Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages by Dan Jones is what I’d consider a “brief” tour of a period in civilization historians have coined the Middle Ages. Although this book consists of almost 650+ pages, it’s just nigh high impossible to fit every single detail of every single event that occurred in this period. What this book does do is provide a somewhat brief account of the more important events that took place. It is then up to the readers to digest what they have read and decide if they should pick up other resources to hone in on that specific topic of interest. Therefore, readers who are looking for an “authoritative” resource of The Middle Ages won’t find it here in Powers and Thrones. By the end, it’s more like a pick-your-own-adventure in that you get to decide where to go next. Personally, the Protestant Reformation is what caught my attention the most and will be my next area of study after this. The small chapter on this important subject will do it no justice here!
They had simply not known what they were looking at.
The power of Dan Jones as an author, from what I’m reading, is that he is able to write in a way that makes reading history easy to comprehend and I absolutely agree. Maybe the trick is to just not stick on one subject for too long or one that should have ended 50-100 pages ago. Either way, Powers and Thrones is laid out so that each chapter brings us a step closer to the actual end of the Middle Ages. We get to learn about monks, churches, wars and conquests, quests for new lands, disastrous plagues, religion, reformation of said religions, important characters of their time and of course, who could forget about all the kings and queens and their infinite love of a power struggle. I love the chronological format rather than jumping around between periods as this makes things much more easier for the reader to keep track of. Based on reading other history book reviews of Dan Jones, many have agreed to the same thing and this surely makes reading any history book a lot more accessible to even the most casual of readers.
“The past has devoured us, the present is gnawing our entrails, the future threatens yet greater dangers.” – De’ Mussis
Not much negative could be said for Powers and Thrones coming from a normal but above-your-average-joe history buff. Each chapter presented something worthwhile to learn more about on my own. Although you’ll certainly encounter events that you’ve learnt about elsewhere such as the crusades, this obviously can’t be helped. The author generally won’t interrupt the story and flow of things with opinions and biases of his own. I have no idea why some reviewers have issues with the author comparing certain events in the past with events of today such as climate change, social media and so on. If you believe you are one of those said readers, don’t worry. The comparisons are few and between. Do not let that prevent you from reading and learning of this great time period from one of the best known author of today on this subject matter.