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The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity 200-1000 AD (Making of Europe) Hardcover – 27 Nov 2002

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 2nd Edition edition (27 Nov. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0631221379
  • ISBN-13: 978-0631221371
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16.6 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,210,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"Most scholars would have been content to let a book as fine as the first edition of The Rise of Western Christendom rest on its laurels. Not so Peter Brown. He has taken note of the recent outburst of scholarship in this field, and has produced a yet richer work, which, with its extended notes and bibliography, will prove to be a mine for scholars and students for years to come." Ian Wood, University of Leeds <!––end––>

"This outstanding revision of The Rise of Western Christendom will make this the book for the next generation and will stimulate countless revisions of long–accepted interpretations of the period 400–1000." Thomas F. X. Noble, University of Notre Dame

"[The first edition] was a historical masterpiece before. But the author′s mind has moved on: The second edition contains further development, has filled out a great deal of detail, revised much in the light of more recent work, and, especially, has made it very much more useful for serious students by providing references and notes." Robert Markus, University of Nottingham

"A new book by Peter Brown always makes my heart beat faster...The addition of a dazzling range of new scholarly material makes the book a far more thorough treatment...My students will be reading it." Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"In the second edition of his The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity, AD 200–1000, Brown sets shimmering fragments of historical insight into a mosaic that is all the more splendid for its well–judged architecture, resulting in what may come to stand as the most satisfying contribution of an unusually distinguished career. With time, The Rise of Western Christendom may emerge as a milestone in the search for an account of the fall of Rome that genuinely breaks free of Gibbon′s spell." Kate Cooper, Times Literary Supplement.

"With its dexterous and confident handling of an array of subjects and disciplines, and its exhaustive and detailed endnotes and bibliography, this book has encapsulated and synthesized a burgeoning field of scholarship at the point of perhaps its greatest creativity and imagination" The Atlantic Monthly

"The Rise of Western Christendom is a work of uncommon originality, prodigious learning, and literary grace." Robert Louis Wilken, National Review

"It is an ashtonishing story, told in a way that keeps general themes clearly in sight while lovingly attending to the particularities of people, pracises and beliefs" First Choice

From the Back Cover

This book offers a vivid, compelling history of the first thousand years of Christianity. For the second edition, the book has been thoroughly rewritten and expanded. It includes two new chapters, as well as an extensive preface in which the author reflects on the scholarly traditions which have influenced his work and explains his current thinking about the book′s themes.

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To ensure that we see the history of western Europe in its true perspective, we should begin our account in a city far away from modern Europe. Read the first page
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46 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 22 July 2005
Format: Paperback
Peter Brown first came to my attention through his scholarship in the study of Augustine, one of my particular interests in the field of church history. His biography of Augustine is considered one of the standards, having been written first in the 1960s, and revised for the turn of the millennium in 2000. This speaks to the length of his career and involvement with the study of church history generally, of which this volume is a wonderful survey.
This book, 'The Rise of Western Christendom', looks at the first 1000 years (the first half of Christian history). Despite its title, it does not focus exclusively on the idea of Christianity as a Western phenomenon. One of the great strengths of this historical survey, as opposed to many of the previous generation, is that it does not stop at the borders of Rome, nor does it take a linear progression approach to the history. Brown preserves the diversity inherent in the original church, showing the growth in Latin and Greek areas, as well as other areas that would arise such as the Antioch/Aleppo area, where Coptic and Syriac were significant languages, and art, architecture, liturgical development and scholarship thrived for centuries as a major centre for Christianity. Brown also discusses 'mirco-Christendoms', pockets both within and outside of the original Roman Imperial borders where Christianity was planted and grew more or less independently of central authority and direction.
To understand the history of Western Europe (of which this volume is part of a series on the topic), one must have a wider perspective than just the goings-on that took place on the European continental mainland.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 19 reviews
115 of 118 people found the following review helpful
Origins and developments in the western tradition 25 Mar. 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Professor Brown has substantially revised The Rise of Western Christendom, originally published in 1996 as part of the "Making of Europe" series edited by Jacques Le Goff. The result is a much stronger work, which will appeal to scholars of Late Antiquity more than the first edition while still captivating the general reader.
In the second edition Brown continues to treat the localization of Christianity in regions from the North Atlantic to Asia. He describes how Irishmen, Saxons, and others transferred to their homeland relics, styles of art and architecture, and ecclesiastical customs, thus believing that they "had brought to their own region a 'microcosm' which reflected, with satisfactory completeness, the 'macrocosm' of a worldwide Christianity. . . . They strove to cancel out the hiatus between 'center' and 'periphery' by making 'little Romes' available on their home ground" (15). Brown calls the local variations of a broader Christianity "micro-Christendoms." In his characterization of the British Isles, he writes "The religious leaders of every region claimed to possess at home a set of customs and doctrines which were ultimately derived from 'true' centers of Christian learning and practice in a wider world" (359). Through statements like this, Brown tries to erase the model of thinking about Christianity in terms of "center" and "periphery," a theory he borrows from anthropology and religious studies.
Yet, by entitling the work The Rise of Christianity in the West, the author reifies the notion of Christianity as a "western" phenomenon although a significant portion of the book treats the localization and perpetuation of Christianity in non-western regions such as Syria and Persia. In fact, his discussion of the climate of competition among religions in the East is every bit as penetrating as his examination of the West. A more fitting title to this abolition of core-periphery, therefore, might be Micro-Christendoms: Christianity and Diversity from 200-1000.
The first edition received mixed reviews. One historian of Late Antiquity wrote that ". . . the exuberance and delight inherent in his interpretation . . . ought to make this book attractive and influential" (Journal of Theological Studies 48.2 [1997], 671), while another scholar of the period claimed that "its picture is skewed, and its conclusions are not demonstrated" (American Historical Review 102.5 [1997], 1463). With this second edition, Brown will continue to elicit criticism from those believing that he is too theory-oriented at the expense of doing proper "positivist" work. On the other hand, many of the problems which scholars of Late Antiquity pointed out in the first edition focused on the lack of documentation, and it is here, among other places, that the second edition enhances the work. Although the original had no notes, this version has sixty pages detailing the author's sources. The first edition had a seven-page [End Page 139] bibliography with no primary sources; the second contains a forty-four page bibliography, including eleven pages of primary sources.
Another way in which Brown improves the second edition is by adding two new chapters, "Powerhouses of Prayer: Monasticism in Western Europe" and "The Making of Sapiens: Religion and Culture in Continental Europe and in Ireland." He also amends his chapter "Christianity in Asia" and renames it "Christianity in Asia and the Rise of Islam." And he divides the chapter "Christianities of the North: Ireland and Saxon Britain" into two separate chapters, treating local Christianity in each region more fully.
Furthermore, Brown refines the layout of the visual aids and adds to them. The first edition contained four maps at the beginning of the book whereas the second has ten maps placed strategically throughout the body of the text to correspond to the geographical areas under discussion. Likewise, the second edition has chronologies arranged within the narrative to give the reader a point of reference for the persons, places, and events being examined. These additions allow the reader to organize and contextualize the contents, a point which is especially helpful since the book covers such a broad period and has a vast regional scope. Finally, the placement of sub-headings throughout the text strengthens the structure of the second edition. The reader will find the sub-topics easier to configure within the broader thesis.
This book makes a useful text for upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses in religion and history. It is helpful for its survey of Christianity, the questions it raises regarding the relationship of religion to ethnicity and locality, and its notes and bibliography, which point to related studies. At $29.95, the paperback is a reasonable addition to the individual scholar's library.
Nathan Howard
81 of 84 people found the following review helpful
A brilliant synthesis 15 Aug. 2003
By Michael Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Peter Brown, professor of History at Princeton University, has written an amazing work. While so many Western Civ courses gloss over the "Dark Ages," the Early Middle Ages are brilliantly illuminated by this book, which offers a panoramic view of early Christianity. It covers over 900 years, from the beginnings of Christainity in the Roman Empire to the conversion of Scandinavia. Brown focuses on the unique forms of Christainity that arose throughout the world, from the Celtic and Northumbrian Christianity centered on the Irish monestary of Iona, to the Nestorian Christianity in the dying Persian Empire. He discusses suscinctly the rise of Islam, and its initial relations with the well established Christian communities of the East. Brown writes with tremendous clarity and grace. Most importantly, he has a keen knack for capturing the spiritual world views of historical figures; the piety and passion of men like Gregory of Tours, the Emperor Justinian and St. Columba come brilliantly to life thanks to Brown's lively yet erudite prose. Invaluable to scholars, laypeople will find it highly readable and thuroughly edifying.
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Deep and wide 22 July 2005
By FrKurt Messick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Peter Brown first came to my attention through his scholarship in the study of Augustine, one of my particular interests in the field of church history. His biography of Augustine is considered one of the standards, having been written first in the 1960s, and revised for the turn of the millennium in 2000. This speaks to the length of his career and involvement with the study of church history generally, of which this volume is a wonderful survey.

This book, 'The Rise of Western Christendom', looks at the first 1000 years (the first half of Christian history). Despite its title, it does not focus exclusively on the idea of Christianity as a Western phenomenon. One of the great strengths of this historical survey, as opposed to many of the previous generation, is that it does not stop at the borders of Rome, nor does it take a linear progression approach to the history. Brown preserves the diversity inherent in the original church, showing the growth in Latin and Greek areas, as well as other areas that would arise such as the Antioch/Aleppo area, where Coptic and Syriac were significant languages, and art, architecture, liturgical development and scholarship thrived for centuries as a major centre for Christianity. Brown also discusses 'mirco-Christendoms', pockets both within and outside of the original Roman Imperial borders where Christianity was planted and grew more or less independently of central authority and direction.

To understand the history of Western Europe (of which this volume is part of a series on the topic), one must have a wider perspective than just the goings-on that took place on the European continental mainland. Indeed, from the very first lines, Brown starts with the city of Edessa, located in the ancient Fertile Crescent area, and the ancient capital of Ctesiphon, a city located very near modern-day Baghdad, which ruled a powerful empire that did not include any of the European continent, but which had profound influence over the peoples and empires on the European continent for centuries. Also included in Brown's history are peripheral figures - barbarians, farmers, frontierspeople - who often get overlooked in favour of the royal/imperial lines of history.

Brown looks both at individuals and institutions in his historical development and analysis. Individuals such as Augustine, the Cappadocian Fathers, Patrick, Clovis, Justinian and others are prominent, but the overall development of institutions and communities takes the larger portion of the text. There are major innovations such as monasticism and the rise of central church authorities and structures, and smaller institutions such as community governments. Brown includes the various tales of conversion for the different nations (the deliberations of the Icelanders, for example, versus the more forced conversions of the Norse) as well as the theological and administrative variations and homogenisation in the more central Mediterranean region. Brown also deals with the rise of Islam, the varying ways in which Christian communities and Muslim communities interacted and clashed, sometimes violently, but sometimes coming to mutually beneficial accords.

This is a book for students and scholars, although the general interest reader with a curiosity for church history and how it fits into the larger historical frame will also find this text useful. There are maps scattered throughout the text, as well as charts and tables. The book includes extensive endnotes for the scholar, but reading through the narrative does not depend upon them (saving one from having to flip back and forth endlessly). There is an appendix entitled 'Coordinated Chronological Tables' that traces the history from circa 100 - 1000, showing important events in the East, West, British Isles, and Scandanavia. A 44-page bibliography (one third primary sources, the rest secondary sources) and 27-page index round out the scholarship tools, making this an incredibly useful reference resource.

This book is often used at my seminary for the first half of church history, and is used at many schools (undergraduate and graduate level) for history courses generally. Brown's text is engaging and clear, easy to follow and well developed. It is a pleasure to read in addition to being interesting in material and presentation. Brown's text had both depth and breadth, not sacrificing one aspect for the other, but managing to hold both in good proportion to the other.
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Great work 14 April 2003
By Col Mustafa "KUJO" Koprucu - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a great work that traces the development and movement of Christianity into Europe. A religion that started out in the middle east had, by the end of the work, come to be dominant more in northern Europe than in the middle east itself.
Brown is a very good writer and is able to very eloquently trace out the forces and personalities of the period as well as the theleologic discussions that often divided Byzantine and Latin interpretations of the religion.
While not an introductory work, any reader can benefit from reading this book. At best it will stimulate further interest in the period and reading other authors. At worst, the reader may require some maps and a copy of, "Who's Who in the Middle Ages"
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
History, as it should be done 11 Feb. 2012
By Geoff Puterbaugh - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I considered calling this book a rewriting of history, but the more I read of it, the more it seemed like the much more complex task of "writing history," something which really has not been done for the period under discussion (Western Europe from 200 AD through 1000 AD).

Peter Brown is an eminent historian, and for good reason. He reads widely, and he has good eyes and an excellent brain. His history of "The Rise of Western Christendom" upsets multiple historical cliches, the most famous perhaps being Edward Gibbon's boast that he had described "the triumph of barbarity and religion." One can understand how Gibbon came to this conclusion, but Peter Brown can describe what actually happened. There is a huge difference.

I'll give you one example of my own historical goof, when I wrote the following:

"In December of the year 406, a bitter winter chill enabled hordes of barbarian warriors--some 15,000--to walk with their horses, wives and children across the Rhine River. Once across the river, they plundered and destroyed at their leisure, seizing the city of Rome four years later."

This is entirely wrong. The "barbarians" were coming under attack from Attila and his Huns, and so they wrote to Rome for permission to cross the river in self-defense. The Romans consented, only requiring that the new refugees accept military service.

This sensible policy ended in disaster: famine broke out, and the refugees resorted to raiding the local farms for food to eat. In the end, they finally attacked Rome itself. But it was not a deliberate and planned invasion. Like so much in human history, it was something that "just happened."

That is just one sample of the erudition on display in this wonderful book. To the best of my knowledge, it has no serious competition.

I should note that Peter Brown gives good attention to the expansion of Christianity in the East, and that he was so dedicated to the truth about this era that he revised the original book and issued a second edition only seven years after the first edition appeared.

Why? Because discoveries about this era are suddenly pouring in at a huge rate.

This is your go-to book for the era. Period.
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