The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000 was written by Chris Wickham, a Professor of Medieval History at the University of Oxford, England. He was also the editor of the work Marxist History-writing for the Twenty-first Century from 2007, which received praise for its distinctly Marxist outlook in International Socialism, a journal associated with the Socialist Workers Party in Britain, a party of revolutionary Socialists.
He talks about Arab conquests and “raids,” but doesn’t explain Islamic Jihad as a word or concept. By reading this book and this book alone you will have no understanding whatsoever of the fact that Europe was for over a thousand years targeted by a religiously sanctioned war of conquest, certainly not that in the minds of many Muslims this drive for world domination continues to this day. In fact, you will learn more about Tunisian olive oil than about Jihad.
Wickham is critical of Henri Pirenne’s work Mohammed and Charlemagne, published posthumously in 1937. Pirenne argued for the partial continuation of Mediterranean Roman civilization after the collapse of effective imperial rule. Wickham states — correctly — that his theory was largely “pre-archaeological.” Later studies have demonstrated that Pirenne underestimated the extent to which trade declined in the western Mediterranean region. Roman civilization collapsed almost entirely in the northernmost province of the old Empire, Britain, and there was much less shipping in the West well before the Arab invaders arrived.
Nevertheless, while Pirenne’s thesis does have to be modified in some of its details, he remains correct in pointing out that the Arab invasions brought major additional changes and that nobody in the West dared to call themselves “emperor” before the Islamic conquests of the seventh and eighth centuries AD. Previously, they had referred at least in theory to the Emperor in Constantinople. Yet the Eastern and Western provinces, the latter including the pope in Rome, drifted further apart after the Muslim presence complicated communications and drastically altered the political situation and military dynamic of the Mediterranean world.
Muslims did not create the European weakness of the post-Roman era, but they certainly exploited it for a long time. Gradually, new political, military and cultural institutions emerged in the West out of the ashes of the Roman world, a new version of European civilization. It is possible to see parallels to the situation today, when Muslims and other external enemies prey upon internal European weakness. Perhaps, now as then, over time novel political institutions and innovations will evolve out of this chaos to reverse European decline and restore cultural innovation and dynamism on the Continent. Only time will tell.
Read the rest at at Dr. Bostom’s place.