4 Stars Out Of 5
The preservation of Christianity and civilization
June 3, 2013
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.