8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
This Book is Too Brief for its Subject.,
This review is from: Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization (Hardcover)
This is a very well written book that tries to cover too much in too little time. There are 1000 years of history being covered here, and that simply cannot be covered in 352 pages. If you think about it, that means that there are about 3 years covered every page. The five emperors after Heraclius are covered in one sentence so that he can skip on to Leo III who comes over 100 years later. One hundred years dismissed in a single sentence. It isn't as if they were boring years either, during that time the Muslims took over Africa and Spain and almost conquered the Byzantines. Obviously this isn't going to give anybody a good idea of what happened. If you must read a single book summary of Byzantine civilization I would recommend John Julius Norwich's A Short History of Byzantium. It covers the same material in slightly more pages (495) and is even better written. Perhaps it isn't fair to judge this book stating that it is not as good as another, but that book has been out for years. If Brownworth had anything of his own to add I wouldn't be as harsh but he doesn't. There is nothing in this book that you can't learn from Norwich's, and more besides. Both of them are little more than records of the emperors of Byzantium. The economic and social systems get very little mention. If you want to read up on Byzantium I would recommend strongly Norwich's trilogy on the subject, of which the Short History is merely an abridgement. The trilogy consists of The Early Centuries, The Apogee, and Byzantium: The Decline and Fall. These are probably the best place to begin for the the Byzantines.