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Dialectic Stage History
for 8th Grade: the Medieval,
Renaissance, & Reformed World

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8th Grade: Medieval, Renaissance, & Reformed World

The books suggested for the Medieval through Reformed history study in the dialectic stage are listed below in the order in which they should be studied. Any deviations are mentioned in the description. Extra Reading suggestions listed throughout are additional, and not a required part of the history curriculum, but which are included because they present a fuller picture of the events, people, and times under study. If a child becomes fascinated with a particular aspect of history, these extra readings will help him satisfy his own interest. In the entries for Plutarch’s Lives and Livy’s History of Rome, which contain more than one book, only the first book listed is a necessary part of this year’s curriculum, although children that have been educated classically from the beginning (as my youngest has) that are already good readers, may enjoy reading the additional books suggested.

The Medieval World
The Middle Ages was that term applied to the time after the Fall of Rome and before the rediscovery of humanism in the Renaissance, by the people of the Renaissance. It was a term of dismissal. But the Middle Ages was a very important time where Christianity so influenced the state that Europe was termed ‘Christendom.’ Was it really heaven on earth, and what can we learn from that earlier experiment?

The Renaissance & Reformed World
The Fall of Constantinople in 1453 to the Turks saw Byzantine scholars fleeing to the West with the learning of classical antiquity and the knowledge of Greek, which had disappeared in the Latin West, sparking a renaissance of interest in classical history, ideas, and languages. This “rebirth” of interest in learning and discovery not only helped fuel the Reformation, but the great age of Exploration as well.

Medieval, Renaissance, & Reformed World Teacher’s Resources
Essential materials to help the homeschool parent understand, not only the events, but also the philosophies and worldviews, that shaped the medieval through reformed worlds.

The Medieval World

Extra Reading:

History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours, translated by Lewis Thorpe. Gregory was Bishop of Tours in France from 573 until his death in 594. He was a Gallic Roman, descended from distinguished senatorial families on both his mother’s and his father’s side, and spoke 6th century Latin as his native tongue. He lived during the rule of the Merovingian Franks in Gaul, the most famous of whom was Clovis, who as chief of the barbarian Salian Franks, defeated the last representatives of Roman rule in Gaul and the barbarian tribes of the Alamanni, the Burgundians, and the Arian Visigoths, and united the Frankish tribes under a single ruler. Clovis eventually became a Christian, and Gregory’s history shows us the tumultous events in Gaul following the Fall of Rome, first as Christian and Roman Gaul gives way to the barbarian Germanic Frank invaders, and then as those invaders become neighbors, then Christians, and finally as the seeds of the great Frankish empire are sown.

Two Lives of Charlemagne
Einhard and Notker the Stammerer, translated by Lewis Thorpe

Click to order Two Lives of Charlemagne Charlemagne is the most illustruous of the Carolingian kings who replaced the Merovingians as rulers of the Franks in Gaul, and the greatest king to have ruled France and Germany. Einhard served Charlemagne twenty-three years. His is a public history, using beautifully expressed language, recounting Charlemagne’s personal life and his achievments in warfare, learning, art, building, and the skillful administration of the state. Notker was a monk who gathered together anecdotes of Charlemagne’s life and personality, writing half a century or so after the great king’s death.

The History of the Kings of Britain
Geoffrey of Monmouth, translated by Lewis Thorpe

Click to order The History of the Kings of Britain Geoffrey of Monmouth lived in Oxford at the time he translated his History from Briton into Latin sometime from 1129 to 1151. He claims to have copied a very ancient history of the Britons, the people living in Britain when the Romans conquered it, those whom the Anglo-Saxons drove into what is now Wales and Cornwall. In this history, he recounts the coming of the Britons to Britain, what happened in their national history before the Romans came and during the Roman occupation, tells us of the house of Constantine, of the prophecies of a Druid named Merlin, of the greatest Briton king before the domination of the Saxons, Arthur, and of the coming of the Saxons. Modern scholars pooh-pooh Geoffrey’s history as fabricated because of certain, to them, fantastic elements in the text: the high state of the civilization and law of the Britons before the coming of the Romans denies their pet theory of the evolution of the savage to civilization, and the Britons’ ancient records record the descent of their kings from Japheth, one of the sons of Noah. However, Bill Cooper, author of After the Flood, in that book tackles the historicity of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s work, and shows beyond a shadow of a doubt why it cannot be a fabrication, but an accurate translation of a truly ancient history.

Ecclesiastical History of the English People
Bede the Venerable, translated by Leo Sherley-Price and R. E. Latham

Click to order Ecclesiastical History of the English People Bede lived from 673-735 in England (the island occupied by the English, or the Anglo-Saxons, as opposed to Britain, which is the the island when it was occupied by the Britons) during that nation’s formative years, being a monk from an early age. He opens his history with a description of Roman Britain and the events, in the land and with the people, as well as with the church, up until his own lifetime. We learn how Christianity first came to the Britons, who remained steadfast in the faith up to the time of the horrible and severe persecution of Diocletian. We learn how the pagan Angles and Saxons first came to Britain and drove the Britons into modern day Wales and Cornwall. And we learn of Pope Gregory the Great’s commission of Augustine to bring Christianity to the land a second time, this time to the pagan Anglo-Saxons, and their conversion. “Leo Sherley-Price’s translation brings us an accurate and readable version, in modern English, of a unique historical document.”

Extra Reading:

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle translated and edited by Michael Swanton. The Anglo- Saxon Chronicle is the first continuous national history of any western people in their own language. Compiled over several centuries, it traces the migration of Saxon warlords to Roman Britain, their gradual development of a settled society and conversion to Christianity, the onslaught of the Vikings and then the Norman Conquest. It continued to be written long after the last Saxon king was dead, and goes on to describe atrocities perpetrated by the barons during the reign of Stephen. This book is an extra reading because the Chronicle was not written as a narrative history as the other accounts on this page were. It consists of a lined chart, where the first entry of each line is the year, followed by a notation of whatever of significance happened in that year:
640. Here Eadbald, king of the inhabitants of Kent, passed away, and he ruled 25 years.
Toward the end of the Chronicle more detail, and many times whole paragraphs or multiple paragraphs, are written to describe events, and this is much more interesting reading. But what hampers the narrative reading of the Chronicle even further is that several copies of it exist, kept in the seven kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxons independently of each other. These several copies are presented side by side in the text, so one jumps back and forth between one mauscript and another. While the Chronicle contains valuable information, it is more difficult than the other histories on this page to get at. However, I found it interesting reading, as I am sure anyone with a desire to learn more about Anglo-Saxon England will also.

Alfred the Great
Asser, translated by Simon Keynes and Michael Lapidge

Click to order Alfred the Great Alfred the Great, 871-899, was the greatest Anglo-Saxon king of the English who reigned before the Norman invasion in 1066. By his lifetime the wars with the Britons were over, and the Anglo-Saxons occupied the whole island except for Scotland in the north, and Wales and Cornwall in the west (where the descendants of the remaining Britons were becoming the Welsh.) During Alfred’s reign the island was troubled by the inroads and raids of the Danes, or Vikings, and King Alfred won some great victories over them. Besides his military accomplishments, Alfred encouraged learning and the revival of Christianity, and so is remembered lovingly not only for his might, but for his wisdom and goodness. Asser was a contemporary of Alfred who worked in his service, and this volume contains other accounts of the life and times of King Alfred as well.

Extra Reading:

Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Lives of the Saints: As the entire file of the Lives of the Saints contains biographies and accounts of many, numerous saints, I have listed here only those of the most influential in the early Christian and Medieval eras. Those that want to go into greater depth with this study can use the Lives of the Saints Index, and read further on your own about anyone that interests you. I suggest going to each site and printing out the work, then binding them together in a notebook from which your children can read. Reading from the computer screen can be hard on their eyes.
Martyrdoms of the Apostles
Justin Martyr Preaches the Word of Christ In Rome and Suffers Martyrdom
Martyrdom of Polycarp
Martyrdom of Ignatius of Antioch
The Persecutions and Martyrdoms at Lyons
St. George, and another St. George of England site
Life of St. Antony by Athanasius
Life of Saint Augustine
The Life of St. Martin by Sulpitius Severus
St. Patrick
The Life of Saint Columba, founder of Iona by Adomnan of Iona
The Life of St. Benedict of Nursia by Gregory the Great
The Martyrdom of St. Edmund, King of East Anglia
The Murder of Thomas Beckett
Two Lives of St. Francis, founder of the Franciscan friars
St. Dominic, founder of the Dominican monks

King Harald’s Saga by Snorri Sturluson, translated by Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Palsson. Snorri Sturluson was an Icelandic historian who wrote a complete history of Norway from prehistoric times to 1177. King Harald’s Saga forms part of that history. King Harald Hardradi of Norway was half-brother to King Olaf the Saint of Norway, and the greatest military leader of the Vikings at the height of their power. After raiding the known world for twenty years at the head of a feared Viking force, he returned to Norway after the death of Olaf to claim the throne. By 1066 he was the most feared warrior in northern Europe, the last of the great Viking kings of Scandinavia, and also one of the claimants to England’s throne after the death of Edward the Confessor left no direct heirs to the English throne. The three giants of their times, Harald Hardradi of Scandinavia, Duke William of Normandy, and Earl Harold Godwinsson of Wessex, met in England in the fateful autumn of 1066 to settle the possession of the English throne.

Chronicles of the Crusades
Geoffroy de Villehardouin and Jean de Joinville, translated by Margaret Shaw

Click to order Chronicles of the Crusades Our children learned in the grammar stage the important part the French played in the Crusades. In this book, Geoffroy de Villehardouin tells the history of the Fourth Crusade, “which ironically ended as a war against the Eastern Christians of the Orthodox Church,” of which he took part as a soldier. His account is the first trustworthy and fully informed history of the Crussades that we have. The second part of the book contains Jean de Joinville’s Life of Saint Louis. Louis IX, later canonized as Saint Louis, was one of the most devout and pious kings the French had, and he is honored only under Charlemagne as one of their greatest kings. He took part in the Seventh Crusade, where de Joinville got to know him. de Joinville’s biography of the pious French king was inspired by his close attachment to him and provides a vivid picture of his times and the ways of life in the East.

Extra Reading:

The Travels of Marco Polo by Marco Polo, translated by Ronald Latham. Marco Polo lived from 1254 to 1324, son of an important and wealthy merchant family of Venice. In 1271, when Marco was 17, he accompanied his father and his uncle on a journey to the Kublai Khan, who ruled all of Mongolia, China, Tibet, Siberia, Turkestan, Persia, and Turkey. The elder Polos and been there before, and were to bring back missionaries to preach Christianity in the east. The Pope (Gregory X) didn’t send missionaries, but the Polos were gone for twenty-six years, and served the Khan admirably in various capacities all that time. When they finally returned to Venice, the inhabitants didn’t at first believe their fantastic tales of the East and the wealth of the Khan’s empire. Marco dictated the adventures he had while there, and we can read his remarkable travels today. It is known that Christopher Columbus studied a copy of the Travels, which influenced him to make the attempt to get to the East by sailing west.

Jean Froissart, translated by Geoffrey Brereton

Click to order Froissart’s Chronicles Jean Froissart was a contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer and the most distinguished historian of the age of chivalry in the fourteenth century. He is most commonly known as the historian of the Hundred Years’ War between England and France. This selection of tales tells of high deeds of courage in tournament and on the battlefield, and range from the story of the heroic burghers of Calais to the momentous battle of Crecy; from the deposition of Edward II of England to the downfall of wicked Richard II.

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The Renaissance & Reformed World

The Lives of the Artists
Giorgio Vasari, edited by W. Grinton Berry

Click to order Lives of the Artists Vasari was a Renaissance artist (1511-1574) who personally knew the great artisits, da Vinci, Michelangelo, and the others. He wrote a volume containing biographical sketches and anecdotes of their lives, and included comments on their great works. “In writing his Lives, Vasari revealed a literary talent that matched, or even outshone, his abilities as an artist and architect. Vasari’s original vision of the arts, in which he sees the artist as divinely inspired, permeates this ... volume. ... Although at times inaccurate (prompting some dry remarks from Michelangelo), the Lives have a striking immediacy conveyed in the character sketches, anecdotes and detailed recordings of conversations. ... Vasari’s shrewd judgements and his precise pinpointing of the emotions aroused by individual works of art bear out Michelangelo’s prediction that Vasari would have a worldwide influence on the history of art.” We do not read the lives of every artist Vasari includes in his book. Reading the six lives of Giotto, Donatello, Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo teaches us about the most important of the Renaissance artists, and additional biographies can be read as individual interest dictates.

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs
John Foxe, edited by W. Grinton Berry

Click to order Foxe’s Book of Martyrs John Foxe (1516-87) was a professor at Oxford, then a minister in London before being forced to flee to Europe when Catholic Queen Mary came to power. While in Europe he wrote this classic and published it after returning to England when Queen Elizabeth took the throne. With millions of copies in print, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs has become a classic of magnificent courage and faith. Beginning with Jesus Christ, this unparalleled volume traces the roots of religious persecution. Some of the heroic figures examined are John Hus, John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Anne Askew, Lady Jane Grey, and Martin Luther. This edition has been streamlined to present Foxe’s work in today’s language. Know that every modern edition of Foxe’s Martyrs is edited and condensed. When it was originally published, it comprised eight volumes. The least-edited version of Foxe’s Martyrs is online at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Portraits from the Age of Exploration
Andre Thevet, translated by Edward Benton; edited by Roger Schlesinger

Click to order Portraits from the Age of Exploration “One of the most ambitious works of Renaissance biography, Andre Thevet’s Vrais pourtraits gave Europeans unique insights into the New World. Portraits from the Age of Exploration - each biography chosen for its interest to modern readers - is the first translation of Thevet’s work into English and the first to feature reproductions of the original copper-engraved portraits of each subject. The selections, twelve chapters from Thevet’s original work, describe the exploits of six famous European explorers and six Native American chiefs. The explorers are Columbus, Magellan, Cortes, Pizarro, Albuquerque, and Vespucci; the chiefs are Montezuma, Atahualpa, Nacol-absou (King of the Promontory of the Cannibals), Paracoussi Satoriona (King of the Platte), and Quoniambec. The biographies of Native Americans represented a first in European literature. Thevet’s information came from written and oral sources, from his own experience as a colonist in Brazil, and from other eyewitness accounts. Roger Schlesinger’s annotations and introduction link Thevet’s work to the body of sixteenth-century exploration literature, and Edward Benson’s translation negotiates Thevet’s verbal flourishes with skill. The book provides a unique insight into the European mentality of the 16th century. It will be of interest to historians, anthropologists, geographers, those specializing in foreign languages, and readers who enjoy biographies.” Read Chris Schlect’s (rhetoric teacher at New Saint Andrew’s College) review of this work at the Amazon.com order page.

Extra Reading:

The Four Voyages by Columbus, translated by J. M. Cohen. This volume contains Columbus’ own diaries and journals of the four voyages he made to the New World. Was Columbus the European villain modern culture makes him out to be? Read for yourself Columbus’ thoughts on his voyages, his purposes for going, and his trust in the Lord’s providence. The first voyage was his most famous and the one most fraught with tension, intrigue, and the threat of mutiny.

Voyages and Discoveries by Richard Hakluyt, edited and abridged, with an introduction by Jack Beeching. Richard Hakluyt (1551-1616) was an English diplomat, scholar, and part-time spy for her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, and Voyages and Discoveries is his life-work. The English were late comers to the business of world-wide exploration and trade, but this volume contains the anecdotes and histories taken from the eyewitnesses that Hakluyt interviewed. It includes accounts of England’s discoveries in the east, as well as the settlement of Virginia. Also covered are Sir Francis Drake’s voyages, and England’s naval battle with the Spanish Armada, the final chapter in the great struggle between Catholic Spain and Protestant England sparked by the Reformation and competition in the New World.

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Medieval, Renaissance & Reformed World Teacher’s Resources

On the Use of Real Books in the Secondary Curriculum

I highly recommend those teacher’s resources listed in the study of the medieval world in 3rd grade and the the renaissance and reformed world in 4th grade, to help give a fuller picture of the history of the medieval through reformed eras. Once again, Thomas Cahill has been of help in giving me a picture of the complete horror the civilized world felt at the collapse of that world and the entrance of barbarism, and with what methods they fought to preserve civilization in two ways: by protecting those elements of civilization from barbarian destruction, where they could, and secondly, by making the barbarians civilized, which usually meant conversion to Christianity, where they could. After a measure of success in these endeavors, to read of the Viking raids which brought all the horrors home once again, sincerely broke my heart. I realize that Cahill’s books are controversial; therefore, proceed at your own risk, and keep my cautions in mind, but also keep the benefits in mind as well. The other resources mentioned are no less useful in expounding the medieval, renaissance, and reformed worldviews.

How the Irish Saved Civilization
Thomas Cahill

Click to order How the Irish Saved Civilization Subtitled: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe. “From the Fall of Rome to the rise of Charlemagne--the ‘dark ages’--learning, scholarship, and culture disappeared from the European continent. The great heritage of Western Civilization--from the Greek and Roman classics to Jewish and Christian works--would have been utterly lost were it not for the holy men and women of unconquered Ireland. In this delightful and illuminating look into a crucial but little-known ‘hinge’ of history, Thomas Cahill takes us to the island of saints and scholars, the Ireland of St. Patrick and the Book of Kells. Here, far from the barbarian despoliation of the continent, monks and scribes laboriously, lovingly, even playfully, preserved the West’s written treasury. With the return of stability in Europe, these Irish scholars were instrumental in spreading learning. Thus the Irish not only were the conservators of civilization, but became shapers of the medieval mind, putting their unique stamp on Western culture.” Now for the cautions: Mr. Cahill’s audience is secular society rather than Biblical Christianity, and he does write in such a way as to not put off the secularist. Caution number two: serious historians have called Cahill’s books “fluff.” He does make the history sound as if the Irish played the only role in preserving the West, whereas in reality they played their part in preserving the West; and Mohammedean and Byzantine civilization also played a role. Keep this in mind, and the rest of the history is accurate. Caution number three: Mr. Cahill is sometimes painfully graphic in describing the sinfulness of pagan societies--painfully. Be warned. But if you can live through that, you will find your understanding greatly enlarged. This book is NOT for children.

Thales to Dewey
Gordon H. Clark

Click to order Thales to Dewey This wonderful history of philosophy is probably the most important teacher’s resource offered for this level. “There are very few histories of philosophy written by Christians, and it is fair to say that the book you hold in your hands is the only such history in English that has escaped the corroding influence of secular philosophy, especially the philosophy of empiricism. ... [Clark is both] familiar with the subject [and] rigorous in [his] understanding of Christianity. ... [The book] is eminently readable, consistently entertaining, unfailingly accurate, and uncompromisingly Christian.” Chapters five and six are devoted to the philosophy of the Middle Ages through the sixteenth century, and describes paganism and Christianity, the early Patristic philosophers: Augustine and the other important Dark Age patristic philosophers, and scholasticism, including the influence of Anselm, the Mohammedans, Thomas Aquinas, and William of Occam.

The Discarded Image
C. S. Lewis

Click to order The Discarded Image Subtitled: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature, and it is invaluable here, in history class, as it is in literature class, becuase it teaches us how to see the medieval philosophy and mindset which governed the actions of the Middle Ages. “C. S. Lewis’ The Discarded Image paints a lucid picture of the medieval worldview, as historical and cultural background to the literature of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It describes the ‘image’ discarded by later ages as ‘the medieval synthesis itself, the whole organisation of their theology, science, and history into a single, complex, harmonious mental model of the universe.’ This, Lewis’ last book, was hailed as ‘the final memorial to the work of a great scholar and teacher and a wise and noble mind.’”

The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century
Roland H. Bainton

Click to order The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century Bainton, for 42 years Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Yale University, presents the many strands that made up the Reformation in a single, brilliantly coherent account. He discusses the background for Luther’s irreparable breach with the Church and its ramifications for 16th-century Europe, giving thorough accounts of the Diet of Worms, the institution of the Holy Commonwealth of Geneva, Henry VIII’s break with Rome, and William the Silent’s struggle for Dutch independence. The major figures -- Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Knox, and Cranmer -- are presented, and the major doctrines -- justification by faith, predestination, separation of church and state -- are explained with respect to both theology and politics. “This book has stood for a third of a century as the place to begin a study of one of the most complex and controversial phenomena in the history of culture.” - Jaroslav Pelikan, from the forward.

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