How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe

Kobo eBook available

read instantly on your Kobo or tablet.

buy the ebook now

How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe

by Thomas Cahill

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group | February 1, 1996 | Trade Paperback

4 out of 5 rating. 4 Reviews
Not yet rated | write a review
The perfect St. Patrick''s Day gift, and a book in the best tradition of popular history -- the untold story of Ireland''s role in maintaining Western culture while the Dark Ages settled on Europe.

Every year millions of Americans celebrate St. Patrick''s Day, but they may not be aware of how great an influence St. Patrick was on the subsequent history of civilization. Not only did he bring Christianity to Ireland, he instilled a sense of literacy and learning that would create the conditions that allowed Ireland to become "the isle of saints and scholars" -- and thus preserve Western culture while Europe was being overrun by barbarians.

In this entertaining and compelling narrative, Thomas Cahill tells the story of how Europe evolved from the classical age of Rome to the medieval era. Without Ireland, the transition could not have taken place. Not only did Irish monks and scribes maintain the very record of Western civilization -- copying manuscripts of Greek and Latin writers, both pagan and Christian, while libraries and learning on the continent were forever lost -- they brought their uniquely Irish world-view to the task.

As Cahill delightfully illustrates, so much of the liveliness we associate with medieval culture has its roots in Ireland. When the seeds of culture were replanted on the European continent, it was from Ireland that they were germinated.

In the tradition of Barbara Tuchman''s A Distant Mirror, How The Irish Saved Civilization reconstructs an era that few know about but which is central to understanding our past and our cultural heritage. But it conveys its knowledge with a winking wit that aptly captures the sensibility of the unsung Irish who relaunched civilization.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 256 pages, 8 × 5.18 × 0.57 in

Published: February 1, 1996

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385418493

ISBN - 13: 9780385418492

save
28%

In Stock Not yet released

$13.64  ea

Online Price

$17.95 List Price

or, Used from $5.04

eGift this item

Give this item in the form of an eGift Card.

+ what is this?

This item is eligible for FREE SHIPPING on orders over $25.
See details

Easy, FREE returns. See details

Item can only be shipped in Canada

Downloads instantly to your kobo or other ereading device. See details

All available formats:

Check store inventory (prices may vary)

Reviews

– More About This Product –

How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe

by Thomas Cahill

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 256 pages, 8 × 5.18 × 0.57 in

Published: February 1, 1996

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385418493

ISBN - 13: 9780385418492

Read from the Book

The word Irish is seldom coupled with the word civilization.   When we think of peoples as civilized or civilizing, the Egyptians and the Greeks, the Italians and the French, the Chinese and the Jews may all come to mind. The Irish are wild, feckless, and charming, or morose, repressed, and corrupt, but not especially civilized. If we strain to think of "Irish civilization," no image appears, no Fertile Crescent or Indus Valley, no brooding bust of Beethoven. The simplest Greek auto mechanic will name his establishment "Parthenon," thus linking himself to an imagined ancestral culture. A semiliterate restaurateur of Sicilian origin will give pride of place to his plaster copy of Michelangelo''s David, and so assert his presumed Renaissance ties. But an Irish businessman is far more likely to name his concern "The Breffni Bar" or "Kelly''s Movers," announcing a merely local or personal connection, unburdened by the resonances of history or civilization. And yet . . . Ireland, a little island at the edge of Europe that has known neither Renaissance nor Enlightenment--in some ways, a Third World country with, as John Betjeman claimed, a Stone Age culture had one moment of unblemished glory. For, as the Roman Empire fell, as all through Europe matted, unwashed barbarians descended on the Roman cities, looting artifacts and burning books, the Irish, who were just learning to read and write, took up the great labor of copying all of
read more read less

From the Publisher

The perfect St. Patrick''s Day gift, and a book in the best tradition of popular history -- the untold story of Ireland''s role in maintaining Western culture while the Dark Ages settled on Europe.

Every year millions of Americans celebrate St. Patrick''s Day, but they may not be aware of how great an influence St. Patrick was on the subsequent history of civilization. Not only did he bring Christianity to Ireland, he instilled a sense of literacy and learning that would create the conditions that allowed Ireland to become "the isle of saints and scholars" -- and thus preserve Western culture while Europe was being overrun by barbarians.

In this entertaining and compelling narrative, Thomas Cahill tells the story of how Europe evolved from the classical age of Rome to the medieval era. Without Ireland, the transition could not have taken place. Not only did Irish monks and scribes maintain the very record of Western civilization -- copying manuscripts of Greek and Latin writers, both pagan and Christian, while libraries and learning on the continent were forever lost -- they brought their uniquely Irish world-view to the task.

As Cahill delightfully illustrates, so much of the liveliness we associate with medieval culture has its roots in Ireland. When the seeds of culture were replanted on the European continent, it was from Ireland that they were germinated.

In the tradition of Barbara Tuchman''s A Distant Mirror, How The Irish Saved Civilization reconstructs an era that few know about but which is central to understanding our past and our cultural heritage. But it conveys its knowledge with a winking wit that aptly captures the sensibility of the unsung Irish who relaunched civilization.

From the Jacket

The perfect St. Patrick''s Day gift, and a book in the best tradition of popular history -- the untold story of Ireland''s role in maintaining Western culture while the Dark Ages settled on Europe.
Every year millions of Americans celebrate St. Patrick''s Day, but they may not be aware of how great an influence St. Patrick was on the subsequent history of civilization. Not only did he bring Christianity to Ireland, he instilled a sense of literacy and learning that would create the conditions that allowed Ireland to become "the isle of saints and scholars" -- and thus preserve Western culture while Europe was being overrun by barbarians.
In this entertaining and compelling narrative, Thomas Cahill tells the story of how Europe evolved from the classical age of Rome to the medieval era. Without Ireland, the transition could not have taken place. Not only did Irish monks and scribes maintain the very record of Western civilization -- copying manuscripts of Greek and Latin writers, both pagan and Christian, while libraries and learning on the continent were forever lost -- they brought their uniquely Irish world-view to the task.
As Cahill delightfully illustrates, so much of the liveliness we associate with medieval culture has its roots in Ireland. When the seeds of culture were replanted on the European continent, it was from Ireland that they were germinated.
In the tradition of Barbara Tuchman''s A Distant Mirror, How The Irish Saved Civilization reconstructs an era that few know about but which is central to understanding our past and our cultural heritage. But it conveys its knowledge with a winking wit that aptly captures the sensibility of the unsung Irish whorelaunched civilization.

About the Author

THOMAS CAHILL is the author of the best-selling books, 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 Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels , and Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus .  These books comprise the first three volumes of a prospective seven-volume series entitled "The Hinges of History," in which Cahill recounts formative moments in Western civilization. In "The Hinges of History," Thomas Cahill endeavors to retell the story of the Western World through little-known stories of the great gift-givers, people who contributed immensely to Western, culture and the evolution of Western sensibility, thus revealing how we have become the people we are and why we think and feel the way we do today. Thomas Cahill is best known, in his books and lectures, for taking on a broad scope of complex history and distilling it into accessible, instructive, and entertaining narrative. His lively, engaging writing animates cultures that existed up to five millennia ago, revealing the lives of his principal characters with refreshing insight and joy. He writes history, not in its usual terms of war and catastrophe, but as "narratives of grace, the recountings of those blessed and inexplicable moments when someone did something for someone else, saved a life, bestowed a gift, gave so
read more read less

From Our Editors

During the Dark Ages only the Irish kept the great tradition of Western scholarship alive. While learning, academia and culture disappeared from the European continent, Ireland thrived. The great heritage of Western civilization would have been utterly lost were it not for the holy men and women of the unconquered Ireland. How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe takes readers to the island of saints and scholars and shows how the Irish put their unique stamp on Western culture.

Editorial Reviews

"Charming and poetic...an entirely engaging, delectable voyage into th edistant past, a small treasure." -The New York Times

"A lovely and engrossing tale . . . Graceful and instructive." -Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times

"Cahill''s lively prose breathes life into a 1,600-year-old history." -The Boston Globe

Bookclub Guide

US

1. As the author notes, most historians describe periods of stasis, not movement, so that we miss out on the transition periods of history. Discuss this in light of the story the author tells in this book.

2. The author often gives us tableaus where he slips deep into the scene as it''s happening--the Roman soldiers facing the German tribes along the banks of the frozen Rhine, for instance. Talk about how he does this and how it depends on our understanding of the history he reports.

3. The possibility of "psychological fiction" [p. 41] came about because of Augustine''s Confessions. Discuss this breakthrough to the personal in prose.

4. The author gives a picture of Irish character that spans prehistoric to current times. Discuss character as a trait rooted in or heavily influenced by geography, weather, and culture.

5. Ireland, an island, had fewer outside influences on it than did many other cultures during the Pax Romana. Discuss isolation as a protective force, and a contributor to the idea that as Roman lands went from "peace to chaos," Ireland went from "chaos to peace" [p. 124].

6. Talk about the particular Irish women presented in this book--Medb, Derdriu, Brigid of Kildare, and Dark Eileen O''Connell--and the general Irish view of the role of women.

7. Discuss the difference between Patrick and Augustine''s "emotional grasp of Christian truth" [p. 115].

8. Talk about the Irish people''s ability to enjoy magic and superstition and pagan influences and yet convert wholeheartedly to Christianity.

9. Christianity was "received into Rome," while Ireland was "received into Christianity" [p. 148]. Discuss the difference and its implications and results.

10. As Columcille and Columbanus traveled in Europe and converted people to Christianity and established monasteries, they worked under the rubric of a democratic principle that "a man is better than his descent" [p. 176]. Discuss this as a change in previous and subsequent spiritualities, such as that of Augustine and the Rule of Saint Benedict.

11. Is power always corrupt? Discuss this in light of the Church conspiring with the enemy (Brunhilda) against its own messenger, Columbanus, and his Irish monks.

12. Discuss the cause and effect of the clash between the Roman Christianity of Augustine''s Canterbury and Celtic Christianity at the Synod of Whitby in A.D. 644.

13. Discuss how the intellectual Greek approach to thought died and the price that subsequent cultures paid for it at the Synod of Whitby or elsewhere.

14. Discuss De Divisione Naturae, John Scotus Eriugena''s theory of nature and reality, and Pope Honorius III''s order to burn all copies of it. From what the author presents here, talk about the difference between pantheism and what Scotus suggested.

For Discussion: The Hinges of History Series

1. Each book gives a piece that helps complete the picture of who we are, of our history, of our humanity and acts as a piece in a puzzle. How effective is this type of a reckoning of our past?

2. The author did not write the books in his series in strict chronological order. Instead he traces large cultural movements over many centuries. How does this choice affect the understanding of each book as a piece in the puzzle? Or as an individual work?

3. In his books, the author gets inside the heads and hearts of his subjects, using a very close third-person point of view. How does this choice strengthen his premise? Does it have limitations?

4. The author is Roman Catholic. Is he able to present these histories without being biased by his Catholicism? Does one''s religion (or lack of it) necessarily constrict or color one''s view?

5. Discuss the nature and history of the Irish and the Jews as read in these books. What are their ambitions, their differences? How do they differ from the Romans and the Greeks in all three books?

Item not added

This item is not available to order at this time.

See used copies from 00.00
  • My Gift List
  • My Wish List
  • Shopping Cart