In This Review

Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages
Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages
By Dan Jones
Viking, 2021, 656 pp

Jones is best known for writing popular histories and producing television series such as Secrets of Great British Castles and Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty; perhaps unsurprisingly, his history of Europe between the fall of Rome and the Protestant Reformation is neither deep nor authoritative. But it certainly is entertaining. In an old-school manner, Jones weaves together brief biographical sketches of colorful people, from Attila the Hun to Martin Luther, with engaging yarns about the critical events in which they took part. He nods to historiographic fashion just long enough to inquire about the impact of climate change and to ask why European countries rose to global preeminence in this period. But in the end, his question-begging answer is simply that they had grown stronger and richer, and he tells that tale without much criticism of its more brutal aspects. Still, the resulting account of the Middle Ages is as engaging a read as any.