The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity / Edition 1 available in Paperback
In a work of splendid scholarship that reflects both a firm mastery of difficult sources and a keen intuition, one of Britain's foremost medievalists tells the story of the Christianization of Europe. It is a very large story, for conversion encompassed much more than religious belief. With it came enormous cultural change: Latin literacy and books, Roman notions of law and property, and the concept of town life, as well as new tastes in food, drink, and dress. Whether from faith or by force, from self-interest or by revelation, conversion had an immense impact that is with us even today. It is Richard Fletcher's achievement in this superb work that he makes that impact both felt and understood.
|Publisher:||University of California Press|
|Edition description:||New Edition|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.50(d)|
About the Author
Richard Fletcher is Professor of History at the University of York. Among his books are Moorish Spain (California, 1992) and The Quest for El Cid (1989) which won the Los Angeles Times History Book Award and the Wolfson Literary Award for History.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This author annoyed me with his obvious biases and slant on scant historical information. There is little to no writing about paganism in this book, but the author does not let that stop him from implying in the title that we might actually get some understanding about paganism. Nope. As it does not advance the author's Christian bias, it gets no coverage. For example, on page 55, he relates a story about a young man who "had a violent fit of trembling and then fell down in a coma." His people *interpreted* this as "the work of the Devil" according to the *Christian* who is relating this story. Yet his people called in a shaman or witch or healer (read: pagan. The author is intentionally vague about what the person is called) who performed the duties of a modern day *doctor*. The "doctor" could not do much for the boy (Just as modern day doctors cannot sometimes heal someone in a coma, but does the author point that out? No.) and then the young man's family take him to a shrine of a Christian and he is "miraculously" cured. Absolutely no mention is made as to why pagan people would call this epileptic seizure the work of the "Devil", as they don't use that language and further, if they were Christians, why would they go to a shaman/witch in the first place? Additionally, no mention is made of the fact that we know that people come out of comas on their own, and that perhaps, just perhaps, this young man came out of his coma after being jostled everywhere and then people attributed it to a shrine. If his family had stopped by a nearby old tree and the young man had awakened, would the tree then bring about miraculous cures? I think not. This book is filled with example after example of things like that, with no effort on the author's part to be logical or realistic or interpret events in a more feasible and likely manner.Further, when the author writes about people whom we would call *schizophrenic* today (People who hear voices and then do what they say are locked up *for a reason*) he states, "No one can doubt the authenticity of the experience" (p.85). Um, yeah, we can. And I do. People did not perform miracles. People did not stand on ledges for 37 *years*. People did not dry up a lake by striking it with a stick. People who hear voices need psychiatric help, not encouragement of their mental disease.Lastly, the author seems to have no comprehension of irony. When a woman is described as "converting" her pagan husband to Christianity, then she is lauded - she is *wonderful*, a paragon of virtue, her name will be written down and remembered. When a nameless pagan woman "converts" her husband to paganism, she "seduces him... and perverts him from the sincerity of his faith." The author makes no comment on how the two women, doing the *same exact thing*, are written about in wholly different manners. Argh! This book is chock full of examples like that, where if it advances the author's Christian worldview, then it is good, if it does not, it is to be degraded. I do not recommend this book.
The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity covers about a thousand years of Christian History ¿ a period running from about the third century to the middle of the thirteenth century. By `barbarian¿ Fletcher, of course, uses the term in the way the Christian religious of this time used it ¿ anyone not a Christian was a barbarian.The book follows, primarily and in minute detail, the progression of the conversion of the barbarians of Europe and the men who spent their lives in pursuit of task of capturing the world for Christ. There is some effort made by these missionaries of Christianity to take on the conversion of the Jews and the Muslims, but they had barely any success. The success which they did have was accomplish mainly at the point of a sword, on the rack or by using the kind of logic that worked with these people ¿ mainly the Northmen, Goths, Celts, Slavs, Huns and their descendants. If their gods were better than Christ why did they live in such cold and/or inhospitable places and why did the Christian peoples seem to have all the material things worth having, things the barbarians fiercely coveted if the Christian god was not the correct and true god? In most cases, this was stunning logic to these people. Barbarians apparently were also highly susceptible to the missionizing of their women ¿ their Christian wives or the female Christian slaves they took to their beds. Many a powerful king, warrior or chieftain was persuaded to give up the gods of his ancestors for the new religion. The marriages were arranged with an eye to conversion and the subsequent political and monetary benefits to the Church. For myself, a non-Christian, I could not but dislike the tactics and the compulsion of the men who made conversion their mission in life. However, I do understand that it all took place a very long time ago, in a world that was certainly a very, very different one from mine.I was intrigued to learn that there were some cases of Christians converting to Judaism and Islam, but these conversions not being ¿ obviously ¿ the object of this book, Fletcher only mentions them fleetingly. To me, a non-academic, it seems as though Fletcher covered his subject thoroughly and accurately, but I could, of course be quite wrong. It is really for those better versed in the subject to draw conclusions concerning his success. (And of course, if I¿d not taken so very long to finish the book, my review might be a little more coherent and better written.)