's not an axe or a hammer, and when was the last time you went to a hardware store for an "adze"? Probably never if you're not a carpenter. The devices and architectural innovations of the title are described, but sometimes in secondary terms that one may not remember. Recall what a "groin vault" is? How about a "millrace"? These can often be figured out from context, but I'd prefer to have real definitions to hand. The descriptions of weaving technique were fairly diligent but could have used even more careful explication to modern eyes for whom clothing comes from hangers at a department store. Another gripe is that the "trip hammer" is mentioned several times before its operation is actually explained. All of that said, this is a deeply fascinating and enlightening title. While there may have been a Dark Age in European history after the celebrated "fall of Rome", it was over by the eighth century, for in less than one hundred years, Western Europe saw a tremendous agricultural revolution which permanently increased agricultural productivity and transformed land use. The Gieses also collect quite a pile of evidence against the secularist prejudice (which I held) that the Christian Church of medieval Europe was primarily responsible for keeping the population ignorant and benighted. While this perspective is not completely punctured--witness, for instance, the potent ambivalence with which Church fathers regarded stonemasons--it seems inarguable that the Benedictine and Cistercian monastic orders in particular were responsible for making many technological innovations and dispersing even more throughout Christendom. (At the same time, as the handling of ancient texts from the Greeks, Romans, and ancient Near East is out of scope for this title, the darker side of the Christian church's role in the preservation of knowledge is largely unexplored...yet references abound here to texts and technologies that had to be re-imported, mainly through contacts with the Muslim world.) All in all, I regard this title as nearly essential reading for technological literacy and the history of Western Civilization.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mary Rose

    An incredibly important, valuable book that I could barely finish. Oy. Love these. Gies has chosen what I think is an extremely important topic to research: Medieval technology. In popular understanding, Medieval Europe was a 'dark age' where much was lost of Classical knowledge and close to no new inventions were made until the Renaissance. Medieval historians have long been fighting this notion, which is popularized by Renaissance and Enlightenment historians, and as a Medievalist I thought it An incredibly important, valuable book that I could barely finish. Oy. Love these. Gies has chosen what I think is an extremely important topic to research: Medieval technology. In popular understanding, Medieval Europe was a 'dark age' where much was lost of Classical knowledge and close to no new inventions were made until the Renaissance. Medieval historians have long been fighting this notion, which is popularized by Renaissance and Enlightenment historians, and as a Medievalist I thought it was my duty to read it. The thing is, Gies describes technology largely without diagrams and either I'm just stupid or he doesn't do a good job at explaining all the technicalities of how a blast furnace or a boat rudder works. Describing different levers and how they move together can take paragraphs and paragraphs but it doesn't further my understanding of Medieval technological advancements as a whole. These passages are far too long and dense and would have been very much helped by diagrams. The book is also broken up into only a handful of chapters which means reading it is a chore when there aren't enough places to stop. I think Gies also lost out on the opportunity to have a final chapter summarizing and explaining more clearly the implications of Medieval technology, but the book ends rather abruptly at the end of a chapter on Leonardo with a couple paragraphs of summation. So maybe my issue is that it's a good book written poorly, but honestly I skimmed most of the last chapter and avoided all of the long technological drivel sections. Would only recommend if you're seriously studying this period for a paper or something, not for any kind of passing interest readers.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Warren Watts

    The Middle Ages are often considered a time of stagnation in human cultural and scientific development. In Cathedral, Forge & Waterwheel: Technology & Invention in the Middle Ages, author Frances Gies proposes that quite to the contrary, the period of history between 500 AD and 1500 AD led to the development of several key technologies that subsequently allowed the scientific and industrial revolutions to occur. The development of the pointed and segmented arch permitted wider bridges to be span The Middle Ages are often considered a time of stagnation in human cultural and scientific development. In Cathedral, Forge & Waterwheel: Technology & Invention in the Middle Ages, author Frances Gies proposes that quite to the contrary, the period of history between 500 AD and 1500 AD led to the development of several key technologies that subsequently allowed the scientific and industrial revolutions to occur. The development of the pointed and segmented arch permitted wider bridges to be spanned; the waterwheel allowed grain to be ground more efficiently, feeding more people and lowering the cost of food; and the invention of the escapement allowed for the creation of accurate timekeeping and a sweeping change in the way that society divided the day between work and leisure. Written in a entertaining and interesting fashion, the book is far from "textbooky" and easy to read. Topics that could be dry and boring are presented in a way that lend them life and spirit and make for an interesting read. Highly recommended for anyone who has an interest in the history of science and invention.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Edoardo Albert

    The received wisdom, derived largely from Renaissance propagandists and their amplifiers during the Enlightenment, was that Europe, after the end of the Western Roman Empire, entered a period of savagery and civilisational decline arrested only by the Renaissance that enabled Europe to cast off the superstitious shackles of the Church and emerge into a new world. The truth is almost exactly the opposite. In fact, the period labelled the 'Dark Ages' saw some of the most profound and enduring devel The received wisdom, derived largely from Renaissance propagandists and their amplifiers during the Enlightenment, was that Europe, after the end of the Western Roman Empire, entered a period of savagery and civilisational decline arrested only by the Renaissance that enabled Europe to cast off the superstitious shackles of the Church and emerge into a new world. The truth is almost exactly the opposite. In fact, the period labelled the 'Dark Ages' saw some of the most profound and enduring developments in culture and civilisation since the Agricultural Revolution enabled the first sedentary civilisations. The 'Dark Ages' saw the end of slavery, the development of political and economic structures that have endured for two thousand years and a host of technological achievements that improved the lot of ordinary people in unimaginable ways. All slave-based empires have no incentive to find more efficient ways of doing things for, among the small number of hyper rich that dominate slave empires, the ability to employ slaves is a marker of their status. When Christianity made it impossible for Christians to keep slaves, there became a real incentive to find other ways of doing things. Among these innovations, the waterwheel, the forge, a new, heavier plough, all enabled ordinary people to lead significantly better lives than the poor of the Roman Empire: something confirmed by the analysis of remains from comparable cemeteries in Roman and Early Medieval times. It turns out, for all the bread and circuses, you would have been far better off, far better nourished, and significantly better protected under law, as a serf in medieval Europe than as a plebeian under Rome. The husband and wife writing team do an excellent job of tracing the main technological innovations in Europe during this time, looking at where the inventions came from and the evidence of how they spread. There's not so much about the social and cultural transformation but a good grasp of the the technological innovations will give the inquiring reader a grounding in the reasons why the Dark Ages were not so dark after all but the foundations for everything that followed: achievements and understandings that would always have been impossible for the Romans.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nick Carraway LLC

    1) ''From the long Paleolithic (Old Stone) Age came the tools and techniques that separated humankind forever from the animal world: language, fire making, hunting weapons and methods, domestication of animals. From the short Neolithic (New Stone) Age, beginning about 8000 B.C. in Mesopotamia, came agriculture and its tools---plow, sickle, ax, and mortar and pestle or stone grain crusher. The wheel and axle appeared in Mesopotamia between 3000 and 4000 B.C. The arts of cloth making were invented 1) ''From the long Paleolithic (Old Stone) Age came the tools and techniques that separated humankind forever from the animal world: language, fire making, hunting weapons and methods, domestication of animals. From the short Neolithic (New Stone) Age, beginning about 8000 B.C. in Mesopotamia, came agriculture and its tools---plow, sickle, ax, and mortar and pestle or stone grain crusher. The wheel and axle appeared in Mesopotamia between 3000 and 4000 B.C. The arts of cloth making were invented: felting, matting fibers together by boiling and beating to produce a nonwoven fabric; spinning, drawing out fibers of flax or wool and twisting them into a continuous strand, usually by means of a spindle; weaving, interlacing threads with the aid of a loom; fulling, soaking and beating cloth to remove grease; and dyeing. Raw hides were converted into leather by scraping and soaking with tannin, derived from oak bark. The important art of pottery making first modeled clay with fingers and thumb, then coiled strands of clay, and finally shaped its work with the potter's wheel, invented about 3000 B.C.'' 2) ''The undershot wheel typically achieved an efficiency of 15 to 30 percent, adequate for milling. For more demanding tasks, a superior design was the overshot wheel. In this arrangement the stream was channelled by a millrace or chute to the top of the wheel, bringing the full weight of the water to bear, with a resulting efficiency of 50 to 70 percent. Because it required dam, millrace, sluice gates, and tailrace as well as gearing, the overshot wheel had a high initial cost. Consequently, large landowners and even the Roman state were reluctant to build it.'' 3) ''The Khaifeng clock of 1090 was the creation of Su Sung, who first built a wooden pilot model, then cast his working parts in bronze. The water that supplied power was contained in a reservoir, refilled periodically by manually operated norias. Water passed by siphon from the reservoir to a constant-level tank and thence to the scoops of the waterwheel. An endless-chain drive slowly turned a celestial globe and an armillary sphere one revolution per day. The same waterwheel turned a series of shafts, gears, and wheels working the bells and drums that announced the time (like nearly all early mechanical clocks, Su Sung's had no face). The escapement that was the 'soul of the timekeeping machine' and that kept its movement at an even pace was a complex arrangement of balances, counterweights, and locks that divided the flow of the water into equal parts by repeated weighing, automatically dividing the revolution of the wheel into equal interval.'' 4) ''A unique document from thirteenth-century Douai gives an intimate picture of the putting-out system at work. The record of a legal proceeding in 1285-86 against the estate of Sire Jehan Boinebroke, cloth merchant and notorious skinflint, by forty-five clothworkers and other claimants illuminates the human as well as the economic aspect of the system. Boinebroke contracted through his agents to buy wool from Cistercian monasteries in England, making a down payment of about 3 percent. When the wool arrived, he sold it to the weaver, who took it home to sort, card, spin, and weave, with the help of his wife and children. The weaver then sold the unfinished cloth back to Boinebroke, who sold it to a fuller for cleaning and treating, after which he bought the finished cloth back and either sold it to a dyer or sent it to his own dye shop behind his house. Finally, he sold the fulled and dyed cloth to his agents, who took it to sell at either the Douai cloth market or the Flemish or Champagne fairs. Thus Boinebroke bought and sold the wool four times.'' 5) ''Of all the medieval cities, those most clearly foreshadowing the future were the great cloth towns of Flanders and Italy, where in place of the many specialized crafts of the smaller cities the dominant textile industry created harsh class differences. The houses of the rich drapers like Jehan Boinebroke clustered in Europe's first beau quartier residential districts, while the warrens of tenements that housed the families of the weavers formed the first proletarian slums.'' 6) ''An illustration from a Zurich manuscript of the mid-fourteenth century shows what seems to be the longitudinal suspension of a carriage body from leather straps, but such carriages did not arrive in numbers in western Europe until the following century. Their origin was Hungary, where the town of Kocs (hence 'coach,' coche, Kutsche) became famous for its lightweight, one-horse, leather-suspended passenger vehicles.'' 7) ''Adelard of Bath's translation of al-Khwarizmi had expounded the Hindu notation but only to a very limited circle even among the mathematically literate. Leonardo [Fibonacci] perceived its enormous potential value and in 1202 undertook its wider diffusion by writing what proved to be a seminal book in the history of mathematics and science, the Liber abaci (Book of the abacus). The book began: 'The nine Indian figures are 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1. With these nine figures and the sign 0, any number may be written, as demonstrated below.''' 8) '''Technology,' says Melvin Kranzberg, founder of the Society for the History of Technology, 'is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.' It is what each age and each society make of it. The Middle Ages used it sometimes wisely, sometimes recklessly, often for dubious purposes, seldom with a thought for the future, and with only a dim awareness of the scientific and mathematical laws governing it. But operating on instinct, insight, trial and error, and perseverance, the craftsmen and craftswomen, the entrepreneurs, the working monks and the clerical intellectuals, and the artist-engineers all transformed the world, on balance very much to the world's advantage.''

  7. 5 out of 5

    Frank

    Societal change is driven by technology. Marx understood this. Yet few historians pay much attention to technological triggers, and the great man narrative continues to dominate. CFW, therefore, addresses a yawning gap; and it could have been a great read. But there are many weaknesses: * The book is far too short in relation to the period it sets out to cover. * Even the simplest technology has its own breakdown into a dozen or so parts and it's corresponding vocabulary. CFW either ignores this, Societal change is driven by technology. Marx understood this. Yet few historians pay much attention to technological triggers, and the great man narrative continues to dominate. CFW, therefore, addresses a yawning gap; and it could have been a great read. But there are many weaknesses: * The book is far too short in relation to the period it sets out to cover. * Even the simplest technology has its own breakdown into a dozen or so parts and it's corresponding vocabulary. CFW either ignores this, or presents it as if it were already familiar. Wikipedia can help quite a lot, but still falls short. I would have appreciated many more diagrams and explanations. That, plus a full day's visit to a museum. * CFW treats the connection between technology and societal change as an afterthought. Admittedly, society is not the focus of the book. But I would have at least expected a timeline comparison.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Faranae

    I was going to give this 2 stars, for being a bit sloppy and failing to ever actually go to any Chinese written sources. They don't go into enough detail on the technology they do cover, and I feel much of this is that as historians, they had no practical mechanical understanding. It wasn't in vogue for historians to be hands-on in the 90s, as far as I can tell. Also, for them, Asia appears to consist solely of China and India, with no mention of Japan at all and only a brief nod to Korea, and t I was going to give this 2 stars, for being a bit sloppy and failing to ever actually go to any Chinese written sources. They don't go into enough detail on the technology they do cover, and I feel much of this is that as historians, they had no practical mechanical understanding. It wasn't in vogue for historians to be hands-on in the 90s, as far as I can tell. Also, for them, Asia appears to consist solely of China and India, with no mention of Japan at all and only a brief nod to Korea, and that's just of the Big Four. The Gies rely over-heavily on two particular historians, and their citations are insufficient to their claims throughout. I understand also that historians in the 90s (and honestly, today...) didn't like archeology, so not using that evidence unless it was convenient was a mere annoyance. But then I got to the final chapter, and the final 5 pages really settled the matter. It's downright offensive in its jingoistic praise for modern Western civilization, the triumph of Europe over China and the Americas and the apparent virtues of capitalism. They actually even manage to claim that China's printing culture was insignificant and stagnant, which simply asking any undergrad Chinese Literature major would have dispelled in less than five minutes at the time this book was written. Frankly, I'd feel absolutely no guilt if I was pressed to use this book as toilet paper or kindling.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Siria

    A pretty basic but comprehensive history of medieval technology, Cathedral, Forge and Waterwheel is best used as an introduction for the interested layperson to other scholarship in the field. The Gies have produced a good overview of various kinds of technologies, but I would disagree quite a bit with the conclusions they draw and the contextualisation they provide. Though written in 1994, it feels curiously old-fashioned at points. To be honest, I'm still a little confused as to why it was ass A pretty basic but comprehensive history of medieval technology, Cathedral, Forge and Waterwheel is best used as an introduction for the interested layperson to other scholarship in the field. The Gies have produced a good overview of various kinds of technologies, but I would disagree quite a bit with the conclusions they draw and the contextualisation they provide. Though written in 1994, it feels curiously old-fashioned at points. To be honest, I'm still a little confused as to why it was assigned for a graduate level course in medieval history—is there nothing more up-to-date and less lightweight out there?—but I don't resent having read it. For what that's worth. :D

  10. 4 out of 5

    VR O'Mahony

    This is a wonderful discussion of a generally ignored topic: the actual result of "the fall of the Roman Empire" was an explosion of steadily advancing technology across northern Europe. The Romans, and Greeks, had ignored new technologies (the horizontal loom in place of the clumsy vertical loom, the Chinese blast furnance to make steel, the Indian spinning wheel in place of the "woman's work" of spinning on a distaff, etc., etc., etc.) because they based their economies on slaves and had so no This is a wonderful discussion of a generally ignored topic: the actual result of "the fall of the Roman Empire" was an explosion of steadily advancing technology across northern Europe. The Romans, and Greeks, had ignored new technologies (the horizontal loom in place of the clumsy vertical loom, the Chinese blast furnance to make steel, the Indian spinning wheel in place of the "woman's work" of spinning on a distaff, etc., etc., etc.) because they based their economies on slaves and had so no value in improving efficiency. A book necessary to any understanding of either the Ancient Mediterranean or European history.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Filled with interesting anecdotes but presented in a rambling, repetitive style. The nominal scope is Europe in the middle ages, but they only stick to that topic for about a quarter of the book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    John

    I was somewhat disappointed with this book. The authors cover a lot of high level details, but never get detailed enough.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Vera

    Good history read, discussing the technological innovations of the Middle Ages which led to the technological revolution later.

  14. 4 out of 5

    SlowRain

    A very succinct look at human technical ingenuity, from the 6th to 16th centuries. For readers who have read their previous Life in a Medieval... series, there is some overlap. However, this book covers those topics in only passing detail. I'd still recommend those other books for more detailed information on cities, castles, and villages. I found the information on all of the technology that came from China and India quite fascinating, as well as similar technology that was developed independent A very succinct look at human technical ingenuity, from the 6th to 16th centuries. For readers who have read their previous Life in a Medieval... series, there is some overlap. However, this book covers those topics in only passing detail. I'd still recommend those other books for more detailed information on cities, castles, and villages. I found the information on all of the technology that came from China and India quite fascinating, as well as similar technology that was developed independently of each other's. There is also some interesting discussion as to what allowed China to take an initial technological lead, but why Europe eventually surpassed it. If I have one gripe, it's that there weren't enough pictures to back up the items and descriptions of what they were talking about. That would've made the book longer, and potentially more expensive, but it would've helped. In 2018 it's not a huge problem because of the internet, but it would've been more of an issue back in 1994 when it was originally published. Still, it's an informative read and probably the best of their books that I've read. I highly recommend it, along with their others.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    A bit of a laundry list at times, but a lot of interesting stuff here. Borrowings from east to west and back described, myths debunked. Great stuff on clocks and the devices that preceded them. Conveys everyday ways of doing things, as well as large projects. Illustrations are good - could have used even more of them, to explain mechanisms for those of us who are spatially or otherwise challenged.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Geoff Sebesta

    I took two years reading this book and it was worth it. This is definitely a book to read very, very slowly, to stop and to think and research at every point. I have a much greater love and understanding of mechanics now that I've read this. If you like insightful historical trivia, you can't do much better than this book. I took two years reading this book and it was worth it. This is definitely a book to read very, very slowly, to stop and to think and research at every point. I have a much greater love and understanding of mechanics now that I've read this. If you like insightful historical trivia, you can't do much better than this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Andy Todd

    Contains many bits of useful information that answer the question 'However did they do that?' in the context of Medieval engineering. That, however, is also its weakness: it jumps from one technology to another with no distinct directing line though the book. Contains many bits of useful information that answer the question 'However did they do that?' in the context of Medieval engineering. That, however, is also its weakness: it jumps from one technology to another with no distinct directing line though the book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Medieval history? History of technology? I'm in. A little uneven towards the end, and the CFW of the title is not really the focus of the ms, but a solid scan of early, middle, and high medieval tech innovation and diffusion in Europe. Medieval history? History of technology? I'm in. A little uneven towards the end, and the CFW of the title is not really the focus of the ms, but a solid scan of early, middle, and high medieval tech innovation and diffusion in Europe.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Riversue

    This book covers a lot of ground , both from the perspective of time and depth of science and inventions. Clear writing. This is a very good reference book

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michael Nalbone

    A Nerd's treat. A Nerd's treat.

  21. 4 out of 5

    James Henderson

    For more than a century following the publication in 1776 of Edward Gibbon's massive tome, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages were indicted as "the triumph of barbarism and religion". In doing this he coupled the two bête noires of the intellectuals of his day, with the Catholic Church especially complicit in its rejection of change in science and agriculture. Yet in the present book the authors proffer evidence that the dark ages were not nearly so dark as assumed by many For more than a century following the publication in 1776 of Edward Gibbon's massive tome, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages were indicted as "the triumph of barbarism and religion". In doing this he coupled the two bête noires of the intellectuals of his day, with the Catholic Church especially complicit in its rejection of change in science and agriculture. Yet in the present book the authors proffer evidence that the dark ages were not nearly so dark as assumed by many. They demonstrate this by chronicling the developments in technology over the centuries preceding the Renaissance. Some of these included the magnetic compass which would enable the voyages of discovery in the fifteenth century, water power for industry, and new designs for ships with full rigging. Europe did not develop ideas in isolation but was able to adopt ideas originating in the civilizations of Islam, India and China. The book's scope is the thousand years from the fall of the Western Roman Empire to the discovery of the New World. The authors divide the book into seven chapters into which they arrange most of their material chronologically. In the chapter on "The Not so Dark Ages: A.D. 500-900" the authors debunk the notion that little happened in those four hundred years. The authors discuss warfare, textiles, agriculture, and the ways in which long-distance navigation and trade spurred urban growth in northwest Europe. Using archaeological research published as recently as 1990, the authors describe how "specialized trading settlements called 'emporia' and 'gateway communities' sprang up near the North Sea and Channel coasts" in the seventh and eighth centuries (p. 43). One of the most valuable chapters is "The Asian Connection." The authors remind us that although the revival of the European economy and the re-urbanization of Europe are often described as a "Renaissance" of classical antiquity, some of the most crucial technological innovations came from beyond Europe. These imports include the trio of gunpowder, the printing press, and the magnetic compass. The physical configuration of early-modern cities, the nature of their intellectual life, and the potential of Europeans to begin a program of overseas expansion depended more upon inventions borrowed from Asia than any revival of Roman technology. The book also chronicles the onset and expansion of the commercial revolution and the consequent growth of cities. The authors explore the environmental impact of land reclamation and deforestation. They note that "the growing pressures of construction and industry brought Europeans for the first time to a consciousness of the forest's limits" (p. 171). The book concludes with the voyages of Columbus and the products of the genius of Da Vinci as the dawn of the Renaissance was on the horizon.

  22. 4 out of 5

    H. Honsinger

    I read this book several years ago, and strongly recommend it to anyone with an interest in either medieval history or the history of technology. The thesis of this well-written book, which draws heavily and very interestingly from a plethora of unusual primary sources, is that the Middle Ages have gotten a bad rap. Rather than a long dark millennium of ignorance and stagnation, the Medieval period was an age of significant technological innovation. Cathedral building was the crucible in which t I read this book several years ago, and strongly recommend it to anyone with an interest in either medieval history or the history of technology. The thesis of this well-written book, which draws heavily and very interestingly from a plethora of unusual primary sources, is that the Middle Ages have gotten a bad rap. Rather than a long dark millennium of ignorance and stagnation, the Medieval period was an age of significant technological innovation. Cathedral building was the crucible in which the medieval mind mastered intricate stone working, made major inroads into modern mathematics, and developed engineering and construction techniques that laid the foundation of the modern world. Medieval smiths and builders also made major advances in metalworking, alloys, and the harnessing of water power that helped lay the foundation for the industrial revolution. Indeed, the technological springboard from which Europe was propelled into modernity was built during the middle ages. What made this book stand out was the way the author mined his primary sources. Real stories and hard data about how many water powered mills were operating in London or what kinds of problems had to be solved by a particular cathedral builder turn what could have been an abstract discussion into real, gritty nuts and bolts that you can get your hands on and sink your intellectual teeth into. I really enjoyed this book. I've read it two or three times and would probably read it again this weekend if I didn't have so much other work stacked up.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    Husband and wife team of (amateur?) scholars, synthesize recent scholarship (from mid 60's on) on the middle ages for your reading pleasure. As the title hints at and the subtitle: Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages, spells out, the focus is the manner in which technology and invention transformed society in the area soon to be known as "the West". The broadest service this book provides is to cue the reader in to the massive scholarship on the subject that exists outside the English sp Husband and wife team of (amateur?) scholars, synthesize recent scholarship (from mid 60's on) on the middle ages for your reading pleasure. As the title hints at and the subtitle: Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages, spells out, the focus is the manner in which technology and invention transformed society in the area soon to be known as "the West". The broadest service this book provides is to cue the reader in to the massive scholarship on the subject that exists outside the English speaking world of academia. The French in particular have made many developments in this field of study, but their work seems to be only occasionally translated. The Gies' are careful footnoters and their method is fairly rigorous. Because they rely on the scholarship that is anywhere from 10 to 200 years old, there are bound to be statements that are inaccurate. This does not effect the merit of the book. This book provides and excellent introduction to the scholarship on the history of the middle ages, specficically as it relates to technology. However, the bibliography points the interested reader to a fuller picture of the available scholarship, and therfore Cathedral, Forge and Waterwheel, is useful in that sense as well. Probably not for strictly "general" readers, nor for scholars/academics, this book is best for the motivated lay reader.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Subodh

    The general impression about the middle ages is that the period from 500 CE to about 1500 CE was one of darkness, justifying the term 'Dark Ages'. Nothing of note happened during this period. Then - in a burst of creativity and freedom of spirit - the Renaissance, Reformation and Industrial Revolution happened in quick succession. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the consequent shifting of Greek scholars to the West is sometimes presented as the trigger for this change. Frances Gies sets ou The general impression about the middle ages is that the period from 500 CE to about 1500 CE was one of darkness, justifying the term 'Dark Ages'. Nothing of note happened during this period. Then - in a burst of creativity and freedom of spirit - the Renaissance, Reformation and Industrial Revolution happened in quick succession. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the consequent shifting of Greek scholars to the West is sometimes presented as the trigger for this change. Frances Gies sets out to correct this impression. A lot had happened before the Renaissance. Once Europe settled down after the fall of the Western Roman Empire a slow but sure process of rebuilding the economy and institutions began. The cities and their traders and tradesmen played an important role in this process. Inventions made elsewhere, mostly in China, were quickly adopted and adapted to Europe's needs. The clergy also played its role as a custodian of learning and its emphasis on manual work in the monasteries. The accumulation of small improvements in technology was important enough to deserve the sobriquet of a mini-industrial revolution in 12th century Europe. The book gives a fascinating insight into the development of Europe - the Continent that defines our time - during this crucial period.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kirstie

    I must confess, I'm not sure how to review a non-fiction book, I've read plenty but never reviewed. I'll try my best though. This book is about inventions and technology and its advancement during the Middle ages. The general belief is that during that time not much happened technology-wise until daVinci showed up, but this book busts that myth. Cathedral, Forge and Waterwheel is full of information on all manner of technology, not just the invention and its applications but often how it came to b I must confess, I'm not sure how to review a non-fiction book, I've read plenty but never reviewed. I'll try my best though. This book is about inventions and technology and its advancement during the Middle ages. The general belief is that during that time not much happened technology-wise until daVinci showed up, but this book busts that myth. Cathedral, Forge and Waterwheel is full of information on all manner of technology, not just the invention and its applications but often how it came to be created, who invented it, if the origins may have originally been conceived in Asia then advanced by Europe and more. For a writer of fantasy based in medieval-resembling worlds this book is a treasure trove of ideas. I marked every inspiring piece with a flag, for a peek at what this book looked like part-way through look at this post from my blog: http://www.storybookperfect.com/flags... The reading can be a bit of a hard slog when the inventions are less interesting/inspiring, but its all very informative and there is a lot to learn that I must admit I never really thought of. I would recommend this book as an eye-opener for anyone who assumes the 'Dark Ages' were a time of stagnation, other writers of fantasy and anyone intrigued by that period in time.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Bertolet

    For those who still think the Middle Ages is a period of "dark ages" this book would be a good place to start to dispell that myth. It is a fascinating account of the development of technology in the middle ages. Much of the technology in the Middle Ages arose from borrowing and adapting technology from China and the Arabs but this is not to discredit the Middle Ages. This fascinating book covers just about all areas in breadth and scope of technological advancement in the Middle Ages from cloth For those who still think the Middle Ages is a period of "dark ages" this book would be a good place to start to dispell that myth. It is a fascinating account of the development of technology in the middle ages. Much of the technology in the Middle Ages arose from borrowing and adapting technology from China and the Arabs but this is not to discredit the Middle Ages. This fascinating book covers just about all areas in breadth and scope of technological advancement in the Middle Ages from cloth making, building, waterwheels, to weaponary and ship building. The Giles avoid most of the historical debates although occassionally commenting on a few. This book dispells the myth that the modern age arose merely from Aristotle and shows rather that the rise of modern science "a child of medival science."

  27. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    If you are really interested in the subject, this is a tremendous source book. If you just want to learn something about the subject and the themes, this is a very hard book to read. I gave it only 3 stars, given that it is basically just a listing of examples grouped by century through the middle ages. There is little interpretation, and the summary conclusion is a very simply theme: those medievals had it goin' on. Even for non-fiction, it is pretty dry. Nevertheless, before I had even finished If you are really interested in the subject, this is a tremendous source book. If you just want to learn something about the subject and the themes, this is a very hard book to read. I gave it only 3 stars, given that it is basically just a listing of examples grouped by century through the middle ages. There is little interpretation, and the summary conclusion is a very simply theme: those medievals had it goin' on. Even for non-fiction, it is pretty dry. Nevertheless, before I had even finished my library copy I ordered a new hardcover edition. The collection of facts, well researched and very well documented, and a rich bibliography, make this a must-own for anyone (like me) seriously interested in the history of engineering and technology. I still wish the authors had devoted more time and space to interpretation of themes, trends, etc., but it will be a great reference.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Bittner

    It is rare that we read a book about the things that came out of what is often called the Dark ages of Europe as it concerns technology and invention. Cathedral, Forge & Waterwheel talks about many of the advances that were made during that time as being piecemeal improvements, instead of the advances that would come about during the industrial age. Unlike the industrial age, advances such as the waterwheel do not have a single inventor that can be pointed at, because each invention was one tiny It is rare that we read a book about the things that came out of what is often called the Dark ages of Europe as it concerns technology and invention. Cathedral, Forge & Waterwheel talks about many of the advances that were made during that time as being piecemeal improvements, instead of the advances that would come about during the industrial age. Unlike the industrial age, advances such as the waterwheel do not have a single inventor that can be pointed at, because each invention was one tiny improvement on the whole, instead of being created all at once, like the telephone. but without the advancements in architecture and technology the inventions that would come about during the renaissance, Victorian era, and Industrial ages would have been either delayed or non-existent.

  29. 4 out of 5

    James Mietus

    Joseph and Frances Gies are my favorite historians of the so-called Middle Ages. Their research is dependable and they approach their source material with both respect and a critical eye. This work is more academic than others that I have come across, but it remains very accessible to the non-medievalist reader. A glossary of technical terms might have been helpful, but this is only a minor fault and it its exclusion should not frighten away even the most mediocre reader as long as he/she is inte Joseph and Frances Gies are my favorite historians of the so-called Middle Ages. Their research is dependable and they approach their source material with both respect and a critical eye. This work is more academic than others that I have come across, but it remains very accessible to the non-medievalist reader. A glossary of technical terms might have been helpful, but this is only a minor fault and it its exclusion should not frighten away even the most mediocre reader as long as he/she is interested in the subject matter. My only major criticism is that the book focuses only on Western Europe. However, this is a discipline-wide deficiency and should not reflect poorly on the authors.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    I put this book into two shelves as it belongs both to the Tech group and the history group. The tech group as it shows how technology was disseminated across the world and the history group as it shows the history of the technology from how it started through the 15th Century. Overall I found it fascinating and a good read on how tech spreads out. I would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to understand our civilization.

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