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The Birth of the West: Rome, Germany,…
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The Birth of the West: Rome, Germany, France, and the Creation of Europe… (édition 2014)

par Paul Collins (Auteur)

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A narrative history of the origins of Western civilization argues that Europe was transformed in the tenth century from a continent rife with violence and ignorance to a continent on the rise.
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Titre:The Birth of the West: Rome, Germany, France, and the Creation of Europe in the Tenth Century
Auteurs:Paul Collins (Auteur)
Info:PublicAffairs (2014), Edition: Illustrated, 496 pages
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The Birth of the West: Rome, Germany, France, and the Creation of Europe in the Tenth Century par Paul Collins

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Tenth century Europe may have been a chaotic mess, but Paul Collins believes that the process which ended in the Renaissance and Enlightenment had its beginnings in the tenth century Europe. Collins attempts to show how various individuals (e.g. the 3 Ottos and Gerbert d'Aurillac/Pope Sylvester II) injected vigour into the Holy Roman Empire, reorganised the Church and bring some semblance of order to the State.

The book (briefly) covers the breakup of Charlemagne's Empire in the mid-800's; the development of France under Viking invasions and settlement into a large number of smaller semi-independent regions; and the solidification of a Germanic Holy Roman Empire during the 10th century under the Saxon kings Otto I, II, III. It also follows the development of Roman Catholicism and the Papacy. There is also a fairly decent description of monastic life, as well as the role of monasteries and religion in the lives of ordinary people.

Collins weaves a sometimes convoluted narrative, starting somewhere in the middle, going back to the beginning, discussing historical events, then focusing on individuals in a biographical manner, hopping around different regions in Europe from Spain and Britain to Byzantium. The first chapter was a bit tedious but the pace of the narrative picked up by the second chapter and the story became more interesting. There are a few maps in the book but I would have preferred a few more. I would also have found a timeline useful. A more structured approach would also have been more useful as well as more analysis. The author dropped the ball a few times by failing to connect his various chapters to the main thesis of the book, making this something of a collection of juicy facts but failing to show how they relate to the birth of the west.

I would not recommend this book to the history novice but it may prove interesting to someone who has some familiarity with events after Charlamagne. ( )
  ElentarriLT | Mar 24, 2020 |
Some interesting stories about the papal and political rivalries in Europe but the writing leaves a great deal to be desired. Basically a collection of facts, names, and dates that never connect to an overarching theme. This is the type of history writing that discourages people from enjoying history. Probably suitable for a scholar doing research but that would be the extent of the appeal. ( )
  VGAHarris | Jan 19, 2015 |
This theme of this book -- that the 10th century saw the birth of European culture -- is right there in the title. That's helpful, because as the book gets underway there is a barrage of information about the period, but no indication of what it all means. As some reviewers have noted, it's tough to see the forest for the trees. Things improve later on, as the focus moves out and around Europe, and as key figures emerge. In that process, some really interesting information emerges -- the key role of the Saxon state, the early date at which Greek learning became available in Europe, and the pathetic state of the papacy. Nonetheless, this remains more a descriptive than an analytic work. Also, some of the author's interpretations seem to me to be shaped by a specific world view: anyone's are, of course, but it does seem to me that he rather underrates Islamic culture. Be that as it may, this ends up being a very interesting read about a period that does not usually get much notice. Would suggest, along with it, "God's Crucible" by David Lewis. It covers a longer period (in both directions) but discusses some of the same issues. ( )
  annbury | Jul 13, 2014 |
5069. The Birth of the West Rome, Germany, France, and the Creation of Europe in the Tenth Century, by Paul Collins (read 29 Sep 2013) This book is pretty heavy going at times as it slogs through the chaotic world of the years around the tenth century, but it ends strong and does a good job showing why the tenth century can be said to be the years of the birth of Europe as we know it today. The author is a resigned Catholic priest who has had a dispute with the Vatican over a different book of his, but the Vatican should have no quarrel with this book even though it does show that there were some really lousy Popes in the tenth century--but I have long known that since I took Father Churchill's course on Church History at Loras College in the 1940's and I read Monsignor Mann's volumes of papal history on those years. The book gives a lot of detail on events in France and other areas in the century discussed, and much of that may not be of much interest to many folk. But the discussion of Luitprand of Cremona and of Gerbert--later Pope Sylvester II--and of the Otto Emperors is well-done and enlightening. The book shows much research but the style is not at all heavy-handed. Anyone who wants to know more about 10th century Europe will be gratified by the book and its insights. ( )
1 voter Schmerguls | Sep 29, 2013 |
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A narrative history of the origins of Western civilization argues that Europe was transformed in the tenth century from a continent rife with violence and ignorance to a continent on the rise.

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