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How the Irish Saved Civilization | [Thomas Cahill]

How the Irish Saved Civilization

Thanks to Thomas Cahill, the pivotal era called the "dark ages" 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.
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Publisher's Summary

From the fall of Rome to the rise of Charlemagne - the "dark ages" - learning, scholarship, and culture disappeared from the European continent. The great heritage of Western civilization - from the Greek and Roman classics to Jewish and Christian works - would have been utterly lost were it not for the holy men and women of unconquered Ireland.

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.

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Sean BELVEDERE TIBURON, CA, United States 01-29-11
    Sean BELVEDERE TIBURON, CA, United States 01-29-11 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Still not sure how they did it"

    The book was an interesting exploration of Roman literature, the life of St Patrick, and monastic life in Ireland, but I am still at a loss as to how exactly he reckons that the Irish saved civilization. Although he stresses that Irish monks travelled widely through Europe in the Dark Ages, the are no concrete examples of texts that are traced from the ancient world through Ireland back to the mainland. There should be dozens of good expamples if his thesis is correct.

    Having also read "Sailing the Wine Dark Sea" it seems like the author's style is very airy and authoritative. He tells you what he thinks about an idea and doesn't feel the need to provide references or detailed proofs. I suppose he is correct about much of what he says, but I can't just take his word for it.

    The writing is interesting and funny, but I also found the narration a bit "Masterpiece Theater" as other reviewers have pointed out.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John New Orleans, LA, United States 12-27-10
    John New Orleans, LA, United States 12-27-10 Member Since 2014
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    "The absolutely WORST Narrater in the world"

    There could not be a worse reader! it is pure torture listening to him, he has a huge accent and makes non-stop smacking sounds and he talks E-X-T-R-E-M-E-L-Y s..l...o...w. I put my ipod on high speed and that made it a little more endurable. Kinda a bummer because I wanted to hear this book, I did not have the strength to persevere, so may I recommend that you save your credit and spend it on a book that is not death to the hearer

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Roanoke, VA, USA 05-01-10
    William Roanoke, VA, USA 05-01-10
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    "Let Down"

    I don't know if it was the text or the narrator, but this was a cure for insomnia. Very disappointing.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    rachel Yakima, WA, United States 04-17-10
    rachel Yakima, WA, United States 04-17-10 Member Since 2013
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    "Interesting...I'd recommend it."

    I enjoyed the book.
    I wanted more.
    There was much I didn't know and hadn't run into in other sources.
    I'd recommend it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael SODUS POINT, NY, United States 09-04-07
    Michael SODUS POINT, NY, United States 09-04-07 Member Since 2012
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    "Impressive!"

    A rollicking trip through history, exploring the origins and underpinnings of Western philosophy and thought, and the circumstances that led to Ireland being in a unique time, place, and position to play it's special role. Interesting, well written and paced, very entertaining history!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dennis 08-30-07
    Dennis 08-30-07 Member Since 2006
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    "How the Irish"

    This is not so much a history book, but is more a philosphy and literary history from the end of the Roman Empire through about the 9th and 10th century. More than half the book is spent describing the fall of the Roman Empire and how the last few educated Romans deal with their education and historical literature.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Hooksett, NH, USA 11-29-06
    Thomas Hooksett, NH, USA 11-29-06
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    "Unable to understand narrator"

    I could not listen to this book, the narration is horrible. Note to author, make sure you hire a narrator who can speak clearly.

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Maple Grove, MN, USA 10-01-04
    Robert Maple Grove, MN, USA 10-01-04 Member Since 2014
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    "Slow & narrow"

    This is a vehicle for Cahill's narrowly focussed idea - and a slow vehicle at that. Don't listen to this and expect to learn much about Ireland, its people, or its history.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dan Austin, TX, United States 09-10-09
    Dan Austin, TX, United States 09-10-09 Member Since 2013
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    "A Great Introduction to Ireland and St. Patrick"

    This book is extremely enthusiastic about its topic and does a brilliant job in tracing the great influence that Irish peoples had on medieval Europe and thereby all of civilization. It starts with a long discussion of the collapse of the Roman Empire, then moves to St. Patrick’s conversion of Ireland. There are many comparisons made between St. Patrick & St. Augustine. It draws out the great differences between the 2 both in idealology &* methodology – these differences greatly impacting the traditions that followed each.

    The book also delves into the history of the Celts and their crazy pagan ways. Finally, the second half draws out the main theme. It deals with the way Ireland so quickly became Christianized & literate. Then Irish monks snatched up books from all over Europe whenever the rest of Europe was hitting its lowest point of chaos brought on by the constant Barbarian invasions. Irish monks saved many of our now most precious Latin and Greek ancient texts, recopied them and preserved them. Later, Irish monks re-Christianized much of Britain and continental Europe after much of these peoples had lost touch with civilization.

    The book is a great intro into the vast impact Ireland had on civilization. The author inserted his own opinions into the book. This was enjoyable & insightful - particularly when he drew out how Irish Catholicism was less unified & more lax on the rules (like the role of women in church leadership). On the other hand, I did not enjoy the fact that the author wrote about Christianity as if it was a tool by which mankind improved itself, but that Christianity in itself is not true any other than any other religion. The author clearly does not believe in any hint of real miracles or real mythology.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Geoffrey Novato, CA, USA 11-03-06
    Geoffrey Novato, CA, USA 11-03-06 Member Since 2001
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    "Interesting but slow"

    The content was really very interesting but the pace was so sloooow. A good book to read at bedtime as it will help you fall asleep - not so good for me as I listen to all my books in the car.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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