Top positive review
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An engaging look at the Carolingian world.
on October 14, 2007
To save money I ordered a used copy of this book. I received an ex-library book that had never been checked out. Apparently the students at a Catholic girls' school were not very interested in "Daily Life In The World of Charlemagne". The book does present some problems. Originally written in French and translated into English, it presumes a certain amount of knowledge about the Carolingian period. I was forced to resort to Google and Wickipedia a lot to put things in context. The single map provided is fascinating, but if you want know where Aquitaine or Austrasia were located you will have to find another reference. Compounding the difficulty is a lack of good source material. The author wryly confronts this problem in his preface, "Carolingian writers, shut up in their work rooms, rarely looked out the window at the life around them."
In spite of these difficulties the author presents a compelling picture of a sparsely populated land, where life was hard, famine frequent, and people often didn't live through the winter. Not only were food and fuel scarce but there was an ever present danger from wolves and other wild animals, not to mention the ever present brigands. In a society where men were often forced to chose between being peasants or being monks it is easy to understand how the stronger and more independent ones could be tempted by a life of banditry.
On the whole I found the book to very readable. By comparison the book I read about the Merovingians was positively opaque. In an over crowded world where we are on the verge of being implanted with RFID chips, and our cell phones can be used to track us, there is something alluring about the Carolingian world in spite of its hardships.