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How the Irish Saved Civilization

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How the Irish Saved Civilization
AuthorThomas Cahill
SubjectHistory of Ireland
PublisherNan A. Talese
Publication date
Publication placeIreland
941.501 20
LC ClassDA930.5 .C34 1995

How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe is a non-fiction historical book written by Thomas Cahill.

Cahill argues a case for the Irish people's critical role in preserving Western Civilization from utter destruction by the Huns and the Germanic tribes (Visigoths, Franks, Angles, Saxons, Ostrogoths, etc.). The book presents Western history from the collapse of the Roman Empire and the pivotal role played by members of the clergy at the time. A particular focus is placed upon Saint Patrick. The book details his early struggles through slavery, mirroring much of the content in The Confession of Saint Patrick. Initial portions of the book examine Ireland before the arrivals of Patrick and Saint Augustine of Canterbury. Particular focus is placed upon Saint Columba, the monks he trained, and the monasteries he set up in the Hiberno-Scottish mission. These holy men, according to Cahill, "single-handedly refounded European civilization throughout the continent." (p. 4)

Publication and reception[edit]

How the Irish Saved Civilization was first published in March 1995 and appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List for almost two years.[1]

It was favourably reviewed in many general-interest, quality newspapers and magazines.[2] However, it also provoked criticism from other reviewers, some of whom offered qualified praise or outright rejections of the main thesis, and some of whom perceived bias.[3][4]


  1. ^ "Thomas Cahill: About the Author". Random House. Retrieved 29 September 2007.
  2. ^ Bernstein, Richard (5 April 1995). "Who Saved Civilization? The Irish, That's Who!". The New York Times. Scholars, perhaps, will now evaluate these claims. But whatever they may find, Mr. Cahills' book will remain an entirely engaging, delectable voyage into the distant past, a small treasure.
  3. ^ Lisa M. Bitel (April 1997). "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 Catholic Historical Review. 83 (2). Archived from the original on 8 April 2014. Retrieved 30 March 2014. I cannot begin here to list all the misread texts, over-simplified historical constructs, and biases of this book.
  4. ^ Callahan, Tim. "Rust On the Hinges of History: How Neither the Irish Nor the Jews Saved Civilization". Skeptic Magazine. Vol. 7, no. 1.

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