23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Lively and entertaining, but academically not quite tip-top,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Dream of Rome (Hardcover)
Johnson's inimitable style and panache pervade this book, which is a rumbustious survey of the Roman Empire, how it unified Europe and why the EU is failing to do so. Starting with the Teutoburg Forest disaster in AD 9, which is recreated with a dash of imagination but in a very plausible and engaging manner, Britain's favourite flop-haired politician covers an admirable range of material. The chapter on how later empires have used the imagery and vocabulary of Rome particularly deserves mention.
The one flaw that this book has is an insufficient engagement with the process of "Romanisation", the way in which non-Romans "become Roman". Johnson accepts the process more or less at face value, providing the interesting example of a (fictional) Gaulish peasant who slowly assimilates the values and practices of Rome. Unfortunately, over at least the last ten years, the consensus that had formed around the idea of Romanisation has been exploded: there is now very little agreement over exactly how, if, and why it took place. Emphasis has been placed on resistance to Roman rule (which, to be fair, Johnson does discuss), on the continuance of native practices under a Roman guise, the idea of Creoleisation and a whole variety of other models. In short, the scholarship has become fragmented, and Johnson's book does not reflect that.
Still, given that the usual state of public knowledge about the Roman Empire tends to reflect, at best, 19th century views, at least Johnson's engaging and entertaining book may contribute to dragging them into the 20th. It is not an academic book - there is no bibliography, no index - and so perhaps shouldn't be held to academic standards of work. It is a thought-provoking work, thoroughly enjoyable, and is certainly to be recommended!