How the Irish Saved Civilization

How the Irish Saved Civilization

The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe

Book - 1995
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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.
Publisher: New York : Nan A. Talese, Doubleday, c1995.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780385418485
Characteristics: x, 246 p. : ill., maps ; 23 cm.


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Jan 04, 2021

I trained as a medievalist specializing in Celtic history. This book is a travesty. If you want to actually learn something about the contributions made by the Irish, Scots, Welsh and Cornish, there are quite a few well written, well researched books available. I would be happy to create a list of some of these titles depending on the areas of interest indicated by readers but this book? I would consign it to the same *take out the trash* heap in which one would find Manchester's "A World Lit only by fire" and Hawking's "A Brief History of Time." None of these books deserve your time, especially given how many good books there are out there and how little time we actually have to read.

Dec 18, 2020

Begin: 500 End: 1500 Period: Dark Ages => Middle Ages Subject: Ireland

Dec 18, 2018

Made me realize how much I did not know about St. Augustine, St. Patrick, and Irish history in general. Very clear and light-hearted telling of the period from the end of the Roman empire thru to Irish history. Esp. appreciated the guide to pronouncing Celtic names. Educational and fun!

Aug 31, 2015

This brief, though amazingly thorough, humorous look at Irish history begins with what I thought at first was an overly long introduction to the Greeks and Romans, and their transition to the illiterate barbarians. I decided I needed to know all that from Cahill's perspective in order to understand what he had to say about the Irish, especially the slave Patricius, who never did get fluent in Latin. I'm a fan of the "Sister Fidelma" historical mystery series, and now I understand them a lot better. More important, I understand what Patrick was up to, and why I've always loved "The Book of Kells" and other Irish religious art of that period. Cahill wanders at times, but even his wanderings have a point to make. A delight.

Jul 11, 2015

We, the Kindelan's, are on page 214, apparently of the Irish nobility. I imagine we were enterprising, and we, the Mahoney's, the Murphy's, and the O'Neil's fled to Spain. Had we stayed we would have been assassinated. They called us "Wild Geese." Better wild geese than a dead ones. Some did manage to go to Australia, France, Cuba, and Canada. In Cuba they were devout Communists, great athletes, Oriestes Kindelan was the homerun king of World Amateur baseball, and Mario won the Olympic Gold medal two times in boxing. It's fun to
feel a sense of pride for one's namesake's achievements, and many of our tribe/clan have gone on to do well. General Kindelan attempted to assassinate Franco, he failed and fled the country. However on page 3 the idea to attach the word civilized to the Irish is in some ways hilarious, we're so much people of the earth, in most ways the Irish were anything but civilized, but apparently they saw a need and filled it. John Kindelan, my father, was being prepared for the priesthood, but when it came to the priesthood, no women, and the Navy, he joined the Navy and I'm the result of his hankering for the female of the species. He didn't know it, but he had type 1 diabetes and was deathly ill at 31 years old, and hung on until he was 48. His diabetes was never diagnosed by medical doctors, but his sister, an RN he put through nursing school, diagnosed it. He had high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, went blind, had boils on his neck, and went from 165 down to 75 pounds. It was then he died. RIP, pop.

Nov 26, 2013

The first of Cahill's 'hinges of history' collection, it's stylistically quirky, and very brief. There's no arguing, though, with the clarity of the path he's walking. Plus, his annotations make clear which choices he makes in telling this story. A great effort, and not his best one, as it turned out.

Jul 25, 2013

This is a must read for Irish enthusiasts and history buffs. History was well plotted with interesting tidbits throughout;often noted with subtle humor.

Dec 26, 2012

I just love it when a scholarly work is engaging, colorful, and written with an obvious passion and is both persuasive and personable in style. Especially when it comes to an obscure corner of human history like the transition from the Roman era to the Medieval Age.

AAlbertCastillo Mar 17, 2012

A must read for anyone interested in the real history of St. Patrick. Cahill's style of writing is compelling and well researched.

Dec 09, 2009

It's really the story of St. Patrick

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