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 medieval mind, putting their unique stamp on Western culture.
Thanks to Thomas Cahill, this pivotal era is brought back to vibrant life, its personages portrayed in all their seemingly contemporary humanity, its issues simply and compellingly spelled out. How the Irish Saved Civilization will change forever the way we look at our past, and ourselves.
©1995 Thomas Cahill; (P)1999 Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio Publishing, a Division of Random House, Inc.
"Cahill's lovely prose breathes life into a 1,600-year-old history." (The Los Angeles Times)
"Charming and poetic...an entirely engaging, delectable voyage into the distant past, a small treasure." (The New York Times)
it you want to learn about the so called dark ages and how they came about, as well as how Irish culture began, this is the book to read
Revisiting this book after 20 years was an incredible journey for this Irishman. I can't stress its importance enough.
Our civilization is undergoing massive changes in the 21st century. Cahill's book provides a blueprint for how we may continue to transmit our civilization's fundamental values to future generations. Change is inevitable - loss is not.
Cahill presents an a history which has been forcibly suppressed by the British for 5 centuries of a tolerant, democratic, and lusty religion in the portraits of Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid, Saint Columba, and others of the early Irish Church. We should look back to these figures as spiritual leaders in the 21st century.
Thanks, Aunt Sara. 😇
Yes. The audio edition is much more lively than the print version. I recommend listening to the audio edition first; then read the print version. Listening to the audio version makes you WANT to read the print version. I don't think it would work the other way around.
Two things: (1) the credit given to the Irish for saving civilization; and, more importantly, (2) the portrayal of Saint Patrick as a good Irishman who loses his temper when he sees someone defenseless being mistreated.
The relaxing pace; the Irish brogue; the good humor...funny, fun, and informative. Very lively.
Irelands been upgraded
The vision to save the works, remembering the slow and tedious effort required to make copies.
update later, but certainly St. Patrick.
Time well spent learning who were really the righteous brothers and who were the burners
This reader (Donnally) is absolutely atrocious. I just started the book today and I'm probably going to bail out. Wasted credit. He sounds like a parody of some 80-year old British schoolmaster you'd see in a 1980s music video. Truly awful and badly over-acted. Furthermore the sound quality sounds like you dug an overused vinyl record out of the landfill. A real shame because I've been wanting to read Cahill's book for a long time. I can't image what the producers were thinking hiring this guy.
I suggest, before you waste a credit you'd better listen hard to the sample to see if you can tolerate several hours of this knucklehead.
Irrational, but True
I enjoyed this work, if for no other reason than for it brings to light the history of a people (and a nation) of whom I'm quite ignorant.
Thomas Cahill's sweeping endeavor wrapps Irish culture and history into the wider context of Europe's widest trajectories, from early celtic civilization, to the role it played in the dynamics of Britain during the Roman conquest and eventual fall of the empire. In the dark ages to come, and in the medieval period to follow, Irish scribes, and indeed Irish cultural morays, had a much more pivotal role in setting the tone than I myself previously realized.
I think the book's title may take this notion a bit far. Plenty of the greco-roman works were preserved and retransmitted to the west, not from Ireland, but from the east... via Byzantium and Islamic influence in Spain, Sicily, Italy, and during the crusades. Yet, Ireland does seem to have played a very important, if not exclusive or even vital, role in the process. The book's main argument holds enough water to be worth reading for any fan of history.
What I think is this book's best asset, however, is the examination of Irish culture, mythology, paradigms, and traditions, and how those values and ideas influenced the wider world of the dark and early middle ages. I've not known of many of these heroes and stories, and the author recounts them in a light that brings them richness, texture, and humanity. We hear of Irish epics, Irish lore, a deeper exploration of Irish personalities such as Saint Patrick, and a wide array of Irish poetry and prose. The Irish are presented to us as a people with great creative energy, and values with which we today can empathize, such as a value for the written word and for ideas that caused Irish scribes to translate and copy even books they couldn't fully grasp or which they outright found to be folly. In particular, I found the verses and quotations to be memorable, full of heart and sensibility, and often recounted at length in this work, rather than in small snippets.
I guess I should have read the dust jacket first - but this book was not really about how the Irish saved history, but the development of early literature. I kept waiting to hear about the work of the Irish abbeys and the production of the great works produced at Lindisfarne and Iona - but these were covered almost as an after thought. People who want to find out about early greek and roman literature might enjoy this book,
not without more research to find out what the book was really about
Great book to read if you're of Irish heritage. Great book to read if you didn't know you were Irish. Excellent wrap up of the fall of Rome, and the rise of Ireland.
I gave up. The Romans got to me. Everything you read, or will read, on the Roman Chapters is true. Bring us the Irish for crying out loud. The Roman section could have been summarized. It in deed necessary to establish the fall the Empire and the role of the Irish, but the author is clearly indulging himself with little consideration for his readers.
The slow pace of the reading doesn't help. I had it on fast speed (x 2) and still I dozed off a few times.
I may take it up again if I find where the Irish enter the stage.
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