Francesco Petrarca of Florence

Petrarch and the 14th century




Selections from the Canzoniere,

translated by Mark Musa,

Oxford World's Classics,

ISBN 0199540691

See the materials on the sidebar, with chronologies and a Petrarch biography page that includes his poem "Solo e Pensoso," as well as other information.

Make sure you read Petrarch's "Letter to Posterity" and bring it to class.


Barbara Tuchman,

A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century,

Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reissue edition (July 12, 1987),

ISBN 0345349571

This is the best book in English on the 14th Century and I can't imagine anyone will ever write a better one. Barbara Tuchman was a miracle in the history world. She had no special training; she was just a Manhattan housewife who loved history. One day she walked down Fifth Avenue to the New York Public Library. She began to read and soon began to write and was soon into a spectacular career as an international best-selling author. She wrote five of the best books ever written in the field. Her masterpiece is A Distant Mirror on the 14th Century. She takes one character, Enguerand de Coucy, a French noble whose life touched almost everyone important in the century, and then she takes us all through the stories of the incredible century. History has never been better. It is like a novel; only better. You can read it on paper, in Kindle, or on audible.

Amazon Comment:
In this sweeping historical narrative, Barbara Tuchman writes of the cataclysmic 14th century, when the energies of medieval Europe were devoted to fighting internecine wars and warding off the plague. Some medieval thinkers viewed these disasters as divine punishment for mortal wrongs; others, more practically, viewed them as opportunities to accumulate wealth and power. One of the latter, whose life informs much of Tuchman's book, was the French nobleman Enguerrand de Coucy, who enjoyed the opulence and elegance of the courtly tradition while ruthlessly exploiting the peasants under his thrall. Tuchman looks into such events as the Hundred Years War, the collapse of the medieval church, and the rise of various heresies, pogroms, and other events that caused medieval Europeans to wonder what they had done to deserve such horrors.

“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.”—The New York Review of Books

“A beautiful, extraordinary book . . . Tuchman at the top of her powers . . . She has done nothing finer.”—The Wall Street Journal

“Wise, witty, and wonderful . . . a great book, in a great historical tradition.”—Commentary

From the Publisher
Anyone who has read THE GUNS OF AUGUST or STILWELL AND THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE IN CHINA, knows that Barbara Tuchman was one of the most gifted American writers of this century. Her subject was history, but her profiles of great men and great events are drawn with such power that reading Tuchman becomes a riveting experience. In A DISTANT MIRROR, Barbara Tuchman illuminates the Dark Ages. Her description of medieval daily life, the role of the church, the influence of the Great Plagues, and the social and political conventions that make this period of history so engrossing, are carefully woven into an integrated narrative that sweeps the reader along. I am a particular devotee of medieval and pre Renaissance music, so Barbara Tuchman's brilliant analysis of this period has special meaning for me - and I hope for many others. George Davidson, Director of Production, The Ballantine Publishing Group

About the Author
Barbara W. Tuchman (1912–1989) achieved prominence as a historian with The Zimmermann Telegram and international fame with The Guns of August—a huge bestseller and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Her other works include Bible and Sword, The Proud Tower, Stilwell and the American Experience in China (for which Tuchman was awarded a second Pulitzer Prize), Notes from China, A Distant Mirror, Practicing History, The March of Folly, and The First Salute.