The Bright Ages: A New History of Medieval Europe


The word “medieval” conjures images of the “Dark Ages”—centuries of ignorance, superstition, stasis, savagery, and poor hygiene. But the myth of darkness obscures the truth; this was a remarkable period in human history. The Bright Ages recasts the European Middle Ages for what it was, capturing this 1,000-year era in all its complexity and fundamental humanity, bringing to light both its beauty and its horrors. 

The Bright Ages takes us through ten centuries and crisscrosses Europe and the Mediterranean, Asia and Africa, revisiting familiar people and events with new light cast upon them. We look with fresh eyes on the Fall of Rome, Charlemagne, the Vikings, the Crusades, and the Black Death, but also to the multi-religious experience of Iberia, the rise of Byzantium, and the genius of Hildegard and the power of queens. We begin under a blanket of golden stars constructed by an empress with Germanic, Roman, Spanish, Byzantine, and Christian bloodlines and end nearly 1,000 years later with the poet Dante—inspired by that same twinkling celestial canopy—writing an epic saga of heaven and hell that endures as a masterpiece of literature today.  

The Bright Ages reminds us just how permeable our manmade borders have always been and of what possible worlds the past has always made available to us. The Middle Ages may have been a world “lit only by fire” but it was one whose torches illuminated the magnificent rose windows of cathedrals, even as they stoked the pyres of accused heretics.  

Editorial Review

“The Bright Ages: A New History of Medieval Europe” by Matthew Gabriele and David M. Perry is a thoroughly researched and engaging account of the medieval era. The authors seek to dispel the common misconception that the Middle Ages were a dark and dismal time, and instead paint a vivid picture of the vibrancy and diversity of medieval society.

The book is divided into chapters that focus on various aspects of medieval life, such as religion, politics, and culture. Gabriele and Perry draw on a wide range of sources, including contemporary accounts, archeological evidence, and artistic works, to provide a nuanced and multifaceted view of the medieval period.

One of the strengths of the book is its emphasis on the role of marginalized groups in shaping medieval society. The authors highlight the contributions of women, people of color, and LGBTQ individuals, challenging the notion that the Middle Ages were a time of homogeneity and exclusivity.

Another notable feature of the book is its accessibility. Despite the extensive research that underlies it, “The Bright Ages” is written in a clear and engaging style that makes it accessible to a wide range of readers.

Overall, “The Bright Ages: A New History of Medieval Europe” is a must-read for anyone interested in the Middle Ages. It offers a refreshing and illuminating perspective on a period of history that is often misunderstood, and does so in a way that is both informative and engaging.

The Bright Ages: A New History of Medieval Europe
The Bright Ages A New History of Medieval Europe by Matthew Gabriele & David M. Perry
Genre: Non-fiction history
Age Range: Adult
Start Rating: 4.2 stars
Publication Date: 7th December 2021
ISBN13: 978-0062980892

Author: Matthew Gabriele

Matthew Gabriele

Matthew Gabriele

Matthew Gabriele is a historian and professor of medieval studies at Virginia Tech. He received his Ph.D. in medieval studies from the University of Notre Dame in 2007, and has since become a leading scholar in his field. Gabriele has published widely on a range of topics related to medieval Europe, including crusades, religion, and gender.

In addition to his academic work, Gabriele is also a public commentator and writer. He has written for a number of popular publications, including The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and The New York Times, and is known for his engaging and accessible writing style.

Gabriele is the author of several books, including “The Legend of Charlemagne in the Middle Ages: Power, Faith, and Crusade”, and “Apocalypse and Reform from Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages”. He is also the co-editor of “The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Christianity”.

Gabriele is a sought-after speaker and has given lectures at universities and conferences around the world. He is known for his ability to bring the medieval period to life, and to make its complexities and nuances accessible to a wide range of audiences.

Overall, Matthew Gabriele is a respected and influential figure in the world of medieval studies, and his work has made an important contribution to our understanding of this fascinating period of history.

Author: David M. Perry

David M. Perry

David M. Perry

David M. Perry is a writer and historian who is passionate about bringing the past to life for modern audiences. He has a Ph.D. in medieval history from the University of Minnesota and has taught at institutions such as Dominican University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Metropolitan State University.

Perry’s work focuses on the intersections of history, culture, and politics, particularly as they relate to marginalized communities. He is a frequent contributor to publications such as The Atlantic, The Guardian, and CNN, and has written extensively on topics ranging from disability rights to the history of video games.

In addition to his writing, Perry is an advocate for disability rights and serves as a board member for organizations such as Little Lobbyists and Access Living. He has also been a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement and has spoken out against sexual harassment and assault in academic and professional settings.

Perry’s work has been recognized with numerous awards and honors, including the Silver Medal for Best Column/Blog at the 2018 International Regional Magazine Association Awards. He is also a frequent commentator on radio and television programs, including NPR’s “All Things Considered” and MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.”

Overall, David M. Perry is a writer and historian who is committed to using his expertise to promote social justice and make history accessible to a wide audience.


  • Frankopan, P. (2022, January 9). The Bright Ages by Matthew Gabriele and David Perry review – the colourful side of the dark ages. The Guardian; The Guardian.

  • Gabriele, M., & Perry, D. M. (2021). The Bright Ages. HarperCollins.

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