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Forge of Christendom

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  1,256 ratings  ·  123 reviews
At the approach of the first millennium, the Christians of Europe did not seem likely candidates for future greatness. Weak, fractured, and hemmed in by hostile nations, they saw no future beyond the widely anticipated Second Coming of Christ. But when the world did not end, the peoples of Western Europe suddenly found themselves with no choice but to begin the heroic task ...more
ebook, 448 pages
Published May 5th 2009 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (first published 2008)
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The two centuries from 900 to 1100 were a fascinating time in Europe. Somehow the centuries of chaos and decay after the fall of Rome were brought to an end and a dynamic and expansive Europe was born. This book attempts to tell the tale of those years and (according to the author in his Preface) to identify some of the key factors that contributed to Europe's rise. "Attempts" being the operative word: the telling is stylistically flawed, and the key factors insufficiently analyzed and structure ...more
I had my ups and downs with this book, but all in all I enjoyed it. If you are into history, then this is really only a retelling of everything you already know from 900AD to 1100AD with some history of religion and religious houses thrown in. Whilst I am very familiar with England's history during this phase, along with the Saracen's and the Northmen, I did learn much about France and the Wends and the Hungarians. Good book. It made me want to try another of Holland's books. I think I'll try Pe ...more
Justin Evans
A classic example of the 'don't expect Barolo when you're drinking Vinho Verde' class; this is airplane history and as such quite successful- easy to read and rollicking tales, backed up by little analysis and couched as a tendentious and quite frankly pointless 'argument.' All you need to know about this book can be learned from the titles: in Australia and the UK, it's called 'Millennium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom.' In the U.S., it's called 'The Forge of Christendom: ...more
Now that was a history book. As a fierce crusader for fictiondom all my life, this book shook my literary faith to its core. Well organised and superbly written, non-fiction or history like this stand above the rest.

I received this book as a present from my future wife for Christmas one year after she had seen me take great pleasure in The Silmarillion and in watching Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth miniseries. I can't say I was thrilled when I opened the present as well what can I say it was
Sean DeLauder
The best histories tend to have a solid theme and narrow focus. With Rubicon and Persian Fire Holland captured this technique admirably. With Millennium, he may have bitten off more than he could chew, at least in a mere 400 pages.

The work deals primarily with the centuries prior to the year 1,000 AD, a momentous year by the accounts of this book, filled with foreboding about the loosing of Satan and the Anti-Christ upon the world for the next thousand years, and the solidification of Christiani
Tom Ippen
You know what? I read through half of this one a year and a half ago, and it just wasn't what I was looking for. I was in more of a "raw data" mood back then, but I just gave it another shot, and it grabbed me. I was hooked throughout the whole thing.

This is a book I would HIGHLY recommend for people who are interested but not well-versed in medieval Europe. It clips along at a good pace, and does a great job of profiling major players while staying grounded in the context of the 10th
I have previously read, and was highly impressed by, Tom Holland's previous historical books 'Rubicon' and 'Persian Fire'. (I also read The Vampyre - his Byron as a bloodsucker novel, which wasn't so great.)

In this book he looks at the pre-millennial angst that took place at the end of the first millennium, where it was widely assumed that the Antichrist would return (SPOILER ALERT: He doesn't.) Holland then uses it as an exploration of how Christinaity spread across Europe and relations between
So interesting. I learned so much from this book. I was so disappointed when I finished it to not be able to read anymore.
As a huge admirer of Tom Holland's earlier books "Rubicon" and "Persian Fire" I came to this one with high expectations, which it didn't quite meet. The theory behind the book, that many of the changes of the 10th and 11th centuries were caused by the idea that the Millennium heralded the coming of the end of the world, was fascinating and I learnt a great deal about the history of the Holy Roman Empire and its conflict with the Papacy. Add in the rise of castle building in France, the influence ...more
Takes a while to get moving, but when it does it is extremely engrossing. This is a subjective history with a clear thesis - that millennial angst shaped the period of 900-1100 CE, and that this period was a turning point in the Christian West.

He makes his point lucidly and with style, and a clear feeling for the individuals who made the history in this period. He has a clear sympathy, but very spare admiration, for these people - mostly violent, egotistical, obsessive, greedy and vain very few
As an antidote to all those books that appeared in 1999, sensationalising the end of the previous millennium and the idea that everyone thought the world was going to end, it tries to piece together the social and religious upheaval across Europe of the period 900-1100. In doing so, it mostly reinforces the idea that only some people thought the world due for imminent destruction. Unfortunately this small group of doom-believers tending to coincide with the small group of people who were general ...more
Interesantes hechos sobre el cambio del papel de la Iglesia en los albores del siglo 11. Muy bien explicada la evolución del imperio otomano desde los bárbaros francos.

Sin embargo, Holland tiene un estilo recargadísimo que va poco con el libro y hay interpretaciones sociales que están demasiado ancladas en una visión actual. Echo de menos una visión de procesos más que de personas, que historiográficamente es más explicativa que las motivaciones individuales, la cual da la impresión de que los a
I am learning to cherish Tom Holland, both for his original insights into history and for his clear, lucid writing. Holland could make medieval laundry lists fascinating. His subject in this book, end of the world thinking in Medieval Europe, is compelling enough, but he heightened my interest by approaching from it from angles I had never considered before.All history is retelling a story, but Holland's books are never repetitive. His viewpoint is always fresh, his narratives always new and ing ...more
This is an excellent way to teach history, finding people who embodied the broader historical movements and, rather than just name-and-dating everyone and everything, humanize each of those people, make them accessible and real, which makes the arcs easier to follow.

It also helps that there is a great deal of narrative action throughout, and wars to be fought with someone, always. But the important transitions of power from the broken Roman Empire to the kingdoms of Europe, and back to the Pope
A concise, dramatic and eminently readable account of the forging of medieval Europe. Holland keeps his focus on broad social trends mixed in with shifts in power and belief, human interest, narrative flair and compelling accounts of key figures of the age to offer up a compelling introduction to a crucial two-century period for the consolidation of papal power and emergence of the high medieval political order. His grand-sounding prose may be off-putting to some, but the work is well worth the ...more
Elliott Bignell
It used to be said of the Emperors of the Byzantine and Latin empires that the new emperor "took the purple" upon ascending the throne. Some of this seems to have rubbed off on Holland, as "purple" is a word that came repeatedly to mind while reading his prose. Between smoking swords and quivering corpses the effect was occasionally something between a novel and a script for a Schwarzenegger film. The road to Canossa is described with relish, sometimes suspiciously profligate relish.

"Slime, the
Alejandro Ramirez
I was so impressed by Holland's other book: Persian Fire, that I vowed to get his other books. Millenium is equally well documented, but by far not as engaging as Persian Fire. Small kings, failed empires, petty tribal wars, superstition and religious fanatisim tend to get repetitive and boring after a while.

However, it is fascinating to see how the est as we know it was formed. How Norway and Russia got their names, how some words of the european languages were coined and remain in use after a
This is an action-packed overview of an era when the Dark Ages were just becoming the Middle Ages. The author does a heroic job of helping the reader distinguish between the various mailed thugs — Frankish, Saxon, Norse (or Norman) and English — whose unedifying deeds form the basis of the action. Even so, the parade of Ottos, Henrys, Godfreys and the rest tends to blur into an undifferentiated mass as you keep reading. The same goes for the various revolting characters who passed through the tu ...more
John Nebauer
A guy that I once played Dungeons and Dragons with was (and for all that I know is still) a member of the Society of Creative Anachronism. Its members dress as lords and ladies, knights, priests and monks (so far as I know, never as peasants). When we think of the Middle Ages in Western Europe, we think of a society with a strict hierarchy of classes based on birth in which peasants are tied by law to the land of a particular lord. More specifically, we think of a society in which the Roman chur ...more
This was a very well, magnificently perhaps, researched a work. For what is described herein, was indeed a turning point in the history of Europe. And not Europe alone, to be sure, the entire world would look now different, unrecognisable even, had those events unfolded some other way than they did. Not something to be taken lightly, the very idea of the separation of Church and State, while pronounced for the first time centuries before, was but a dream, an idle hope. It was only when the Mille ...more
The time period is interesting and Holland illuminates it well.
I like Holland's writing - accessible history based on the narrative. Focusing on certain figures and running for a chapter or two brings things to life and perspective. Sometimes this unavoidably hits 'school history book' though with a few sections where you can practically hear him say "Ok class, you just have to get through the names and dates in the next few pages as you'll need them for the next great fun set of anecdotes".

Gary Butler
18th book read in 2014.

Number 335 out of 362 on my all time book list.

Follow the link below to see my video review:
Fascinating look at the period commonly referred to as the Dark Ages and the widespread belief that the end times were imminent and how that played into the politics and policies of the rulers of the time. Certainly to the Christian West, with the pagan Vikings raiding the northern coasts, the Saracens conquering Sicily and Southern Italy, Byzantium suffering catastrophic defeat at Manzikert and Muslim Spain threatening the Pyrenees, it must have seemed that the end was near. And yet, by the clo ...more
A terrific fast-paced read. The author has a narrative touch which brings to life the complex characters and events of a thousand years ago and more. The period of history which is covered is vastly complicated, with tumultuous events happening in almost every part of the known world, and this book is a worthy attempt to cover them all. Because of this, the author had to keep hopping around in time periods to make sure the context for each individual event was covered thoroughly. I was beginning ...more
John Pinegar
This is an interesting work of historical narrative that follows the creation of the centralized, Christian heartland of Western Europe that would dominate world history in the 2nd Millennium. Beginning in the middle of the 1st Millennium and ending at the First Crusade's capture of Jerusalem in 1099, Holland takes us through a rich tapestry of possible myth and lore and concrete history. Starting in a time of darkness for both civilization and the church in Western Europe, the fact that by the ...more
Kevin Tole
This is the third of Mr Holland's epic works I have laboured through and hopefully it will be the last. Not as poor and airy-fairy as the book on the Persians, and not as raunchy as the book on the Romans, Mr Holland does manage to over-reach himself in his writing style with this one.
This is garbling goobledegook to make even a politician or stat man blush. Furthermore it is expressed in a sentence structure which leads one to believe that Yodda the Jedai Knight came down and entered the body
Babak Fakhamzadeh
Holland picks interesting moments in history and writes accessible accounts of related events. This time, he focused on the turn of the previous millennium where, indeed in similar fashion as a few years back, many were expecting the end of times and the appearance of the antichrist.
Interesting though these times were, Holland's time frame covering some 200 years does feature too many players to comfortable and constantly follow the whole tale.

What Holland does show is that in contradiction to
About a thousand years ago Europe was gripped with fear. Improbably, in the face of obstacle after obstacle, Christianity had spread itself from Jerusalem to Rome to Constantinople, throughout Western Europe, Saxony, even into England, Scandinavia, and Russia. Now, after that incredible diffusion and the fascinating power-play that underlaid it, Europe was finally united in worldview, moral foundation, and a sort of ecstatic anxiety that the end of the world was rapidly approaching. The very fou ...more
The Dark Ages are typically skipped over in most histories. Despite books like the History of the Middle Ages, the period following the fall of Rome and before the Renaissance gets little coverage in the popular histories. Tom Holland, writer of vigorously entertaining and thoughtful histories of the West, has now turned to this era with Millennium: The End of the World and the Rise of Christendom. In the book, he explores how Christendom, and therefore the West as we know it, arose. The book be ...more
Tom Hollands’ ‘Millennium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom’, is truly a Herculean undertaking. It attempts to explore a period ranging from 8th century right through to the dawning of the 12th. The task seems all the more insurmountable as Holland attempts to write not merely a Grand Narrative, addressing the characters of true power and influence of the period, the grandees as it were. Rather, Holland also explores themes a wide ranging as the ideological war for control of ...more
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An acclaimed British author. He has written many books, both fiction and non-fiction, on many subjects from vampires to history.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Holland was born near Oxford and brought up in the village of Broadchalke near Salisbury, England. He obtained a double first in English and Latin at Queens' College, Cambridge, and af
More about Tom Holland...
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