Fascinating and interesting book that brings out the contribution of the early Medieval Irish to preserving the classical period of Greek and Rome. A great read for anyone interested in history and presented in an open clear fashion. Has a number of new ideas at least as far as I am concerned and I have studied the middle ages for decades.
A wonderful telling of Ireland's part in keeping the writings of antiquity from disappearing, from the collapse of the Roman Empire to the middle ages. The first of the "Hinges of History" series, makes me wish my history teachers had been as captivating as Cahill.
Very easy and informative read. Raised catholic of irish heritage, even in my religious wanderings I have had a sense of grounding and pride in those roots. Now I know why. The information ties celtic myth to religious practices of today, and provides insight into the why deep multi layered old sacred tradition survives in Ireland today.
A high quality paperback, very interesting. Cahill proposes that much of the thought and writings foundational to Western civilization were saved from extinction during the dark ages by the dedication of monks, primarily Irish.
"The untold story of Ireland's herois role from the fall of Rome to the rise of medieval Europe"
If you are a history buff you'll enjoy Thomas Cahill's exploration of this pivital time. Had it not been for the Irish monks, toiling away in solitude in desolate places, most of the ancient books we have today would have been lost.
This books gives a necessary and fascinating account of the role of ireland including St. Patrick in our preservation of culture and learning through the middle ages. It's a "must read" for anyone interested in literature and history.
From the fall of Rome to the rise of Charlemagnethe "dark ages"learning, scholarship, and culture disappeared from the European continent. The great heritage of western civilizationfrom the Greek and Roman classics to Jewish and Christian workswould have been utterly lost were it not for the holy men and women of unconquered Ireland. In this delightful and illuminating look into a crucial but little-known "hinge" of history, Thomas Cahill takes us to the "island of saints and scholars," the Ireland of St. Patrick and the Book of Kells. Here, far from the barbarian despoliation of the continent, monks and scribes laboriously, lovingly, even playfully preserved the west's written treasures. With the return of stability in Europe, these Irish scholars were instrumental in spreading learning. Thus the Irish not only were conservators of civilization, but became shapers of the medieval mind, putting their unique stamp on western culture.
Thomas Cahill takes us to the "island of saints and scholars," the Ireland of St. Patrick and the Book of Kells. Here, monks and scribes laboriously, lovingly, even playfully preserved the West's written treasury. With the return of stability in Europe, these Irish scholars were instrumental in spreading learning.
As with all historical research you cannot rely on one source of information and it is important to look in the back of the book to see just how many sources the author used as well as what sort of sources.
Having said that, I found value in this book because it filled in gaps for me about the thousand years after Christ and traced the growth and development of the Christian church and European civilization. I have always been fascinated with how Europe went from being barbaric tribes to the sort of people who wrote Arthurian romances that embodied the ideal of manners, behaviors, and values so very much more sophisticated and merciful than the warring tribes that once populated (terrorized?) the continent.
Enter Thomas Cahill: According to him it was the Irish who started the ball rolling. How did they do this? By converting to Christianity, thanks to St Patrick.
Cahill actually starts back with the Roman Empire and how the church grew even as the empire declined but he contends that the Catholic church in Rome was not responsible for the advancement of European culture. Instead, this occurred after Ireland started sending out missionaries across the continent.
Cahill gives a thorough history of St Patrick's life and missionary work among the people who once enslaved him. I now feel I know a lot more about this early missionary than I had previously.
I suppose there is a fair dose of Irish snobbery in Cahill's pronouncement that it was the Irish who delivered Europe out of the dark ages but he does go into detail as to what monks went where, what the condition of the continental kingdom was prior to the Irish missionaries as well as after and also describes the ineffectualness of the Roman missionaries in the same areas. (I'm merely describing what he wrote not necessarily my opinion, I would need other sources to read first.)
Finally, Cahill has what I would describe as a typical Irish sense of humour which can border on the irreverant if not outright bawdy. Depending on who you are you'll either enjoy or be offended by it.
As I said, I wouldn't rely on this book as a sole source of early European history but it is certainly worth reading for those who are interested in that epoch of time, as I am.
It was recommended by a tour guide while I was in Ireland...I ennjoyed the content as it filled out many of the points touched on by said cuide. To quote Arte Johnson: "Interesting...very interesting."
I acquired "How the Irish Save Civilization" on a whim. My stack of things to read is at least shoulder high but the title called to me. So without any inkling of content, not a single review read, I began. I struggled through the first 50 pages wondering the point and purpose of the book. It meandered and I was unsure of my destination. I found the tone somewhat belittling and demeaning, almost like the professors I had my freshman year of college who tried to convince us that we didn't know anything, and that everything we may have learned up to this point was a lie. Sentence structure was complex. I considered setting side but I was curious. My knowledge of early European history is very weak and I wanted to know what the founding of Rome had to do with what I thought I was reading.
I finally started to see the threads coming together in Mr. Cahill's tapestry - around page 100. I feel like I learned more about the evolution of Europe than any classes I may have taken previously. It was also fascinating how the socio-political rise and fall of Rome led to Ireland becoming a major hub of knowledge that helped humanity retain flickers of knowledge through 'the Dark Ages.' Some of the more cynical observations and conclusions need to be viewed in the light that all history is tainted by the perspective of the writer. Even so, I feel my knowledge of Roman, Greek, and European history has been expanded. [3.75 of 5]
I just do not understand these positive reviews.
I read a lot. I love history. History is actually my favorite subject when it comes to literature.
But this book, you have got to be kidding!
I have forced myself to finish books that I did not care for in the past. Painful and a waste of time to search for that one redeeming quality that never appears.
I finished this book yesterday. I would be hard pressed today to write a hundred word essay covering anything of value that I learned from this book.
Boring, tedious, mostly non relevant to the topic and just a plain waste of time. I felt like I wanted to celebrate an escape from the abyss when I finally finished it!
Top of my top 5 worst books I have ever read list.
From the fall of Rome to the rise of Charlemagne-the "dark ages"- learning, scholarship, and culture disappeared from the European continent. The great hertiage of Western civilization-from the Greek and Roman classics to Jewish and Christian works-would have been utterly lost were it not for the holy men and women of the unconquered Ireland.
In this delightful and illuminating look into a crucial but little-known "hinge" of history. Thomas Cahill takes us to the "island of saints and scholars," the Ireland of St. Patrick and the Book of Kells. Here, far from the barbarian despoliation of the continent, monks and scribes laboriously, lovingly, even playfully preserved the West's written treasury. With the return of stability in Europe, these Irish scholars were instrumental in spreading learning. Thus the Irish not only were conservators of civilization, but became shapers of the medival mind, putting their unique stamp on Western culture.