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The Early Middle Ages | [The Great Courses]

The Early Middle Ages

The Early Middle Ages-the years from A.D. 650 to 1000-were crucial to Europe's future social and political development. These 24 lectures trace a journey from Scandinavia across northern and central Europe to the farthest reaches of the Byzantine and Islamic empires, providing an exciting new look an era often simply called the "Dark Ages."
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Publisher's Summary

The Early Middle Ages - the years from A.D. 650 to 1000 - were crucial to Europe's future social and political development. These 24 lectures trace a journey from Scandinavia across northern and central Europe to the farthest reaches of the Byzantine and Islamic empires, providing an exciting new look an era often simply called the "Dark Ages."

Given the period's dismal reputation and its temporal remoteness from the 21st century, you'll be surprised to learn about some of the most challenging questions historians have ever had to tackle: Why did the Roman Empire fall? Why did the ancient world give way to the medieval world? Why did Christian monotheism become the dominant religion in Europe? You'll meet some of the era's exciting figures, such as St. Augustine and Justinian, and you'll consider the extent to which the historical realities of King Arthur and Charlemagne match up to the legends that have become attached to their names. You'll also look at the era's effect on the Vikings, the rise of the Carolingians, and the golden age of Islamic rule in Spain.

Professor Daileader also explores the contrasting historical theories offered by two extremely influential historians: Edward Gibbon, the English author of the monumental The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, whose explanations closely followed those of the Roman moralists of the 4th and 5th centuries; and Henri Pirenne, the Belgian thinker who injected a newfound emphasis on social and especially economic factors into the analysis of history.

You'll see why the era belies its reputation as dark and dismal, but you'll come away with a new appreciation for this once-lost era.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.


©2004 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2004 The Great Courses

What Members Say

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  •  
    Mike 07-03-14
    Mike 07-03-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Amazing Look at the Transition to the Middle Ages!"
    Any additional comments?

    This was an excellent read! Professor Philip Daileader is an excellent lecturer and scholar and you probably won't be disappointed by anything you get from him.

    This lecture series takes you from the late Roman Empire around the time of Constantine and traces the transition of Europe from late antiquity to the middle ages. You will learn about the collapse of Roman rule in the West, the continuation of the Roman empire in the East through the Byzantine rulers, the Barbarian invasions of Western Europe, the rise of Islam, the emergence of the Carolingian Holy Roman Empire, and the eventual splitting off of that empire into what would become the modern states of France and Germany. He covers all major historical events to about 1000AD.

    If you would like to learn more about how Europe went from a unified Roman empire to the divided and complicated state it is in now, I cannot recommend another resource more highly. You will learn about the foundations of all the modern nation states, including England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. This was an invaluable read for me as it helped me connect all of those dots!

    Also, the professor tries to highlight not just political history, but also cultural, economic, religious, and social aspects of history in his overview.

    This is part one of a three part series offered by the Great Courses that will take you through the entire middle ages up to the year 1500. I highly recommend the whole series.

    If you are at all interested in the topic, and enjoy a good read about history, you will not be disappointed! Enjoy!!!

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Philip Centurion, South Africa 06-23-14
    Philip Centurion, South Africa 06-23-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Great course, better Professor"

    This period of history can be rather dry for a variety of reasons, but Professor Daileader not only manages to put together a course that is fascinating throughout, but his delivery is excellent. There is even a fair amount of humour, which I almost never find in the Great Courses series.

    Professor Daileader is easily the best orator in the Great Courses series, and second only to Michael C. Drout from the Modern Scholar series.

    Highly recommended.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Elizabeth Reynolds SUMMERVILLE, SC, United States 03-16-14
    Mary Elizabeth Reynolds SUMMERVILLE, SC, United States 03-16-14 Member Since 2013

    author of Lowcountry Legend's series

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Early Middles"

    I enjoy everything that this professor does, but I do enjoy this time period this best. He has such a good sense of humor and relevance.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gayle Gleichauf 04-01-15 Member Since 2015
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    "recommended"

    The prof had a sense of humor and way with words. Breaks the lessons into coherent building blocks that tell the whole story.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ben 03-31-15
    Ben 03-31-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Excellent story telling."

    Excellent story telling. Lecturer is engaging, funny and brings a sense of modern and approachability to an underrated time period.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bror Erickson Farmington New Mexico 05-28-15
    Bror Erickson Farmington New Mexico 05-28-15 Member Since 2014

    Your Brother in Christ

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    "Shedding Light on the "Dark Ages""

    Professor Philip Daileader does a great job examining the historical theories of both Gibbons and Pirenne in light of new archeological evidence regarding the Early Middle Ages while also showing how the players of this time period have helped shaped our modern society for better and worse.
    There is a huge, and understandable emphasis on French history during this period and especially the rise of Charlemagne and the influence of his empire both upon the church and secular culture. However, there is also good consideration given to the history of England during this period and the influence and contributions of the Vikings as well as the missionary work of the Irish and Anglo Saxons.
    As history doesn't happen in a vacuum, Daileader finds it necessary to delve into the history of earlier periods and looking at such key figures as Augustine, Ambrose, and Constantine. I found that he was quite knowledgeable concerning the theological and ecclesiastical issues surrounding these men. In fact I would say that he showed himself erudite concerning the theological issues impacting the history throughout the lectures, and that was quite refreshing.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hayyamini USA 02-05-15
    Hayyamini USA 02-05-15 Member Since 2012

    hammoreh

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great course!"

    Great overview of early Middle Ages and cultural changes. The professor is outstanding. A good deal of variety in topics.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa D Dirkx 07-07-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not Actually About the Middle Ages"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    I think history requires a great narrative and passion about the subject. This lecture series lacked both.

    Next, this lecture series says it covers 650 to 1000 A.D. The actual lecture spends 3/4 of the time discussing events from about 215 to 500 A.D. In other words, less than a quarter of the series is about the time period I thought it would be covering.


    What could The Great Courses have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    This book was not actually about the time period specified 650 to 1000 A.D. It spent an inordinate amount of time on St. Augustine (354 to 430 A.D.), Muhammad (570 to 632 A.D.), and Diocletian (245 to 311 A.D.). The author also spends almost 30 minutes discussing early-Christian views on celibacy. It was weird and disconcerting. In fact, you don't even approach the stated subject matter of the lectures until almost nine hours after you start.

    Also, this lecture is rife with historical inaccuracies.

    Even once you think you're going to get into the meat and potatoes of the Early Middle Ages, this lecture series fails to deliver. It makes a time period, which is really fascinating, seem droll and boring. The author spends 30 minutes discussing the changes made to manuscripts during the Carolingian Renaissance. (They invented spacing between words!) The author spends nary 30 minutes on Britain or Spain during the Middle Ages, choosing instead to focus on the obscure and pedantic.

    Unlike other Great Courses History lectures I've done in the past, this lecture lacked a narrative. This made the whole experience feel scattershot, unorganized, and unfulfilling.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    The narrator had a cold for three or four of the lectures, which was gross. Even without the cold, he was grating. He had a nervous tick where he would suck saliva through his teeth.


    What character would you cut from The Early Middle Ages?

    I would cut the first nine hours of the lectures (which were outside of the stated scope of the course) and summarize them in one or two lectures. I would also discuss some of the more important figures and battles during the Middle Ages. Really, I would just discuss the Middle Ages.


    Any additional comments?

    I was extremely disappointed by this lecture series. I have done a few Great Courses in the past, and I had enjoyed them. A friend and I decided to listen to this lecture together, and it was so unpleasant.

    16 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sebastian Kazimierz Gawel 08-18-15
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    "Very engaging"

    The way this lecture is taught is simply superb. Can't wait to listen to the other two.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    juliet 08-06-15
    juliet 08-06-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "New title: the history of men"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Men


    Would you ever listen to anything by The Great Courses again?

    Yes


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Professor Philip Daileader?

    I was not a fan of Philip's narration although he did try hard.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Early Middle Ages?

    It wasn't what I would cut out it was what I would put in. There was almost nothing about the history of women in this. They were lacking in almost every lecture. There was only a few fleeting references to what their lives might have been like and Philip kept saying things like 'so you could take a concubine...' or 'you could choose who to take into battle with you' - the 'you' was always male. Much of this period must have been incredibly difficult for women and there is no mention of that, just knights, kings and scholars (all men).


    Any additional comments?

    The male bias in this series has really put me off listening to more history courses by this author.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • David
    Leighton Buzzard, United Kingdom
    12/27/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Excellent insight into a little understood period"

    This is the best course I have listened to this far from the Great Courses. The material covered is not a period I knew well and the lecturer had an enjoyably light style with a nicely dry sense of humour.

    What I particularly enjoyed was the comprehensive coverage of the subject including low and high culture; religion and politics; war and peace. Really a superb series of lectures

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • mr
    west sussex, United Kingdom
    6/15/14
    Overall
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    Story
    "Very good"

    Really good, I learnt a lot more than I expected, good delivery. Three is the series, started listening to the third (unaware of the second, before driving) and the start is excellent. So go for it.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Jonathan
    Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    1/24/15
    Overall
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    "The perfect lecture course"

    I have listened to many of the Great Courses series, and this ranks amongst the very best. This seemingly remote period came alive completely in the hands of Professor Daileader and I became almost addicted to the lectures. It is a beautifully crafted course: each lecture has a clearly defined topic, beginning with a summary of the last lecture and ending with a short review. And the presentation is just wonderful. For detailed information about content I recommend looking at the Great Courses web site, which has a list of lecture titles. Or you could just take my word for it and download this course now -- I cannot recommend it highly enough.
    I will now move seamlessly on to Professor Daileader's next course on the High Middle Ages......

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Booka
    England
    8/24/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Passionate lectures about an interesting period"

    I've listened to lots of Great Courses and this is one of the best because of his passion and the period.
    He covers a long period of 700 years when Saint Augustine and Charlemagne were key players and a part of history that not many people seem to know much about. It's hard to keep track of so many groups of people: the Visigoths, the Arabs, the Vikings, the Merovingians and Carolingians but the course brings them a bit closer to the present.
    I'm looking forward to the next one.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Helen
    London
    8/6/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Informative and enjoyable"

    Really a pleasure to listen to. A random mention of Charlemagne in the media made me realise I knew nothing about all this and I am now much better informed. I had heard terms like Holy Roman Emperor and Byzantium without really focussing on what they meant. I now have a clear general picture of how the Roman Empire was divided in two, how the two entities developed, how this fitted in with historical figures like the Venerable Bede, and how it all led to Western civilisation today.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Ms. S. Smith
    UK
    11/10/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Content great but narration slightly annoying"
    What did you like best about The Early Middle Ages? What did you like least?

    This is a period of history that I know relatively little about and especially the fall,of the Roman Empire was really interesting. The only fly in the ointment was the narrator's irritating use of a long, drawn out "aaaand" every couple of words which made listening quite hard going after only a short time. I persevered however because the subject interested me.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The historical content obviously.


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    Pace yes, but I would probably read another work by this author. rather than listen to him narrate another audio book.


    Did The Early Middle Ages inspire you to do anything?

    Yes, I have already bought additional historical audio books from the Great Courses series.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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