This great history starts with a survey of Christianity, then continues with an exploration of the "dark ages" following the fall of Rome, before proceeding with an explanation of how Europe coped with, and absorbed, the barbarians who overran the Empire. It goes on to trace the development of feudalism and Islam, and describes the harrowing survival of Byzantium throughout the brutal chaos that swirled about the Eastern Roman Empire during the 9th and 10th centuries. Discover how national monarchies and the modern nation state came into being, how the West responded to the Islamic invasions, and how Christianity penetrated into the farthest reaches of Northern Europe. Understand the dramatic repercussions of the Great Schism in Christianity and how economic change in the West almost destroyed the church. Finally, discover the events which gave rise to the magnificent flowering of the Gothic Age and the explosion of knowledge which subsequently paved the way for the Renaissance. The Middle Ages were the precursor to everything which we in the west consider "modern." This beautifully written history tells you why.
© and (P)2004 Audio Connoisseur
"Reasonable book, ruined"
Any audiobook is a game of two halves. The first part is the text written by the author and the second the narration.
The first part of this book is fine, well researched if a little pro-Western, pro-Church stand point. It is a little dated in places but otherwise excellent.
The downfall comes with the narration which at best sounds like Hugh Denis doing his best pompous voice but most of the time is dreadfully dull and precisely the tone that puts so many off history. At point one I really did wonder what was going on as he mispronounces even the simplest things dan-e-geld is actually dane-geld (gold paid to the Danes to go away). The patronising, condescending and frankly turgid tones were eventually enough even for me and I couldn't face the final part. My view is that it was a good book ruined. There are many good books on audible, this just isn't one of them. My advice, get Caesar's Legion instead and cracking book and an excellent narrator.
"A very good book ruined"
I was housebound at the time and I was looking forward to learning something of my favourite historical period. I still have some text books from my youth, but this seemed likely to be more thorough and informative.
Unfortunately, and I have to say this, the reading was so appalling that it was difficult to absorb anything and having to continually 'rewind' an MP3 player was a frustrating exercise.
Part of the problem is that a book of this type does not lend itself to spoken cross references to narrative which has already been read or which appears later in the book. On the printed page this would be easy enough to follow but not so in an audiobook. This is one of those occasions where some care should have been taken to edit the book to make things easier for the listener.
I also regret that the narrators voice and quite unnecessary attempts to introduce 'drama' (I can only think that this is what he was trying to do) into the work was both irritating and unsuccessful.
I have given up on the audiobook and may now go to the library and borrow the printed work.
"The roots of modern European history"
We forget the past, but that does not mean that it is not important for understanding the present, or even the future. The Medieval period is also known as the Dark Ages, not because nothing happened, but because so little documentation still exists. It was a period of looting, raping and pillage as well as burning of towns and monasteries, where much of the documentation for the period would have be housed.
This history from the mid 5th Century to the 17th Century, ending at the start of the early Modern period, is an interesting glimpse of how modern European bounderies were drawn and more importantly, why. However, perhaps because it is in audio form, at times it seems confusing. You have to struggle without maps for some mental picture of the part of Europe being described is being divided or fought over by various parties.
Overall it is interesting and absorbing enough to stay to the end. The chapters are divided by music, mainly extracts of beautiful plainchants, evoking the monks at their devotions; Christianity playing such an important part in the development of Europe and the Near East during this period, not only for the Crusades but for the Christianization of Eastern Europe and the schism between the Catholic and the Orthodox churches.
The narrator, however, affected some of the oddest pronunciation I have ever heard. Where was he from with his plummy accent yet was unable to pronounce 'Salisbury', and irritatingly 'orften' and others. I know this was written by American, for American too presumeably from the annoying asides about the US and its history, but did the narrator have to have such affectations? Due to him, my enjoyment was diminished and it was hard work to listen through to what. by the third part, seemed like the bitter end.
So if you accept the narrator, and his voice does not stick in your craw, I would say this book because of its subject is worth discovering
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