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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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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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    5 out of 5 stars
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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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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 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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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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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)

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Fast paced

Wasn't quite what I was expecting, but gave a pretty quick paced overview of events about 100 years either side of the year 1000. I learned a few things. I thought the narrator was quite entertaining, but my wife thought he talked too fast.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Amazing story and fantastic narration

This was a complete and compelling story about the millennium. The narration was the best I have ever heard. This is the first narrator better than Derek Perkins.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful