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Publisher's Summary

The Early Middle Ages - the years from A.D. 650 to 1000 - were crucial to Europe's future social and political development. These 24 lectures trace a journey from Scandinavia across northern and central Europe to the farthest reaches of the Byzantine and Islamic empires, providing an exciting new look an era often simply called the "Dark Ages."

Given the period's dismal reputation and its temporal remoteness from the 21st century, you'll be surprised to learn about some of the most challenging questions historians have ever had to tackle: Why did the Roman Empire fall? Why did the ancient world give way to the medieval world? Why did Christian monotheism become the dominant religion in Europe? You'll meet some of the era's exciting figures, such as St. Augustine and Justinian, and you'll consider the extent to which the historical realities of King Arthur and Charlemagne match up to the legends that have become attached to their names. You'll also look at the era's effect on the Vikings, the rise of the Carolingians, and the golden age of Islamic rule in Spain.

Professor Daileader also explores the contrasting historical theories offered by two extremely influential historians: Edward Gibbon, the English author of the monumental The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, whose explanations closely followed those of the Roman moralists of the 4th and 5th centuries; and Henri Pirenne, the Belgian thinker who injected a newfound emphasis on social and especially economic factors into the analysis of history.

You'll see why the era belies its reputation as dark and dismal, but you'll come away with a new appreciation for this once-lost era.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2004 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2004 The Great Courses

What listeners say about The Early Middle Ages

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Great Background

learning the history of the early medieval era and the end of the Roman Empire is really important I think. A good lecture on the facts and good discussion of theories about the fall of the Roman Empire and rise of Europe.

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Great listen

I found this topic very interesting and realized i didn't know much about this time period apart from the Viking part which I had learned from another audiobook. It was interesting to see the French and English side of the events and understand how all of those groups/cultures interacted with each others.

The narrator does have some weird habits when speaking but you get use to it after a while.
He goes further than explaining what happened, but digs into the why it happened and what were the consequences to said events,
He is very knowledgable of his subject and clearly passionate about it, which makes it interesting for us!

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Great!

This is everything I wanted in this course. It was an engaging overview of the period that felt detailed but also broad. Great voice as well.

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Helpful overview

This set of lectures is easy to listen to and follow. Provides a helpful overview of this period of western history.

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Excellent!

I wish my history teacher had been this great at story telling. Excellent content, excellent narration and great sense of humor.

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I found this very accessible and interesting

The great course covered a broad range of topics within the time of the early middle ages. I found it very informative, the only criticism I have is that the narrator/professor sounded like he had indigestion all the time- perhaps he could benefit from an antacid.

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Great course, great prof!

The content is very good and exactly what you'd expect for this kind of thing.

The only reason I gave 4 stars for performance is because the narrator is infrequently is a little distracting. Otherwise he is passionate and engaging throughout.

Well worth it.

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Excellent overview of Late Antiquity/Early Middle Ages

Very informative, well read, and a great introduction to the period in question. I very much appreciated both the overall structure of the material, as well as the structure given in each lecture, especially the recap conclusions. I look forward to Prof. Daileader's other lectures.

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A fascinating lecture

The professor managed to weave an interesting history together about disparate parts of the Roman Empire, and how this civilization evolved and changed from the late antiquity to the early middle ages. Turns out that 476 AD was kind of a meaningless year, overall.

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Interesting course.

I found the course very interesting as it covered a period that I am not familiar with. The material was well presented and paced perfectly.

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  • Mike
  • 2014-07-03

Amazing Look at the Transition to the Middle Ages!

Any additional comments?

This was an excellent read! Professor Philip Daileader is an excellent lecturer and scholar and you probably won't be disappointed by anything you get from him.

This lecture series takes you from the late Roman Empire around the time of Constantine and traces the transition of Europe from late antiquity to the middle ages. You will learn about the collapse of Roman rule in the West, the continuation of the Roman empire in the East through the Byzantine rulers, the Barbarian invasions of Western Europe, the rise of Islam, the emergence of the Carolingian Holy Roman Empire, and the eventual splitting off of that empire into what would become the modern states of France and Germany. He covers all major historical events to about 1000AD.

If you would like to learn more about how Europe went from a unified Roman empire to the divided and complicated state it is in now, I cannot recommend another resource more highly. You will learn about the foundations of all the modern nation states, including England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. This was an invaluable read for me as it helped me connect all of those dots!

Also, the professor tries to highlight not just political history, but also cultural, economic, religious, and social aspects of history in his overview.

This is part one of a three part series offered by the Great Courses that will take you through the entire middle ages up to the year 1500. I highly recommend the whole series.

If you are at all interested in the topic, and enjoy a good read about history, you will not be disappointed! Enjoy!!!

38 people found this helpful

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  • Nicolas Cobelo
  • 2017-11-16

Great professor!

LECTURE 1
Long Shadows and the Dark Ages
LECTURE 2
Diocletian and the Crises of the Third Century
LECTURE 3
Constantine the Great—Christian Emperor
LECTURE 4
Pagans and Christians in the Fourth Century
LECTURE 5
Athletes of God
LECTURE 6
Augustine, Part One
LECTURE 7
Augustine, Part Two
LECTURE 8
Barbarians at the Gate
LECTURE 9
Franks and Goths
LECTURE 10
Arthur’s England
LECTURE 11
Justinian and the Byzantine Empire
LECTURE 12
The House of Islam
LECTURE 13
Rise of the Carolingians
LECTURE 14
Charlemagne
LECTURE 15
Carolingian Christianity
LECTURE 16
The Carolingian Renaissance
LECTURE 17
Fury of the Northmen
LECTURE 18
Collapse of the Carolingian Empire
LECTURE 19
The Birth of France and Germany
LECTURE 20
England in the Age of Alfred
LECTURE 21
Al-Andalus—Islamic Spain
LECTURE 22
Carolingian Europe—Gateway to the Middle Ages
LECTURE 23
Family Life—How Then Became Now
LECTURE 24
Long Shadows and the Dark Ages Revisited

65 people found this helpful

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  • Gayle
  • 2015-04-01

recommended

The prof had a sense of humor and way with words. Breaks the lessons into coherent building blocks that tell the whole story.

12 people found this helpful

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  • EmilyK
  • 2017-08-27

Fascinating and deeper look at the early Mid. Ages

This is one of my favorite Great Courses. Having recently re-discovered my love for Ancient and Medieval history, this is exactly what I needed. There's no prior background required, but enough interesting detail that I learned a lot despite having read some other books on the period recently. I particularly liked that each lecture was self-contained and yet built on each other. Although I listened to it relatively quickly, it would work well for someone who needs a podcasting for commuting or other travel.

Daileader helpfully frames each lecture with a summary at the beginning and the end. He has a dry sense of humor and tells wry anecdotes and differing views of scholars all in a very engaging way. Because he is only focusing on one part of the Middle Ages, he was able to go a bit deeper than some courses or books on the period.

Prof. Daileader does have some verbal tics that might bother some people. I quickly got used to them, however.

Overall, he reminds me of Prof. Fagan's lectures for being witty, fascinating, and accessible to those with different levels of knowledge.

I liked Daileader so much that even though I haven't been able to buy his other lectures on discount, I will splurge and use a credit to get one!

10 people found this helpful

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  • Gary
  • 2018-10-31

Exciting, Exacting and Entertainingly presented

Have you ever heard someone tell you that the Roman Empire collapsed because of lead in their water pipes? I have. I only wish I had listened to this course before hearing the ignorant of history fool tell me that. The Professor tells the listener why that simplistic take on history is foolish (though he does it politely).

The dark ages weren’t as dark as we once believed; the Vikings were a scourge who shaped the West in unexpected ways; Islam, Byzantine, Spain, Anglo-Saxon, Franks and so on shaped our world; and what about that Catholic Church? How did it go from being a ‘universal’ church which meant it would accept anyone as a member to a ‘universal’ Church that was everywhere?

The lecturer slyly educates the listener on the development of the Roman Church by never really quite focusing on the church but ties together pieces such as those non-iconoclastic blasphemers, Justinian and his losing parts of his Empire, and what really happened on Christmas Day 800 CE and why it was so important.

When I grow up I want to be just like Dr. Daileader because he knows how to entertain, excite and educate the listener on the Early Middle Ages and the enthusiasm he has for the subject matter was not wasted on me.

History is complex and relevant for understanding the world, and if the only thing one got out of this course was being able to explain to a naïve fool why ‘lead in the pipes’ was not the reason the Roman Empire fell, this course would be well worth it for that alone. But, not only will you get the satisfaction of justifiably calling them ignorant of real history you will also get to explain with excruciatingly long detailed reasons why they are mistaken.

Dr. Daileader explains where we came from and why it matters better than almost any body. (BTW, a really good book covering the same material is ‘Inheritance of Rome’ by Wickham).

7 people found this helpful

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  • Mary Elizabeth Reynolds
  • 2014-03-16

Early Middles

I enjoy everything that this professor does, but I do enjoy this time period this best. He has such a good sense of humor and relevance.

7 people found this helpful

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  • JC
  • 2016-10-10

Aaaaaaaaaaaand

It is a good course. Be warned, the prof has a nervous habit of drawing out and, as, and other conjunctions. He seems to tone it down as the course goes on, but at first it's like nails on a chalk board.

14 people found this helpful

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  • John
  • 2020-11-11

Yes…and No.

Back in the day, we undergraduates were asked to rate our professors. The idea being, if you wanted to take “Pre-Raphaelite Influences on the Ash Can School”, but saw that the prof was a tough grader, you opted for “The Essential Communism of Jane Austen” instead. Older now, with no grade point average to worry about, I’ve raised my criteria for judging professorial competence. Now the question is one of agenda: is this genuine scholarship, or cultural relativism masquerading as scholarship?

Granted, it’s easy, even natural, for a secular professor to get snarky about the Middle Ages. And, as a practicing Catholic appreciative of the Medieval mindset, it’s just as easy to detect snarky-ness where none exists. Professor Daileader exhibits admirable transparency from the start: When discussing religious questions (why Constantine converted, for example) the default setting for any secular historian is, he admits, to find secular explanations. From there, a general even-handedness pervades these lectures. Though extolling Muslim Spain for its sophistication and diversity (a 21st Century transplant, that second concept) as opposed to backward Christian Europe, Daileader also warns against romanticizing Al-Andalus. While discussing the Frankish "trial by ordeal", he balances the Monty-Pythonesque aspect of the practice by setting it in context as a legal last resort when witnesses, testimony, and physical evidence failed. The ebb and flow of peoples, religions and empires—the shift of papal dependence from Constantinople to Aachen, for example—are traced with clarity and occasional sallies of wit. The lecture on the Vikings is particularly good, and the observation that their attacks fragmented Europe while they united England is a useful marker to keep in mind for future reading. In his first lecture Daileader even maintains that the long-abused “Dark Ages” weren’t dark because the people knew so little; they’re dark because we know so little about them. Further, without the intellectual, artistic, and technical advances of the Middle Ages, there would have been no Italian Renaissance. Refreshing perspectives, yet they sometimes get lost along the way.

Take Lecture 16: we learn the Carolingian Renaissance didn’t come up to the standard set later by the Italians; scholars read classical authors not for pleasure, but to reconnect with pure Latin, uncorrupted by the regional variations that were becoming French, Italian and Spanish. All perfectly true. But what happened to the perspective offered in Lecture 1? Wouldn’t the retrieval of pure Latin be a crucial first step toward the delectation of Ovid and Cicero in the future? Isn’t this an example of the Medieval world setting the table for the Renaissance?

Similarly, some opinions just don’t pass the smell test: we’re told the large number of personalities deemed “Great” (Constantine, Gregory, Charlemagne, Alfred) “devalues” the term. Really? I’d think you’d need great soldiers and scholars to build a new culture out of the Roman ruins. And in the penultimate lecture, we’re told that, according to one anthropologist, the Church opposed the practices of bigamy and concubinage not out of any moral concerns—morals being the mere product of our social environment—but because the Church wanted to limit the ability of families to produce heirs; no heirs meant estates would be left to the Church. He does balance this view with those of a Catholic historian but concludes that we will never know the truth. Honestly? The teachings of the Catholic Church—teaching which, on their face, would seem to do more to strengthen than weaken the family—amounted to nothing but an elaborate land grab?

At times like these Daileader seems to be one of those professors who simply isn’t in sympathy with the culture and people he professes; the enormous moral questions they struggled with are, for him, a mere intellectual parlor game. Yet shouldn’t there come a point in any discussion of the Middle Ages, a period lacking our modern separation of faith from every-day life, when religious belief has to be taken seriously, as a factor just as real as any secular phenomenon? And then, surprise, surprise, the final lecture is an admirable summing up of everything covered in the previous 23. So, go ahead, sign up, sit in on a few classes and see what you think.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Peter
  • 2020-06-14

The Professor's speaking style is nauseating.

I would have given the series a higher rating, but I really had to force myself to finish the lectures because of Professor Daileader's speaking mannerisms.
He frequently pauses between phases, and pronounces a word such as "and" with a lang nasal sounding aaannnnnnnnnd. He will do the same mid sentence with a word like "but" with buuuuuuuut or "that" with thhhhhhhhhhaaat. Audible should insist that he redo the entire series, and ding him everytime he draws out a word.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Andy
  • 2015-08-20

Awesome history lesson

This is a great series of lecture about a fascinating period of history. The professor does a particularly great job at explaining the historiography of this topic, and weaving that into our understanding of the early middle ages. It turns out there aren't too many primary sources a historian can pull from when it comes to this topic, but what is extrapolated is fascinating nonetheless.

My only small complaint about this course is that Professor Daileader's tone sometimes takes on an air of "this is too complicated to explain, but I'll painfully try to explain it to you." It's not quite condescension, it's just a very apparent "pained" tone he sometimes takes on. I found this occasionally distracting.

4 people found this helpful