I can't say enough great things about this book. If you are used to reading biographies of modern statesmen, you may be a bit put off at first, because obviously you will not find as many direct quotations or independent accounts of a ruler from the 8th century. Nonetheless, the author somehow manages to bring Charlemagne to life for us, creating not only a strong sense of personality but also a sense of the way that personality changed as the young ruler matured.
I also admire the way the author combines scholarship with humility. There are occasional points at which he lays out a mystery, gives some of the contending theories, and then reveals his own view -- always based on reasonable inferences from the available evidence, and always presented as hypothesis rather than fact. Many writers would not show so even a hand.
I once heard a professor of history remark that the whole idea of the "Dark Ages" was a modern conceit, and that it was important to remember that people who lived in those times had minds just as philosophically subtle as our own, even if they didn't have electricity or antibiotics. This book drives that point home in spades.
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