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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

Average Customer Rating

3.5 (353 )
5 star
 (99)
4 star
 (92)
3 star
 (89)
2 star
 (38)
1 star
 (35)
Overall
3.8 (101 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
 (24)
2 star
 (7)
1 star
 (7)
Story
3.6 (107 )
5 star
 (35)
4 star
 (20)
3 star
 (32)
2 star
 (10)
1 star
 (10)
Performance
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  •  
    P USA 08-15-04
    P USA 08-15-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
    ratings
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    1
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    "Fascinating book"

    Yes, the opening chapter or two is on the Roman world, and it's slow. Once you get past that (feel free to skip ahead), it's absolutely fascinating. He gives fascinating information on Ireland, Patrick, the monks who copied all the old books, Irish art, and the unique Irish perspective on life.

    Worth every penny - once you get past the Roman intro. He does that to give a foundation, but the first time you listen to it, just skip it. Go back later and listen to it.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Apex, NC, United States 05-03-03
    Karen Apex, NC, United States 05-03-03 Member Since 2001

    I write my reviews under my wife Karen's account. Retired USN Russian linguist/analyst; actor; director; producer. Biography & History focus

    HELPFUL VOTES
    581
    ratings
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    124
    50
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    12
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    "Ponderous history"

    This is a quick review - interesting content...dreadful delivery. The narration was either very uneven or SOOOO SLOW and PONDEROUS that I quickly drifted off. Buy the book instead, unless you need a sleeping aid (for which I use this recording).

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marci San Francisco, CA, USA 06-26-06
    Marci San Francisco, CA, USA 06-26-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    18
    1
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    0
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    "Not titled"

    Very well read. You have to get used to the parts where he alters his voice to emphasize characters speaking, but then again, after a few hours even that turns out to be kind of humerous at times and quite enjoyable.

    This is not a Fodor's guide to Ireland or even a day by day history of Ireland, it's an account of how the Irish monks saved history in written form (among other things.) While the world was burning all the books it could the Irish monastic leaders were collecting all the works of their neighboring world and translating (even transcribing) them for study and posterity. A society that was once nearly illiterate SAVED scores of written works! (Are you not with me here?) The stories of the Romans, Greeks and barbarians are necessary to understand just how (and why) the Irish managed to save the written texts and thus the history of a great deal of what is now Europe. Forget the negative reviews, for they are from people that wanted a history of Ireland and ordered the wrong book.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alexander Jackson Heights, NY, United States 02-07-06
    Alexander Jackson Heights, NY, United States 02-07-06 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    18
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    33
    7
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "A rambling but fun listen"

    Not just the Irish - the entire medieval history is fair game for this meandering but intelligent and fun author. I listened to it at a faster speed to save time.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe Dublin 22, Ireland 05-28-12
    Joe Dublin 22, Ireland 05-28-12 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    14
    ratings
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    10
    4
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    "History made interesting"

    From my early school days this part of our history I always found drab and boring. The time of the Tuatha De Danan, St Patrick and the Celts were more about rocks and stones than people, but this book makes a difference. It is filled with fascinating characters, gives an intriguing background to stories such as the Táin Bó Chulainn etc. Donal Donnelly reads it well but sometimes lapses into stage Irish when quoting. Overall a rich and rewarding listen. Highly recommended.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    frankie cleves, OH, United States 03-13-13
    frankie cleves, OH, United States 03-13-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    7
    4
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    "How Cahill bored millions"
    What disappointed you about How the Irish Saved Civilization?

    Love history but this book is too philosophical to satisfy my tastes. Cahill writes extensive passages about the works of some ancient writers, but the argument he tries to make get lost.

    I thought this would be a book I'd rave about. You almost need cliff notes to understand what Cahill is means. He use Latin, Greek, Gallic to no effect. He also dives into the Toine which has about as much meaning to me as Beowulf.

    That said there are sections of the book I found intriguing but many chapters that could serve as melatonin.


    What three words best describe Donal Donnelly’s performance?

    Okay. Many words not pronounced as American would. Many names of the ancient writes are not what Americans would recognize due to pronunciation.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from How the Irish Saved Civilization?

    All


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Judah Philadelphia, PA, United States 06-18-12
    Judah Philadelphia, PA, United States 06-18-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    1
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Story
    "Way Awesome!"

    Completely, totally rad, dude!!!! Awesome voices by the narrator. Always fun to hear a history from another perspective!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lacy Houston, TX, USA 07-11-06
    Lacy Houston, TX, USA 07-11-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    21
    2
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    0
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    Overall
    "Would be 5 stars except for the reader"

    The reader is awful. Listening to the man try to pronounce Latin, or anything that requires an accent, is torturous. His pace is excrutiatingly slow. The content was fascinating but the guy who read it was horrible and took a lot of enjoyment out of this audiobook for me.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Portland, OR, United States 10-14-03
    Scott Portland, OR, United States 10-14-03 Member Since 2001
    HELPFUL VOTES
    27
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    148
    5
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    0
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    Overall
    "Decline of Rome and subsequent Irish history"

    I found this to be extremely well written with an occasional condecending tone (not sure if it was implied by the reader or from the author, I'd have to listen to those sections again)when expressing a personal observation.
    The reading was excellent and appropriate to the subject. It may not be the accustomed style, but worked well here.

    6 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Xuunam Philadelphia, PA USA 06-06-08
    Xuunam Philadelphia, PA USA 06-06-08 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    19
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    893
    7
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    0
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    Overall
    "Deceptive title"

    If you expect to learn about the awesome history of the Irish clergy and the early history of the Irish people, try another book. This book seems to be a compilation of the author's lectures which range from Virgil onward. Very disappointing and not worth the time and money.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 29 results PREVIOUS123NEXT
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  • Micheal
    CorkIreland
    3/15/10
    Overall
    "not convinced"

    this book should have been edited down. Disliked the narration. The main thesis of the book was not explored enough

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Balor of the Evil Eye
    Éire
    4/24/13
    Overall
    "Don't let the title fool you!"

    This is without doubt the most disappointing audiobook to which I have yet listened. The title describes the content of just one chapter in reality, ad even then it is an overstated, poorly reinforced assertion. Concentrating heavily on the work of St. Augustine of Hippo and the vicissitudes of the Roman Empire in the early part of the book, the author appears to be interested in presenting a rambling introduction to his views on the weight and significance of the saint's work as well as that of the less-well-known Roman writer Ausonius, engaging in clumsy juxtapositions in the process.

    Ireland's entry comes quite late, with poor and excessively windy historical treatments of St. Patrick, the mythological Táin Bó Cuailnge and the movements of Irish saints such as Colmkille and Columba.

    It becomes apparent that the author isn't sufficiently well acquainted with the subject matter, while his recourse to reprinting long tracts from ancient manuscripts is quite frankly lazy work.

    The narrator is not bad - his pronunciation of Irish words is poor, yet the monotonous nature of much of the writing does come through in his presentation.

    Overall quite poor and disappointing.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Alan
    THATCHAMUnited Kingdom
    1/12/11
    Overall
    "How the Irish Saved Civilisation"

    What a shame that this wonderful, fascinating and sometimes moving book was spoiled by the unfortunate timbre and style of the voice of the narrator. The narrative and the stories which make it up, is so strong, that the damaging effect of the narrator's voice was subdued, thank goodness. With a less weary and strained-sounding narration the book would be of a five-star-plus quality, without question.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Mr. Adrian Mcmenamin
    London, UK
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "Really very poor"

    This book is like a trip down memory lane - to being taught by the Christian Brothers in the 1970s. Any difficult aspects of history - such as the fact that were two "Saint Patricks" and not just the one, are either ignored or mentioned only to be dismissed. Most of the book is not even about Ireland or the Irish but St Augustine of Hippo. Don't bother.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • George
    CroyUnited Kingdom
    8/28/06
    Overall
    "Not impressed"

    This was long winded and boring. I am not sure which I detested most the book or the delivery. I found it boring, long winded and a trial of endurance as I made myself listen to the end.

    1 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-5 of 5 results

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