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
"It remains the best life of Charlemagne in English." (The Saturday Review)
This was an exceptional audiobook. I knew a little about Charlemagne going in, but this is a comprehensive biography that is very colorful and highly interesting. I did not know that Charlemagne had such an influence on the church. I also didn't know what a lady's man he was. The writing is as good as you could want in a biography like this, scholarly but not pedantic. The author keeps it interesting, though he really packs a lot into this work. The description of his struggle with the Saxons was memorable to say the least. Don't miss this if you like medieval history. Great narrator.
This book makes fascinating reading of medieval history, and manages to create a highly human overview of Charlemagne's reign from what must be rather meagre pickings after 1200 years, at least with respect to the personal letters and evidence of internal family happenings of such an heroic figure. The author takes great pains to convey where he may have questionable historical footing about his assumptions; thus the majority of the book rings solid and true. I would recommend it highly to anyone wishing to have a broader understanding of European history -- for me it was an important bridge from the Roman times to the history of England and Europe beginning with 1066. It is far easier to study this history with a human subject as a focal point, and this book builds heavily on that approach.
The printed book may well have a list of characters which would be very helpful to keep all the unusual names straight. If it were possible to do so with copyright issues being raised, it would be great if Audible would provide some backup information for a book like this one.
The effort in this terrific book is in becoming familiar with Germanic names. Events I suffered through in college over 40 years ago came alive and took on the meaning for me my teachers could only dream about. In some ways the book is a study in true leadership as well as the revelation of an extraordinary person in an extraordinary time. The details in this biography are welcome enhancements to the story, rather than mere historical events. The writer bridges the gap of more than 1300 years so well that the book actually seems modern. I look forward to a second listen.
I can't say enough great things about this book. If you are used to reading biographies of modern statesmen, you may be a bit put off at first, because obviously you will not find as many direct quotations or independent accounts of a ruler from the 8th century. Nonetheless, the author somehow manages to bring Charlemagne to life for us, creating not only a strong sense of personality but also a sense of the way that personality changed as the young ruler matured.
I also admire the way the author combines scholarship with humility. There are occasional points at which he lays out a mystery, gives some of the contending theories, and then reveals his own view -- always based on reasonable inferences from the available evidence, and always presented as hypothesis rather than fact. Many writers would not show so even a hand.
I once heard a professor of history remark that the whole idea of the "Dark Ages" was a modern conceit, and that it was important to remember that people who lived in those times had minds just as philosophically subtle as our own, even if they didn't have electricity or antibiotics. This book drives that point home in spades.
"From the Hammer to the Cross". This audiobook is EXCELLENT. The author narrates with great responsibility and precision the life (and times) of Charlemagne from his ancestor (The Hammer) to his disappointing heir (The Cross). The main character is brought to life in a very special way: he seems like one's close acquaintance once you get to know him. We are, unwittingly, familiarized with the whole world history of his time (at least the one that matters): Empress Irene and successors in Constatinople, Harun-Al-Rashid in Bagdad, The kings of Mercia and the petty kingdoms of northern Spain. Another interesting feature is the portrayal of the ambivalent and complex relationship between our character and the popes (Stephen, Hadrian and Leo). It's like a novel, only better because it isn't. Buy this audiobook, it will make you a better person (or at least better informed).
When I bought this title, I was thinking, "This will be good for me to learn; it might even be interesting at times." I was surprised to find the book never had any dull spots. I did learn so many interesting things that helped set a great backdrop for the roots of France and Germany, feudalism, the history of education, the Vikings, the Ottoman Empire's rise, and even the Norman invasion of England in subsequent centuries. That I was able to become so much more knowledgable about a time and person we only hear little about while enjoying a biography that was so readable was wonderful!
This book takes a bit of work to listen to. The reader has an English accent, an echo is added to the quotes, and there is medieval filler music between chapters. The effect is a bit like watching a filmstrip or movie in high school, between the production style and the stories of unfamiliar people like Pepin, Charles Martel, and the like. This does make it educational, however and overall the book is pretty good. Being the biography of an emperor it emphasizes political history more than social. I'm finding that I like social history better, but there were enough nuggets of information on regular life that the book was good for me. Specifically, I always wondered why you couldn't just live on your piece of land and be left alone. Now I know.
If you are interested in Charlemagne and the history of his time, the book is worthwhile but plan on working some to get through it.
This audiobook successfully brings to life the politics of the middle ages, a period that is little studied in secondary or post-secondary institutions. You get to know Charlemagne ... Charles ... the dynastic machinations, complex relationship with the Vatican, incessant warring among the former "barbarian" groups that overthrew Rome a few hundred years before. I think I would have benefitted by having a map of the period in front of me, since I struggled to understand what was happening where. But that is my own fault, not the book's fault. The narration was peculiar ... with the quotations delivered as if in an echo chamber, to differentiate it from the regular text. But I found that endearing, not irritating. This is a fairly heavy history volume, and the style of narration made it much easier to take that is sometimes the case with other history audiobooks.
I felt this was the best historical account from the middle ages I've ever heard/read. I recommend this book to anyone interested in history and to anyone with questions about the Catholic Church, Charlemagne, or the Byzantine Empire.
The quality of the production was very good. The content was even better. I knew very little about Charlemange prior to listening to the book. Now I know more than I can remember. The author was thoughough and thoughtful. Except for the occasional speculation regarding the internal thoughts of some of the historical figures, I really enjoyed listening.
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