The Inheritance of Rome

Illuminating the Dark Ages 400-1000
Narrated by: James Cameron Stewart
Length: 32 hrs and 6 mins
Categories: History, Ancient History
4 out of 5 stars (160 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Prizewinning historian Chris Wickham defies the conventional view of the Dark Ages in European history with a work of remarkable scope and rigorous yet accessible scholarship. Drawing on a wealth of new material and featuring a thoughtful synthesis of historical and archaeological approaches, Wickham argues that these centuries were critical in the formulation of European identity. Far from being a middle period between more significant epochs, this age has much to tell us in its own right about the progress of culture and the development of political thought.

Sweeping in its breadth, Wickham's incisive history focuses on a world still profoundly shaped by Rome, which encompassed the remarkable Byzantine, Carolingian, and Ottonian empires, and peoples ranging from Goths, Franks, and Vandals to Arabs, Anglo-Saxons, and Vikings.

Digging deep into each culture, Wickham constructs a vivid portrait of a vast and varied world stretching from Ireland to Constantinople, the Baltic to the Mediterranean. The Inheritance of Rome brilliantly presents a fresh understanding of the crucible in which Europe would ultimately be created.

©2009 Chris Wickham (P)2018 Tantor
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent Intro to An Obscure Period

Writing for a non-specialist audience, Wickham has summed up the past generation of research into this most obscure of Western historical periods. Usually characterized as the "Fall of Rome" and the "Dark Ages," this book traces continuities and evolution across the entire Western world (ie, everything West of Persia), with major coverage of Byzantium and Islam.

i'm not the scholar to review this book in detail, but compared to anything previously available - usually a few chapters in a book focusing on the later Middle Ages - this book raises the bar considerably.

Stewart is a capable reader. However, the recording itself is brassy and can be difficult for sustained listening. Audible could do us a favor by demanding better audio engineering from its contributing companies.

Still, this is a 5-star audiobook, and sets a high standard for the field.

19 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Wonderful book by a talented writer and historian

This is a wonderful book by a talented writer and historian. As the title suggests, the continuity between Roman times and the early middle ages is an important theme in the work. The author blends secular and ecclesiastical history together in a way that never becomes tedious and provides insight into both the eastern and western inheritance of Rome and the post-Roman Islamic world. It never bogs down in political history and gives the reader a view of the social and cultural history of the period. The narration is great, 32hrs by any single narrator can get stale, but this one never does. Highly recommended

20 people found this helpful

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A Treasure to find on Audible!

I hope Audible will provide more books like this one. I could listen to this 100 x. it is that good!

6 people found this helpful

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Impressive and extensive

This is a meticulously researched work. It weaves together diverse information from numerous sources and fields of study. It covers vastly different regions, including the Eastern Empire, the Arabic world and various areas of Europe.

Wickham describes the influences of Imperial Rome, particularly the Western Empire, on successor entities and explores both the continuities and discontinuities in such successor states and other polities. He also chronicles changes over six centuries within and among such entities.

Wickham uses both literary and archeological sources. He relies, much more heavily, however, on literary sources. Because of the generally low level of literacy in the period, therefore, there is more information available on, and consequently discussion about, aristocratic and ecclesiastical hierarchies, and much less on the peasantry, even though they constituted the vast majority of the population.

Wickham does describe the worsening conditions of the peasantry over the period covered, but there is only a brief discussion of the effect of the fall of the Western Empire on the peasantry.

Again by virtue of the heavy reliance on literary sources, the book focuses on political and social developments in the period. Other than the analyses of aristocratic and ecclesiastical literature, however, there is limited discussion of cultural developments. The only visual art covered is architecture and the accompanying building decorations.

There is no discussion of other aspects of culture, which is traditionally an aristocratic preserve. The very fact that there were no significant contributions to such arts as music, painting, drama or fiction, itself represents a significant break from the Imperial Roman tradition and would have been worthy of discussion.

4 people found this helpful

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Dry facts read without feeling

Gave up after a couple hours because it was mostly a litany of names and places read in a purely informational tone. Disappointing because I'm fascinated by this time period.Maybe it gets better as it goes along.

2 people found this helpful

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good info, but very slow

hard to listen to the narrative because it goes into excruciating detail. This is only exacerbated by the slow cadence of the narrator. better to listen at 1.5 speed.

2 people found this helpful

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Great gateway for an intermediate history lover<br />

The content covers such a massive timeframe and geography but the author managed to maintain a narrative thread throughout. The author manages to describe a world highly lacking in documentation with a surprising level of detail.

1 person found this helpful

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A pleasant British accent...

Overall, this book, however interesting it might be, cannot overcome a dull and uninterested tone from the narrator. The subject becomes dull, dull, dull. Save your money on the Audible book and buy the Kindle edition instead.

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  • JW
  • 04-27-20

Amazingly readable yet academic

A voyage across 1,000 years and many different places and peoples from Iceland to Iraq.

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Good Story

Makes use of limited sources in creative ways to make up for a lack of primary sources and evidence in a period that is not well known.