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Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe [Hardcover]

by Peter Heather
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 4, 2010 0199735603 978-0199735600 1st
Empires and Barbarians presents a fresh, provocative look at how a recognizable Europe came into being in the first millennium AD. With sharp analytic insight, Peter Heather explores the dynamics of migration and social and economic interaction that changed two vastly different worlds--the undeveloped barbarian world and the sophisticated Roman Empire--into remarkably similar societies and states.

The book's vivid narrative begins at the time of Christ, when the Mediterranean circle, newly united under the Romans, hosted a politically sophisticated, economically advanced, and culturally developed civilization--one with philosophy, banking, professional armies, literature, stunning architecture, even garbage collection. The rest of Europe, meanwhile, was home to subsistence farmers living in small groups, dominated largely by Germanic speakers. Although having some iron tools and weapons, these mostly illiterate peoples worked mainly in wood and never built in stone. The farther east one went, the simpler it became: fewer iron tools and ever less productive economies. And yet ten centuries later, from the Atlantic to the Urals, the European world had turned. Slavic speakers had largely superseded Germanic speakers in central and Eastern Europe, literacy was growing, Christianity had spread, and most fundamentally, Mediterranean supremacy was broken.

Bringing the whole of first millennium European history together, and challenging current arguments that migration played but a tiny role in this unfolding narrative, Empires and Barbarians views the destruction of the ancient world order in light of modern migration and globalization patterns.

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Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe + The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This history of Europe from the eclipse of the western Roman Empire to about the year 1000 positions itself among rival schools of interpretation. British university professor Heather explains that one school of thought fell into disfavor after 1945 because of its nationalistic associations: it posited that mass migration of tribes Germanic or otherwise planted nascent modern nations. The other school of thought proposed models of slow cultural and political development. Heather’s middle way reflects a profound immersion in such historiographical issues, yet the author’s presentation will not solely be the preserve of professionals. Questions of national origins also engage general readers who wonder where Slavs, Germans, Franks, and Britons came from. Combining archaeological and literary sources, Heather discusses what weight of interpretation such fragmentary evidence can bear. Certainly rapid migratory events occurred––think Attila the Hun––but remorseless relocations of thousands of people were the norm. Continue that for centuries, and see Moravia or Poland appear on maps (in plentiful supply here). A cogent framer of historical problems, Heather knowledgeably brightens the Dark Ages. --Gilbert Taylor

Review


"An amiable and learned companion through the centuries of migrations."-Library Journal


"An awesomely ambitious work: an attempt, in the heroic tradition of Pirenne, to make sense of nothing less than the reshaping of antiquity, and the origins of modern Europe.... Heather is a wonderfully fluent writer, with a consistent ability to grab hold of his reader's attention.... The result is a book which richly merits reading by those interested in the future of Europe as well as its past."--Tom Holland, BBC History Magazine


"Most immediately impressive is Heather's easy command of detail. A jaunty, man of the people prose style masks a sure and scholarly grip on the history and archaeology of the first millenniem A.D. One of Heather's most attractive strengths is his eye for comparision. He neatly sets his thinking about first-millennium migration against modern experiences of the lure of the New World or the desperate flight of Kosovar or Rwandan refugees."--Christopher Kelly, Literary Review


"Peter Heather's book is an important contribution to the field--the first up-to-date book that compares the Germanic and the Slav migrations of the early middle ages. It is lucid and it has a complex argument, but it is grippingly written."--Chris Wickham, author of The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages, 400-1000


"This is a major work on the political and ethnic shaping of Europe during the first millennium A.D., embracing not just the Germanic and sub-Roman peoples, but also the Slavs and the Vikings. No one interested in the formation of European states and identities will be able to ignore this book."--Bryan Ward-Perkins, author of The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization


"Impressive in its ambition and its scope."-The New Yorker


"Heather manages to robustly balance the need for both breadth and depth. A superior piece of scholarship."-DiscoverMagazine.com


"While ambitious in scope, one of the delightful aspects of this hefty volume is its eminent readability. Heather's writing is often playful in style. This conversational and sometimes humorous tone, combined with a knack for explaining complex ideas clearly, belies the complexity of his argument and the sheer amount of information conveyed." -Laura Wangerin, World History Bulletin


"In addition to offering a new way of looking at the broad trends of European history, Heather also makes a major contribution to a long-standing debate about the role of migration in the first millenniumEL[Empire and Barbarians'] range, its highly important themes, and the boldness and clarity of its writing should stimulate argument and advance debate for years to come." -Edward James, American Historical Review


"Empires and Barbarians is a significant accomplishment and a welcome gateway for the curious as well as the deeply informed." --HNN.com



Product Details

  • Hardcover: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 1st edition (March 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199735603
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199735600
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #95,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
97 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A deeply intelligent volume March 12, 2010
Format:Hardcover
I thought Peter Heather's "The Fall of the Roman Empire", published a few years ago, was excellent, but his "Empires and Barbarians: The Fal of Rome and the Birth of Europe" is even better. In this new volume, Heather shifts his focus to concentrate on the barbarians (he simply uses the term to designate peoples outside the Empire) and also extends his time frame through the Year 1000 by which time powerful states were emerging across northern and western Europe. Heather rejects the old simplistic picture of hordes of barbarians crossing into the Roman Empire to pillage and plunder, but he nonetheless defends the reality of "mass migrations" playing a major role in what happened (although the label of "mass migration" might sometimes be more because of the impact of the event rather than because of sheer numbers of barbarians involved). Heather provides a supremely intelligent look at a very complex subject, and he carefully lays out his arguements with detail, requiring the reader pay careful attention. At the same time, however, Heather does employ a witty style to engage the reader's interest and to make his points.

If I might be so bold as to summarize what I see to be the author's central theme: Heather believes that the wealth of the Roman Empire quite naturally flowed into the lands beyond the Empire's border (through trade, if nothing else), that increase in wealth inevitably resulting in social inequalities and complexities in those neighboring cultures. This new wealth permitted some individuals to assemble small bands of elite warriors that permitted those individuals to amass even more wealth and gain additional stature (and possibly raid within the Empire to seize even more wealth).
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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
I purchased this book last year before the publishers made it available in the United States. I will admit that it was some pretty heavy reading but it shed new light on an old topic: how migration affects nation building and specifically the creation of "modern" Europe. Professor Heather aptly applies modern migration theories to the late fourth, fifth and sixth century migrations that brought the Roman empire to its knees as well as laid the foundation states that would evolve during the Middle Ages into the modern nation-states we see today. Heathers discusses the "Germanic" migration and destroys the old historigraphical theory that the Germans moved as a "people" in massive population movements. He also dicusses the role of the Slavic tribes of Eastern Europe and the Viking diaspora in relation to the economic affects these population movements had on the making of modern Europe.
I have my Master's Degree in ancient history and studying the Fall of the Roman Empire is one of my favorite topics to study within Classical Europe. I must say this is a powerful book and would recommend it to anyone who ponders the "fall" of the Roman Empire. It is antithetical to the rather popular theory that the Roman Empire "transformed" (i.e., Professor Peter Brown) rather than fell eventhough that theory has some very powerful insights as well. I would also recommend this book in conjunction with Brian Ward-Perkins, "The Fall of the Roman Empire and the Death of a Civilization" as well as any other of Peter Heather's books!!
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just one question for the other reviewers May 22, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I recently purchased, and am enjoying reading, Peter Heather's excellent book Empires and Barbarians.

There is one problem with the book, however.
There are several references in the book to Plates for illustrations accompanying the text.
There is even a page with picture acknowledgements.
BUT, except for the the addended maps, there is not a single illustration in the entire book!

I searched for the title on the OUP website and found the following:

Empires and Barbarians
The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe
Peter Heather
ISBN13: 9780199735600
ISBN10: 0199735603
Hardback, 752 pages
Feb 2010,

The volume in my posession has only 734 pages!
Does everyone else who has read the book have the same problem? Or do I somehow have the British edition dressed in American clothing? Still, why reference illustrations if there aren't any?
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for the casual reader May 29, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have to agree with a number of the reviewers that this is not a book for individuals not already very familiar with Roman history. The details can at times be mind numbing and I found myself unable to keep my attention span on the book. If you are a professional scholar or dedicated layman of Roman history, this is your book. For the remainder of the reading public it will provide new insights but be prepared to struggle through the text.

Of particular note is the analysis of the veracity of Roman source materials and the melding of archaeological evidence with these sources. This is a marriage of source materials not often seen conducted with such effect. They significantly enhance the credibility of Mr. Heather's analysis.

I also noticed the same issue concerning references to plates that another reviewer found. Although plates are mentioned, they do not exist in the book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Outside In, Or Inside Out? Terrrific History
Marvelous history of the barbarianization of Europe, and of the Europeanization of the barbarians, covering (mostly) 300-1000AD. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Anne Mills
3.0 out of 5 stars This book is probably meant for specialists
There is a fair amount of repetition, as if the author is trying to convince his readers of his viewpoints. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Nancy N. Porter
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind blowing treatise
This is a very heavy book that needs reading a number of times. It deals with ethnicity and the nature of migrations much of which has relevance to what is happening today.
Published 11 months ago by bolwarra
5.0 out of 5 stars I will recomender to friends
Good evening, this book is very important for study of history,
specially to young people, because be ready easy,
thanks,
José Wisnieski
Published 13 months ago by Jose Pascual Wisnieski
5.0 out of 5 stars UK Edition (2009) has beautiful color bookplates!
I received the UK edition the other day (ISBN 10: 0333989759 or ISBN 13: 978-0333989753) and the bookplates are all there in full color glory. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Rare Book Collector
4.0 out of 5 stars detailed research, excellent academic read
Empires and Barbarians offered a fresh look at how Europe developed in the first millennium A.D. Peter Heather discussed how migration, coupled with social and economic... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Amelia Lloyd-Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Peter Heather builds on his Fall of Rome theory
With "Empires & Barbarians", London historian Peter Heather has written a complex but very worthwhile book on European political and demographic changes in the period between 300AD... Read more
Published 18 months ago by jt52
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy it in the KINDLE edition
I enjoyed the book, but read it with frustration because 25% of it is composed of an index of maps and lengthly footnotes and sources, which are not accessible using a Kindle until... Read more
Published on November 16, 2011 by CRK
1.0 out of 5 stars Lazy, meandering intellectual navel-gazing. Disappointing!!!
I had greatly enjoyed the author's earlier work on the fall of the Roman Empire, and looked forward to the same kind of great read. Read more
Published on June 8, 2011 by Benjamin Traveler
4.0 out of 5 stars A new and interesting take on Big History
In the year 1, Europe was split across the middle: all the economic development and political organization was on the Roman side of the border, while the barbarian side was all... Read more
Published on April 12, 2011 by Caleb Hanson
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