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The tenth century dawned in violence and disorder. Charlemagne’s empire was in ruins, most of Spain had been claimed by Moorish invaders, and even the papacy in Rome was embroiled in petty, provincial conflicts. To many historians, it was a prime example of the ignorance and uncertainty of the Dark Ages. Yet according to historian Paul Collins, the story of the tenth century is the story of our culture’s birth, of the emergence of our civilization into the light of day.

The Birth of the West tells the story of a transformation from chaos to order, exploring the alien landscape of Europe in transition. It is a fascinating
narrative that thoroughly renovates older conceptions of feudalism and what medieval life was actually like. The result is a wholly new vision of how civilization sprang from the unlikeliest of origins, and proof that our tenth-century ancestors are not as remote as we might think.


The Birth of the West
Average rating
4 / 5
Detailed, but overall good
April 20th, 2014
I found the overall story to be good, and appreciated the focus on some of the nuts and bolts issues like "what was life like for regular people in the tenth century". But there was much detail of who did what to who among the ruling class, illustrative of general chaos of the times. You can't remember this detail, and it doesn't gel into a good narrative. However, then when the conclusion comes around this evidence of consistent upheaval gradually coming under control was on the record. I just wonder if 20% of the book could have been cut out with no loss to supporting the thesis.
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