Sunday, 26 July 2015

The Inheritance of Rome, by Chris Wickham

3 stars

Covering a whopping great 600 years of history, it's small wonder that this book took two months to read. Whilst some of that was at least partially the fault of my daily life becoming increasingly demanding and therefore not yielding up half as much reading time as I'd had before, it's also due to the staggering amount of information imparted. 

Taking us from the fall of the Roman Empire up until the year 1000 and the so-called 'Feudal Revolution', this took in the post Roman States and cultures that grew out of this fall, including looks at the Visigoths, the Vandals, the Vikings, the Merovingians and Carolingians, as well many more that I'd never even heard of before. Examining tax systems, religions, economies and exchange systems, iconography and much, much more, it seems that Chris Wickham left no stone unturned when writing this book. The only thing really missing is much on what life was like for the unpowerful (other than probably rather hard), thanks to the dearth of evidence on this aspect of life as contemporary chroniclers couldn't have given two shits about their lives and preferred to concentrate on the kings and other noblemen that were constantly blinding one another (apparently a preferred way of eliminating rivals for centuries, thanks to a commonly held belief that a ruler should be 'whole').

The jumping around in time and place, along with the lack of any real common narrative drive sometimes helped to hinder my progress as I found myself having to concentrate far more on all of the incidental facts and opinions presented in order to make them stick (as it is, I'd still be hard pushed to tell you anything I learned with any sort of specificity, and would probably be reduced to statements like 'the Vandals were well lairy', and 'aristocrats have always been a complete shower of shits'), but it certainly succeeded in helping me to decide which groups I'm interested in reading more on (that'll be all the ones beginning with the letter V).

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