Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Mohammed and Charlemagne” as Want to Read:
Mohammed and Charlemagne
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Mohammed and Charlemagne

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  455 ratings  ·  39 reviews
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,
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 28th 2001 by Dover Publications (first published 1937)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Mohammed and Charlemagne, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Mohammed and Charlemagne

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  455 ratings  ·  39 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Mohammed and Charlemagne
May 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 disp ...more
Rob Atkinson
Jun 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 prov
Dec 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 t
Jan 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 14, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: storia-medievale
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 su ...more
Jan 06, 2014 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Mar 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 i ...more
Ryan Patrick
Mar 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Alessandro Nicolai
Un classico imperdibile, semplice e comprensibile, ma allo stesso tempo molto interessante e ricco di interpretazioni relativamente originali, da leggere
Elliott Bignell
Apr 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 trappin ...more
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 co ...more
Nov 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Invasioni, Migrazioni, Difesa dei Confini, Stanziamento dei Barbari. Questi termini sono tornati nel lessico politico contemporaneo riflettendo su questioni di geopolitica concernenti i flussi migratori che interessano l'Europa. Ma questo Paradigma Romantico è stato progressivamente abbandonato negli studi di storia medievale già grazie a Henri Pirenne, e ciò ha permesso una più coerente comprensione dell'epoca post-romana e dell'età carolingia. La "tesi di Pirenne" mantiene un suo indubbio valo ...more
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Amanda Patchin
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An important work for understanding the development of medieval studies. Interesting challenges to Gibbon's theses about the fall of Rome including a wealth of evidence for the actual date of the "fall" of Roman institutions and culture in the West.
Thomas Molesky
Apr 01, 2019 rated it liked it
I can't tell for sure but these books always feel political to me for some reason. I just want the facts as they are known
Juan Álvarez Barrena
Que me gusta a mi un historiador francés coile!!!
Yves  Queromain
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
La fin de l'empire romain ne date pas de l'invasion des barbares mais de la conquête de la méditerranée par les arabes.
Vittorio Pastelli
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Livro de erudição grandiosa. Para 280 páginas de texto: 975 notas numeradas, fora as marcadas com asterisco, na média de 2 por página. A maioria diz respeito a diatribes com autores da época e tem pouco interesse para o historiador de hoje (para quem Pirenne é a figura que sobreviveu desse debate) e muito menos para um diletante como eu. A tese é da continuidade: 476 não marca de forma alguma o fim do Império Romano do Ocidente, mas apenas sua fragmentação. O sistema monetário, legal, as letras ...more
Philip Steiner
Apr 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I am not a historian, just a regular guy with an interest in Antiquity, but Pirenne's carefully constructed thesis, that the rise of Islam, rather than barbarian invasions, stifled the Western Roman Empire, kept me reading despite my academic shortcomings.

Pirenne's conclusions contrast the more mainstream view, such as Peter Heather's The Fall of the Roman Empire, which places the blame squarely on the pressure of Attila the Hun's raids on the Germanic tribes inhabiting the margins of the Empir
Özgür Göndiken
Aug 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Inicially, it mostly concentrates on political and military history except approximately last seventy pages which include economical and social topics. I can suggest to read other medieval books of Pirenne which are "Economic and Social History of Medieval Europe" and "Medieval Cities: Their Origins and the Revival of Trade" From my point of view, correlating a relation between Muhammed and Charlemagne is as elegant determination as using it as title. Furthermore, he is one of the most eminent h ...more
Sep 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Fairly brief and an important book in the historiography of the early Middle Ages. Pirenne argues that the essentials of politics, commerce, and religion that existed in the late Roman Empire persisted until the spread of Islam disrupted the critical commercial networks of the western Mediterranean in the 7th and early 8th centuries. A reasonable familiarity with the broad strokes of the 6th-9th centuries is probably required; I would have been lost without having read Goldsworthy and Heather a ...more
Steve Bivans
Jul 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Scholars are still trying to punch holes in Henri's classic thesis. Some have been successful, some not so much, but what we must agree on, is that in order to develop a more accurate picture of the economies of the early middle ages, we must first deal with the persuasive arguments put forward by Mr. Pirenne. If you are interested in the Middle Ages at all, you HAVE to read this book, and all of his works.
Colin Heber-Percy
The Gothic/Germanic invasions of the C5th did not spell the demise of the western Roman empire; previous political, economic and cultural patterns prevailed, though in a degraded form. The demise of the western empire came about as a result of the rapid rise of Islam. Without Mohammed there would have been no Charlemagne, no middle-ages. This is a fascinating read - a bold claim rigorously argued. Excellent.
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
قرأت الكتاب بحثا عن أمرين رئيسين: ١- حال الروم قبل و أثناء بعثة النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم.. لكن الكتاب أسهب كثيرا في قبل البعثة و بعد البعثة، و تناول بشكل مختصرجدا حال الروم أثناء البعثة..
٢- أثر الإسلام على الروم.. و هذا الموضوع تم تناوله بشكل رائع..
مؤلف الكتاب بلجيكي مستشرق لكن معتدل إلى حد كبير..
Stefaan Van ryssen
Aug 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A classic. Stirred a lot of dust in the historiographic community wehen it was published (1930's). Still, the 'Pirenne hypthesis' about the influence of the muslim expansion on the decline of Late Roman civilisation and the move to the North of 'European' civilisation is being discussed. It can't be discarded out of hand.
May 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
THe first historian to look at the emergence of the Carolingians as a fucntion of economics and the spread of Islam, as opposed to only in terms of local European military and political factors. Some odd misconceptions, though, such as the statement that Jews were 1/3 of Narbonne, but were also "all bankers, since they were waelthy".???
Dave Peticolas
May 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Pirenne's posthumous work where he advances the thesis that Medieval Europe was made possible by the rise of Islam, which severed many of the East-West ties that kept the West under the influence of Byzantium.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller
  • The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy
  • The World of Late Antiquity 150-750
  • Charlemagne: Father of a Continent
  • The Daydreamer
  • Les chats
  • The Crusades Through Arab Eyes
  • La lingua di Dante
  • Lavoro e tecnica nel Medioevo
  • Before the Industrial Revolution: European Society and Economy, 1000-1700
  • Timescape
  • Shah of Shahs
  • History of Philosophy and Philosophical Education (Aquinas Lecture in Philosophy, #12)
  • Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life
  • Felicity
  • The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World
  • The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph & Diversity 200–1000
  • Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte
See similar books…
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 distincti

News & Interviews

Kate Stayman-London has watched the reality dating show The Bachelor (and its eventual Bachelorette spin-off) since it first started airing in 2002...
20 likes · 5 comments
“One thing is certain—that there was an active circulation of money. We must repudiate the idea that the people of the Merovingian epoch lived under a system of natural economy.” 3 likes
“The economic basis of the State did not correspond with the administrative character which Charlemagne had endeavoured to preserve. The economy of the State was based upon the great domain without commercial outlets. The landowners had no need of security, since they did not engage in commerce. Such a form of property is perfectly consistent with anarchy. Those who owned the soil had no need of the king.” 1 likes
More quotes…