Margaret Aston’s The Fifteenth Century is the second book I’ve read from the Library of World Civilization series, which seems to be pretty good in all. The books come with a large number of illustrations well placed with the text they’re illustrating. However, these are older books and the layout can be cramped.

The thesis of this one is that at the beginning of the 15th Century, western culture can be seen as “Christendom”, but by the end of the century, there is a move towards a European (instead of religious) community.

After talking about it in the first chapter, there’s no more direct discussion in the rest of the book, but it does go on to tackle a variety of subjects in considerable length, ranging from changing views of knowledge, how the past was different from the present (and the creation of the idea that historical figures should not be presented in contemporary dress and scenery), to the changing relationship of the church and the layman.

In all, it is a very informative read, and a great starting point on the period.