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Empires and Barbarians: Migration, Development, and the Birth of Europe Hardcover – Apr 3 2010


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"An awesomely ambitious work: an attempt, in the heroic tradition of Pirenne, to make sense of nothing less than the reshaping of antiquity, and the origins of modern Europe.... Heather is a wonderfully fluent writer, with a consistent ability to grab hold of his readers attention. The result is a book which richly merits reading by those interested in the future of Europe as well as its past." --Tom Holland, BBC History Magazine

About the Author

Peter Heather is Professor of Medieval History at King's College London. He is the author of The Fall of the Roman Empire, Goths and Romans, 332-489, The Goths, and The Visigoths in the Migration Period.

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Amazon.com: 28 reviews
106 of 110 people found the following review helpful
A deeply intelligent volume March 12 2010
By Bruce Trinque - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I thought Peter Heather's "The Fall of the Roman Empire", published a few years ago, was excellent, but his "Empires and Barbarians: The Fal of Rome and the Birth of Europe" is even better. In this new volume, Heather shifts his focus to concentrate on the barbarians (he simply uses the term to designate peoples outside the Empire) and also extends his time frame through the Year 1000 by which time powerful states were emerging across northern and western Europe. Heather rejects the old simplistic picture of hordes of barbarians crossing into the Roman Empire to pillage and plunder, but he nonetheless defends the reality of "mass migrations" playing a major role in what happened (although the label of "mass migration" might sometimes be more because of the impact of the event rather than because of sheer numbers of barbarians involved). Heather provides a supremely intelligent look at a very complex subject, and he carefully lays out his arguements with detail, requiring the reader pay careful attention. At the same time, however, Heather does employ a witty style to engage the reader's interest and to make his points.

If I might be so bold as to summarize what I see to be the author's central theme: Heather believes that the wealth of the Roman Empire quite naturally flowed into the lands beyond the Empire's border (through trade, if nothing else), that increase in wealth inevitably resulting in social inequalities and complexities in those neighboring cultures. This new wealth permitted some individuals to assemble small bands of elite warriors that permitted those individuals to amass even more wealth and gain additional stature (and possibly raid within the Empire to seize even more wealth). Over time, these warrior bands grew and combined in pursuit of greater ambitions towards more wealth, until the Empire itself was overwhelmed. These coalitions in turn provided a basis for the rise of powerful post-Roman states. A similar, but later process led to Slavic dominance in Central and Eastern Europe. Of course, Heather's anaysis is far more complex and subtle that this brief summary and deserves to be closely studied.
51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
Great New Insights to The "Transformation" of Late Antiquity March 8 2010
By Kevin White - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book last year before the publishers made it available in the United States. I will admit that it was some pretty heavy reading but it shed new light on an old topic: how migration affects nation building and specifically the creation of "modern" Europe. Professor Heather aptly applies modern migration theories to the late fourth, fifth and sixth century migrations that brought the Roman empire to its knees as well as laid the foundation states that would evolve during the Middle Ages into the modern nation-states we see today. Heathers discusses the "Germanic" migration and destroys the old historigraphical theory that the Germans moved as a "people" in massive population movements. He also dicusses the role of the Slavic tribes of Eastern Europe and the Viking diaspora in relation to the economic affects these population movements had on the making of modern Europe.
I have my Master's Degree in ancient history and studying the Fall of the Roman Empire is one of my favorite topics to study within Classical Europe. I must say this is a powerful book and would recommend it to anyone who ponders the "fall" of the Roman Empire. It is antithetical to the rather popular theory that the Roman Empire "transformed" (i.e., Professor Peter Brown) rather than fell eventhough that theory has some very powerful insights as well. I would also recommend this book in conjunction with Brian Ward-Perkins, "The Fall of the Roman Empire and the Death of a Civilization" as well as any other of Peter Heather's books!!
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Just one question for the other reviewers May 22 2010
By Stephen P. Nycz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I recently purchased, and am enjoying reading, Peter Heather's excellent book Empires and Barbarians.

There is one problem with the book, however.
There are several references in the book to Plates for illustrations accompanying the text.
There is even a page with picture acknowledgements.
BUT, except for the the addended maps, there is not a single illustration in the entire book!

I searched for the title on the OUP website and found the following:

Empires and Barbarians
The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe
Peter Heather
ISBN13: 9780199735600
ISBN10: 0199735603
Hardback, 752 pages
Feb 2010,

The volume in my posession has only 734 pages!
Does everyone else who has read the book have the same problem? Or do I somehow have the British edition dressed in American clothing? Still, why reference illustrations if there aren't any?
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Not for the casual reader May 29 2010
By Gary R. Wilkins - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have to agree with a number of the reviewers that this is not a book for individuals not already very familiar with Roman history. The details can at times be mind numbing and I found myself unable to keep my attention span on the book. If you are a professional scholar or dedicated layman of Roman history, this is your book. For the remainder of the reading public it will provide new insights but be prepared to struggle through the text.

Of particular note is the analysis of the veracity of Roman source materials and the melding of archaeological evidence with these sources. This is a marriage of source materials not often seen conducted with such effect. They significantly enhance the credibility of Mr. Heather's analysis.

I also noticed the same issue concerning references to plates that another reviewer found. Although plates are mentioned, they do not exist in the book.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Don't buy it in the KINDLE edition Nov. 16 2011
By CRK - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the book, but read it with frustration because 25% of it is composed of an index of maps and lengthly footnotes and sources, which are not accessible using a Kindle until you finish reading it.

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