The 900s are a fascinating time in history, and many lessons might be derived from the era's amazing and usually violent changes in reigns and rulers
Collins follows the lead of other recent historians in seeing this period not just as brutish and stagnant, but also rich in its cultural and spiritual life, and his best chapters focus on everyday people and experiences.”
Shelf Awareness”An engaging account of an often overlooked era.”
National Catholic Reporter“Australian Collins, historian and former priest, has a masterly touch throughout, for he writes the book on the several levels. He describes Europe, physically. He tells us what we are looking at, the stage set of history, the extensive woodlands, the major massifs and plateaus. All the while he is populating this landscape. This is truly history from the bottom up, layering the terrain
Collins' history is telling that though the ages were dark, not all the lights had been turned off. What we are receiving from Collins' sure hand is what happened after the fall of Rome
This is an intriguing 395-page read that gradually comes together at the end as Collins pulls on all the threads to tie into a fine knot.”
Stephen O'Shea, Globe and Mail (Toronto, Canada)
“The Birth of the West offers a refreshing breather from the ambient buzzkill of our era.
[Collins] is not your usual Western-civ cheerleader, jumping up and down about the glory that was Greece
his is a wider tour d'horizon, encompassing also Mulsim Spain, Ireland, Briatin, Poland, and Hungary.
Stimulating, encyclopedic, and often downright funny, this is a book worth remembering.”
“The Birth of the West is a re-making of what we think we know about the end of the “Dark Ages”. It is also the gate to the utterly unexpected cosmos of European forebears. In some ways, from waterlogged England by way of the folk beliefs of French peasants, to the ambitious consolidation of Germany, corruption and reform in the Papacy, the machinations of Constantinople and the continuing presence of Moorish culture in Western Europe, the characters who people ‘The Birth of the West' are as familiar as relativesas indeed they aregroping their way to a cohesive Western culture as yet dominant in the world. The ‘Birth of the West' is thus the tale of our birth, and Collins tells it with a narrative grace and elegance which will make readers cherish it.”
“Western Europe claws its way out of the Dark Agesjust barelyin this hair-raising history.
Writing with a supple prose and an eye for colorful detail and vivid characters, Collins shapes some of history's most appalling behaviorfirst prize might go to Pope Steven VI, who exhumed his predecessor's rotting corpse and placed it on trial for heresyinto a lively narrative with a comprehensible story line. Behind the blood-lettings and betrayals of medieval politics, he sketches an illuminating interpretation of a society and worldview shaped by insecurity, superstition, and personal loyalties. The result is a fascinating account of how a desperate struggle for survival bequeathed a civilization.”
“Collins provides a broad panorama of the age, presenting characters great and small, including kings, magnates, popes, and peasants. This is a well-done study suitable for both scholars and general readers.”
Macleans“He makes a lively
case that the foundations of 11th-century expansionby the end of which, Europe was powerful enough that, after fighting off or assimilating invaders on all fronts, it was able to start invading its neighbours in the First Crusadewere laid in the 10th century.”
Dallas Morning News
Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“A lively, full-to-bursting history of the turbulent 10th century in Europe
Collins presents chaotic upheaval across Europe in an organized and riveting fashion.”
Jay Rubenstein, Professor of History, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and author of Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse
“In The Birth of the West, Paul Collins makes accessible and exciting the world of tenth-century Europe. With a sense for both the grand narrative and for the quirks of particular personalities, Collins makes this central medieval century seem not so dark. Rather, lit by the fiery eyes of three German kings named Otto, who stand at the heart of Collins' story, it is an era of significant cultural achievement and political advancethough no less bloody for it.”
A lively, full-to-bursting history of the turbulent 10th century in Europe, when inner dissention and external marauding began to give way to cohesion and centrality. Australian nonpracticing Catholic priest and historian Collins manages to enthrall readers in the vicissitudes of an early medieval era marked by random violence and unpronounceable Nordic names via his thorough knowledge of the epoch and ability to spin an engaging tale. While giving the brilliant learning of al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) its due, he agrees with Thomas Cahill that the Irish and specifically monks indeed "saved civilization" by their stewardship and dissemination of Latin and Greek learning. Collins presents chaotic upheaval across Europe in an organized and riveting fashion. He provides a rich depiction of the physical landscape, which was experiencing a medieval warm period, allowing the Vikings to settle Greenland in the 980s after the North Atlantic sea ice had retreated. He recaps the important democratic shifts and religious conversions thanks to the inroads of Charlemagne in northern Europe and the Muslims in the south; notes the destabilizing terror struck constantly by the marauding Vikings, Saracens and Magyars; delineates the messy and increasingly dangerous papacy; and one by one takes up the dramas of important galvanizing leaders who emerged to impose some sense of order and centrality of government, even if briefly--e.g., the Saxon king Otto I, King Alfred in England and Brian Boru in Ireland. Along with stories about the likes of Liutprand of Cremona, Otto's diplomat, the remarkable regent queen Theophano and polymath Gerbert of Aurillac (aka Pope Sylvester II), Collins also explores the lives of ordinary people in a convulsive time. Who knew the 10th century could be so compelling?