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How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe (The Hinges of History) Paperback – Unabridged, February 1, 1996
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In this delightful and illuminating look into a crucial but little-known "hinge" of history, Thomas Cahill takes us to the "island of saints and scholars," the Ireland of St. Patrick and the Book of Kells. Here, far from the barbarian despoliation of the continent, monks and scribes laboriously, lovingly, even playfully preserved the West's written treasury. When stability returned in Europe, these Irish scholars were instrumental in spreading learning, becoming not only the conservators of civilization, but also the shapers of the medieval mind, putting their unique stamp on Western culture.
From Publishers Weekly
An account of the pivotal role played by Irish monks in transcribing and preserving Classical civilization during the Dark Ages.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
They should have stayed in their pubs and drink their ale, instead of fighting those Vikings.
'Just kidding !
A very good book with clear descriptions of their country.
Thomas Cahill published this slender essay in 1995. It stayed on the New York Times best seller list for two years, which gives us a reason to read it. Other reasons abound.
Cahill has an accomplished background in the ancient languages of Latin and Greek. He spent two years studying Hebrew and theology at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He also reads English, Italian and French, more modern languages. Cahill must be considered a complete and focused scholar. He has taught at several famous colleges and universities.
His style is fluid and erudite without being pretentious and never becomes boring. This volume begins a so far six volume series he calls 'The hinges of History Series', all works on key elements of Western Civilization.
In “How the Irish Saved Civilization” he outlines the Western World as it existed around the year 400, its political structure, its religious basis in its magnificent achievements literature and philosophy. Then he shows us how this world disappeared under the waves of the Barbarian invasions. Literacy declined, books vanished into the fires of illiterate warriors and cities empties. The Dark Ages overcame classical civilization.
But in Ireland there was no fall. It had never been built up in the first place. The Irish squabbled happily among themselves, content with their bards and poets. Saint Patrick changed all that with his missionary conversion of the Irish. They took to Christianity at once, and once introduced to the idea, became not just literate but scholarly. Isolated monks gathered here and there to pray and study. And to copy. They had a fierce delight in the written word. Most importantly, they copied everything they could get their hands on from saintly lives to the works of Livy.
A generation later, the monkish monasteries began to send out missionaries of their own. They colonized first Scotland then Northern England, planting monasteries in their mode, complete with scriptoriums. In another generation, Irish monks spread across Europe founding astonishing numbers of monasteries. Irish monk-scholars popped up everywhere, in France, in Germany, in the Alps and all the way to Italy. Some of the most famous and important monasteries in Europe were founded by Irish holy men.
And in every one of these dozens, scores of holy retreats, young monks copied madly everything that they could get their hands on. Without the holy dedication and patience of these men much of the ancient lore of the classic age would be forever lost, as much was in spite of their efforts.
This book, for all of its scholarly intent, is a fast read. And a fascinating one.
Most recent customer reviews
Irish because this book is just a lot of Ramblings on History etc. But not much specific to the title.Read more