How the Irish Saved Civilization

  • by Thomas Cahill
  • Narrated by Donal Donnelly
  • 8 hrs and 0 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

From the fall of Rome to the rise of Charlemagne - the "dark ages" - learning, scholarship, and culture disappeared from the European continent. The great heritage of Western civilization - from the Greek and Roman classics to Jewish and Christian works - would have been utterly lost were it not for the holy men and women of unconquered Ireland. In this delightful and illuminating look into a crucial but little-known "hinge" of history, Thomas Cahill takes us to the "island of saints and scholars," the Ireland of St. Patrick and the Book of Kells. Here, far from the barbarian despoliation of the continent, monks and scribes laboriously, lovingly, even playfully preserved the West's written treasury. With the return of stability in Europe, these Irish scholars were instrumental in spreading learning. Thus the Irish not only were conservators of civilization, but became shapers of the medieval mind, putting their unique stamp on Western culture. Thanks to Thomas Cahill, this pivotal era is brought back to vibrant life, its personages portrayed in all their seemingly contemporary humanity, its issues simply and compellingly spelled out. How the Irish Saved Civilization will change forever the way we look at our past, and ourselves.


What the Critics Say

"Cahill's lovely prose breathes life into a 1,600-year-old history." (The Los Angeles Times)
"Charming and entirely engaging, delectable voyage into the distant past, a small treasure." (The New York Times)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Fascinating book

Yes, the opening chapter or two is on the Roman world, and it's slow. Once you get past that (feel free to skip ahead), it's absolutely fascinating. He gives fascinating information on Ireland, Patrick, the monks who copied all the old books, Irish art, and the unique Irish perspective on life.

Worth every penny - once you get past the Roman intro. He does that to give a foundation, but the first time you listen to it, just skip it. Go back later and listen to it.
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- P

Not titled

Very well read. You have to get used to the parts where he alters his voice to emphasize characters speaking, but then again, after a few hours even that turns out to be kind of humerous at times and quite enjoyable.

This is not a Fodor's guide to Ireland or even a day by day history of Ireland, it's an account of how the Irish monks saved history in written form (among other things.) While the world was burning all the books it could the Irish monastic leaders were collecting all the works of their neighboring world and translating (even transcribing) them for study and posterity. A society that was once nearly illiterate SAVED scores of written works! (Are you not with me here?) The stories of the Romans, Greeks and barbarians are necessary to understand just how (and why) the Irish managed to save the written texts and thus the history of a great deal of what is now Europe. Forget the negative reviews, for they are from people that wanted a history of Ireland and ordered the wrong book.
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- Marci

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-22-2001
  • Publisher: Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio