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How the Irish Saved Civilization (1995)

de Thomas Cahill

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Sèrie: Hinges of History (1)

MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaMencions
6,430951,532 (3.67)110
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.… (més)
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Es mostren 1-5 de 93 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Titles are important. They just are, and if you don't get it just right, entire books can be ruined. The title sets the mood and creates expectations for a reader. If you're going to lay down a title as bold as this book's, the text had better deliver. In the end, I think Cahill falls well short. There is really only one chapter--the last--which gets the job done. It is the only part of the book which tells the story I was expecting to read, which I had been waiting for for far too long. The section on St. Patrick (mid-way through the book) was interesting, but still left me with questions. Cahill only briefly touches on Patrick's visions, which, as I understand it, were a central part of his mission. Surrounding that section was a lengthy discussion of Europe after the fall of Rome. While I understand that knowing what was lost can enhance the reader's appreciation for what was saved, I did not pick up this book to read about Rome. There is a rich history and tradition in the Celtic past, and I was disappointed that a book which had been so loudly heralded spent so little time on its titular topic. ( )
  Library_Guard | Jun 17, 2024 |
I just couldn't stay focused on hardly any of this. ( )
  Tytania | May 20, 2024 |
Between 400 and 600, the world as it had been previously known ended for Europe and the Near East.

We generally look at this period as a dark time since it featured the collapse of the Roman Empire, a loss from which Europe would strive to recover over the next 1400 years.

But that period looked quite different in Ireland, as well expressed by Thomas Cahill in How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe (affiliate link).

Cahill set the tone by exploring the Roman world and Ireland as they had existed at the turn of the fifth century: Rome, the inheritor of the legacy of the Classical world and over a millennium of philosophical, scientific, religious, etc. advancements and learning; Ireland, as pagan and remote as ever.

Cahill then explored the great reversal over the next two hundred years: overrun by the “barbarians” to the east, beset by plagues and famines, the Roman Empire collapsed, and in the urgency of survival, much of the ancient learning was lost. Patricius, a Briton Celtic born and raised as a Christian, was captured by Irish pirates and was enslaved; he escaped slavery but felt called to proclaim Jesus to the Irish. After getting some training, Patricius returned and found ways to well evangelize the Irish; he would become known as St. Patrick, and by the end of the fifth century Ireland had been well evangelized and mostly Christian. Cahill describes how the Celtic Christianity of this age was quite distinct from standard Roman Catholicism later, or even at that same time, and how little connection existed between Rome and Ireland.

Cahill then considered what would follow: many of the Irish would dedicate themselves to Jesus and the monastery, and not a few desired to cultivate learning. Irish monks and scribes would collect manuscripts of the Bible but also of the Greek and Latin classics and would copy them.

Thus Irish Christians preserved a lot of the classical works which remain to this day. The Book of Kells is a beautiful Irish manuscript. And Irish monks would spread throughout western Europe, setting up monasteries in Scotland, England, and what we consider France and Germany. Many of Charlemagne’s favored scholar monks were Irish. And wherever they went, they not only brought their distinctive expression of Christianity, but also dedication to copying manuscripts and preserving the heritage of a culture which had not been their own at the time.

While there were still conflicts among the Irish from 450-600, the chaos enveloping everywhere else left them alone: they would only begin suffering Viking, then Anglo-Norman, then British invasion after 750. In this way the Irish lost some of that distinctiveness in scholasticism and suffered themselves as other Europeans had been suffering in the fifth and sixth centuries.

But by the time the Vikings began to invade and pillage, the situation in France, Germany, England, etc. had somewhat stabilized. Their own would learn from the Irish monks and continue their work in their countries.

When the author told this story, it was not otherwise well known. The author likes to make broad characterizations which we today would find a bit prejudicial. But the story is quite engaging and powerful, and a reminder of the great power possible in the Gospel of Jesus Christ: for as the rest of the world was burning, Ireland found Jesus and enjoyed a golden age. ( )
  deusvitae | May 4, 2024 |
I can't say I didn't like this book because who doesn't love to read about the magical, mysterious history of Ireland? However, it's definitely not something I'd read again. The first 60 pages could have easily been summed up in a paragraph or two to set the stage for the story---I should really get a prize for muddling through them as I did.

After that, it seemed the author took turns being very basic (to the point of explaining the proper pronunciation of Celts or being vague for chapters about the enigmatic "Patricus"---gee, wonder who that turned out to be?) and being so tedious that I found myself skipping paragraphs just to stay awake.

Still, as usual, I found some interesting bits. I didn't realize that the Biblical Galatians were the people of Gaul---ancient Celts. Now I'm craving to go back and reread Galatians with that in mind.

There's a book I read in college, Sun Dancing, about Skellig Michael. If anything, this book gave me a desire to go back and read through that again. ( )
  classyhomemaker | Dec 11, 2023 |
Amazing. I truly enjoy learning how the past has shaped the present. ( )
  KeithK999 | Dec 3, 2023 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Cahill, Thomasautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Donnelly, DonalReaderautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Graaf, Renée deTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat

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Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however, virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love. -- Reinhold Niebuhr
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Peace, Enjoyment, Love, and Pleasure.

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On the last, cold day of December in the dying year we count as 406, the river Rhine froze solid, providing the natural bridge that hundreds of thousands of hungry men, women, and children had been waiting for.
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So in peace our task we ply,
Pangur Ban my cat and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.
Wherever they went the Irish brought with them their books, many unseen in Europe for centuries and tied to their waists as signs of triumph, just as Irish heroes had once tied to their waists their enemies' head. Wherever they went they brought their love of learning and their skills in bookmaking. In the bays and valleys of their exile, they reestablished literacy and breathed new life into the exhausted literary culture of Europe.
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Wikipedia en anglès (4)

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.

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