This is the first single-author study in over fifty years to offer an integrated appraisal of the early Middle Ages as a dynamic and formative period in European history. Written in an attractive and accessible style, it makes extensive use of original sources to introduce early medieval men and women at all levels of society from slave to emperor, and allows them to speak to the reader in their own words. It overturns traditional narratives and instead offers an entirely fresh approach to the centuries from c.500 to c.1000. Rejecting any notion of a dominant, uniform early medieval culture, it argues that the fundamental characteristic of the early middle ages is diversity of experience. To explain how the men and women who lived in this period ordered their world in cultural, social, and political terms, it employs an innovative methodology combining cultural history, regional studies, and gender history. Ranging comparatively from Ireland to Hungary and from Scotland and Scandinavia to Spain and Italy, the analysis highlights three themes: regional variation, power, and the legacy of Rome.
In the context of debates about the social, religious and cultural meaning of 'Europe' in the early twenty-first century, this books seeks the origins of European cultural pluralism and diversity in the early Middle Ages.
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Julia Smith is a specialist on gender, religion, and politics in early medieval Europe. She holds the Edwards Chair in Medieval History at the University of Glasgow, having taught in the USA from 1986 to 1995 and at the University of St Andrews from 1995 to 2005. She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and has recently held research fellowships at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies and the Shelby Cullom Davis Center at Princeton University.
`This book is a masterpiece of condensed exposition. It is also a break-through - a truly New Cultural History - in the quiet determination of the author to approach very old themes from angles refreshingly different from those from which they have usually been approached ... It is, above all,
the first complete account of the early middle ages as a civilisation in its own right. It catches the living texture of western Europe, from Rome to the Hebrides, for a half millennium of its history. It is truly the study of a civilization in its entirity ... Reading Europe After Rome I was
constantly reminded of another synthesis of genius which now lies at the root of the modern study of the high middle ages - that is, Richard Southern's The Making of the Middle Ages ... It was a 'Portrait of an Age'. Julia Smith has done the same for the half millennium which preceded Southern's
Professor Peter Brown, Princeton University
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