How the Irish Saved Civilization   -     By: Thomas Cahill
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How the Irish Saved Civilization

Random House, Inc / 1994 / Paperback

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Product Description

This introductory volume to Thomas Cahill's "The Hinges of History ®" series, presents the reader with a new way of looking history through the "gift-givers", those who entrusted to our keeping one or more of the singular treasures that make up the heritage of the West. It covers the time period between the end of the classical period and the beginning of the medieval period, enabling us to look back to our ancient roots and forward to the making of the modern world. 245 pages with index. Softcover.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 256
Vendor: Random House, Inc
Publication Date: 1994
Dimensions: 5 X 8 X 3/4 (inches)
ISBN: 0385418493
ISBN-13: 9780385418492
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

The perfect St. Patrick's Day gift, and a book in the best tradition of popular history -- the untold story of Ireland's role in maintaining Western culture while the Dark Ages settled on Europe.

Every year millions of Americans celebrate St. Patrick's Day, but they may not be aware of how great an influence St. Patrick was on the subsequent history of civilization. Not only did he bring Christianity to Ireland, he instilled a sense of literacy and learning that would create the conditions that allowed Ireland to become "the isle of saints and scholars" -- and thus preserve Western culture while Europe was being overrun by barbarians.

In this entertaining and compelling narrative, Thomas Cahill tells the story of how Europe evolved from the classical age of Rome to the medieval era. Without Ireland, the transition could not have taken place. Not only did Irish monks and scribes maintain the very record of Western civilization -- copying manuscripts of Greek and Latin writers, both pagan and Christian, while libraries and learning on the continent were forever lost -- they brought their uniquely Irish world-view to the task.

As Cahill delightfully illustrates, so much of the liveliness we associate with medieval culture has its roots in Ireland. When the seeds of culture were replanted on the European continent, it was from Ireland that they were germinated.

In the tradition of Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror, How The Irish Saved Civilization reconstructs an era that few know about but which is central to understanding our past and our cultural heritage. But it conveys its knowledge with a winking wit that aptly captures the sensibility of the unsung Irish who relaunched civilization.

Author Bio

THOMAS CAHILL is the author of the best-selling books, How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland 's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe, The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels, and Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus.  These books comprise the first three volumes of a prospective seven-volume series entitled "The Hinges of History," in which Cahill recounts formative moments in Western civilization. In "The Hinges of History," Thomas Cahill endeavors to retell the story of the Western World through little-known stories of the great gift-givers, people who contributed immensely to Western, culture and the evolution of Western sensibility, thus revealing how we have become the people we are and why we think and feel the way we do today.

Thomas Cahill is best known, in his books and lectures, for taking on a broad scope of complex history and distilling it into accessible, instructive, and entertaining narrative. His lively, engaging writing animates cultures that existed up to five millennia ago, revealing the lives of his principal characters with refreshing insight and joy. He writes history, not in its usual terms of war and catastrophe, but as "narratives of grace, the recountings of those blessed and inexplicable moments when someone did something for someone else, saved a life, bestowed a gift, gave something beyond what was required by circumstance." Unlike all too many history lessons, a Thomas Cahill history book or speech is impossible to forget.

He has taught at Queens College, Fordham University and Seton Hall University, served as the North American education correspondent for the Times of London, and was for many years a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Prior to retiring recently to write full-time, he was director of religious publishing at Doubleday for six years. He and his wife, Susan, also an author, founded the now legendary Cahill & Company Catalogue, much beloved by readers. They divide their time between New York and Rome.


From the Hardcover edition.

Discussion Questions

We normally think of history as one catastrophe after another, war followed by war, outrage by outrage--almost as if history were nothing more than all the narratives of human pain, assembled in sequence. And surely this is, often enough, an adequate description. But history is also the narratives of grace, the recountings of those blessed and inexplicable moments when someone did something for someone else, saved a life, bestowed a gift, gave something beyond what was required by circumstance. In this series, The Hinges of History, I mean to retell the story of the Western world as the story of the great gift-givers, those who entrusted to our keeping one or another of the singular treasures that make up the patrimony of the West. This is also the story of the evolution of Western sensibility, a narration of how we became the people that we are and why we think and feel the way we do. And it is, finally, a recounting of those essential moments when everything was at stake, when the mighty stream that became Western history was in ultimate danger and might have divided into a hundred useless tributaries or frozen in death or evaporated altogether. But the great gift-givers, arriving in the moment of crisis, provided for transition, for transformation, and even for transfiguration, leaving us a world more varied and complex, more awesome and delightful, more beautiful and strong than the one they had found.

--Thomas Cahill

Editorial Reviews

"Charming and poetic...an entirely engaging, delectable voyage into th edistant past, a small treasure." —The New York Times

"A lovely and engrossing tale . . . Graceful and instructive." —Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times

"Cahill's lively prose breathes life into a 1,600-year-old history." —The Boston Globe

Product Reviews

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  1. David Gough
    Alexandria, VA
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: male
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    The preservation of Christianity and civilization
    June 3, 2013
    David Gough
    Alexandria, VA
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: male
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4

    Thomas Cahill's "How the Irish Saved Civilization" is a charming telling of the preservation of Christianity and western civilization during the period of the so-called "Dark Ages." The pure historian will chafe at Cahill's skimming over timelines at the expense of presenting a clearly written and interesting narrative of how the Irish stubbornly refused to be swallowed up by other cultures, not only to survive but to thrive in unwittingly preserving a history of western society and the church a millennium before the Protestant Reformation. Not surprisingly, Patrick emerges as the first great hero of the story, but Cahill begins with a lengthy description of Augustine of Hippo, with whom Patrick ends up being compared and contrasted. This analysis of the backgrounds, conversions, and contributions of both men is helpful in understanding the line of demarcation, at times more pronounced than at others, that divided Irish Christianity from its Roman counterpart. The author's blend of Celtic folklore and extant writings allows the reader to catch a glimpse of both the romantic and realistic aspects of the unique Irish culture. The fact that his quotes and sources are not clearly annotated is annoying, but does not necessarily create a roadblock to the advance of the narrative. The few historical photos the author includes add little to the understanding of the tale that his words describe. For one who desires to better understand how God sovereignly preserved His Word during the early-Middle Ages (a fact that Cahill does not emphasize nearly enough), this book is a helpful resource. For those whose interest is Irish history, this is probably a must read.

  2. moose
    colorado
    Age: Over 65
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    June 18, 2012
    moose
    colorado
    Age: Over 65
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5

    A must read for all who appreciate truthful history.

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