Monday, November 11, 2013

How The Barbarian Invasions Shaped The Modern World

How The Barbarian Invasions Shaped The Modern World. Thomas J. Craughwell. 2008. Fair Winds Press. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

The full subtitle of this one is "The Vikings, Vandals, Huns, Mongols, Goths, and Tartars Who Razed the Old World and Formed the New."

I'd describe this book as readable. It is a broad overview of the subject; it provides a framework for further study perhaps. It serves as a good introduction. It isn't the most thorough book on the Vikings or the Vandals or the Huns or the Mongols or the Goths or the Tartars.

I found it fascinating and quite entertaining. I knew practically nothing on the subject, and yet I found this one compelling instead of confusing. I wasn't sure what to expect when I began, but by the end, I was a fan. I loved the middle section the best. The Viking chapters were just what I was looking for.
  • "The Brightest Light of the Whole World Is Extinguished" The Goths Sack Rome
  • "They Filled The Whole Earth With Slaughter and Panic" The Arrival of the Huns
  • The Scourge of God: Attila the Hun
  • King of the Land and the Sea: Gaiseric and the Glory Days of the Vandals
  • An Empire of Their Own, The Vandals and the Second Sacking of Rome
  • The Groans of the Britons: The Angle, Saxon, and Jute Invasion of Britain
  • The Long-Haired Kings: The Franks
  • The First Viking Invasion of England: The Sacking of Lindisfarne Abbey
  • The Last King: Alfred the Great
  • "Floods of Danes and Pirates" The Vikings in Ireland
  • The Wasteland: The Vikings in the Frankish Empire
  • The Resurrection of Hastein: Vikings in the Mediterranean
  • The Blood of Heroes: Irish and Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf
  • The End of the Viking Age: The Battle of Stamford Bridge
  • Vengeance On Her Mind, Olga of Kiev
  • The Prince Who Made Kiev Christian: Vladimir of Kiev
  • Spitting on the Emperor: The Mongols in China
  • The Golden Horde: The Mongols in Russia
  • Sacks Full of Ears: The Mongols in Eastern Europe
The legacy of the Vikings in England is destruction. Libraries burned. Rare works of art looted and lost forever. Towns and villages wiped off the landscape. Lives destroyed. And the future of England--the nation that has had an immeasurable impact on the world's ideas about civil rights, representational government, and personal freedom--placed in severe jeopardy.
Some historians have tried to find positive contributions that the Vikings brought to England. But aside from teaching the English a better method of shipbuilding and adding Scandinavian words such as "skate" and "skiff" and "anger" and "muck" to the English language, and giving Scandinavian names to about 1,400 locations in England (places ending in -by, -thorpe, -toft, and -thwaite), Viking influence in England was almost nil. With one exception: By annihilating six of the seven English royal families, the Vikings inadvertently transformed the country from a patchwork of little kingdoms into a single realm under one kind. And once England was unified, it became a political and cultural powerhouse. (128)
Once the Vikings and the English intermarried, and especially once the Vikings began to convert to Christianity, their assimilation into English society was virtually painless. But that integration came decades after the first Viking raid in England. Between 793 and 865, the Vikings were marauders who brought nothing but pain and anguish to the people of England. (130)
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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