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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

The Origins Of The Medieval World

The World of Late Antiquity - Peter R.L. Brown

Peter Brown's survey of culture and society from the time of Diocletian to the rise of the Abbasid dynasty of Persia manages to be highly sophisticated in its judgements while remaining entirely accessible to the lay reader.

 

A gradualist rather than a catastrophist, Brown's concern is to trace the evolution of  the medieval world from its classical predecessor. He does so by focusing on  the lines of continuity rather than on the hammer blows of invasion and pestilence, highlighting the way changes in economic conditions, shifts in geo-politics, the introduction of new patterns of thought such as neo-platonism and Christianity, and the development of new ways of thinking about the individual all came together in a process that was as much about innovation and renewal as it was about decay. 

 

As a narrator Brown is erudite but never obscure. The broad sweep of history is interspersed with moments of granularity that illuminate his thesis. Although some of his assessments have lately been challenged by writers like Peter Heather and Bryan Ward-Perkins, The World Of Late Antiquity  remains an incredibly important resource for anyone interested in this period.