From the first page, I was enthralled. Now, I’m a self-confessed Roman nut and intrigued by that mysterious time in Europe after the mid-400s AD until the more structured medieval period emerges, so I was keen to find out more. A lot of new research has been carried out in the past 30 years about this period. So are the ‘Dark Ages’ still considered dark?
I started reading with my afternoon cuppa and, vaguely registering my OH coming through the front door some time afterwards, went back to the Merovingians. About eight o’clock, a plaintive voice asked if we were going to have any supper. I was genuinely startled. I had been absorbed for hours by an academic history book. It took me back to when I did my masters (in history) and discovered with joy new facts and insights into a fascinating topic brought to me vividly by an accomplished communicator.
In brief, it’s packed with easily accessible information and balanced, reasoned arguments. Professor Wickham emphasises that the period, and every small scale society within it, needs to be examined in its own terms, not with hindsight or pre-judgements. He charts the many continuities from the late Roman period: law, tax, culture and systems, some of which lasted up to 1000 AD, possibly beyond.
So, sorry, the Roman Empire didn’t ‘fall’ just like that – it sort of localised, got a bit holey and eventually dissolved, but not without leaving us a huge heritage.
You’ll have to read the book to find out the rest…
(No, I’m not on commission and yes, the OH did get his supper. Eventually)