Tuesday, March 5, 2013

How the Irish Saved Civilization

In honor of the start of March and the impending St. Patrick’s Day, I opted to pick up Tomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe. I had actually picked up this long-winded title for a class project a number of years ago, but the demands of the course prevented me from a full read.

Now, I would not recommend reading this book with any academic intent. His treatment of the complexity fall of Rome (which will likely be debated as long as the Roman Empire is taught subject matter) has some issues. He seems to take a few poetic liberties to try to better place his later arguments. However, for all the oddities of the initial chapter the rest of the book more than makes up for it with the subsequent chapters. Cahill’s depictions of how Ireland’s monks and scholars worked to preserve and spread knowledge are both charming and approachable. Admittedly, he can meander at times and does get drawn into the odd detail, but to me, it felt very much within the spirit of the subject.

All in all, I would highly recommend this book for those getting into the spirit, or even just anyone interested in learning a little bit more about the past and how it relates to modern times. But be warned, if you are a history buff or prefer your histories more academic, there are sections that you may get frustrated with.

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