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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2009 Chris Wickham (P)2018 Tantor

What listeners say about The Inheritance of Rome

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent Intro to An Obscure Period

Writing for a non-specialist audience, Wickham has summed up the past generation of research into this most obscure of Western historical periods. Usually characterized as the "Fall of Rome" and the "Dark Ages," this book traces continuities and evolution across the entire Western world (ie, everything West of Persia), with major coverage of Byzantium and Islam.

i'm not the scholar to review this book in detail, but compared to anything previously available - usually a few chapters in a book focusing on the later Middle Ages - this book raises the bar considerably.

Stewart is a capable reader. However, the recording itself is brassy and can be difficult for sustained listening. Audible could do us a favor by demanding better audio engineering from its contributing companies.

Still, this is a 5-star audiobook, and sets a high standard for the field.

28 people found this helpful

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Wonderful book by a talented writer and historian

This is a wonderful book by a talented writer and historian. As the title suggests, the continuity between Roman times and the early middle ages is an important theme in the work. The author blends secular and ecclesiastical history together in a way that never becomes tedious and provides insight into both the eastern and western inheritance of Rome and the post-Roman Islamic world. It never bogs down in political history and gives the reader a view of the social and cultural history of the period. The narration is great, 32hrs by any single narrator can get stale, but this one never does. Highly recommended

23 people found this helpful

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A Treasure to find on Audible!

I hope Audible will provide more books like this one. I could listen to this 100 x. it is that good!

10 people found this helpful

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good info, but very slow

hard to listen to the narrative because it goes into excruciating detail. This is only exacerbated by the slow cadence of the narrator. better to listen at 1.5 speed.

9 people found this helpful

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Impressive and extensive

This is a meticulously researched work. It weaves together diverse information from numerous sources and fields of study. It covers vastly different regions, including the Eastern Empire, the Arabic world and various areas of Europe.

Wickham describes the influences of Imperial Rome, particularly the Western Empire, on successor entities and explores both the continuities and discontinuities in such successor states and other polities. He also chronicles changes over six centuries within and among such entities.

Wickham uses both literary and archeological sources. He relies, much more heavily, however, on literary sources. Because of the generally low level of literacy in the period, therefore, there is more information available on, and consequently discussion about, aristocratic and ecclesiastical hierarchies, and much less on the peasantry, even though they constituted the vast majority of the population.

Wickham does describe the worsening conditions of the peasantry over the period covered, but there is only a brief discussion of the effect of the fall of the Western Empire on the peasantry.

Again by virtue of the heavy reliance on literary sources, the book focuses on political and social developments in the period. Other than the analyses of aristocratic and ecclesiastical literature, however, there is limited discussion of cultural developments. The only visual art covered is architecture and the accompanying building decorations.

There is no discussion of other aspects of culture, which is traditionally an aristocratic preserve. The very fact that there were no significant contributions to such arts as music, painting, drama or fiction, itself represents a significant break from the Imperial Roman tradition and would have been worthy of discussion.

8 people found this helpful

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Overall a pretty bad book

This is a bad book, and the author is vastly inferior to Tom Holland and especially Peter Heather. I have read a lot about this period and Wickham does have some good information and analysis in this book. However, his structure and style make it unnecessarily dry and even boring. This is unfortunate because there are a lot astounding and dramatic events in the Dark Ages, but Wickham seems to almost intentionally ignore or downplay them. The book is also full of a lot of academic and post-modern jargon, which even as someone with a scholarly background in this material, was too much for me. I also found the book got weirdly political in an anachronistic way at times, which I guess is to be expected as Wickham edits an explicitly Marxist journal. This seemed out of place in a book about early medieval Europe though. Finally, while previous attempts at drawing grand narratives from the period are problematic, the total absence of any narratives make this book very disjointed and boring. Another reviewer put it best, this guy really missed the forest for the trees. I would recommend readers look elsewhere for books about this period. The narrator was good though.

5 people found this helpful

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Dry facts read without feeling

Gave up after a couple hours because it was mostly a litany of names and places read in a purely informational tone. Disappointing because I'm fascinated by this time period.Maybe it gets better as it goes along.

5 people found this helpful

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Too Academic for General Consumption, Too Simple for Academic Consumption

I’ve read several books from the greats in history, Will and Ariel Durant, Charles Oman, et al. I had introduction to this period already through a summary of the same period by John H. B. Masterman. I emphasize this only to say that I already had introduction to the period.

After seeing this book at Barnes & Noble several years back, I’ve been looking forward to it. I love Rome and was seriously looking forward to seeing what the “Inheritance of Rome” was. Because of a plethora of grammatical errors, poor storytelling, and lists of names and dates without context, the Dark Ages seem rather darker to me than they were before. This book is so poorly edited that it makes me seriously wonder whether an editor was involved in the process at all. Wickham throws out names and dates like it’s a Wikipedia page, but the latter is seriously better at providing context than Wickham is. Where Wickham does provide context, it is on issues that are so irrelevant as to make one wonder why a full 2-hour chapter is devoted to them. I’m going to turn to a history of the period by Charles Oman and then the Durant work “The Age of Faith.” Hopefully these will provide better information than this book did.

Others have said it, but do not get this book.

4 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

Head fit squarely up ass.

Struggling to get past chapter 1. The author has spent more time discussing historiography than actual history. Laying down some basics is one thing, but my god man. I bought a history book of early medieval period, not a history book of the historiography of the early medieval period.

3 people found this helpful

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A pleasant British accent...

Overall, this book, however interesting it might be, cannot overcome a dull and uninterested tone from the narrator. The subject becomes dull, dull, dull. Save your money on the Audible book and buy the Kindle edition instead.

3 people found this helpful