How the Irish Saved Civilization
|Subject||History of Ireland|
|Publisher||Nan A. Talese|
|LC Class||DA930.5 .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
It was favourably reviewed in many general-interest, quality newspapers and magazines. However, it also provoked a number of critiques from other reviewers, some of whom offered qualified praise or outright rejections of the main thesis, and some of whom pointed out factual mistakes. One chief example of the latter was the misrepresented nature of the Germanic takeover of the Roman Empire. Lisa M. Bitel states in her review, in The Catholic Historical Review, that Cahill takes an "essentially Gibbon-esque view" and that the book is "pure and simple, a traditional legend of saints."
- "Thomas Cahill: About the Author". Random House. Retrieved 2007-09-29.
- Bernstein, Richard (April 5, 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.
- 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). Retrieved 2014-03-30.
I cannot begin here to list all the misread texts, over-simplified historical constructs, and biases of this book.
- Callahan, Tim. "Rust On the Hinges of History: How Neither the Irish Nor the Jews Saved Civilization". Skeptic Magazine. 7 (1).
- Wolfram, Herwig (2005). The Roman Empire and Its Germanic Peoples. University of California Press. p. 313.
The Germanic peoples neither destroyed the Roman world nor restored it; instead, they made a home for themselves within it.
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