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Review of 'How the Barbarian Invasions Shaped the Modern World', by Craughwell

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Review of How the Barbarian Invasions Shaped the Modern World, by Thomas Craughwell

Review of How the Barbarian Invasions Shaped the Modern World, by Thomas Craughwell

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The Bottom Line

Craughwell aims to show that because of what the barbarians did to Rome the world is what it is today. Since other barbarians continued to pick apart the stable order even after their fellows had reduced Rome to insignificance, the Vikings and Mongols need their place in the spotlight. This is a purposefully slanted, detailed, and sometimes gory world history suitable for almost anyone.
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Pros

  • Well-told
  • Covers immense time period without feeling abbreviated
  • Useful and beneficially-placed timelines
  • Great illustrations

Cons

  • Sidebar formatting fails
  • Some redundancy - may have been in sidebars, but I couldn't tell
  • Unnecessary coloring of pages

Description

  • Selects 410 as the date of the fall of Rome.
  • Clearly tells the complex story of the plot against Attila.
  • Mentions phases in the development of the stirrup
  • Generally takes the Roman or Catholic perspective against barbarian/heretics.
  • Shows Gaiseric and the Vandals as remarkable, especially in developing the unheard of -- a barbarian navy.
  • Clarifies the relationship between the Normans, the French and the people of Britain.

Guide Review - Review of 'How the Barbarian Invasions Shaped the Modern World', by Craughwell

Craughwell seems to get into the minds of the barbarians, although not equally sympathetically. The Vandals are barely barbarians, their name a synonym for destructive behavior notwithstanding, and the often-praised Vikings seem the most extreme barbarians with their plunder, pillage, and incomprehensible berserkers.

Although my main interest and knowledge extends only to around the time of Clovis or, perhaps, Charlemagne, I enjoyed reading the many anecdotes -- even about the later hordes, and loved the way Craughwell pulled threads tying together the Romans' attackers. Craughwell's writing is tight and his story moves you along. It's not a history book to read simply for the sake of answering questions on an exam. It's so full of stories that it's almost a thriller.

As mentioned in the cons, the formatting was a real problem for me. I couldn't tell (from the context) anecdote in the main text from anecdotal sidebar. The slightly different printing style of the two types of section -- one a serifed font and one not -- didn't penetrate my consciousness. This meant that I lost my place frequently and felt the material was somewhat repetitive at peculiar moments. The unusual brown coloring on all the pages was attractive, but would have been better employed to distinguish sidebars from text.

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