The novel A World Lit Only By Fire The Medieval Mind And The Renaissance Portrait Of an Age, by William Manchester gives the reader an in depth look at the Middle Ages and touches upon the Renaissance. Manchester writes his innovative, or as some would consider bias, views of the Renaissance and Middle Age period. Clearly, he strongly voices his own opinion for each time period. Manchester compares the Middle Ages and the Renaissance often throughout the novel. Although the Middle Ages were an intricate and difficult time in history, Manchester dawns on the horrible and scandalous occurrences during that time. Every time period has its own troubles and matters to deal with and chooses to deal with them in their own unique custom making that period different from any other.
The Renaissance was drastically different from the Middle Ages. During the Middle Ages the church held most of the power, in comparison during the Renaissance a small group of very wealthy people called an Oligarchy ruled. An Oligarchy is similar to an Aristocracy. Although the Renaissance used Oligarchy as its form of government the pope was still in high power. The economy in the Middle Ages was based primarily upon agriculture. People lived in small communities called manors, that provided protection and defense . Yet, during the Renaissance, people's curiosity overcame their fear and many people started to venture out and explore. .
Manchester's main thesis for this novel is, Magellan's great exploration of circumnavigating the world welcomed Europe into a new age; The Renaissance. Magellan's discovery forced people to come to the conclusion that the world was round and forever locked the door into medieval mind. Throughout the Middle ages Europeans thought of themselves as superior to other nations and territories around the globe. The people of Europe thought that they were the most advanced in mathematics and medicine however, as Magellan and other explorers began to learn more about their newly discovered land they realized that many other cultures were equal or more advanced in these areas.