Chosen as a Book of the Year by The Times, Daily Telegraph, TLS, BBC History Magazine and Tablet
'Compulsive, brilliantly clear and superbly well-written, it's a charismatic evocation of another world' Ian Mortimer, author of The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England
The Middle Ages were a time of wonder. They gave us the first universities, the first eyeglasses and the first mechanical clocks as medieval thinkers sought to understand the world around them, from the passing of the seasons to the stars in the sky.
In this book, we walk the path of medieval science with a real-life guide, a fourteenth-century monk named John of Westwyk - inventor, astrologer, crusader - who was educated in England's grandest monastery and exiled to a clifftop priory. Following the traces of his life, we learn to see the natural world through Brother John's eyes: navigating by the stars, multiplying Roman numerals, curing disease and telling the time with an astrolabe.
We travel the length and breadth of England, from Saint Albans to Tynemouth, and venture far beyond the shores of Britain. On our way, we encounter a remarkable cast of characters: the clock-building English abbot with leprosy, the French craftsman-turned-spy and the Persian polymath who founded the world's most advanced observatory.
An enthralling story of the struggles and successes of an ordinary man and an extraordinary time, The Light Ages conjures up a vivid picture of the medieval world as we have never seen it before.
Stunning: both exquisitely written and so very clever. By following the life of one little-known monk, John of Westwyk, Falk opens up for us the sophisticated and utterly different ways in which people in the Middle Ages thought and makes us question our assumptions about the medieval past.
Turns our understanding of medieval science on its head ... Falk shows how scientific inquiries central to the Renaissance actually began generations earlier than we thought, and despite our perception of the church as the enemy of science, those intellectual pioneers were often monks
As fascinating as it is exquisitely written . . . the range of mathematics, astronomy, and engineering is impressive. More impressive still is the elegance with which Falk tells the tale
Remarkable ... a book that illuminates not just the visionaries of the past but also the troubled state of anti-intellectualism in the modern world
"Might it change minds?" is my criterion. The Light Ages might. Seb Falk's dazzling study of a late-medieval scientist is an uncontainably tentacular monograph, reaching from a windswept cell at Tynemouth, where John of Westwyck built an astrolabe, to penetrate unexplored recesses of the history and philosophy of science, and extending across Christendom into the cultures that surrounded and informed it. Falk excises errors about the Middle Ages without filleting their enchantment
Unambiguously and successfully an antidote to the cliché of the 'Dark Ages' as a millennium of stagnation and regression . . . Falk's approach is to explain the things we share with our medieval forebears and the things we differ on: to reveal how they saw the universe
Riveting. . . a brilliant study of medieval astronomy and learning . . . I agree with Falk. We need to give more respect to the giants of the Middle Ages on whose shoulders we stand
Fascinating . . . the Dark Ages were anything but dark; Falk's book is a lucid and eloquent reproof to anyone who says otherwise
Seb Falk lays out the wonders of medieval science. . . The mechanical clock, spectacles, advances in navigation, a grasp of tides and currents - these were among the achievements of the Middle Ages
A wonderful book, as at home bringing to life the obscure details of a Hertfordshire monk as it is explicating the infinite reaches of space and time. Required reading for anyone who thinks that the Middle Ages were a dark age