A World Lit Only By Fire
William Raymond Manchester (b. 4/1/22 d. 6/1/04) was an American historian and biographer, notable as the author of 18 books that have been translated into 20 languages. Manchester was the son of a WWI Marine, and grew up in Attleboro, Massachusetts. After his father's death, and the attack on Pearl Harbor, he likewise enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, though he was ordered back to college until called up. Although he expected to serve in Europe, Manchester ultimately found himself in the Pacific. He served on Guadalcanal after the Japanese defeat there, and experienced combat in the last major battle of the Pacific War, on Okinawa. His wartime experiences formed the basis for his very personal account of the Pacific Theater, Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War. (He later wrote of WWII in a number of his other books, including his second of a planned three part biography of Winston Churchill, and a biography of Gen. Douglas MacArthur.) He received a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts in 1946 and a master's degree from the University of Missouri in 1947. He worked as a reporter for the Daily Oklahoman and The Baltimore Sun. He published his first book, a biography of H. L. Mencken, in 1951, then followed it up with a novel two years later. In 1955 Manchester became an editor for Wesleyan University and spent the rest of his career there, later becoming an adjunct professor of history and writer-in-residence there. He remarked that the generation coming of age in the 1950s were "withdrawn, cautious, unimaginative, indifferent, unadventurous and silent," helping to cement the generational moniker Silent Generation. Following the death of his wife in 1998, Manchester suffered two strokes, and announced, to the disappointment of many of his readers, that he would not be able to complete the previously planned third volume of his three part biography of Churchill. According to this article Vol. III is likely to be published posthumously, being finished by writer Paul Reid, a former feature writer of The Palm Beach Post. A World Lit Only by Fire, by William Manchester, is a general synopsis of the Middle Ages in Europe, from the years 410 to 1536. The bulk of the book is comprised of anecdotes detailing incidents of treachery (usually debauchery) and utter chaos. A large portion of this is directly targeted at the scandalous history of the Roman Catholic Church at that time. The latter part of the book is essentially a log of the quest of Magellan and its effect on common knowledge. A World Lit Only By Fire is an informative read, yet as its purpose does not possess educational intentions, it tends to include humor, perspectives, biases, and anecdotes that readers may consider not to be objective. The book is structured into three sections: The Medieval Mind, The Shattering, and One Man Alone. The opening section, The Medieval Mind, extensively covers notable occurrences centered in approximately in the year 500, including a lavish description of the fall of the Roman Empire and the reasons for its fall. Manchester then continues, delineating why "Europe was troubled since" the Empire's demise. He speaks of the Dark Ages that immediately followed the collapse of the Roman Empire, including details regarding a number of adverse events that were characteristic of what Manchester notes as a "stark" era. He speaks of the Black Death as well as various "climatic changes," such as severe flooding, that socially and economically brought ruin to the already frail condition that many European nations resorted to after the Roman Empire ceased to exist. The second section of the work, The Shattering, is the book's most extensive section; expanding upon a great deal of happenings that embodied the latter end of the Middle Ages as well as the early period of the Renaissance. Manchester in this section focuses primarily upon the corruption of the Catholic Church. He attacks many medieval...
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