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on 29 April 2016
Too much repetition (could comfotably be 200 pages shorter without loss of content), but the only dark age history I've ever read which gives a full European context rather than piecemeal local explanations. Well worth reading.
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on 1 February 2016
This book contains interesting material and arguments but it is so hugely repetitive that it becomes seriously annoying. A severe editing would leave the book less than half its length but a good deal more readable.

My only other beef is the omission of any discussion of the Moorish invasion of Spain on the grounds that it has no place here - why?
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on 5 September 2010
Having read his earlier book on the fall of the Roman Empire and being very interested in what is commonly called the "dark ages", I really looked forward to this one, but it doesn't quite deliver.

For a start, the writing style seems to vary from sober historian to slangy joviality (at times he sounds like a historian on speed). The latter doesn't work. You can write pop history without descending to attempting "cool" language or John Cleese jokes (which foreign readers will not understand anyway). There's too much repetition and verbosity. It needs a good editor with guts to tell the author "Peter, keep it simple and try not to be the Nigel Kennedy of history writing."

The book is also very long and looking through the arguments and supporting information you come to the conclusion that there simply is not enough material on the subject probably to justify such a long book. Written material is scant and the archeological remains are not massive either. This means that much of the work is devoted to arguing about migration and invasion hypotheses and using parallels from the modern world to try and construct a model for the movements of peoples. If you don't know about (or are not interested in) the various theories on this subject it can be quite difficult or boring. However, he handles many of the arguments, particularly given the limited material, well and his thesis is well presented. What is weak is the use of comparisons with other ages. He continually uses the example of the Boer Trekkers as the virtually sole example of similar migrations. If his theory relies on comparatives with other similar migrations in history, I would expect to see more examples.

As a history graduate with some prior knowledge I learned a lot from the book, but for the average reader with an interest in the subject, I think that this would be a difficult book. However, the most important take away for me, was that given the scarcity of material and the passing of so much time, hard conclusions as to the whys and hows the Roman Empire collapsed and barabarians took over the remains are very unlikely to be possible. We can certainly see the "what" in our current world (which is why this is written in English, not Latin or Welsh!).
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on 6 August 2010
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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on 16 June 2009
A thoughroughly enjoyable book on a difficult subject. It offers new and surprising insight into the birth of Europe based on recent archaeological evidence and the few and rather reticent written primary sources available. What marks this book as different is Heather's fresh approach to both.
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on 3 April 2011
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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on 13 October 2009
Densely pack and well argued, this sequel to Peter Heather's "The Fall of the Roman Empire" is a new classic. Using the latest composite information from historical texts and archaeological finds, Heather develops the "why" of the early development of Europe. It is liberally sprinkled with humorous turns of phrase when the reader least expects them. A chapter title of "Huns on the Run" gives some idea of the smiles that Heather can provoke. His attention to detail does not detract from his synthesis of grand themes in the migratory period. The single criticism I could place on the book is that the (very important) supporting map graphics are not found within the text where they are referenced but in a single section at the back of the book. For an explanation of the "Third Law of Empires", you will have to read the book. Highly recommended.
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on 27 January 2012
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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on 21 November 2012
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 bit nervous before reading it.

I would say that most of the previous reviews are from my point of view very accurate.

Firstly, the book is quite large, app 650 pages and I would unfortunately say not easily readable for the layman.
Mainly because the author spends quite a lot time describing the various debate on current theories and goes quite far into details.
He repeats himself quite a lot and all of this makes the book arduous to read.
So, I am not sure for who this book is intended to? So potential readers, be aware.

Despite the above, I made an effort to carry on reading and in the end, I must say I was quite happy.
I did learn a lot and understood new concepts about migrations, settlement, relation with Rome, etc. that did not really grasped before.
Finally, the Third law of empire is a very intersting idea.

In my views, what Peter Heather succeeds the most is to convey us these theories and concepts but a bit of editing would have been welcome by triming a good quarter of the book.

I picked up a few mistakes such as the date of the Teutoberg Wald battle which from previous readings understood to be AD 9?

Overall, It is a very decent and interesting book but be aware that it may not be easy to read although the effort is from my point of view worth it.
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on 3 April 2011
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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