“The answers you get from literature depend on the questions you pose” -Margaret Atwood
"The word is the making of the world." - Wallace Stevens
Saturday, May 29, 2010
How the Irish Saved Civilization - Thomas Cahill
I read this for a class in college, but decided I wanted to reread it for the medieval and Ireland book challenges. It's been about ten years since the first read through, and I honestly couldn't remember what I thought of it, but it didn't take me long into rereading this book to remember what I think about Cahill's writing. I think the Irish monasteries certainly did their part to pass on knowledge and save certain texts from extinction. And also definitely provided a level of civilization and order that was scarce at the time. But the Irish certainly weren't alone in this task, and Cahill would have you give them most of the credit. (All of the credit, if you judge a book by its title.) I don't know, I just don't think he's a very objective historian, more like a sports fan rooting for his team. Or maybe I just don't understand his sense of historical humor? He certainly has Irish pride! He makes a great argument for his case by leaving out/failing to mention certain information and that makes me feel like he's manipulating the facts. I don't think this was meant to be a scholarly book per se, but I do think a better title for this book would be, "How Some of the Irish Saved Their Part of Civilization". Let me put it this way: if what you're looking to learn about is Irish Christianity's contribution to Western Europe in the early Middle Ages, then this is a well written and informative read.