HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Medieval Underworld
Author: Andrew McCall
Publisher: Sutton Publishing, republished in 2004
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Older teens (only) and adults
Rating: 3 stars (FAIR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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McCall, Andrew. The Medieval Underworld (published in 1979 by A. M. Heath and Company Limited; republished in 1993 by Barnes and Noble Books). Both of our boys loved anything relating to the Middle Ages, and our older son Mark especially wanted to focus on the Middle Ages in his study of world history during his sophomore year. So we went to Barnes and Noble for some recommended books on the Medieval period and also found some related books on the discount table. This was one of the latter. It poses two questions. When were the Middle Ages? And what constitutes an underworld? After a couple of chapters on the Middle Ages in general and how the medieval Roman Catholic Church held sway over Europe during that time, the author writes about different groups in the medieval underworld, such as criminals, bandits, thieves, prostitutes, homosexuals, heretics, sorcerers, and Jews, ending with a chapter on the concept of hell in the middle ages, drawn primarily from Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy.
If I had paid closer attention to the table of contents and seen that it had a chapter on homosexuality, I probably would not have bought it. That chapter is a typical elitist academic work that takes a very liberal view. The author mentions “the crime of the Old Testament Sodomites, which in earlier references does not appear to have had any sexual overtones,” evidently referring to what the Jewish rabbis taught about it, and attributes the “homosexual connotations to Josephus.” He then says, “this same interpretation of the Sodomites’ crime may well have influenced” the medieval church’s view of homosexuality. Balderdash, poppycock, and fiddlesticks! There’s no “interpretation” about it. The Biblical text says what it says, and the crime was homosexuality, period. You simply can’t trust elitist academics when it comes to explaining the Bible. Otherwise, this book has some interesting, if somewhat offbeat, information about medieval Europe.