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Mohammed and Charlemagne

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The final work of the great Belgian historian Henri Pirenne, this remarkable classic — published after his death — offers a revolutionary perspective on how Europe under the influence of a Roman Empire centered in Constantinople evolved into the Europe of Charlemagne and the Middle Ages.
Departing from the standard view that Germanic invasions obliterated the Roman Empire, Pirenne advances the radical new thesis that "the cause of the break with the tradition of antiquity was the rapid and unexpected advance of Islam," and event of historical proportions that prevented the western Mediterranean from being what it had always been: a thoroughfare of commerce and thought. It became instead what Pirenne refers to as "a Musulman lake," thereby causing "the axis of life [to shift] northwards from the Mediterranean" for the first time in history.
Brilliant and controversial, this volume garnered these words of praise from the critics: "It is a dull reader indeed who does not recognize the light of genius in the pages of this book, without doubt a landmark in contemporary historiography." — G. C. Boyce, Annals of the American Academy . "… Pirenne's crowning triumph. The fire of his genius, the boldness of his mind, his profound learning and vivid pen make this volume pleasant reading." — Commonweal . "… an important, seminal book, worthy to close one of the most distinguished careers in European scholarship." — Saturday Review of Literature .
Pirenne's masterly study is essential reading for history students, medievalists, and general readers with an interest in the decline of the Roman Empire and the beginnings of the Middle Ages.

304 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1937

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About the author

Henri Pirenne

131 books62 followers
Henri Pirenne was a leading Belgian historian. He also became prominent in the non-violent resistance to the Germans who occupied Belgium in World War I.

Henri Pirenne's reputation today rests on three contributions to European history. First, what has become known as the Pirenne Thesis, concerning origins of the Middle Ages in reactive state formation and shifts in trade; secondly, for a distinctive view of Belgium's medieval history; and, thirdly, for his model on the development of the medieval city.

Source: Wikipedia

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 60 reviews
Profile Image for Katie.
444 reviews278 followers
May 21, 2012
In Mohammed and Charlemagne, Henri Pirenne makes a really interesting suggestion that has been a big part of the debate surrounding early medieval history since it was first published back in 1939. Instead of placing the pivotal historical moment that splits the ancient and medieval worlds at the barbarian invasions, Pirenne pushes it forward to the spread of Islam in the seventh century. The Roman world was centered on the Mediterranean, its easily traversable waters connecting the empires disparate parts through trade, administration, and shared cultural foundations. Pirenne suggests that this didn't die with the introduction of 'barbarian' states in western Europe. Instead, most of the Gothic groups that moved in to the Empire adopted its values, practices, and economic systems, and there was little categorical change beyond the fragmentation into a couple different states. The fifth and sixth centuries were still focused on the Mediterranean, and everyone still thought of themselves as connected to the Empire to the east. Trade routes continued, tax systems survived, and Gothic kings styled themselves as Byzantine emperors in miniature.

The big change, according to Pirenne, came with the rapid spread of Islam around the Mediterranean basin. This transformed the sea from a connector into a frontier, severing the western kingdoms from the Empire. Byzantium was no longer able to effectively help protect the west, and the Mediterranean was a source of raids and impending violence more than foreign goods from the east. This prompted a shift northwards: when the papacy needed help defending itself from the encroaching Lombards they looked northward to the Carolingians and this alliance formed the true beginning of the medieval era, ushering in a new way of life centered heavily on agriculture, land ownership, and the intertwining of royal and sacred power. Without Mohammed, Pirenne claims, Charlemagne would be inconceivable.

It's a really fascinating thesis, and Pirenne presents it clearly and engagingly. It's hard to believe this was just a first draft. It's also just a compelling narrative - the spread of Islam plays almost like the surprise twist in the third act of a play that changes the direction of everything that came before it. Things are changing in only minor ways and then bam, a whole new world order sweeps in and changes everything and makes western Europe medieval.

It's also a thesis that has some problems. Despite some lingering similarities and a mental connection to Rome, Europe in 600 was not Europe in 300. Further research into economic conditions in the 5th and 6th centuries paint a rather more dire picture than the one Pirenne offers, and it seems that the invasions of the fourth and fifth centuries caused quite a bit more long-term economic havoc than Pirenne is willing to admit. Robert Lopez has shown that the disappearance of papyrus, silk, spices, and gold didn't disappear at the same time, and didn't necessarily disappear with the arrival of Islam to the Mediterranean. The gradual changes in culture, especially the impact of the Church, are a bit marginalized. Non-Roman contributions to culture from the North are ignored until the post-Islamic period. It's also just tough to imagine that a single event could so entirely and dramatically change everything without other contributing causes.

Still, the book is still really useful and worth reading. I don't think that Pirenne's conclusion is wrong - I think he's right, without Mohammed there really couldn't have been a Charlemagne, and the arrival of Islam permanently changed European civilization - but I think it's just a little overstated and doesn't leave quite enough room for other causes of change that were slower, more gradual, and a bit harder to trace.
Profile Image for Rob Atkinson.
224 reviews15 followers
June 28, 2014
A lucky find, orphaned in a box of books abandoned at 39th St and 2nd Ave. in Manhattan...

It turns out this is both an important and controversial title. Pirenne argues that the 'dark ages' weren't truly dark until the advent of Islam and its conquests in Africa and Spain shut down the trade and communication network that the Mediterranean had continued to provide to Western Europe even after the fall of Rome in 476 CE. He makes a compelling case, documenting the widespread trade and wealth provided by an active network of Syrian and Jewish traders which continued the circulation of goods and ideas throughout the Mediterranean basin, and the rapid decline of same in the century between 650-750 AD, when the Muslim conquests essentially stopped that trade in the western half of the Mediterranean. The new Arabic-speaking Caliphs looked to Baghdad, not Rome, and did not trade with the Christians; rather, they raided Sicily, Corsica and Southern France and sought to add to their conquests. The ports of southern France, formerly the locus of contact and trade with the Byzantine Empire, were devastated and depopulated, and essentially put out of business. This eventually forced the Carolingian kings to shift their focus to the north and an agrarian based feudal system, unlike their predecessors the Merovingians who were still linked to the Eastern Empire culturally, religiously, and economically, albeit in a somewhat debased fashion. The Merovingians were rich in gold, and administered their kingdom along Roman secular lines employing landed, literate 'senatores' most often of Roman descent; after the Arab conquests, kings such as Charlemagne were reduced to issuing silver coinage for lack of gold, and administering their empire through the Church, where the last remaining literate candidates could be found. Actual power was now dispersed throughout the network of warrior vassals that the king now depended on, decentralizing the administration of the state and severely limiting the King's authority. Similarly the King's domains were reduced as he had to reward these vassals' loyalty with grants of land, his only remaining disposable commodity. The Pope turned to Charlemagne for protection, owing to the inability of Byzantium to protect Rome, further divorcing the west and its church from the remaining Roman Empire. So rather than the 'Carolingian Renaissance", Charlemagne's reign represents the actual beginning of the Middle Ages, after the rapid eclipse of Roman tradition, literacy, and trade caused by the spread of Islam.

One further note: this isn't a good title for neophytes; I was glad to have read a few titles on the late Roman Empire and the eastern Empire in the era of Justinian, as Pirenne throws around many specialized terms with no referents or glossary, which might perplex a lay reader with no background in the era's history. There are also quite a few Latin quotations which aren't translated, likely as back in the '30s when this was written, a good humanist education was assumed to include Latin. The latter doesn't prove too big an obstacle to following his argument, however. If the fall of Rome and the ensuing development of Europe is an interest of yours, I'd say this is a key title and a must-read.
Profile Image for Jonfaith.
1,889 reviews1,416 followers
October 6, 2014
This jewel was found at Ohio Books and read while a contractor lowered our bathroom ceiling and installed an exhaust fan. I feel enriched by the opportunity.

His thesis elicited an outcry at the time of its publication: the Middle Ages did not begin with collapse of Rome in the 5th Century but rather in the 8th after Arab control of the Mediterranean threw the West into stasis and decline. Pirenne argues that the barbarian invasions did not disrupt Roman institutions but were simply co-opted by the needy n'er-do-wells.
Profile Image for Siria.
1,861 reviews1,358 followers
January 29, 2014
The Pirenne Thesis is one which has been much debated since this book was first published (as Mahomet et Charlemagne) in the 1930s. Pirenne's claim is essentially this: that Romanitas—Roman culture, trade, social order, etc—survived the disappearance of an emperor in the West and the Germanic invasions. European civilisation was still essentially Mediterranean and centred on the Mediterranean Sea. It was only with the emergence of Islam, which ended the unity of trade and of cultures around that sea and shifted the political and cultural centre of European gravity northwards, that Late Antiquity came to an end. From this new climate came feudalism, the medieval Church, and the Holy Roman Empire. In other words, without Mohammed, no Charlemagne.

It's an appealing idea in its neatness, and in its emphasis on the dependence between Western Europe and the areas around it, and the prose is astonishingly well-written for a first draft (Pirenne died before the book was finished, and it was ultimately published by his son). Of course, its very neatness should raise alarm bells. The archaeological evidence doesn't really accord with Pirenne's statements about it (and far more contradictory evidence has been found since he wrote), he's got some weird ideas about Islam (Muslims did trade with Christians and with other People of the Book without major issue for most of the medieval period, so far as I'm aware), and there's an anti-Semitic undercurrent to a lot of what he says about Jewish merchants. He also engages in a lot of special pleading to bolster his idea that Romanitas continued because some of its forms of government were adopted by new Germanic kings, or because popes dated their documents still according to imperial reigns. The latter in particular really doesn't tell us anything about the political situations on the ground—formal papal recordkeeping is an inherently conservative genre. That's like saying that the fact that the term "last will and testament" is still current means that most people could tell you the difference between a will and a testament.

Mahommed and Charlemagne is still a classic of the field, and important because it encouraged medievalists for the first time to really think about the implications of Western European/Middle Eastern contacts in the Middle Ages. It cannot, however, be read with unqualified acceptance.
Profile Image for Trevor.
46 reviews70 followers
January 27, 2008
Medieval history generally bores me to tears, but I found this a very stimulating read, despite the fact that poor old Pirenne was never able to refine his work -- he died shortly after completing the first draft. But the book is clear, to the point, easy to read, and a valuable contribution to our understanding of the decline of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Middle Ages.
Profile Image for Ivan.
357 reviews52 followers
August 18, 2017
Pubblicato nel 1937, due anni dopo la morte di Pirenne, il libro propone la tesi di una fine del mondo tardo antico posticipata di almeno duecento anni, e dovuta all'invasione araba e alla diffusione dell'Islam. Le invasioni barbariche invece non modificarono sostanzialmente la civiltà romana affacciata sul Mediterraneo, mantenuta viva dagli scambi commerciale e dalla circolazione aurea; gli stati romano-barbarici funzionavano grazie alle imposte percepite allo stesso modo dell'amministrazione imperiale; lo stato (pur riconoscendo l'autorità dell'imperatore di Bisanzio) era assoluto e laico, dotato di un'amministrazione dipendente solo dal monarca e stipendiata, etc. La fine di tutto si verifica, per la parte occidentale degli stati mediterranei, con l'arrivo degli arabi . Il mare a occidente viene chiuso; cessano gli scambi e finisce la civiltà urbana (per gran parte Pirenne si riferisce all'area provenzale-tirrenica). Lo stato carolingio sposta il suo baricentro a nord; il monarca non ha più una sua amministrazione statale perchè non percepisce più le imposte in denaro, ma si serve dei servizi (militari) dei vassalli; la ricchezza si sposta quasi del tutto sulla proprietà terriera, non esiste più commericio: inizia il feudalesimo. A grandi linee questo lo schema interpretativo di Pirenne. Negli anni successivi alla pubblicazione, le tesi del libro furono dibattutte e criticate; il limite maggiore fu visto nel cercare solo cause esterne al mutamento, senza tener conto di un'evoluzione interna.
Da parte mia la lettura è stata molto interessante, e penso che le tesi di Pirenne, limitate alla regione francese, siano valide.
Profile Image for Trevor.
20 reviews1 follower
February 27, 2021
Pirenne's book is considered a classic, and his central thesis has shaped a great deal of scholarship in the near-century since it was written. Pirenne's argument that the rise of the Islamic world was the true break between antiquity and the middle ages is well laid out through the book, though the decades of intervening scholarship have demonstrated many of the fundamental inaccuracies. The book itself reads easily, though much of the language and description are very dated (as is expected for the age!). If you want to read about the transition between antiquity and the middle ages in Europe, there are many more recent books that could better satisfy that; however, for reading and understanding how the scholarship has evolved over the last century, this book is essential.
Profile Image for DS25.
367 reviews9 followers
April 14, 2020
E' un classico. Lo stile brillante di Pirenne non invecchia; le sue conclusioni invece sono più discutibili. Come già dice Ludovico Gatto nell'introduzione fa parte di questi studi Pirenniani una concezione della feudalità come concessione di poteri e di sfaldamento dell'unità regale, che ormai è considerata superata. Sulla validità degli studi sul commercio leggerò a breve un nuovo studio, quindi per ora non mi dilungo: resta una certa coerenza di fondo, anche se alcune tesi sono decisamente superate (in particolar modo sembra risibile ora quella della "vittoria miracolosa" dell'Islam, ma il testo ha 90 anni.
Profile Image for Carlos.
2,113 reviews67 followers
June 29, 2017
Me entere de este libro leyendo “The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates” de Hugh Kennedy y la idea de la conexión entre estos dos grandes hombres de la historia mundial me pareció alucinante. Pirenne arguye que es la fundación y expansión del islam lo que le da la oportunidad al imperio de Carlomagno a establecerse. Utilizando una gran variedad de fuentes literarias, Pirenne traza la evolución de los territorios del difunto imperio romano y muestra como el cambio cultural no es tan radical como se ha presentado. Igualmente, él muestra cómo, después de que el islam conquista el mediterráneo occidental, la cultura de Europa comienza a desviarse del patrón romano y a crear las instituciones y tradiciones asociadas con el medioevo. El libro esta argüido fantásticamente y, aunque el detalle de las evidencias es a veces un poco excesivo, definitivamente vale la pena leerlo.
518 reviews6 followers
March 23, 2023
410AD Rome is sacked by the Visigoths. Attacks continue from various Germanic tribes for the next 150 years. Yet, the area in trade and politics remains “Roman” in nature.
550s AD Justinian takes back Africa and Spain from the German tribes.
632AD Mohammed dies.
642AD Muslims march across North Africa.
712AD Spain is taken from an exhausted Byzantine Empire. The Mediterranean is cut off from all trade. The west is cut off from oil, papyrus, luxury items and spices. The circulation of gold ends in Gaul. The church cut off from donations decays. This is the end of the old Roman world.
732AD Charles Martel turns the Muslims back at Poitiers.
768AD Charlemagne ascends the throne. He dresses plainly. Global trade no longer exists. His wealth is not in gold, but land.
800AD Charlemagne is crowned Holy Roman Emperor. The Middle Ages begin.

Pirenne provides a great detail of information and makes two points: 1) the Germanic tribes had no desire to destroy Rome and it appears they didn’t; 2) the rapid invasion of the Muslims blockaded trade requiring the Europeans live on their own resources, which are few.

Most of what he discusses occurred in the ”Dark Ages.” Yet so much is known about those times, their politics, conflicts, writing and economics. This is an important book.
Profile Image for Jim.
2,098 reviews700 followers
May 3, 2022
Henri Pirenne never lived to complete Mohammed and Charlemagne, but he did finish the first draft. What comes down to us is a collaboration between the author's son and one of his longtime associates, F. Vercauteren.

I remember being taught that the Western Roman Empire ended abruptly in AD 476. According to Pirenne, Roman civilization continued for another three or four centuries until the early conquests of Islam closed off most Mediterranean trade with the East. In fact, then the effects were fully made apparent in the 800s, the only spices available were those grown in Europe. Also, according to Pirenne, gold coinage virtually disappeared, particularly in Northern Europe, with silver and base metal coins taking their place.

While the book reads in many places like a sentence outline, that's because it sort of was one. Still, it is worth reading to see how the Dark Ages transitioned to the Middle Ages.
Profile Image for Theia Garcia.
7 reviews
July 13, 2023
For a book titled “Mohammed and Charlemagne,” Pirenne spends very little time talking about Mohammed or Islam in general. Instead, he uses the Muslims as a sort of boogeyman that managed to destroy the Roman Empire by conquering Africa and Spain. He goes on to say that this crippled and destroyed the Roman Empire more than the germanic invasions, and led to a sort of dark age. The issue with this is that it completely ignores the positive impacts that the new Islamic rulers had on Spain and Africa. Cities like Cordoba and Baghdad became shining centers of philosophy and learning.

Pirenne’s thesis has also been cast into doubt by many modern scholars. They believe that there is not nearly enough evidence to prove that the Islamic conquest led to the final collapse of the Roman Empire, or that it even had an impact equivalent to the Germanic invasions.

There are some good bits of information to be gained from this book, but ultimately Pirenne wrote one of many Eurocentric pieces of history, which greatly ignores the positive impacts of the Eastern world, and it’s growth separate from the West.
Profile Image for Alessandro Nicolai.
225 reviews1 follower
May 6, 2020
Un classico imperdibile, semplice e comprensibile, ma allo stesso tempo molto interessante e ricco di interpretazioni relativamente originali, da leggere
Profile Image for Elliott Bignell.
319 reviews31 followers
April 11, 2015
This was a dense and sometimes intractable read with a few startling insights. I found it hard going but worth the slog. Pirenne suffers a little from the historian's deformity of Kingitis, and expends a deal of space tracking the rise and fall of the early Germanic monarchs and those around them. This is reality TV for the pre-Marconi erudite, and not for everyone. I personally have a taste for more details of the agricultural landscape, diet, medicine, philosophical ideas and the other trappings of a whole civilisation. As we are dealing with the fall of the classical West, philosophical ideas are not far away, but that it about as far as it goes.

So I might have written this book off with two or three stars. Why didn't I? Well, because there is a striking new way of looking at the Mediterranean world and the transition from late antiquity to the Middle Ages, and one that I find Pirenne has managed to sell to me. Pirenne's assiduous collection of royal mugs reveals a picture of the hairy barbarians who penetrated the Empire quite different to the usual. He states no less that that the Goths, Vandals, Lombards and Franks who indundated most of Western Rome, beside sacking the odd city like Rome, did not actually displace Rome. They became part of it. Continuity was preserved, not just in Byzantium but in Africa, Italy, Languedoc and Iberia. The Germans wanted the status of Roman citizenship, once they had tasted it.

So why, then, did the Western Empire nevertheless collapse and Europe sink into a Dark Age? The economy collapsed, feudalism took hold, gold coin was no longer minted and Latin fragmented into the score of languages we see today, retained in a pure form only by the clergy. Why, if the martially potent Germans sought to retain the empire, did they not do so? Pirenne's answer is that the astonishing, explosive expansion of Islam a mere few years after the death of Muhammad turned Europe on its head and the Western Mediterranean into a corsairs' boating lake. Africa, the bread-basket, was lost in a flash. Trade across the sea stagnated. Iberia and Sicily were overrun and Constantinople besieged. Parts of Southern France were occupied and cities from Italy to Scandinavia raided. What the German and Turkic barbarians did not achieve by way of fragmenting the Empire Islam achieved in a moment. Europe turned in on itself.

This is a compelling vision, and explains some oddities such as the simultaneous fragmentation of Latin as a vulgar tongue and perfection as a language of erudition. It also chimes well with the aspiration to continuity which obviously hung about the Holy Roman Empire. The Empire felt itself to be the old but clearly was not. The oddly tense relationship between the Church and the Emperor acquires some clarity in Pirenne's light, as well.

So on the whole I found this a tiring but very worthwhile read. I am glad I persevered.
Profile Image for Resul.
14 reviews6 followers
November 24, 2016
Her ne kadar, Akdeniz'in İslam egemenliğine girmesiyle, Batı Akdeniz'deki ticaretin sona erdiği tezi artık çürütülmüş olsa da, dönemi anlamak için çok güzel bir eser olmuş. Yazar özellikle Germen istilalarının Roma'ya ve Avrupa'ya etkisini ve İslam'ın Avrupa'daki yayılışını çok güzel anlatmış. Kitaptaki büyük eksik ise, yayınevinin, Türk yayınevlerinin ekseriyetinde olduğu gibi, kitaba anlatılan coğrafyanın anlaşılması için bir harita koymaması. Neden bundan imtina ederler anlayabilmiş değilim.
Profile Image for Kenneth.
1,029 reviews48 followers
May 3, 2018
Read for my freshman Western Civilization course in college, this book was written by a distinguished French historian in the 1930's. Its thesis is basically that the Muslim conquest of the Middle East and North Africa, by disrupting the cultural and economic unity of the Mediterranean world, was the decisive break between Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Western Europe was cut off and had to work with what it had left to develop its own civilization, which emerged thereafter.
Profile Image for Marcos Augusto.
728 reviews5 followers
April 23, 2022
Here Pirenne suggests that the crucial break between antiquity and the Middle Ages did not occur in the fifth century but rather about the year 700, when the Muslims had conquered the southern shores of the Mediterranean. The theory was based chiefly on economic considerations and gave rise to heated controversy.
101 reviews
October 28, 2021
This book was recommended by a Great Courses lecture on the Early Middle Ages, and it’s one of the best history books I’ve read in some time. It was written in 1935 and refocused thinking on the Dark Ages. Around the house I referred to it as “Moe and Charlie”. The author argues that the Middle Ages did not begin with the fall of Rome, but with the rise of Islam. He shows how the international trading system established by the Roman Empire continues after the last emperor ruled in Rome, and Europe was strongly still shaped by Roman culture and language. This changed with the rise of Islam in the early seventh century and the Islamic conquest of an empire that stretched from The Indus River to the Iberian Peninsula. This cut Europe off from trade with the northern Africa and the Middle East, which the author shows with evidence of the disappearance of Syrian wine, dates, nuts and gold from the European trade records. Europe descended into the feudal system because it became “land rich and cash poor,” with the primary source of wealth being crops grown from land granted by kings to lords and sold only in a local or regional economy. The cultural center of Europe shifted form the Mediterranean ports to northern Europe with the rise of leaders like Charlemagne, and the Christian conversion of the British Isles and Northern Europe. Charlemagne, Pirenne argues, would have faded into historical obscurity as a minor local ruler if Mohammed hadn’t put him into the position of establishing himself as the Holy Roman Emperor and presumed ruler of Europe.
15 reviews
April 8, 2022
It is always tricky to review such a book. I first heard of Pirenne from Professor Monica Orozco (then UCSB) when her lecture on the Fall of Rome opened my eyes to an entire field of inquiry. "The Roman Empire did not fall in 476, and its cause wasn't the 'Germans' but rather the total breakdown of the Mediterranean following the invasions of Umar," she said (I am paraphrasing, this class was 20 years ago). Pirenne's thesis was revolutionary. The ancient order breaks down not in the late-fifth century but after the Carolingian takeover. The center of gravity of the world was split in three: in Aachen, in Constantinople and in Baghdad. The Greeks could have been the bridge but chose not to. The Mediterranean unity was gone.
In many ways, Pirenne's work remains relevant, especially his treatment of the western Mediterranean. The barbarians that invaded the west are no longer destructive, and the western provinces are not treated as fundamentally backwards (the works of von Rummel on Africa are worth a read, and see, in English, Guy Halsall's Barbarian Migrations). Modern scholars owe a great debt to Pirenne even if they critiqued, refined, and revised his paradigm.
Beyond the sometimes impressionistic conclusions (which perhaps owe to the fact that he died before finishing the manuscript), Muhammad and Charlemagne remains an incredible source of knowledge and erudition; the argument is argued with unrelenting strength. Both scholars and non should find enjoyment and, at the very least, open up to the idea that Rome did not fall in the fifth century.
Profile Image for William Gill.
133 reviews
May 17, 2023
This is required reading for anyone seeking to understand the Mediterranean world between the classical age and the middle ages. Libraries are full of volumes detailing the changes in governmental, societal, and commercial aspects from the height of the Roman Empire onward, but this is one of the few to posit that the Roman world of western Europe did not fall apart following the loss of Rome itself from the imperial Roman realm. Rather, Roman European civilization ended much later and largely for one specific reason - the coming of Islam and the Islamic control of the Mediterranean world apart from the areas controlled by the Eastern Romans, the Byzantines.
It is a compelling, if not completely satisfying argument, but for all of its flaws, one must remember that this book was only something of a rough draft of a more polished work that was never written.
Pirenne is quite convincing in explaining how and why the power centers of Europe shifted north and west, and why medieval economies were necessarily different from what had previously been.
And while he does not speak of it often, he also makes one realize that without the buffer of Byzantium, Europe may not have been able to evolve at all. Also, what we attribute to the Italians by way of the Renaissance was all the more a gift of Byzantium as well.
Good stuff. Controversial only to those with an axe in another forest.
13 reviews
April 22, 2019
Amazing Historiographical work by Pirenne on the transition from Romanized Europe to the Middle Ages. It breaks a lot of notions that I had about the conitnuing traditions of Roman society after the 5th c. in the West and shows the true impact of Islam on the development of Western Civilization.

Only thing that was a bit of a let down was the discussion of the slave trade and its importance to European Society during the decadence of the Carolingian Era. I had hoped this would be a bigger part of this book, but it was not focused on until the 20 pages or so, leading up to his conclusion.

Still a classic work of Historiography and essential reading for anyone interested in Early Western Civilization.
60 reviews
August 6, 2021
Interesting and well-documented counter to the traditional thinking on the end of the Roman Era in the West. The Folio Society edition has additional introductory information that takes the edge off some of the argument, but it remains convincing, to me at least, that the Roman Era lasted until the end of the reign of Charlemagne.
While the text is not, as I thought, a comparative biography of Mohammed and Charlemagne, it was a fascinating read. However, be prepared to look up Latin terminology, read biographical pages on the lives of saints and rulers, and accounts of battles, as the author makes cursory reference to all, in that this work was published from his rough draft, and these references were not fully fleshed out.
June 4, 2022
Mjög áhugavert take á tilurð miðalda í Norðvestur-Evrópu og hvenær fornöld lauk í raun og veru. Við ræddum helstu röksemdarfærsluna (í mjööög einföldum búningi: enginn Múhammeð = enginn Karlamagnús) í þessu verki Pirenne’s í þaula í kúrsi sem ég tók í haust og mér fannst þetta svo áhugavert. Mér finnst hann gera grein fyrir máli sínu frekar skilmerkilega hérna og ég elska almennt einhverjar svona stemningspælingar. Svona textalega séð finnst mér verkið samt vera pínu gallað enda skildi hann eftir sig óklárað handrit í raun og veru.
Profile Image for Alejandro Orradre.
Author 3 books97 followers
November 11, 2020
Apasionante ensayo que arroja luz a uno de los períodos más apasionantes de la Historia europea: los siglos que siguieron a la desaparición del Imperio Romano (en Occidente, pues en Oriente continuó bajo el nombre de Imperio Bizantino). Pirrene nos narra cómo los bárbaros intentaron seguir los preceptos romanos, pero el tiempo y la súbita aparición del Islam cambiaron los designios de todo el continente.
Profile Image for Kubra Unlu.
91 reviews3 followers
January 5, 2021
Roma imparatorluğunun Barbar Germenler tarafından değil de müslümanların hızlı büyümesi sebebiyle dağılmaya başladığı tezi savunulmakta.
Kitabın özünde vermek istediği bilgiler harika olmakla birlikte çooook fazla ayrıntı verilmiş. Kitap çok uzun ve bi sürü isim var. Krallar, Papa’lar, piskoposlar, Avrupa mezhepleri, milletleri, franklar, alamanlar, Pepinler, imparatorlar, dükler ...
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Joy.
1,401 reviews19 followers
December 19, 2020
A fascinating description of how the Islamic conquests blockaded, vitiated and transformed the economy of Europe, and eventually its culture. The 1935 writing style is a little tangled to the modern eye.
Profile Image for David Alonso vargas.
173 reviews3 followers
August 19, 2021
Es un clásico sobre la ruptura de la unidad del mediterráneo. Un poco superado pero indispensable para aquellos que deseen bucear en la época final del imperio Romano y la formación del Islam y un nuevo imperio occidental.
Profile Image for Davide Di Legge.
20 reviews
October 10, 2021
La famosa "tesi Pirenne" è storiograficamente (e giustamente) ormai superata ma il libro mantiene tutto il fascino del vecchio classico della storiografia medievale. E poi se ho deciso di studiare storia lo devo a Pirenne.
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