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Charlemagne | [Richard Winston]

Charlemagne

Charlemagne was easily one of the most fascinating figures in Western civilization, as well as the most heroic and romantic. The 47 years of his reign marked some of the most significant and far reaching events of the Middle Ages. Undoubtedly, it was his enlightened vision for Europe that resulted in the Carolingian Renaissance, a period of cultural flowering that never really ceased to develop, and which led in a straight line directly to that period of astonishing achievement we now call the High Gothic.
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Publisher's Summary

Charlemagne was easily one of the most fascinating figures in Western civilization, as well as the most heroic and romantic. The 47 years of his reign marked some of the most significant and far reaching events of the Middle Ages. Undoubtedly, it was his enlightened vision for Europe that resulted in the Carolingian Renaissance, a period of cultural flowering that never really ceased to develop, and which led in a straight line directly to that period of astonishing achievement we now call the High Gothic. It is almost impossible to conceive what Europe might have been like without him. Indeed, even in the 21st century, we still hear the echoes of his deeds in the hurly-burly of historical events that unfold today.

This incredible biography, without question the best ever written about Charlemagne in the English language and one of the greatest biographies of the 20th century, is a thrilling and poignant chronicle of the greatest of Medieval kings. We follow the young king in his early years as he assumes control over a divided kingdom, as co-ruler of the Germanic Franks along with his brother Carloman. When Carloman dies, Charlemagne assumes sole ownership of the crown and immediately begins his expansionist policy, first subduing the Lombards in Italy, then taking on the savage pagan Saxons. As his empire grows, Charlemagne proves himself a genius at military and civil administration. The Byzantine Emperor and Caliph of Baghdad held him in high esteem and acknowledged him as the successor to the western Roman emperors. But it was his great Christian faith and compassion that marked him out for greatness. He was a first rate scholar-humanist and surrounded himself with the greatest minds of Europe. As a fervent son of the church, it was Charlemagne more than anyone else who charted the course of the Catholic Church. As never before or since, Charlemagne held an empire in thrall as both its temporal and spiritual leader.

©1954 Estate of Richard Winston; (P)2004 Audio Connoisseur

What the Critics Say

"It remains the best life of Charlemagne in English." (The Saturday Review)

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    Amazon Customer 01-07-13 Member Since 2011

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    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    christopher 10-15-12
    christopher 10-15-12
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    "Like the curate's egg, good in parts"

    I think you have to be a bit of a masochist to embark on reading a biography of Charlemagne. After all, there is really no way of relating personally to the world in which he lived and this biographer helps you out not at all. 90 percent of the work consists of "on this date he did this and on that date he did that". Not the sort of stuff to keep you on the edge of your seat. Of course, the reader's curious pronunciation doesn't help, and the echo chamber quotes appear to be a desperate effort to breathe some dramatic life into the performance.
    Most disappointing is the author's apparent acceptance of pretty much everything that Charlemagne did. His massacre of the Saxons at Verden is treated as nothing more than a political mistake. His overall treatment of the Saxons, pretty close to genocide by modern day standards, seems in the book to be more a legitimate concern for the Christianizing of a godless people than the bloodthirsty obsession it clearly was . His "home life" was scandalous yet he had no hesitation in criticizing priests for unseemly behavior, not even conscious of the double standard he was maintaining. He would not let his daughters marry because he loved them too much. By tampering with doctrine he did much to set the Eastern and Western churches on the road to schism. And his so great empire effectively fell apart in a generation. Charle not so magne ? The author's few words at the end trying to get things into context was not enough. And if the problem is that we do not know enough about Charlemagne really to get inside his mind, then why write the book ?

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sarah 02-02-10
    Sarah 02-02-10

    I'm a 60 yr old former English major and grad student. It's been fascinating revisiting the books I studied in my 20s, read aloud to me.

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    "Read by J. Peterman!"

    This is a beautifully written book by a gifted historian. I learned little of European history during my school years and found this book invaluable in catching me up and filling in the many blanks of my knowledge. HOWEVER--the narrator sounds exactly like J. Peterman (of Seinfeld fame). He sounds like he's trying to put on a British accent--why, I have no idea. It's extremely distracting and almost made me delete this book before listening all the way through. If "Charlton Griffin" is British, why is he faking his accent? And if he's American (which he sounds like) why can't he just read the book in his NORMAL ACCENT?? Seriously, this is the only flaw (and it's a big one, in an Audiobook) in this fascinating and rich history.

    1 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Duff San Jose, CA, USA 11-22-04
    Duff San Jose, CA, USA 11-22-04 Member Since 2014
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    "Excellent"

    This is a classic bit of historical biography. The text survives the narrator. (Someone please explain to Griffin that reading historical writing is no excuse for sounding like such a pompous ass.)

    3 of 12 people found this review helpful
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    05-07-08
    05-07-08 Listener Since 2005
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    "In the main Charlemagne misses the mark"

    As a summary of Charlemagne, this work missed the mark as either a scholarly endeavor to make significant access to primal information or as an historical narrative that engages one into the life of Charlemagne. On the one hand, it glosses over the facts behind the narrative and so does not give one a glimpse of the scholarship. On the other hand, the narrative is not engaging enough to draw one into and through Charlemagne's life and times. In fact, it seems boring and removed. So, it misses on both counts.

    1 of 8 people found this review helpful
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    KM 07-30-07
    KM 07-30-07 Member Since 2012
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    "avoid"

    The reader is so affected and disconnected from the content of the book it is incomprehesible. I tried very hard to listen because I really wanted to learn the subject matter but it was not possible. A disaster of an audiobook. Avoid Avoid Avoid.

    1 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan 07-02-04
    Susan 07-02-04
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    "Too wordy and rife with unwanted details!"

    This book is well read, however, it is not written in an interesting manner. I felt as if I was in a history class where the professor thoroughly enjoyed discussing every remote detail while the class is sound asleep. I paid for the book so I kept trying to listen, but for the most part I just wanted to turn it off.

    4 of 32 people found this review helpful
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