The Birth of the West: Rome, Germany, France, and the Creation of Europe in the Tenth Century

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9781610390132: The Birth of the West: Rome, Germany, France, and the Creation of Europe in the Tenth Century

The tenth century dawned in violence and disorder. Charlemagne’s empire was in ruins, most of Spain had been claimed by Moorish invaders, and even the papacy in Rome was embroiled in petty, provincial conflicts. To many historians, it was a prime example of the ignorance and uncertainty of the Dark Ages. Yet according to historian Paul Collins, the story of the tenth century is the story of our culture’s birth, of the emergence of our civilization into the light of day.

The Birth of the West tells the story of a transformation from chaos to order, exploring the alien landscape of Europe in transition. It is a fascinating
narrative that thoroughly renovates older conceptions of feudalism and what medieval life was actually like. The result is a wholly new vision of how civilization sprang from the unlikeliest of origins, and proof that our tenth-century ancestors are not as remote as we might think.

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About the Author:

Paul Collins graduated from Harvard with a master of theology, received his doctorate in philosophy in history from the Australian National University, and was ordained a Catholic priest. Since March 2001, when he resigned from active priestly ministry after thirty-three years of service due to a doctrinal dispute with the Vatican, he has been a full-time writer and radio and TV presenter. He lives in Australia.


Thomas Keneally
The Birth of the West is a re-making of what we think we know about the end of the Dark Ages”. It is also the gate to the utterly unexpected cosmos of European forebears. In some ways, from waterlogged England by way of the folk beliefs of French peasants, to the ambitious consolidation of Germany, corruption and reform in the Papacy, the machinations of Constantinople and the continuing presence of Moorish culture in  Western Europe, the characters who people The Birth of the West’ are as familiar as relatives as indeed they are groping their way to a cohesive Western culture as yet dominant in the world. The Birth of the West’ is thus the tale of our birth, and Collins tells it with a narrative grace and elegance which will make readers cherish it.”

Kirkus Reviews, starred review
A lively, full-to-bursting history of the turbulent 10th century in Europe Collins presents chaotic upheaval across Europe in an organized and riveting fashion.”

Jay Rubenstein, Professor of History, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and author of Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse In The Birth of the West, Paul Collins makes accessible and exciting the world of tenth-century Europe. With a sense for both the grand narrative and for the quirks of particular personalities, Collins makes this central medieval century seem not so dark. Rather, lit by the fiery eyes of three German kings named Otto, who stand at the heart of Collins' story, it is an era of significant cultural achievement and political advance though no less bloody for it.”

Publishers Weekly
Western Europe claws its way out of the Dark Ages just barely in this hair-raising history. Writing with a supple prose and an eye for colorful detail and vivid characters, Collins shapes some of history’s most appalling behavior first prize might go to Pope Steven VI, who exhumed his predecessor’s rotting corpse and placed it on trial for heresy into a lively narrative with a comprehensible story line.  Behind the blood-lettings and betrayals of medieval politics, he sketches an illuminating interpretation of a society and worldview shaped by insecurity, superstition, and personal loyalties. The result is a fascinating account of how a desperate struggle for survival bequeathed a civilization.”

Collins provides a broad panorama of the age, presenting characters great and small, including kings, magnates, popes, and peasants. This is a well-done study suitable for both scholars and general readers.”

He makes a lively case that the foundations of 11th-century expansion by the end of which, Europe was powerful enough that, after fighting off or assimilating invaders on all fronts, it was able to start invading its neighbours in the First Crusade were laid in the 10th century.”

Dallas Morning News
Very readable The 900s are a fascinating time in history, and many lessons might be derived from the era’s amazing and usually violent changes in reigns and rulers Collins follows the lead of other recent historians in seeing this period not just as brutish and stagnant, but also rich in its cultural and spiritual life, and his best chapters focus on everyday people and experiences.”

Shelf Awareness
”An engaging account of an often overlooked era.”

National Catholic Reporter
Australian Collins, historian and former priest, has a masterly touch throughout, for he writes the book on the several levels. He describes Europe, physically. He tells us what we are looking at, the stage set of history, the extensive woodlands, the major massifs and plateaus. All the while he is populating this landscape. This is truly history from the bottom up, layering the terrain Collins’ history is telling that though the ages were dark, not all the lights had been turned off. What we are receiving from Collins’ sure hand is what happened after the fall of Rome This is an intriguing 395-page read that gradually comes together at the end as Collins pulls on all the threads to tie into a fine knot.”

Shepherd Express
Paul Collins as he shines a lantern into the Dark Ages. Whether or not Collins is correct in naming the 10th century as thesignificant turning point for Western Civilization, he uncovers many fascinating details.”

The narrative is interesting and on the whole easy to follow Collins has excellent section on landscape, battle tactics, and weapons as well as vivid biographies of key players, such as the Empress Theophano, Gerbert of Aurillac, and Liutprand of Cremona.”

Otago Daily News (New Zealand)
You don’t need a history degree to venture into the story Collins unfolds. Indeed, his bubbly writing style, laced with humour and spice, turns the book into something of a page-turner. A particular strength is the chapters on social history, in which Collins brings the 10th century world into vivid focus. Throughout, he delves into a surprising cornucopia of primary sources to back up his arguments.”

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