The Early Middle Ages : The Great Courses: Medieval History

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Philip Daileader
  • Series: The Great Courses: Medieval History
  • 12 hrs and 32 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

The Early Middle Ages - the years from A.D. 650 to 1000 - were crucial to Europe's future social and political development. These 24 lectures trace a journey from Scandinavia across northern and central Europe to the farthest reaches of the Byzantine and Islamic empires, providing an exciting new look an era often simply called the "Dark Ages."
Given the period's dismal reputation and its temporal remoteness from the 21st century, you'll be surprised to learn about some of the most challenging questions historians have ever had to tackle: Why did the Roman Empire fall? Why did the ancient world give way to the medieval world? Why did Christian monotheism become the dominant religion in Europe? You'll meet some of the era's exciting figures, such as St. Augustine and Justinian, and you'll consider the extent to which the historical realities of King Arthur and Charlemagne match up to the legends that have become attached to their names. You'll also look at the era's effect on the Vikings, the rise of the Carolingians, and the golden age of Islamic rule in Spain.
Professor Daileader also explores the contrasting historical theories offered by two extremely influential historians: Edward Gibbon, the English author of the monumental The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, whose explanations closely followed those of the Roman moralists of the 4th and 5th centuries; and Henri Pirenne, the Belgian thinker who injected a newfound emphasis on social and especially economic factors into the analysis of history.
You'll see why the era belies its reputation as dark and dismal, but you'll come away with a new appreciation for this once-lost era.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Not Actually About the Middle Ages

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

I think history requires a great narrative and passion about the subject. This lecture series lacked both.

Next, this lecture series says it covers 650 to 1000 A.D. The actual lecture spends 3/4 of the time discussing events from about 215 to 500 A.D. In other words, less than a quarter of the series is about the time period I thought it would be covering.


What could The Great Courses have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

This book was not actually about the time period specified 650 to 1000 A.D. It spent an inordinate amount of time on St. Augustine (354 to 430 A.D.), Muhammad (570 to 632 A.D.), and Diocletian (245 to 311 A.D.). The author also spends almost 30 minutes discussing early-Christian views on celibacy. It was weird and disconcerting. In fact, you don't even approach the stated subject matter of the lectures until almost nine hours after you start.

Also, this lecture is rife with historical inaccuracies.

Even once you think you're going to get into the meat and potatoes of the Early Middle Ages, this lecture series fails to deliver. It makes a time period, which is really fascinating, seem droll and boring. The author spends 30 minutes discussing the changes made to manuscripts during the Carolingian Renaissance. (They invented spacing between words!) The author spends nary 30 minutes on Britain or Spain during the Middle Ages, choosing instead to focus on the obscure and pedantic.

Unlike other Great Courses History lectures I've done in the past, this lecture lacked a narrative. This made the whole experience feel scattershot, unorganized, and unfulfilling.


How did the narrator detract from the book?

The narrator had a cold for three or four of the lectures, which was gross. Even without the cold, he was grating. He had a nervous tick where he would suck saliva through his teeth.


What character would you cut from The Early Middle Ages?

I would cut the first nine hours of the lectures (which were outside of the stated scope of the course) and summarize them in one or two lectures. I would also discuss some of the more important figures and battles during the Middle Ages. Really, I would just discuss the Middle Ages.


Any additional comments?

I was extremely disappointed by this lecture series. I have done a few Great Courses in the past, and I had enjoyed them. A friend and I decided to listen to this lecture together, and it was so unpleasant.

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- Lisa D Dirkx

Amazing Look at the Transition to the Middle Ages!

Any additional comments?

This was an excellent read! Professor Philip Daileader is an excellent lecturer and scholar and you probably won't be disappointed by anything you get from him.

This lecture series takes you from the late Roman Empire around the time of Constantine and traces the transition of Europe from late antiquity to the middle ages. You will learn about the collapse of Roman rule in the West, the continuation of the Roman empire in the East through the Byzantine rulers, the Barbarian invasions of Western Europe, the rise of Islam, the emergence of the Carolingian Holy Roman Empire, and the eventual splitting off of that empire into what would become the modern states of France and Germany. He covers all major historical events to about 1000AD.

If you would like to learn more about how Europe went from a unified Roman empire to the divided and complicated state it is in now, I cannot recommend another resource more highly. You will learn about the foundations of all the modern nation states, including England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. This was an invaluable read for me as it helped me connect all of those dots!

Also, the professor tries to highlight not just political history, but also cultural, economic, religious, and social aspects of history in his overview.

This is part one of a three part series offered by the Great Courses that will take you through the entire middle ages up to the year 1500. I highly recommend the whole series.

If you are at all interested in the topic, and enjoy a good read about history, you will not be disappointed! Enjoy!!!

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- Mike

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses