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The Making of Europe by Robert Bartlett

The Making of Europe (edition 1994)

by Robert Bartlett

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459640,668 (3.86)10
From our twentieth-century perspective, we tend to think of the Europe of the past as a colonizer, a series of empires that conquered lands beyond their borders and forced European cultural values on other peoples. This provocative book shows that Europe in the Middle Ages was as much a product of a process of conquest and colonization as it was later a colonizer.… (more)
Title:The Making of Europe
Authors:Robert Bartlett
Info:Princeton University Press (1994), Paperback, 447 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Making of Europe by Robert Bartlett


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“The European Christians who sailed to the coasts of the Americas, Asia and Africa in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries came from a society that was already a colonizing society. Europe, the initiator of one of the world’s major processes of conquest, colonization and cultural transformation, was also the product of one.”

This one took some time, but boy, was it worth it! Similar to In the Name of Rome: The Men Who Won the Roman Empire, it took me longer than expected to read this comprehensive piece of work on Europe in the Middle Ages. I had to turn it in, reserve it, and then take it out again from my local library before finishing it just after New Years 2021.

Now, first things first – I would not recommend this book as an “introduction” to Medieval history. Professor Bartlett is extensive in his quotations, references and usage of phrases – to an extent where at least a fundamental familiarity with the primary points of Medieval European history. For the enthusiast looking to delve deeper, however, this is an amazing piece of work.

You are taken through the colonization of Ulster and Prussia. Given insights into the convoluted systems of ethnically and geographically determined jurisdictions (how someone could, for example, be subject to German law despite living in a Polish city), the finer points of how tithes and taxes were calculated (and by extension, how settlements were established).

And through it all, one of his central themes are clear. That a lot of the tribulations and problems coursing through 20th (and 21st) century European communities have a venerable pedigree. From the 10th to the 14th century, Europe underwent a transformation from diversity towards homogeneity, but the transformation was never quite fulfilled. The role of the Church – and the clashes between the Greek and Latin churches – are likewise covered, but overall, the topics are very elegantly balanced.

In summation, I wasn’t disappointed. I -love- Professor Bartlett’s series “The Devil’s Brood” on the Plantagenets, so when I spotted a book by him I pounced on it without a second thought. And I’m glad I did. ( )
  jakadk | Feb 11, 2021 |
The focus of this history is on Latin Europe in the High Middle Ages, in particular from 950 to 1350, when Latin Christendom approximately doubled in area. The author contends that “from the eleventh century a period of exceptionally intense creative activity began within western Europe.” He notes that “in many areas of life fundamental institutions and structures were given their decisive shape in these centuries,” including towns, universities, and the orders of the Roman Catholic Church. Interestingly, he argues that the expansion of Latin Christendom was not only defined as Roman and Christian, but defined a certain kind of society that was acceptable, and a certain kind, by contrast, that was not, such as in the Celtic lands.

He goes into great detail about subjects including the aristocratic diaspora, military technology and political power, how conquest, immigration, trade, and influxes of religious pilgrims affected the culture of Europe; the evolving structures of towns and villages and their interrelationships; and the evolution of linguistic culture.

Evaluation: This book is dense but filled with fascinating information about how Europe came to be, as he writes, “both a region and an idea.” Well worth reading. ( )
  nbmars | Sep 13, 2020 |
Read 2016. ( )
  sasameyuki | May 15, 2020 |
If one of the roots of the modern West is the blend of antique cultures in the Hellenistic and Roman periods (frequently thought to be less alien than they are) a second one is the emergence of the distinctive culture of "Europe" out of the relative morass of the remains of the Carolingian period.

At its core, this involved a thoroughgoing restructuring of the ways in which the exercise of authority in society was to be viewed. (For which, in different ways - the authors did not agree - see Duby's The Three Orders and Bisson's The Crisis of the Twelfth Century.)

Corresponding to this there was a massive expansion to what were then the peripheries, forming much of what we now consider simply "Europe": England, Sicily, Spain, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Eastern Germany, Poland, the Baltic states (plus those areas which were eventually let go: Outremer, Cyprus).

The Making of Europe was a groundbreaking study of this period of military and cultural expansion. Barrett argues for it being a period of full-scale colonization with an export not only of military forces but culture and patterns of settlement, with a convincing accumulation of detail. The new forms of authority (roughly, feudalism mixed with a centralized church - this is also the period of the expansion of Roman Canon Law) which had emerged from the Carolingian period became the norms over almost all of Europe. (Northern Italy, Scandinavia, Switzerland, and the Balkans excepted, for varying reasons).

This remains both an important and a readable book. ( )
  jsburbidge | Mar 28, 2018 |
This densely written, highly structured book demands the reader's full attention - but it's more than worth it. Its central thesis holds that Europeans from the Carolingian core (the author generally only mentions France and Germany, omitting to name the Low Countries) practised and perfected colonisation activities on a European periphery consisting of Ireland, Muslim Spain, Silesia and the southern Baltic shores and what was then called the Holy Land. The author discusses the various factors that played a role in this process, from architecture to language, and that prepared Europe for an aggressive colonisation on a much grander scale that started at the end of this period. Enlightening. ( )
  fist | Jun 13, 2011 |
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From our twentieth-century perspective, we tend to think of the Europe of the past as a colonizer, a series of empires that conquered lands beyond their borders and forced European cultural values on other peoples. This provocative book shows that Europe in the Middle Ages was as much a product of a process of conquest and colonization as it was later a colonizer.

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