By Barbara W. Tuchman
"Wise, witty, and beautiful . . . a very good booklet, in a very good old tradition." Commentary
The 14th century offers us again contradictory photographs: a glittering time of crusades and castles, cathedrals and chivalry, and a gloomy time of ferocity and non secular soreness, an international plunged right into a chaos of battle, worry and the Plague. Barbara Tuchman anatomizes the century, revealing either the good rhythms of heritage and the grain and texture of household lifestyles because it was once lived.
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Additional info for A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
The roof was riddled with holes. A big fragment of shell had removed half the chimney. In the regimental office next door, a few sizeable splinters had drilled through the walls and the large wardrobe, shredding the uniforms that were kept there for wear on home leave. On 8 February, the sector received a vigorous pummelling. It began early in the morning when our own artillery dropped a dud on the dugout of my right flank, to the consternation of those within, pushing through the door and toppling the stove.
Our only consolation was that the British were just as badly off as we were, because we could see them baling out for all they were worth. Since our position has a little more elevation than theirs, we even managed to pump our excess their way. Also, we used rifles with telescopic sights on them. The crumbled trench walls exposed a line of bodies left there from the previous autumn's fighting. 9 November. Was standing next to Territorial Wiegmann in front of Altenburg Redoubt when a long shot passed through his bayonet, which he was carrying over his shoulder, and gave him a bad wound in the groin.
Another joins it with a squeak, and, before long, the whole place is swarming with the lithe shapes emerging from their holes in ruined village basements or among the shot-up bomb shelters. Hunting rats is a much-loved change from the tedium of sentry duty. A piece of bread is put out as bait, and a rifle is leveled at it, or gunpowder from dud shells is sprinkled in their holes and torched. Then they come squeaking out with singed fur. They are repellent creatures, and I'm always thinking of the secret desecrations they perform on the bodies in the village basements.
A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara W. Tuchman