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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.
"Charming and poetic...an entirely engaging, delectable voyage into the distant past, a small treasure." ( The New York Times)
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- Johannes Schwarz
Sadly tendentious in the selection of facts
I realize that it is the aim of this book to underscore the Irish contribution which is indeed great. But it ought not to be done by distorting history. One example: nobody who ever actually read the rule of St Columbanus and its severe penances would contrast it with the Benedictine rule calling the latter(!) harsh and giving the impression irish monasticism was a flowery, nature loving, humanist affair. The reason for the abbandonment of the Columban rule was precisely its severity and the comparatively sober mildness of the Benedictine way.
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