The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000

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Overview

An ambitious and enlightening look at why the so-called Dark Ages were anything but that

Prizewinning historian Chris Wickham defies the conventional view of the Dark Ages in European history with a work of remarkable scope and rigorous yet accessible scholarship. Drawing on a wealth of new material and featuring a thoughtful synthesis of historical and archaeological approaches, Wickham argues that these centuries were critical in the formulation of European identity. Far from being a middle period between more significant epochs, this age has much to tell us in its own right about the progress of culture and the development of political thought.

Sweeping in its breadth, Wickham's incisive history focuses on a world still profoundly shaped by Rome, which encompassed the remarkable Byzantine, Carolingian, and Ottonian empires, and peoples ranging from Goths, Franks, and Vandals to Arabs, Anglo- Saxons, and Vikings. Digging deep into each culture, Wickham constructs a vivid portrait of a vast and varied world stretching from Ireland to Constantinople, the Baltic to the Mediterranean. The Inheritance of Rome brilliantly presents a fresh understanding of the crucible in which Europe would ultimately be created.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Building on the foundation he laid in Framing the Early Middle Ages, award-winning Oxford historian Wickham constructs a magisterial narrative of the political, economic, cultural and religious fabrics that constituted the crazy quilt of Europe's Dark Ages. Negating what he calls a common "teleological" view of this period as the source of European nations and a modern sense of European identity, he draws on archeological evidence and rich historiographical methods Wickham challenges standard views of the early Middle Ages as barbarous and bereft of political and cultural structure, and recreates a stunning portrait of the breakup of the Roman Empire and its consequences for Europe. Wickham looks at the immediate post-Roman polities in Gaul, Spain and Italy; the history of Byzantium, the Arab caliphate and its 10th-century successor states, including Muslim Spain; the Carolingian Empire and its successors and imitators, notably Russia and Scotland. Under this narrative layer lies a focus on the accumulation of wealth, the institutionalization of politics and the culture of the public. Wickham's achievement contributes richly to our picture of this often narrowly understood period. Maps, illus. (Aug. 3)

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Library Journal
A work such as this is more than welcome in light of its inclusion of all the major players relating to the fall of Rome. Too often, previous works on this topic tilted toward Rome or Constantinople without recognizing their symbiotic relationship. Wickham attempts, with some success, to combine social history and political history by avoiding the confusing divisions that have developed over the centuries regarding the fall of Rome. His success appears to be largely due to his keeping religious history at bay; in other words, placing it within the other boundaries and frameworks he has already set. For example, he seeks to look at various regions, like Britain, as entities standing on their own and within their own historical terms and their own reality. Thus there are four parts to the work, each having its own chronology and geographical region: "The Roman Empire and Its Breakup, 400–550"; "The Post-Roman West, 550–750"; "The Empires of the East, 550–1000"; and "The Carolingian and Post-Carolingian West, 750–1000." Within these four areas there are a total of 23 subchapters. VERDICT While these divisions are not revolutionary, Wickham has created what could be called a very readable, historical textbook for the period and readers can drop in at will. Recommended for students of Roman history and the early Middle Ages.—Clay Williams, Hunter Coll., New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140290141
  • Publisher: Viking Penguin
  • Publication date: 2/28/2010
  • Sales rank: 1,200,776

Meet the Author

Chris Wickham is Chichele Professor of Medieval History at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of All Souls College. His book Framing the Middle Ages won the Wolfson Prize, the Deutscher Memorial Prize, and the James Henry Breasted Prize of the American Historical Association.

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