Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Texts on Dark Ages

My talk on Dark Ages critiquing the Pirenne thesis, and modern variations thereon, went well, with about 30 or so people attending and lots of good questions.

A request was put that I provide details on the books I mentioned. These follow.

The obvious starting point is Henri Pirenne's posthumous work Mohammed and Charlemagne (1937, English language version 1954) followed by Hodges and Whitehouse's examination of the thesis in the light of the archaeological evidence Mohammed, Charlemagne & the Origins of Europe (1983). I review both books here.

Relevant to the notion of ‘barbarians’ is Christopher I. Beckwith’s Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present (2009) whose analysis of modernism I discuss here.

Peter Heather teaches at Worcester College, University of Oxford. He has written a very thoughtful and informative account of the fall of Rome, The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians (2006) which I review here.

Ramsay MacMullen’s book on the Christianisation of the Empire Christianity & Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries (1999) includes some very useful analysis of its internal workings, which I review here.

Bryan Ward-Perkins, fellow of Trinity College, Oxford wrote The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilisation (2005) which I review here.


  1. Would have loved to have been there. But I am getting old and the weather is getting cold. I try and avoid driving in the dark (and especially the rain and dark).
    But, keep writing and I'll keep reading.

  2. I so wish I could have made it. Damned thesis. The sooner it's over the sooner I can get back a life. I have been holding off getting that Macmullen book because I don't want to get distracted.

  3. You really are a help-desk at the touch of one's fingers tips, aren't you!

    Tell me about this Google Translate Page function. Does it really rely just on its own algorithms, or are the pages first translated manually?

    I was surfing away about "international law" and came across a page about international law in imperial Rome. The page gave me the option to read in Latin, English, French, German, and about 50 other languages.

    How is this possible?

  4. Computer algorithms are not really my thing, but as I understand it, it is just a substitution matrix with widening capacities in developing connections (i.e. "recognising context"). They are still far from perfect, but serviceable--more so if one has some understanding of the language.