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The Forge of Christendom

The End of Days and the Epic Rise of the West
Narrated by: James A. Gillies
Length: 15 hrs and 57 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (148 ratings)
Regular price: $29.95
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Publisher's Summary

At the approach of the first millennium, the Christians of Europe did not seem likely candidates for future greatness. Weak, fractured, and hemmed in by hostile nations, they saw no future beyond the widely anticipated Second Coming of Christ. 

But when the world did not end, the peoples of Western Europe suddenly found themselves with no choice but to begin the heroic task of building a Jerusalem on Earth. 

In The Forge of Christendom, Tom Holland masterfully describes this remarkable new age, a time of caliphs and Viking sea kings, the spread of castles, and the invention of knighthood. It was one of the most significant departure points in history: the emergence of Western Europe as a distinctive and expansionist power.

©2008 Tom Holland (P)2018 Tantor

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  • Overall
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Fantastic medieval history

Great narrator, witty writing, interesting subject matter. 10/10. I have to type more words for the review to be accepted.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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From Charlemange to Cannosa

Tom Holland's gift lies in capturing the spirit and feeling of an age as if you were living through it yourself. The arc of this story flows from the time of Charlemagne to the First Crusade, with the interactions of the Popes and Holy Roman Emperors providing the backbone of the narrative. In lovely Holland prose, he also dives into great detail into the rise of castles and monasteries in France, the wonders of Al-Andalus, and the transformation of the Northmen from pagans to Christian kings. As the Bayeux Tapestry features on the cover, the Duke of Normandy's conquest of England is given an extremely well-contextualized treatment as well. If you enjoyed In the Shadow of the Sword, Rubicon, or Dynasty, pick this up.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

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Pepin The Short to The Crusades

Libraries are full of books on the Roman Republic, the Roman Empire, the Crusades, the Middle Ages and the Reformation, but I have not found many books covering the period of the rise of Christianity so, for me, Mr Holland's book is a welcome addition. The book basically covers the period from the coronation of Pepin The Short to the First Crusade and describes both European history and that of the Catholic Church and how each influenced the other.

Mr Holland's writing style is not what I have generally come to expect in history books, and although there is a lot of information concerning the various royal families in Europe, the perils of being Italian at that time, the schism between the Western and Eastern Christian Churches and the invasion of England, the book takes a lighter approach than many and is full of Mr Holland's dry wit and almost lyrical in its prose. It also provides one of the best backgrounds I have found of many of the most important events in European and Christian history - William The Conquerer and the invasion of England, the change in the balance of power between the Kings of Europe and the Papacy, the relations between the Byzantine and Roman Church and their prelates, the relations between the Christian West and the Muslim world and how the Church and the general population viewed what was believed at the time to be the "End Times".

The book's title implied, at least to me, some explanation about how Christian history during this time aided in the rise of the West as a future power. The title contains the phrase "the Epic Rise of the West", but I found little information about how the Church of the time had any such influence on society and, at least in my opinion, there is nothing in the book to alter the general historic view that the change in question dated from the Renaissance. The election of Hilbebrand as Pope Gregory VII made the Catholic Church much more powerful and what is called the Rise of the West is generally attributed to the decreasing power of the Church.

My sole complaint about this book is the narration. Mr Holland narrates his own book and while that often has the advantage of allowing him to read the book as he intended it to be understood, he has a regrettable tendency to change between loud and almost whispered speech during the course of a single sentence, making it difficult at times to understand what he is saying. I often had to rewind and increase the volume to an almost painful level just to understand the last couple of words in a sentence.

I do recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in this period of European history. Just be prepared for a book that is not only informative, but entertaining.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A mile wide and an inch deep

This book covers a wide swath of early Christian history and details how encounters with various European groups shaped its evolution. Unfortunately because it covers so many topics the detail is often lacking to make a solid connection with the peoples and historical figures described and glosses over many historical events.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Disjointed

Good material, but disjointed, and ends abruptly. Very much a cursory overview of the era.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Like Game of Thrones, but with less incest

This book is a phenomenal tale of Western history, full of violence and intrigue. I will definitely listen to it a couple more times. Be prepared to hear a ton of names, and to learn about a ton of figures in the history of Christendom.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Not his best work IMHO#<br /><br />To much phoney dramatizat

It seems as though Holland has written in a manner that can be best described as too clever by a half,

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Probably better read than listened to

There is a lot going on in this book. It is hard to follow by listening.

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Good, but....

Lots of information but it’s not for a novice of crusades. Get a book on the crusades first and maybe the Holy Roman Empire. It will help you better understand this book

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A Worthy Expansion to the Dark Ages

This book is one of the best comprehensive looks of Europe in the Dark Ages. Unlike the Charles Oman classic, the focus on this book is on the internal and external pressures faced by a devoutly Catholic and spiritual population leading up to the thousand year anniversary of Christ. Were the end times coming? What do we do about it? Priests, Kings, Dukes, bandits, peasants, and Viking converts all wondered. For surely the present generation lives in the end times and the apocalypse.

This book is a higly entertaining look at the lives of the important and mundane citizens of a shrinking and volatile period of time show how people, in stumbling around trying to understand God and their place in the world set the seeds for the modern Western world - all its good and ills.

You will hear from some of the people you expect: Charlemagne, Harold Hardrada, William of Normandy, Robert Guiscard and Pope Gregory. You will hear of some impressive women like the Empress Agnes, or Matilda of Tuscany. And the book will take you from Toledo to Constantinople to Jerusalem and Baghdad.

You will learn of Cluny monastery and the curious saints and "martyrs" who essentially became both because of questionable life choices that will make you laugh.

In essence, this is a book filled with entertaining stories of people and how they stumbled their way into important events in Medieval History, much like we do in our daily lives.

The Audible book was my greatest companion on my many road trips through post-autumn Upstate New York, and I cannot recommend it enough. It will take a bit to get used to the narration style which i felt was the only thing truly holding the book back, but once you figure out where to put the commas and parentheses to create the right tone, you will find the miles of gray landscape and exfoliated trees fly by.* through this entertaining romp through the Dark Age to the First Crusade

*(Driving experiences may vary)