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Europe after Rome: A New Cultural History 500-1000 is the first single-author study in more than fifty years to offer an integrated appraisal of the early Middle Ages as a dynamic and formative period in European history. Written in an attractive and accessible style, the book makes extensive use of original sources in order to introduce early medieval men and women at all levels of society—from slave to emperor—and allows them to speak to students in their own words. It overturns traditional narratives and instead offers an entirely fresh approach to the centuries from c.500 to c.1000.
Rejecting any notion of a dominant, uniform early medieval culture, Europe after Rome argues that the fundamental characteristic of the early middle ages is diversity of experience. To explain how the men and women who lived in this period ordered their world in cultural, social, and political terms, it employs an innovative methodology that combines cultural history, regional studies, and gender history. Ranging comparatively from Ireland to Hungary and from Scotland and Scandinavia to Spain and Italy, the analysis highlights three themes: regional variation, power, and the legacy of Rome. In the context of debates about the social, religious, and cultural meaning of "Europe" in the early twenty-first century, this book seeks the origins of European cultural pluralism and diversity in the early Middle Ages.
Part I: Fundamentals
1. Speaking and Writing
2. Living and Dying
Part II: Affinities
3. Friends and Relations
4. Men and Women
Part III: Resources
5. Labor and Lordship
6. Getting and Giving
Part IV: Ideologies
7. Kingship and Christianity
8. Rome and the Peoples of Europe
Posted July 7, 2009
Since the Renaissance, the Middle Ages, particularly the centuries between 500 (or rather 300) and 1000, have been considerad a "dark" period from a qualitative point of view. Today the dark civilization myth is substantially mouldered away, but as an object of knowledge and information the period may still be called "dark", compared with all we know about the Antiquities and the Modern Age.
Prof. Julia M.H. Smith., University of Glasgow, has written a book, Europe After Rome, that changes the views considerably and illuminates the epoch in a new cultural and historical way, covering all what we now call Europe. The result is fresh, informative reading, with a lot of innovative aspects revealing the life and vitality of this epoch in a most enriching way and with a flawless matter-of-factness. She elucidates the linguistical situation in Europe after the Latin of the Roman Empire, as well as existential aspects av human life ("Living and Dying); furthermore the intimate relations between people in the Middle Ages, their frienships and in particular the relationship between men and woman. She also illustrates the relations between social levels in this early European society and the forms in which man's eternal search for wealth, power and status manifest themselves in a way not far from what we find today. The last chapter is dedicated to the ideological movements in the Middle Ages, the ways Christendom spread, and the relations between Christians and the Pagans in the North - her insights into Scandinavian Middle Ages are of particular interest in this context, as this area is rarely a part of the studies of this field of European history -; and finally the power balance of this very long and dramatically shifting period
So in all, this is a book enlarging our knowledge of a fairly "dark" period. What is especially impressive is this overall picture of five centuries, this total scope of the growth and continuation of the medieval society, covering fields seldom iluminated by historical research. The early Middle Ages are seen as a continuous phase of historical evolution, not as a break, a cleft, a deterioration in the progress of civilization.
This is a book for all who take historical studies seriously, and not exclusively as an entertainment, because the author treats the reader with intellectual respect. If you belong to the leisure-pleasure category of readers, you surely will find it worth while to try something based on strict and solid research.
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Posted April 20, 2009
This book is more suitable as a college text than for casual reading. I usually enjoy challengeing reads but this one is only okay. The author uses maps of europe that are not marked with the names of the respective countries, a turn off if you are not familiar with european geography like myself. The section on language developement after Rome was intersting. It was good to see why Latin became a dead language. The influence of Christianity on europe is documented in this text. I didn't like the authors view of the christian religion. If you are a Christian this book might offend your beliefs. The writing in this book is very lecture like. If your college history lectures bored you to tears this book will have the same effect. I give it a three star rating which I consider to be very generous.
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