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Empires and Barbarians: Migration, Development and the Birth of Europe

Empires and Barbarians: Migration, Development and the Birth of Europe [Kindle Edition]

Peter Heather
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Product Description


`His book is a substantial achievement and clearly a helpful addition to a relatively neglected period of history.' --Mark Greaves, Catholic Herald

`Heather has a fine track record in rescuing historical babies from being thrown out with the revisionist bathwater. Here he reinstates mass migration as a key factor in the formation of modern Europe.'
--Mary Beard, Sunday Times

Product Description

At the start of the first millennium AD, southern and western Europe formed part of the Mediterranean-based Roman Empire, the largest state western Eurasia has ever known, and was set firmly on a trajectory towards towns, writing, mosaics, and central heating. Central, northern and eastern Europe was home to subsistence farmers, living in wooden houses with mud floors, whose largest political units weighed in at no more than a few thousand people. By the year 1000, Mediterranean domination of the European landscape had been destroyed. Instead of one huge Empire facing loosely organised subsistence farmers, Europe – from the Atlantic almost to the Urals – was home to an interacting commonwealth of Christian states, many of which are still with us today . This book tells the story of the transformations which changed western Eurasia forever: of the birth of Europe itself.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 4257 KB
  • Print Length: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; Unabridged edition (17 Dec 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004GKLXN8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #26,041 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars empire and barbarians 6 Aug 2010
By gaskell
A very good book, but hard-going at first. I
t is aimed at experienced readers of history, and demands a determined approach to get through this complex subject. The wide-ranging nature of the topic does mean that there is more repetition than normal, but at least the difficult points eventually "go home".

Yes, it could be shorter and for this reason and that of repetition, it is not as good as his other book "Fall of the Roman Empire". However, those new to the subject should probably read the latter, and perhaps John Man's "Attila the Hun" first.

The variety of comparisons with modern history is illuminating and lightens the mood when things are getting tough. I enjoyed it very much, as it covered a number of subjects which have concerned me for some time - as a keen, non-academic historian, I could not put the book down.

However, my copy is now heavily edited with pencil-notes to make life easier when I read it again, which I will. Thank you, Peter Heather, for the experience - well worth it.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
This is a really long book. There are 734 pages which makes it over a hundred pages longer than his previous book The Fall of the Roman Empire. Before I go any further I want to strongly recommend that book. I think that it is one of the best books on the subject available. This one serves as sort of a companion to that one. While that book is pretty much exclusively from the Roman point of view, this book is told from the point of view of the Barbarians. Actually two sets of Barbarians. While his first book had a fairly limited timeframe (4th Century to 5th Century) this one deals with a much wider space of time (4th Century to 10th Century). This means that it goes through information much faster. The biggest problem with this book is something that the author can't do anything about. There just aren't many sources available on the barbarian tribes. There is a lot more guesswork and maybes in this book than his previous one. It's also much harder to read. It's main purpose isn't just to relate the Fall of Rome from the Barbarian point of view or to narrate the end of Rome and the Dark Ages, it's a bit of both and it isn't satisfactory for either. The focus is on analyzing the migrations and formation of tribes during the Late Roman and early Middle Ages. This can be interesting but it is essentially a more specialized topic than either of the others would be. There is a lot of information here, and the book itself is well written like all of Heather's work, but the whole thing is just too specific to maintain my interest for over 600 pages. Nonetheless, it remains an informative book and it is certainly worth a read if you have the patience.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The received wisdom concerning the fragmentation of the Western Roman Empire has undergone a total volte-face over the last century. From Völkerwanderungen, movements of entire peoples wearing furs and horned helmets violently invading Roman territory and carrying out ethnic cleansing, we are now expected to believe in "Elite transfers", small numbers of immigrants who came peacefully and amicably and took control with the full approval and cheerful willingness of the locals, and who apparently so impressed these indigenous populations that they all wanted to walk and talk like their new wonderful, kindly and not-at-all-oppressive rulers. This view is invariably accompanied by much sociological cant around concepts of "class", "status" and "identity" - the latter, so we are supposed to accept, being something which whole communities of mid-first-millennium peasants could and did suddenly change at the drop of a hat.

When there are two such opposed viewpoints, you can be sure that the truth is to be found midway between the two. Peter Heather, combining literary sources, archaeology and modern understanding of population movement and change, partially accepts some of the contemporary ideas, but persuasively argues for large scale migrations having often played a part in the changes across Europe in the period c. 400-1000. As Heather drily notes about the Slavs for example, but which equally applies to all the other invaders of the period, "Their military effectiveness makes it extremely improbable that [the changes] came about just because the indigenous populations thought it would be great to become a Slav."

It's a huge book, often repetitive, and certainly fairly hard going, but it's a well argued presentation and an extremely important contribution to the understanding of this period of European history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Empires and Barbarians 27 Jan 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A rare combination of great erudition and exciting story telling. This is one of the happy instances where cohesion is not sacrificed to comprehension. Thought provoking and surprising contemporary too; I was depressed when I discovered the close parallels of the patterns of behaviour of the Greek political system vis a vis the European Union with those of barbarian chieftains towards the Roman empire. All in all, I've spent a great summer holiday with this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, thorough but hard-work 22 Aug 2014
This is a fascinating, extremely detailed book. I found Heather's previous book on the fall of the Roman Empire to be an engrossing, exciting read. However, this one was hard-going and it took me a fair while to read - it was a slog. In some cases I had to take a break and read something lighter before returning to this. There is plenty of scholarship in this book - archeology, statistics, scholarly debates with the views of current or past scholars and schools of thought and theorising.

What I took from this was the importance of the Hunnic and Avar empires in bringing about the fall of western Rome and the growth of Slacvic Europe especially, and how important slave trade was in the emergence of Poland, Bohemia and Russia. The fact that the barbarians wanted a slice of the Roman trade pie played a vital role in Rome's demise, and helped to build up rulers powerful enough to challenge the empire and see off dynastic competitors at home.

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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Empires and Barbarians
I am giving this book five stars as it is another splendid effort by Peter Heather. This is not to say that it is always an easy read. Read more
Published 4 months ago by M. McClure
5.0 out of 5 stars Empires & Barbarians
I haven't yet finished it, but it views this period in time quite differently than how history was always written from the Roman side. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Claude Medeot
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard read but a very interesting and informative book
Being an amateur reader, I bought this book a while ago and it stayed on my shelf for a while.
When I got decided to read it, I had a quick glance at some reviews and got a... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Eric le rouge
2.0 out of 5 stars Thank goodness it's finished
Badly edited, repetitive and a painful read. The comprehensive review of the subject matter is unfortunately mired in the complete confusion of the presentation. Read more
Published on 3 Oct 2010 by Richard
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, but very poorly edited.
I think no one could doubt the author's grasp of his subject, or fault his tenacity in the face of political correctness and ideological squeamishness. Read more
Published on 21 Sep 2010 by Orkneyinga
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
This book was so much needed. It is the fruit of decades of research. More importantly it takes a fresh look at the material, unhampered by the post-war, post-imperial, nationalist... Read more
Published on 2 Sep 2010 by Lucian Flux
1.0 out of 5 stars Dire
The publisher should be hanging its head in shame. This book is very poorly written - but exceptionally badly edited. Read more
Published on 12 July 2010 by Sugelanren
3.0 out of 5 stars Where did English go?
I am optimistic that the book will be a fitting sequel to Heather's book on the end of the Roman empire in the west. I am doubtful that he wrote the book. Read more
Published on 28 Mar 2010 by K. N. Crosby
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