The Medieval Machine: The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages. Jean Gimpel. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

The Medieval Machine: The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages Book Cover The Medieval Machine: The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages
Jean Gimpel
Holt, Rinehart and Winston

Here is an original, timely, and fascinating revelation of Western and medieval society, a book with a provocative double thesis: that the Middle Ages experienced the first true industrial revolution, in some ways more significant than the popularly accepted turning point of the nineteenth century, and that the decline of the Middle Ages bears extraordinary parallels to the failings of modern industrial society, especially in the United States. The author concentrates on technology and invention, aspects largely neglected up to now in more humanistically oriented studies of medieval times. Through marvelously vivid details and graphically selected source material, he reconstructs the commercial life of the period, giving us a vital appreciation of how energy resources, manpower and shear ingenuity were applied to such fields of medieval endeavor as agriculture, light industry, the construction trades, and mining. Throughout he extracts clear and acute analogies to modern-day phenomena and institutions, while also bringing to life some of the great men of the period – the architect-engineers and other technicians whose genius anticipated many of the innovations credited to Leonardo and other Renaissance luminaries. A generous variety of illustrations demonstrates particular aspects of industrial life and reinforces the author’s theme of dynamic invention as a central and characteristic force of the Middle Ages.

Jean Gimpel is a medieval scholar and social historian whose previous book, The Cathedral Builders, was highly praised here and abroad. He has lectured at Yale and other U.S. universities, and at present lives in London.