There’s long been a belief that the period of time between the Roman Empire and the Renaissance in Europe was a dark period in time – it’s often called the Dark Ages. When I was still in school, history textbooks had a dim view of that time – there were other cultures making significant discoveries, and Europe was written off as a backwater not doing all that much.
There’s been a lot of scholarship since then that refutes that, and this book goes over some of themes, with a particular focus on the countries around the North Sea. They probably get the worst reputation of all – since they’re associated with ravaging German tribes and Vikings hordes. The author sets out to show that this supposed edge of the world was actually fairly sophisticated, and contributed quite a bit to the medieval world.
I can’t promise this is the most exciting book ever written about history, but it is interesting – the author discusses things like how money became important for trade, and how women’s lives could be more independent because of trade (and their husbands being away). I also enjoyed how much detail about non-English speaking people was in the book – I think it’s easy for English speaking people to get stuck on English history, since we speak that language, and there’s that much more scholarship available because of it. But there were other people and countries, like the Vikings, or the forerunners of the Netherlands and Belgium, doing important things.