on 29 December 2011
Professor La Rocca has gathered contributions from 10 scholars in this effort to describe Italy from the fall of the Roman empire (476) to around the year 1000. The scholars (seven Italians, and one each from France, Austria and Great Britain) portray different aspects of the Italian society: "Ecclesiastical institutions", "Rural economy and society", "Private charters", and so on. This is serious stuff, undoutably written by experts in their fields. It will give you a good understanding of the present state of knowledge of the items it describes, and Ms. La Rocca in her introduction does not deal with the history of Italy, but looks instead at the changing ways in which historians have dealt with it.
Do not expect an entertaining story of what happened, with hows and whys - we are very far from the Peter Heather style of history writing. There is a chapter ("Invasions and ethnic identity") where Walter Pohl goes through some of the actual events (with some hows and whys), but apart from that, the reader is assumed to know the general background. There are nine pages of chronology and six pages of maps, but only one illustration.
The book deserves praise for its extensive bibliography, but I can only give it four stars: The writing is dry as wood, maybe it has suffered from the authors' and translators' desire to be precise. The lack of illustrations is appalling, and I sorely miss a chapter that could bring together the essence of the different parts, who in their present state seem to be heading off, each in their direction.