An illuminating look at the monumental inventions of the Middle Ages, by the authors of Life in a Medieval Castle. change in historical theory that has come to perceive technological innovation in all ages as primarily a social process rather than a disconnected series of. LibraryThing Review. User Review – TLCrawford – LibraryThing. I truly enjoyed reading Frances and Joseph Gies’ Cathedral, Forge and.

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Jul 20, Nick Rudzicz rated it really liked it.

This is a wonderful discussion of a generally ignored topic: Be the first to ask a question about Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel. The authors cover a lot of high level details, but never get detailed enough. It was only in the West that these ideas fully bore fruit. Then – in a burst of creativity and freedom of spirit – the Renaissance, Reformation and Industrial Revolution happened in quick succession.

All in all, a good read. If you like insightful historical trivia, you can’t do much better than this book. Nevertheless, before I had even finished my library copy I waterwueel a new hardcover edition.

This book is about inventions and technology and its advancement during the Middle ages. How about a “millrace”?

For more than a century following the publication in of Edward Gibbon’s massive tome, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages were indicted as wwterwheel triumph of barbarism and religion”. However, this book covers those topics in only passing detail. 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. Once Europe settled down after the fall of the Western Roman Empire a slow but sure process of rebuilding rorge economy and institutions began.

Yet in the present book the authors proffer evidence that the dark ages were not nearly so dark as assumed by many.


The record of a legal proceeding in 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. 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.

That would’ve made the book longer, and potentially more expensive, but it would’ve helped. Frances Gies sets ou The general impression about the middle ages is that the period from CE to about CE was one of darkness, justifying the term ‘Dark Ages’.

They demonstrate this by chronicling the developments in technology over the centuries preceding the Renaissance. Lists with This Book. Written in a entertaining and interesting fashion, the book is far from “textbooky” and easy to read. 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.

This is definitely a book to read very, very slowly, to stop and to think and research at every point. 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. It also refutes several commonly-held beliefs about the middle ages.

That, however, is also its weakness: I would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to understand our civilization. The Gies’ are careful footnoters and their method is fairly rigorous. Would only recommend if you’re seriously studying this period for a paper or something, not for any kind of passing interest readers. Good history read, discussing the technological innovations of the Middle Ages which led to the technological revolution later.

Contents Nimrods Tower Noahs Ark. I’ll try my best though.

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

If I had to find a quibble, it would be the very minor one that I expected a bit more on building technology, and that is very minor This book is an excellent study in the general progress of technology during the Middle Ages, debunking the centuries-old conventional wisdom that the frge was somehow a step backwards or idling vis-a-vis the Romans.


I found the information on all awterwheel the technology that came from China and India quite fascinating, as well as similar technology that was developed independently catherdal each other’s. The general belief is that during that time not much happened technology-wise until daVinci showed up, but this book busts that myth. I really enjoyed this book. Open Preview Watfrwheel a Problem? 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.

A book necessary to any understanding of either the Ancient Mediterranean or European history. For more demanding tasks, a superior design was the overshot wheel. I got some of this, but quite a bit more of the simple history of technology.

Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel: Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages by Frances Gies

View all 8 comments. This book was a little academic for my taste. Nov 11, James Mietus rated it really liked it. Joseph and Frances Gies are my favorite historians of the so-called Middle Ages. Frances and Joseph Gies have been writing books about medieval history for thirty years. Thus Boinebroke bought and sold the wool four times.

There is also some interesting discussion as to what allowed China to take an initial technological lead, but why Europe eventually surpassed it.