The Birth of the West: Rome, Germany, France, and the Creation of Europe in the Tenth Century by Paul Collins. PART 5 of 6.

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(PHOTO: The consecration of Cluny III by Pope Urban II.[1])

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The Birth of the West: Rome, Germany, France, and the Creation of Europe in the Tenth Century by Paul Collins. PART 5 of 6.

From Booklist

Under the Carolingian rulers, and especially under Charlemagne, medieval western Europe enjoyed a period of relative political stability and a modest cultural renaissance. After the death of Charlemagne, in 814, much of the area reverted to internecine internal wars while Viking raiders plundered both coastal and inland regions. Collins, an ordained Catholic priest and radio and TV presenter, asserts that the tenth century brought order out of this chaos, transformed the basic institutions of medieval society, and laid the foundations for the future nation-states of western Europe. Although the apogee of the temporal power of the Papacy would come two centuries later, Collins illustrates how the church played an essential role in the achievements of the tenth century, which included forming a largely successful working relationship with Germanic kings. Collins provides a broad panorama of the age, presenting characters great and small, including kings, magnates, popes, and peasants. This is a well-done study suitable for both scholars and general readers. --Jay Freeman

Review

Stephen O'Shea, Globe and Mail (Toronto, Canada)

“The Birth of the West offers a refreshing breather from the ambient buzzkill of our era.… [Collins] is not your usual Western-civ cheerleader, jumping up and down about the glory that was Greece … his is a wider tour d'horizon, encompassing also Mulsim Spain, Ireland, Briatin, Poland, and Hungary.… Stimulating, encyclopedic, and often downright funny, this is a book worth remembering.”

Thomas Keneally

“The Birth of the West is a re-making of what we think we know about the end of the “Dark Ages”. It is also the gate to the utterly unexpected cosmos of European forebears. In some ways, from waterlogged England by way of the folk beliefs of French peasants, to the ambitious consolidation of Germany, corruption and reform in the Papacy, the machinations of Constantinople and the continuing presence of Moorish culture in Western Europe, the characters who people ‘The Birth of the West' are as familiar as relatives—as indeed they are—groping their way to a cohesive Western culture as yet dominant in the world. The ‘Birth of the West' is thus the tale of our birth, and Collins tells it with a narrative grace and elegance which will make readers cherish it.”

“Very readable… The 900s are a fascinating time in history, and many lessons might be derived from the era's amazing and usually violent changes in reigns and rulers…Collins follows the lead of other recent historians in seeing this period not just as brutish and stagnant, but also rich in its cultural and spiritual life, and his best chapters focus on everyday people and experiences.”

Shelf Awareness”An engaging account of an often overlooked era.”

National Catholic Reporter“Australian Collins, historian and former priest, has a masterly touch throughout, for he writes the book on the several levels. He describes Europe, physically. He tells us what we are looking at, the stage set of history, the extensive woodlands, the major massifs and plateaus. All the while he is populating this landscape. This is truly history from the bottom up, layering the terrain…Collins' history is telling that though the ages were dark, not all the lights had been turned off. What we are receiving from Collins' sure hand is what happened after the fall of Rome…This is an intriguing 395-page read that gradually comes together at the end as Collins pulls on all the threads to tie into a fine knot.”

Shepherd Express

Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“A lively, full-to-bursting history of the turbulent 10th century in Europe…Collins presents chaotic upheaval across Europe in an organized and riveting fashion.”

Jay Rubenstein, Professor of History, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and author of Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse

“In The Birth of the West, Paul Collins makes accessible and exciting the world of tenth-century Europe. With a sense for both the grand narrative and for the quirks of particular personalities, Collins makes this central medieval century seem not so dark. Rather, lit by the fiery eyes of three German kings named Otto, who stand at the heart of Collins' story, it is an era of significant cultural achievement and political advance—though no less bloody for it.”

Publishers Weekly

“Western Europe claws its way out of the Dark Ages—just barely—in this hair-raising history.… Writing with a supple prose and an eye for colorful detail and vivid characters, Collins shapes some of history's most appalling behavior—first prize might go to Pope Steven VI, who exhumed his predecessor's rotting corpse and placed it on trial for heresy—into a lively narrative with a comprehensible story line. Behind the blood-lettings and betrayals of medieval politics, he sketches an illuminating interpretation of a society and worldview shaped by insecurity, superstition, and personal loyalties. The result is a fascinating account of how a desperate struggle for survival bequeathed a civilization.”

Booklist

“Collins provides a broad panorama of the age, presenting characters great and small, including kings, magnates, popes, and peasants. This is a well-done study suitable for both scholars and general readers.”

Macleans“He makes a lively… case that the foundations of 11th-century expansion—by the end of which, Europe was powerful enough that, after fighting off or assimilating invaders on all fronts, it was able to start invading its neighbours in the First Crusade—were laid in the 10th century.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlemagne#/media/File:Charlemagne_and_Pope_Adrian_I.jpg

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