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The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000 [Paperback]

Chris Wickham
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
RRP: £14.99
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Book Description

28 Jan 2010

'The Penguin History of Europe series ... is one of contemporary publishing's great projects' New Statesman

The world known as the 'Dark Ages', often seen as a time of barbarism, was in fact the crucible in which modern Europe would be created.

Chris Wickham's acclaimed history shows how this period, encompassing peoples such as Goths, Franks, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings, was central to the development of our history and culture. From the collapse of the Roman Empire to the establishment of new European states, and from Ireland to Constantinople, the Baltic to the Mediterranean, this landmark work makes sense of a time of invasion and turbulence, but also of continuity, creativity and achievement.

Frequently Bought Together

The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000 + The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change 950 - 1350 + Europe in the High Middle Ages: The Penguin History of Europe
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Product details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (28 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140290141
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140290141
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 18,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A work of tremendous authority and breadth. With this book, as with Charlemagne's empire, one feels that an extraordinary range of things have been brought together (Noel Malcolm Sunday Telegraph)

Intensely rewarding (Jonathan Sumption Spectator)

Almost every page is full of arresting details and insights ... and a sharp eye for a revealing anecdote, illuminating even the murkiest corners of the so-called Dark Ages (Dominic Sandbrook Daily Telegraph)

The Penguin History of Europe series ... is one of contemporary publishing's great projects (New Statesman)

With five volumes now out, the Penguin History of Europe series ... is shaping up to be the best general account available, superseding all previous ones (Economist)


'[displays] meticulous scholarship ... The breadth of reading is astounding, the knowledge displayed is awe-inspiring'
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
In these Amazon reviews, a lot of the readers of this book complain that the book is too detailed. If they want to
get a good overview of the material in the book whilst reading it, take the Open Yale Course - Hist 210 The Early Middle Ages(free to all) which uses the book as a companion text. Yale University has put a selection of its student courses online (videos) free for anyone to use. The courses are called Open Yale Courses.

To find the course Google:

Open Yale Hist 210 The Early Middle Ages
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72 of 80 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hardcore history, but not a classic 11 Aug 2009
By Benjamin Girth VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I read this book a few months ago and just picked it up again having read Dominic Sandbrook's effervescent review (above).

There has been a glut of historians chronicling the demise of the Roman Empire and the immediate aftermath (if the next 500/1000 years can be termed such). On my shelf are Tom Holland (Millennium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom - Sep 2008), James O'Donnell (The Ruin of Rome - Feb 09), Adrian Goldsworthy (The Fall Of The West: The Death Of The Roman Superpower - Feb 09) and Peter Heather (Empires and Barbarians: Migration, Development and the Birth of Europe -Jun 2009). Collectively they catalogue the politics of the marbled empire descending into brutal muddy village squabbles. For the general reader seeking good writing, not an academic or someone seeking to pass exams these books are - at best - dull. The problem is a) they cover so much, politics and military entanglements, emerging economic, social and ecclesiastical structures and b) the evidence is complicated and controversial, as are the primary sources and archaeological data. Dr Wickhams' book is hardcore academic history covering six centuries and almost all of the European ""theatre" in 560 pages. He dispels the myth of the dark ages and charts the birth of nations (or entities that name can be applied to - I struggled with this). It is well written but I have a problem with this - and these - collective histories(this being part of the 8 book Penguin history of Europe). They tend to be formulaic, get it all down and fill the library shelves. Perhaps written to a deadline rather than with passion.
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43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One for the serious student 1 Mar 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Although very well written, with plenty of personal anecdote to enliven it, this volume in the Penguin History of Europe Series is definitely aimed at the serious student of history; I thought I knew quite a lot about the so-called Dark Ages, but Professor Wickham shows just how much there is to know. Those who have readMillennium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom Tom Holland's excellent book, which partly overlaps Professor Wickham's, will no doubt want to progress to "The Inheritance of Rome" - but be warned! It is very dense and will keep you absorbed for a long time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for undergraduate study 31 July 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is perfect for undergraduate study. I am in my second year at university, studying the world of Charlemagne and the fragmentation of Europe under the Carolingian dynasty. It is a comprehensive resource, well-written and engaging. It is an essential tool for any aspiring historian or anyone with an interest in early Medieval Europe. A top buy.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A huge feast, not without flaws 6 Jan 2011
By Peasant TOP 500 REVIEWER
Most of the rave reviews, and indeed the most critical ones of this book, have come from historians. This gives the general reader relatively little guidance. I do not have a degree in history and would describe myself as an "intelligent layman with an interest in history". As such I am finding the book immensely enjoyable and have now got a rich idea of an early Europe where once I only had a few disconnected impressions.

Wickham's book is indeed huge (what else could one expect for a history of an entire continent over 6 centuries?) but it can be read as a series of chapters, with rests to digest in between. Compare it with "Lord of the Rings" or "Moby Dick" - though the names are just as silly, the plot and characterisation are somewhat livelier - you wouldn't usually try to read them in one sitting. He builds up his world in stages, layers and comparisons until a complex many-faceted picture develops in the reader's mind.

Most of the text is easy for the non-academic to understand, if you give it proper attention. I did not find myself referring to notes or skipping passages because I couldn't get to grips with them. there are occasional lapses - I THINK "intervisuality of architectural style" means 'I can see your castle, you can see my hovel, we can all see the next village's new church' but I shouldn't have to make this kind of guess.

More criticisms; there are some good photos but it isn't always easy to relate them to the text, much of which refers to buildings as the evidence which balances the written word. Black and white line drawings embedded in the text would be a help. The maps are all at the front, and again, more maps embedded in the text would save flicking back and forth.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Definately interesting but also very frustrating 26 Nov 2009
I struggled with about half of this book, before finally becoming too frustrated and discarding it to read something else.

The book is very interesting - this is beyond doubt. There is a real wealth of information in it, for the committed reader. But as much information as there is, there is an equal amount of historiographical justification, and sometimes that historiography feels a little strained. Often I found myself agreeing with the theories that Wickham advanced after some thought, but then tiring of reminding myself of this every time I picked the book up.

I came to feel that The Inheritance of Rome was as much a book about modern historians and their debate on the Late Roman/Early Medieval period, as it is a book about that period. Perhaps for someone who was more committed to this period, this book would be more manageable. For me, interest in the book's premise and arguments was eventually outweighed by the tedious battle with the attending historiography.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Superb analysis.
Published 6 days ago by fatmanbat46
4.0 out of 5 stars A flawed but ulitimately useful work
There isn't much for me to add here, but I'll give my opinion briefly anyway.

This is a book I learnt an awful lot from - it has made me ponder many fascinating points... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Lemurjim
3.0 out of 5 stars On the whole I liked it.
I found the maps particularly clear and helpful but the text was a bit too academic and too detailed for my requirement.
Published 9 months ago by George Cohn
5.0 out of 5 stars an indispensable guide to european medieval history
it makes history alive in a funny way. Together with Beckmann and Collins it gave me a great survey of our "near" past. "The past isn't dead ad buried. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Anders Harrek
4.0 out of 5 stars The early middle ages on its own terms
In the past, opines Chris Wickham, histories of early medieval Europe have fallen victim to two fallacious grand narratives, of the birth of nations and the teleological progress... Read more
Published 10 months ago by E. L. Wisty
5.0 out of 5 stars Provides a very good overview of early medieval time
For everybody who wants to have a sound knowledge of the early mediėval Europe should consider this book for purchase.
It has been a great buy.
Published 12 months ago by Seinen
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
Lots of information and a good narrative combined with the author's comments on the significance of events and evidence. Quite long, but worth making the effort.
Published 15 months ago by Y.D.
2.0 out of 5 stars incredibly detailed
I would say that if you are reading for pleasure, this book is the way to go. But if you need this book to write an essay it takes a very long time to get to the point and uses... Read more
Published on 10 Nov 2011 by Aysha
4.0 out of 5 stars A Really Good Book That Can Be Challenging to Read
This is a challenging book to read. There is so much information crammed into every page that you have to read slowly or you'll miss something. And there are 550 pages of this. Read more
Published on 3 April 2011 by Arch Stanton
5.0 out of 5 stars Serious and informative
Simply excellent. Ok so it perhaps assumes a certain level of knowledge but this is a comprehensive, balanced and well written history that succeeds in providing a fluid narrative... Read more
Published on 22 Feb 2011 by V. Morgan
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