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Forge of Christendom

3.81  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,438 Ratings  ·  138 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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Dec 02, 2008 Guy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
May 24, 2012 TAB rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 18, 2015 Tom Ippen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 28, 2008 F.R. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 10, 2016 Gary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tom Holland provides a thoroughly readable history, showing a sharp grasp of the history of the Dark Ages, as well as a passion for his subject. He reviews the history of Europe roughly from 900 CE to 1000.
Always in the background is the alarm about the possible end of the world, Armageddon and the promise of the return of Christ, popularly known as millennial fever, as we saw again in the 1990s and the first few years of the 21st century.

Chapter One , 'The Return of the King' discusses the decl
Gary Butler
Mar 24, 2014 Gary Butler rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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:
Oct 01, 2009 Mechelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So interesting. I learned so much from this book. I was so disappointed when I finished it to not be able to read anymore.
Feb 14, 2014 Katharine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
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
Aug 25, 2010 Doug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Feb 17, 2013 EvilNick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Mar 03, 2013 Carlos rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 02, 2009 Benjamin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 26, 2014 Craig rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Matthew Cooper
Spanning the 10th and 11th centuries of European history, the book gives an account of the tumultuous times that led up to the first crusade. It covers numerous important events and figures of the time and deals with the important conflicts of the age, that of regal and papal power, and the struggle between Christianity and Islam. Because of the book covering a large area, focussed on events in modern-day France, Germany, England and Turkey, it adopts a sort of wave-like structure, where the nar ...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
Nov 01, 2014 Alejandro Ramirez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 18, 2014 Palmyrah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 16, 2016 Caroline rated it really liked it
Shelves: medieval-history
The years between the fall of the Roman Empire and the turn of the first millennium are generally known as the 'Dark Ages', an era of brutality, poverty, illiteracy, paganism and savagery, when all the advances of the Greek and Roman civilisations seemed to vanish as though they had never been, and the shape of the countries we know as England, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Denmark, were barely coming into focus. Such was the case in Western Europe, at least. There was no such Dark Age in the ...more
Apr 04, 2015 Igor rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 26, 2014 Kenny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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".

Roy Elmer
Jan 13, 2016 Roy Elmer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Tom Holland's Millennium is the first non-fiction book I've read in a few years. I think my problem with it is that Holland has sold it as light touch narrative history, but while it is light on content, a bit sparse on depth of research and not terribly detailed, it is also not really narrative history at all. What we have instead are a range of disconnected vignettes that flip back and forward between ten pivotal years of European history without drawing together any solid links between areas ...more
Feb 19, 2016 Luke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The year 1000. Concerning the past, one thousand years or more ago, this book gives a 'blood and thunder' account of the turn of the first millennium after Christ in Medieval Europe. A window into a remote age that was the kernel of our own. One thousand years since, it's good to reflect on where it all really began. Though it's not that scholarly, its a narrative that is lively and memorable in parts with interesting anecdotes and obscure unheard of characters - like the hermit from the mud fla ...more
Nov 18, 2014 bkwurm rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Daniel Kukwa
It's a huge endeavour, with an interesting premise: did the worry about the second coming help influence the rise of Western Christian civilization? I'm not sure I'm convinced, but Tom Holland moves mountains to try and persuade his audience. That said, the astonishing amount of detail is mitigated for me by (1) an attempt at chronological order that becomes rather wonky at times, (2) a few too many digressions into areas that, in my opinion, didn't need so much extra detail, and (3) long, monol ...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
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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
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