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Early Middle Ages

Early Middle Ages

Professor Philip Daileader, Ph.D.
The College of William and Mary

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Early Middle Ages

Course No. 8267
Professor Philip Daileader, Ph.D.
The College of William and Mary
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4.9 out of 5
183 Reviews
92% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 8267
  • Audio or Video?
  • You should buy audio if you would enjoy the convenience of experiencing this course while driving, exercising, etc. While the video does contain visual elements, the professor presents the material in an engaging and clear manner, so the visuals are not necessary to understand the concepts. Additionally, the audio audience may refer to the accompanying course guidebook for names, works, and examples that are cited throughout the course.
  • You should buy video if you prefer learning visually and wish to take advantage of the visual elements featured in this course. The video version features more than 100 visual elements that help bring the material to life. Featured are images of battle scenes and coronation ceremonies, as well as portraits of individuals discussed in the course, such as Saint Augustine, King Arthur, and Charlemagne. On-screen spellings and definitions also help to reinforce material for visual learners.
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Course Overview

We often call them the "Dark Ages," the era which spanned the decline and fall of Rome's western empire and lingered for centuries, a time when the Ancient World was ending and Europe had seemingly vanished into ignorance and shadow, its literacy and urban life declining, its isolation from the rest of the world increasing.

It was a time of decline, with the empire fighting to defend itself against an endless onslaught of attacks from all directions: the Vikings from the North, the Huns and other Barbarians from the East, the Muslim empire from the south.

It was a time of death and disease, with outbreaks of plague ripping through populations both urban and rural.

It was a time of fear, when religious persecution ebbed and flowed with the whims of those in power.

And as Rome's power and population diminished, so, too, did its ability to handle the administrative burdens of an overextended empire. Fewer records were kept, leaving an often-empty legacy to historians attempting to understand the age.

But modern archaeology has begun to unearth an increasing number of clues to this once-lost era. And as historians have joined them to sift through those clues—including evidence of a vast arc of Viking trade reaching from Scandinavia to Asia—new light has begun to fall across those once "dark" ages and their fascinating personalities and events.

"A World Recognizably Becoming Our Own"

In his new course on The Early Middle Ages—which traces a journey from Scandinavia across northern and central Europe to the farthest reaches of the Byzantine and Islamic empires—Professor Philip Daileader shares this new understanding of a world, no matter how far away and strange it may seem, that is "recognizably becoming our own."

"In countless ways, seemingly obscure events and developments from the ‘Dark Ages' impinge on the lives of people today. This is true in the realm of religion, because our period saw the triumph of Christianity over paganism… This is true in the realm of language, because every word that we speak and write—indeed, the handwriting that we use each and every day—is a product of the historical forces that we will study… And this is true in the realm of family life, because many practices that existed in 300—such as polygyny, marriage within the kin group, and infanticide—are illegal today and were vanishing or completely gone by the year 1000."

Why Study "The Dark Ages"?

As Professor Daileader points out, given the period's dismal reputation and its temporal remoteness from the 21st century, one might wonder why the histories of the later Roman Empire and the Early Middle Ages should command our attention.

First, he suggests, the years from 300 to 1000 present us with some of the most challenging questions historians have ever had to tackle:

  • Why did the Roman Empire fall?
  • Why did the ancient world give way to the medieval world?
  • Why did Christian monotheism become the dominant religion in Europe?

Secondly, this period commands our attention because of some of the people who lived during it.

"Theologians and philosophers such as St. Augustine were going to exert a commanding influence on European thought for well over a millennium after their death," he notes. "To understand later medieval thinkers, to understand Reformation thinkers, such as Martin Luther, one needs to know something about figures such as St. Augustine."

To be sure, the Early Middle Ages were not without figures who still pique our interest today, such as King Arthur and Charlemagne. As Professor Daileader considers the extent to which the historical realities of Arthur and Charlemagne match up to the legends that have become attached to their names, he repeatedly fascinates with revealing personal insights, such as Charlemagne's love for simply bobbing around in hot baths, or the window offered into his personality by a contemporary biography penned by a friend and confidante named Einhard. Einhard's writing is detailed, but the lectures point out that some of those details—including those about the ruler's difficulty in writing his name and chanting Latin liturgy—suggest that his largely complimentary account of Charlemagne's intellectual achievements is exaggerated.

Finally, Professor Daileader emphasizes the importance of understanding the Early Middle Ages as a vital underpinning for what was to come. Even if its accomplishments pale somewhat in comparison to those of the Late Middle Ages or the Italian Renaissance, those later developments are nonetheless built upon foundations established during the Early Middle Ages.

"Without some important transformations that occurred during this period, the rest would not have been possible. To understand fully the High Middle Ages or the Italian Renaissance, it is necessary to understand the Early Middle Ages," he states.

Great Historians View the Dark Ages

A four-time winner of Harvard University's Certificate of Distinction in Teaching, Professor Daileader creates a framework for that understanding by using the contrasting historical theories offered by two extremely influential historians:

  • Edward Gibbon, the English author of the monumental Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, whose explanations closely followed those of the Roman moralists of the 4th and 5th centuries, and
  • Henri Pirenne, the Belgian thinker who injected a newfound emphasis on social and especially economic factors into the analysis of history.

Beginning with their two contrasting viewpoints, Professor Daileader offers a fast-moving portrait of a period of history that consistently belies its reputation as dark or dismal. You learn, for example, the role of Gibbon's massive ego in his choice of the subject matter that would make him famous, as well as the intensity of his animosity toward Christianity and willingness to express in his writings startling accusations against it.

You’ll study, in depth, the possible reasons for the decline of Rome's vast eastern and western empires, and whether and how Rome actually "fell.” Christianity, as you might expect, plays a tremendously important role in the period covered by this course, but always in unexpected ways. Professor Daileader explains, for example, how the increasing difficulty of achieving martyrdom—a chore even in a pre-Christian Roman empire and a near impossibility under Constantine—created a need for new paths toward "Christian heroicism."

Those paths might be as expected as monasticism or as outlandish as the pole-sitting Stylites, whose demonstrations of devotion might last for decades and offer Professor Daileader an opportunity to demonstrate his delightful sense of classroom wit.

Hear the Arrest of Jesus … Rewritten as a Norse Saga

You'll also encounter a style of Christian writing you may well never have seen before, as Professor Daileader explores the strategies the Carolingians used to convert Saxons to Christianity and reads a passage describing the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as rendered in one of the most unusual of these writings—The Heliand, a Carolingian translation of the Gospels dramatically rewritten as a Norse saga.

And you'll learn the strange fear that drove Charlemagne to restore Latin literacy during the "Carolingian Renaissance"—including some samples from the standardized tests given prospective priests that offer a hint as to the immense task the Carolingians were up against. The tests put forth, for example, by Louis the Pious, the son of Charlemagne, included questions on such basic elements of Christian theology as, "Do you believe in the resurrection of the dead?" "Even more amazing," notes Professor Daileader, "answer sheets were provided for the examiners … because it was by no means certain that the person grading the test was going to know whether this was a ‘true' or a ‘false.' "

You encounter extraordinary successes as well, learning how the often incomprehensible copied texts left behind by the Romans and Barbarians led the Carolingians to develop basics that we now take for granted, including spaces between words, punctuation, and even the form of handwriting we still use today.

You will discover the curious reason why Irish and Anglo-Saxon monks worked harder than their counterparts on the continent, and how this contributed to their monasteries becoming the intellectual centers of their day during the 6th-century re-Christianization of Anglo-Saxon England.

The Profound Impact of the Viking and Islamic Cultures

The Early Middle Ages were marked by startling contributions from many cultures. Though the Vikings, for example, are often presented to us only as warlike invaders, Professor Daileader reveals how they were, in fact, far more complex than that one-dimensional picture indicates. Yes, their fierce raids for wealth and slaves did result in the sacking of almost every important town in the Carolingian empire multiple times in the 9th century. In fact, citizens even grew to expect the annual Viking raids. But they also established a remarkable trading network—the Northern Arc—the routes of which took them not only across Europe, but to northern Africa, the Middle East and the Far East. Archaeologists, in fact, have even unearthed a Viking-age statue of Buddha in a Scandinavian bog. The Vikings' reputation in matters of invasion does not go unexamined, however, and these lectures also explain why the raiders from the north enjoyed such success.

Professor Daileader explains the technological advantage provided by their longboats—the European network of rivers that allowed them to exploit this advantage to the fullest, their ability to carry those longboats across land when they needed to reach new rivers, and the desperate payment of Carolingian protection money—danegeld—that really offered little protection at all; after taking their payout, the Vikings would often simply move on to raid neighboring territories.

Professor Daileader also offers a fascinating glimpse into Islamic culture during this crucial period. You'll see the birth of Islam in the land where, before Muhammad, most of the people were actually pagan polytheists whose worship included several gods in addition to Allah, and the countless ways in which the Arabs transformed Spain—or al-Andalus—during the golden age of Islamic rule. During this golden age, Islamic rulers brought great technological advances in agriculture to al-Andalus, making the nation a center of complex religious and ethnic diversity and a great seat of scholarship whose ruler was himself rumored to possess a library of more than 400,000 volumes.

You'll also enjoy a remarkable glimpse into the court of al-Andalus's 10th-century ruler, Emir Abd al-Rahman III, who used dazzling tricks including "light shows"—using a bowl of mercury and the architecture of his reception hall—to impress his visitors.

If the demonstration wasn't forceful enough, of course, his visitors could also dwell upon the reputation this ruler had gained for forcefully defending his power, for Abd al-Rahman III had once disinterred and crucified the 11-years-dead corpse of an enemy's father to prove a point that even death held no shelter from his wrath!

One of the most interesting subjects covered by Professor Daileader during his lectures on Islam's role in this period is the origin of the idea of jihad, which had a very different meaning in the time of Muhammad than many of us associate it with today.

Professor Daileader concludes this enlightening look at the Dark Ages with a discussion on how Gibbon and Pirenne have fared through the lens of historical hindsight, and how today's historians will one day face the same judgment.

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24 lectures
 |  31 minutes each
  • 1
    Long Shadows and the Dark Ages
    Though the Early Middle Ages and the world of Late Antiquity that preceded them are often little studied, the questions they raise about why Rome fell and why Christianity replaced paganism as Europe's dominant religion remain important and controversial. x
  • 2
    Diocletian and the Crises of the Third Century
    During the 3rd century, the collapse of a reeling Roman Empire is staved off for a few centuries by the transformative changes introduced by an otherwise conservative emperor named Diocletian. x
  • 3
    Constantine the Great—Christian Emperor
    Constantine's military victories gain him control of the entire Roman Empire and begin the process of transforming Christianity from a minority, illegal religion to the majority, official religion of the Empire. x
  • 4
    Pagans and Christians in the Fourth Century
    The accession of Julian the Apostate causes brief hopes—or fears—of a pagan restoration. But his reign is short-lived, and by 400 A.D. it is clear that the tide has permanently turned toward Christianity within the Roman Empire. x
  • 5
    Athletes of God
    With the conversion of Constantine and the end of imperial persecutions, and with martyrdom no longer readily available, those seeking new ways to excel in their faith turn to new ways of achieving Christian heroism. x
  • 6
    Augustine, Part One
    This is the first of two lectures about perhaps the most influential thinker of the later Roman Empire, whose life and career encapsulate some of the broad changes that were taking place. x
  • 7
    Augustine, Part Two
    In reaction to a theology that argued for the ability of humans to obey God's commands without the assistance of divine grace, Augustine develops a theology that emphasizes human helplessness and the inability to achieve happiness in this world. x
  • 8
    Barbarians at the Gate
    A chain of events set into motion by the Gothic migration of 376 A.D. ultimately leads to the formal end of the western half of the Roman Empire a century later. x
  • 9
    Franks and Goths
    An examination of the Gothic kingdoms and the kingdom of the Franks shows that while the deposing of the last Roman emperor in the west might have been significant from a political standpoint, the administrative, cultural, social, and economic impacts were minimal. x
  • 10
    Arthur’s England
    The Anglo-Saxon settlement of England substantially transforms England's language and the god or gods worshipped there. By the 7th and 8th centuries, Irish and Anglo-Saxon monks have become the leading educators and intellectuals of the day. x
  • 11
    Justinian and the Byzantine Empire
    The eastern half of the Roman Empire—known to historians as the Byzantine Empire—survives the Western Empire by roughly a millennium, managing to preserve classical culture and urban life even as its official language passes from Latin to Greek. x
  • 12
    The House of Islam
    An emerging Arab Empire conquers the Persian Empire, large sections of the Byzantine empire, and even parts of continental Europe, including most of the Iberian peninsula. But an Arab raiding party's insignificant defeat provides the key moment in the ascent of Europe's next great dynasty. x
  • 13
    Rise of the Carolingians
    The Carolingians finally depose the last Merovingian king in 751 A.D., bring all of Francia under their control, and even begin to intervene in Italy, reversing the power balance established during the Roman Empire. x
  • 14
    The Carolingian Empire reaches its territorial and military high watermark during the very long reign of Charlemagne, who makes the Empire the most powerful Christian state on the European continent and gains for himself the revived title of emperor. x
  • 15
    Carolingian Christianity
    Carolingian rulers are deeply involved in the affairs of the Christian Church, dictating policy, sponsoring missionaries, and supporting ecclesiastical reform in a number of ways. x
  • 16
    The Carolingian Renaissance
    The fear that educational deficiencies were jeopardizing the salvation of souls and interfering with the ability of people to call on God for help drives a century-long period of educational reform known as the Carolingian Renaissance, the impact of which is felt to this day. x
  • 17
    Fury of the Northmen
    Beginning in the 8th century, Scandinavians fan out from their homeland in a diaspora that stretches from Newfoundland to Russia, involving settlement, the forging of new trading networks, and relentless violence. x
  • 18
    Collapse of the Carolingian Empire
    Discredited by its inability to deal with Viking attacks, the Carolingian dynasty falls prey to battles over succession and its consequent civil wars and ultimately crumbles. x
  • 19
    The Birth of France and Germany
    The collapse of the Carolingian Empire results in the emergence of the Capetians and Ottonians as the new ruling dynasties in West and East Francia, whose differing paths ultimately reshape them as the Kingdom of France and the Kingdom of Germany. x
  • 20
    England in the Age of Alfred
    Viking attacks on Britain produce very different results from those on the continent, with large sections of England settled. The ultimate result, after the Norman Conquest of 1066, is that a group of Christianized, French-speaking Viking descendents becomes the ruling class in England. x
  • 21
    Al-Andalus—Islamic Spain
    Islamic Spain becomes one of the most dynamic and developed areas of the continent. Despite the brutality of its high politics and religious restrictions on Jews and Christians, its flourishing economy, trade, and intellectual ferment make it an important center of cultural exchange. x
  • 22
    Carolingian Europe—Gateway to the Middle Ages
    This lecture makes the case that, during the Carolingian period, Europe stepped decisively out of its classical past and into its medieval present. x
  • 23
    Family Life—How Then Became Now
    The family underwent a number of structural changes during Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, and these changes illustrate how Roman and Germanic culture fused to become the medieval world. x
  • 24
    Long Shadows and the Dark Ages Revisited
    This final lecture examines how historical research has modified the ideas of Gibbon and Pirenne about the transition from the ancient to the medieval world, particularly as they explain the Roman Empire's demise. x

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Your professor

Philip Daileader

About Your Professor

Philip Daileader, Ph.D.
The College of William and Mary
Dr. Philip Daileader is Associate Professor of History at The College of William and Mary. He earned his B.A. in History from Johns Hopkins University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from Harvard University. Before taking his position at William and Mary, he taught at the University of Alabama and the State University of New York at New Paltz. Professor Daileader received William and Mary's 2004 Alumni Fellowship Award...
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Early Middle Ages is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 183.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Surprise! I haven't been interested in the middle ages since early college years. My wife has had no interest at all. We bought several courses for the winter months and flipped to start with this one. It's great. She's especially taken by it. We were thrilled with Ehrman's course on how Jesus became God and this one picks up that story. Wow.
Date published: 2016-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent This course is wonderful--I'm learning so much. The instructer is excellent, a great raconteur. His discourse is concise and focused, and he has a subtle sense of humor which keeps it lively. It's my favorite of the Great Courses so far, and I will definitely be getting the next two courses in the series.
Date published: 2016-11-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Greatly enjoyed! The classes are thorough and enjoyable. Well structured, clear, cocise, and super interesting. After listening to this course I immediately ordered three other courses by this professor (The High Middle Ages, Late Middle Ages, and Crusades).
Date published: 2016-10-05
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Early Middle Ages I was so disappointed to find that this video is a waste of money. The audio would be the best value for sure, as there are few pictures other than of the professor giving a lecture. He pretty much puts me to sleep every time I try to listen. Poor speaking ability. His frequent emphasis on the word "...and....." is like scraping fingers on a chalkboard to the ears of the listener. Very upset with this purchase.
Date published: 2016-09-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An eye-opening course I just completed this delightful course on the early middle ages and have to agree wholeheartedly with the other reviewers here--this course is excellent. The professor takes you by the hand from the fall of Rome (traditionally dated 476 A.D., but the professor explains why too much emphasis shouldn't be placed on this date) to just after the beginning of 1000 A.D., explaining how the world slowly changed to become the world that is today. What I like about this course is the professor's knowledge of the subject, his delightful personality, his passion for this period of history, and--perhaps most importantly--the fact that paints so well with such a broad brush! For instance, the professor not only explains how the land occupied by the Romans in the west changed with the coming of the Visigoths, the Ostrogoths, the Lombards, but discusses the Carolingian revival, the birth of the modern nation states of France and Germany, Islamic Spain, the Viking invasions throughout Europe, the settlement of England by the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, the changes in the country with the Viking invasions (again), and finally the golden era under Alfred the Great. The scope is pretty comprehensive, and the professor covers it all well. Finally, the final lecture does a nice job of tying much of the previous material together, and presents several compelling arguments as to why the traditional competing explanations of Rome's collapse (i.e., moral degradation and economic turmoil) are both important but insufficient to explain why some parts of western Rome fell long before 476 A.D. (e.g., the Romans abandoned England in 410), why some fell long after this date (up through the 6th century, in fact), and why the eastern half of the Roman empire continued in existence to 1453 A.D. All in all, this is an important course about a oft-neglected and under-appreciated chapter of history that explains how our world came to be what it is. When you finish the course, you will understand why calling this period the "dark ages" says much more about our state of knowledge than about the period the label purports to describe. Grade = A. I'm looking forward to his next course!
Date published: 2016-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The fall of the Roman Empire and more I love it when a course surprises me. Within my interests in history I ranked the middle ages at near dead last. After all what is there of interest in the Dark Ages? I have long found the Roman Empire fascinating and "The Era of the Crusades" was one of my first history courses within The Great Courses. But the "Early Midlle Ages", why bother? Professor Daileader won me over instantly with a brilliant presentation, excellent overlap with the fall of the Roman Empire, a superb treatment of the rise of Christianity with discussions of Constantine, martyrdom vs monasticism, and a fine introduction to St. Augustine. All this comes at you non-stop within the first half-dozen lectures. As Professor Daileader explains the Dark Ages were not so much devoid of historical intrigue as they were lacking historical record. Once the Romans are gone the lectures lead into us murky waters. It is not clear to me how historians piece together the details out of the darkness. The professor does mention sources like saga, biography, and most critically, archeology. Given the difficulty of finding historical facts I wonder where the details come from. Nonetheless the details are many and are vibrant in the post-Roman part of the course with stories of Kings and Popes, of Counts and Dukes, of Arab conquests and Viking raids. I did not find this material as captivating as the Roman era but I always looked forward to the next lecture. Don't miss the last lecture. It not only summarizes the course succinctly but highlights details that critical to understanding the era. In summary this course is a must just for its treatment of the fall of the Roman Empire but Professor Daileader's skillful presentation and bewildering knowledge of the Dark Ages make every moment interesting.
Date published: 2016-07-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Overview I needed a quick overview of early medieval history for a class I was taking -- and this was a good choice. Most important topics are covered at an overview level, with plenty of examples, etc. The professor really enjoys his subject, and is an acceptable presenter. I would recommend this course to others.
Date published: 2016-07-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Get This One and Ruiz'a 1492 video download version I finished professor Ruiz's "The Other 1492" in audio during my morning walks and with some serendipity was watching professor Daileader's course on the "Early Middle Ages" during the same time. For me, especially, the portions of both courses dealing with the Iberian peninsula, issues of Islam and Christianity during this era frequently reinforced each other covering some of the same topics from different angles and with differing emphasis. I also might add that there is some overlap and additional insights to be gained from listening to the "Era of the Crusades" course. Dr. Daileader begins his course going back to the Roman empire to the days of the late Roman empire, beginning with discussing the earlier, two conflicting theories of the fall of that empire: Gibbon and Pirenne. At first I was a bit put off with Dr. Daileader's instance of using one-third of his course to cover ground that is not considered a part of the Middle Ages. However the period from 300 CE to 1000 CE while clearly not all technically in the "Middle Ages" was clearly a transition from the classical era to the Middle Ages and detailing much of that transition is well worth the time. There is plenty to be learned from this series, especially about how the Franks, Charlemagne and the Carolingians dominated much of this period. And more about which I had no idea. For example the raids by the Vikings into their empire and the Carolingians complete inability to deal with these incursions. To the point that they paid tribute rather than dealing with the problem. Or that the Viking raids had completely opposite effects in Britten and France (in modern terms). Just a few of the gems in this course. A bit on the downside. The course on Early Middle Ages was filmed after professor Daileader's "High Middle Ages" course. Unfortunately, his delivery seems way too artificial in this course as opposed to his much more natural delivery in the earlier course. I have noticed other lecturers present in this same two-handed, off-putting style and I now expect that it is not the professor, but rather the director who should be held accountable for the artificiality/ Regardless, highly recommended.
Date published: 2016-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Surpassed my expectations I did not know a great deal about this period when I purchased the course. Professor Daileader made the course so fascinating that I finished it more quickly than I intended. I appreciated his clarification about the "fall" of the Roman Empire. I was especially interested in the religious aspects of the period, including the rapid expansion of the Islamic power following the death of Mohamed. The lecture style is informative with some wry humor and the lectures kept my attention throughout. I learned much more than I expected. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2016-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good indeed I've come out of watching this course knowing a heck of a lot more about this period than when I went in. Prof. Daileader really knows what he is talking about. I must admit I found him slightly irritating in the first lecture, but he quickly grows on you and then you can only appreciate his personal teaching style, which is extremely fluent and eloquent. I have encountered few better public speakers/lecturers than this man. 10/10 on course content and 10/10 on delivery. This must be a difficult period to teach and at the price of the DVDs it's a steal for the amateur historian! Highlights for me were the material on the Carolingians, Anglo-Saxon England and the Vikings.
Date published: 2016-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent with Only Minor Caveats For those interested in the history of early medieval Europe, I can heartily recommend the course. I have only minor caveats. Of the 24 lectures, the first 7 still deal with the time of the later Roman Empire. Also, although the lecturer is very good, he has two minor personal quirks: he tends to look down a lot, rather than facing the camera, and one of his favorite words seems to be 'and'. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend the course for those interested in the period.
Date published: 2016-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Daileader's Fabulous Courses Early Middle Ages, High Middle Ages and Late Middle Ages; all awesome courses. I listen to them over and over. A real boon to those with inquiring minds. Love Professor Daileader's teaching style.
Date published: 2016-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderfully illuminating Professor Daileader combines a wonderful enthusiasm for his subject with a great teaching skill. The material in all three courses, early, high and late middle ages is fascinating and detailed. I've already been through all three courses twice! His audio course on the crusades is a must have, if you are interested in this area of history.I can't recommend this highly enough.
Date published: 2015-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Dark Ages, Illuminated Philip Daileader's Middle Ages Trilogy had been on my wishlist for over a year, but upon completing Dorsey Armstrong's courses on the Medieval World and the Medieval Mind, I bought this as soon as it was on sale. In total, Daileader's trilogy gives 72 lectures that bring European Civilization form the Late Antiquity Crisis and Transformation to the Dawn of the Renaissance. This is part one, and it does not fail to live up to its high reviews. My greatest surprise was that the overlap with Professor Armstrong did not feel that noticeable. The teaching styles are different, the presented narratives tell different stories, and the perspectives offered by both professors were unique. If there is a single complaint I can give, it would be that this course still feels limited in scope. Daileader mourns his inability to tell us everything, and in one of his trilogy he feels as though he has taught us nothing but the barest of basics. I cannot fault him, but I do wish there could have been more about Eastern Europe. For this course, I would of course recommend Daileader's other works on the Middle Ages. However, I would also recommend Professor Armstrong's Medieval World, Professor Noble's Late Antiquity Crisis and Transformation, and finally Professor Fagan's Ancient Rome course. Armstrong will give another perspective, Noble will provide more details about how the Roman World became the Middle Ages, and Professor Fagan will instruct you on the Roman World and all that it once was.
Date published: 2015-10-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating course, wonderfully taught I thoroughly enjoyed this absorbing and fascinating course. By the end I felt I had a good understanding of the broad sweep of events and how the late Roman world morphed into the early middle ages. The course whet my appetite for reading further. This success was in no small measure down to the wonderful, engaging teaching style of Professor Daileader who was not only incredibly well informed and insightful, but also - and not least - funny. Unreservedly recommended for anyone interested in this period of history.
Date published: 2015-07-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Teacher I just finished watching all of the lectures and I found them to be FANTASTIC! Both the content and the presentation were excellent. Professor Daileader has a great command of his subject area and his style of instruction is brilliantly well-thought-out and clearly delivered. He is extremely comprehensive and I found his personality charming, and helpful for keeping my attention. I learned a tremendous amount about Medieval Europe, and my blank vagueness of the time period has been lifted. All would profit from the information presented.
Date published: 2015-06-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Scholarship Philip Daileader is an excellent professor. He introduces the course by presenting two competing themes, one by Edward Gibbon and one by Henri Pirenne. The class begins with the later stages of the Western Roman Empire and it ends around the year 1000. As he proceeds through the course, Daileader indicates that we are dependent on a limited number of sources, and he shows how new information can change our perceptions and interpretations. His concluding lecture shows how modern theories can often be traced back to the theories of Gibbon or Pirenne.
Date published: 2015-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Rome’s Transformation: Dawning of the Middle-Ages Two major historical theorists / models dominate the explanations for the rise of the middle ages according to Professor Philip Daileader in his lectures entitled: The Early Middle Ages. Edward Gibbon’s the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Henri Pirenne’s Mohammed and Charlemagne are discussed and presented as working models in lecture 1 and revisited in lecture 24 for re-evaluation with current historical and archaeological findings. Part I major concern is the ROMAN EMPIRE and Part II major focus is on the CAROLINGIAN EMPIRE which are discussed comprehensively and seen as the major cultural and institutional drivers of the dawning middle ages. Part I begins with the 3rd century crisis of the Roman Empire, the responses and innovations of the Emperors Diocletian and Constantine, and the growing CHRISTIANIZATION of pagan culture. Witness the rise of ascetics, monasteries, Neo-Platonism, etc., culminating in a THEOLOGY OF HISTORY -- The City of God by Augustine, the last classical / the first medieval writer. Discuss the several sacks of Rome that finally ends the Western empire politically in 476 A.D. and sends the purple East to Constantinople, the Eastern Roman Empire. This is not the fall of a civilization but a change in the political ruling elite with the rise of various kingdoms / barbarian kings who style themselves in Roman ways in Visigothic-Spain, Ostrogothic-Italy, and Frankish-Gaul. England is less ROMANIZED since the fall was experienced a hundred years earlier when Rome withdrew its army and re-located them along the Rhine-Danube frontiers. England is sacked by the Anglo-Saxons where Germanic and Norse gods are introduced and the Arthurian legends take root. Not until the 7th – 8th centuries will the monasteries, repositories of learning in England and Ireland during the invasions, come to the continent and advance its culture, Christianity, and law. Looking East, survey BYZANTIUM which survives for another 1000 years, the growing gap between the speaking Latin-West and Greek-East, the Emperor Justinian closing of the Platonic Academy (decline of paganism), the construction of churches (growth of Christianity), and the frontier conflicts with the Lombards, Slavs, Persians, and the Arabs – the rise of ISLAM in the 7th century after Mohammed’s death / (Islam’s final prophet of revelation). In one century Islam will reach from the Spain, through Northern Africa, Egypt, Syria-Palestine, to India and drive the center of gravity to the Frankish north (Carolingian dynasty) away from the southern Mediterranean (Western Roman Empire). Part II begins with the rise of the Frankish Empire of the Merovingian dynasty, replaced with the rise of the Carolingian dynasty and its connection with the PAPACY which further separates from the Byzantine East over iconoclasm in 717 A.D. The papacy and the Carolingian connections are further strengthened by the coronation of CHARLEMAGNE in 800 A.D. regaining the title of Emperor in the West. But aristocratic rulers still control the papacy. Churches and monasteries are reformed, parishes and tithes are created to administer and fund activities, and educational scholarship is sponsored and recruited from all of Europe in the greatest extent ranging from texts to priests leading to what historians call the Carolingian Renaissance. With Byzantine and Arab conflicts, the rise in VIKING raids of monasteries and towns with the payment of tribute to the Vikings, and the succession problem after Charlemagne’s death and the Treaty of Verdun 843 A.D., the empire fragments into kingdoms, counties, duchies, and castellans with civil wars and rival aristocratic families finally collapsing the Carolingian Empire with only Normandy remaining as a Frankish settlement. This devolution of power signals the FEUDAL revolution is now underway: serfdom and feudalism make their appearance on the historical stage. This becomes the gateway to the middle ages where the new social characters of lord / vassal / serf are planted. Western Francia became France and Eastern Francia became Germany where in 962 A.D. the church-state connection will become the HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE. England and Normandy will unite against the Viking raids and be successful, but England herself will fall during the Norman Conquest of 1066 A.D. changing her focus from the North Sea and the Scandinavian Empire to the English Channel and continental Europe. The Arabs in the 8th – 10th centuries conquered Visigothic Spain, brought economic, intellectual, and religious practices, but by the 11th century Arab aristocrats eliminated the caliphate, and Al-Andalus / Islamic Spain fragments into many kingdoms, civil wars, and eventually becomes Christian Spain. Returning to the historical genius of GIBBON and PIRENNE, the professor evaluates their theories in light of the historical presentation given and new research from historians and archaeologists. Gibbon argues from a POLITICAL-MORAL FRAME of reference stressing immoderate greatness as internal causes and barbarian attacks and religious superstitions as external causes. The excessive growth of wealth and power changed the social character of Roman inner strength with an effeminate weakness and a rise in consumption of luxuries undermining discipline in civic, military, and political engagements. But this fall was not the end of a civilization but of the political ruling elite since many characteristics of the Roman way will continue after the barbarian invasions as shown by Pirenne from his SOCIO-ECONOMIC FRAME of reference. As for external reasons, the explanation of religious superstition / Christianity in particular with its other worldly orientation is rejected since the Byzantine Empire continues for another 1000 years and was much more Christianized than the West. Pirenne offers the explosive rise of Islam in the 7th century as the cause in the shift from the Mediterranean basin to the north due to the Arab invasions and the advance and dominance over Syria-Palestine, Egypt, Northern Africa, and Spain surrounding the Mediterranean. But new research also shows that the Vikings’ Northern Arc / trade routes where commercial activity was active reaching from Newfoundland to Russia, to Arabia to India with Islam as a source of stimulation to commercial activities. ADDITIONAL FACTORS such as massive depopulation due to epidemiological reasons of plagues and diseases are also increasingly gaining traction. The professor delivers an historical account of the early middle ages beginning with two theorist, gives empirical data and conceptual form to the journey, and concludes with a re-examination of the dawning of the middle ages with a scholarly and humanistic vision. Extremely well done – thanks to the professor and the Teaching Company -- another gem is offered *** highly recommended. ***
Date published: 2015-06-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Interesting course I have purchased all the courses on the Middle Ages from this professor but it's the first I've watched. I really enjoyed it, the professor has a unique presentation that I enjoyed for the most part. He obviously knows the subject matter well. The DVD contains a lot of maps that are very helpful when viewing the course. Overall, I really enjoyed this course and learned a lot of good information.
Date published: 2015-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Should be paired with a good cigar and cognac Thoroughly engaging and fascinating in all respects. The craftsmanship is evident in organization, selection of content, writing and delivery. My only disappointment is that I typically listen to TGC lectures in my car. This course is not as well suited for that inasmuch as it is frustrating to miss even a sentence or two when there is a distraction. If you are going on a cruise, however, where you can wear headphones and not have to answer the phone, and perhaps even enjoy a cigar and a cognac, this course would be one of my top choices. Some reviewers have complained about the professor's delivery style. I didn't see the video, but while the "breathiness" of his speaking was a bit distracting in the very beginning, it was utterly unnoticeable once I got into the content. For those who found that to be a major flaw, I suspect they would similarly review a book of Plato based upon the size of the font rather than the words on the page. In short, get this course: Every educated Westerner needs to have a general understanding of this slice of history, and you might as well enjoy acquiring it.
Date published: 2015-04-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good introductory course This course does a good job of presenting the Early Middle Ages and allows the listener to delve at times into details that would been excluded from most survey undergraduate Western Civilization courses.
Date published: 2015-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great value, Superb professor Loved the professor's presentation -- he cracked me up many times throughout the lectures. I also bought his other courses about the High and Late Middle Ages and I'm looking forward to them.
Date published: 2015-03-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Early Middle Ages Listening to the "Early Middle Ages" course, for me, was like connecting the dots and filling in blanks to a period of history that was glossed over during my formal education. This course, as well as others, was clear, concise and thoroughly entertaining. I've recommended your website to numerous family and friends. I look forward to purchasing additional courses. Well Done!
Date published: 2015-02-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disappointed This is the second Great Courses program I watched and I was deeply disappointed. The first program featured Professor Harl as the presenter and he was marvelous. While Professor Daileader had interesting material, his jerky delivery and mannerisms got in the way. I stopped watching after four lectures and traded it in for a different course.
Date published: 2015-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course I have bought all three of Professor Daileader's 'Middle Ages' courses. He is a passionate and engaging lecturer, who occasionally inserts humour into his presentation. While I bought these courses some years ago, I have just watched them all for the third time. I learn something new each time I watch them.
Date published: 2015-01-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Buy the CD Buy the CD. Dr. Daileader knows his stuff. His content is interesting and I learned a great deal about the Dark Ages. I had difficulty with his presentation style. He was not engaging to watch, but if you buy the CD you can multi-task and learn a lot.
Date published: 2014-11-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great core course on Early Medieval era I am writing this review after having heard all three of Professor Daileader’s courses on the Medieval era: Early middle ages, High middle ages, and late middle ages. The courses are really not introductory courses to the topic, as perhaps Professor Armstrong’s course “Medieval Age” is. They are quite extensive in scope both in depth and in breadth. The Early middle ages refers to the era from the fall of the Roman Empire to the around 1000 CE. It starts by telling the story of the beginning of the end of the Roman Empire: the rule of Emperor Diocletian and the many far reaching reforms he prescribed. Next, the reign of Constantine is discussed: professor Daileader discusses his conversion from Paganism to Christianity (and the whole empire’s conversion as a consequence) that would leave a forever profoundly changed Western civilization as a result. His establishment of a new capital of the Roman Empire in Asia Minor, Constantinople; that will end up being the seat of power of the Byzantine Empire for the next millennia is also discussed. Different aspects of the decline of the Roman Empire (particularly the Western half as it became severed to two parts) are analyzed: particularly, the incursions of the Barbarians on the Empire’s borders (the Gothic migrations), the rising tax burdens on the Roman citizens, and the lack of “altruism” or “patriotism” of the late Roman period that in earlier times had made Rome such an effective Conqueror and ruler. It is noted that although, politically, the Roman empire fell in 475 CE, the kingdoms that were to succeed it were to retain many of its traits including its religion, and many of its political institutions. Next, professor Daileader tells us the narrative of the Merovingian and particularly the Carolingian dynasties that were to rule the territories of modern France and Germany from the 7th century until the sometime in the 10th century. Particular attention is devoted to Charlemagne, the most central figure and a pivotal one in the Carolingian line. He is described as creating an early Renaissance of the Art in Aachen, and as devoting huge energies and resources to Religious scholarship. His insatiable appetite for military campaigns and conquests are described. A fascinating figure… The Viking raids into the Carolingian Territories along with the usual succession problems would lead to the fall of the Carolingians and the birth of France and Germany. Professor Daileader tells us that in many ways, in his opinion, the Carolingian dynasty marks the end of the classic era (or late antiquity) and the beginning of the middle ages. The narrative of Early Medieval England is also told (though not as extensively). Particular attention is devoted to the early Saxon and Angle migration or conquest, King Arthur’s England (and the argument of whether there had ever actually been a King Arthur), the furious Viking raids beginning in the 8th century and the rule of King Alfred the great. A particularly fascinating narrative that was discussed was the rise of Islam, its conquest of major territories from the Byzantine Empire of most of the territory of Spain. I found these lectures to discuss really quite pivotal historical events and I am actually quite surprised that the TGC has not dedicated a full course yet to the topic of the rise of Islam and the Islamic Calliphate. Over and above the narrative lectures, Professor Daileader also provides fascinating thematic lectures that really help understand religious aspects of the world of Early Medieval Europe. Overall the course was very well presented and structured. Professor Daileader is a fascinating presenter. He understands which of the points he is trying to make is more difficult to understand and automatically answers what many of the (unpresent) listeners would want to ask. He is also quite funny and the lectures are casual and pleasant. Overall, I feel that this course was of great value and am very glad I decided to hear it.
Date published: 2014-10-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Fascinating. Professor Daileader can find the interesting and important aspects of anything.
Date published: 2014-10-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Quite good indeed... ...this is a history timeframe that i like a lot & this prof. was able to keep me interested nonetheless.
Date published: 2014-03-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A good course about a mysterious period in history I purchased this course as I always felt I did not know very much about the "Dark"/Early Middle Ages era in European history. After taking this course, I know a lot more and, similar to "The Skeptic's Guide to American History", clears up a number of myths about what really happened during the years 300-1000 in Europe and also in the Middle East. Prof. Daileader starts with the standard references to Gibbon (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire) and Pirenne and, starting with Roman emperor Diocletian, takes his students through the period. The lecturer focuses a significant amount of lectures on the Carolinginian period, including Charlemagne, looking at not only the political, but economic and religious issues of the day. Religion/Christianity was a major theme especially of the early lectures, but this is consistent with the prominent position of the church in the later Roman Empire, and the early Middle Ages period itself. I learned quite a bit of why the Barbarians such as the Visigoths and Vandals did not last very long as rulers over their conquests, but the Arabs did. I would especially recommend the lectures on "The House of Islam" and "Al-Andalus Spain" to learn more of the Arab/Moorish influence on Europe and North Africa during the period. Prof. Daileader questions the myth behind "King Arthur" in Britain, and what was really going on there. The lecture on the Vikings' influence, especially in trade and settling into Britain and what is now part of France was extremely interesting. The final lecture evaluates Gibbon and Pirenne's standard works against newer scholarship, and while much of what they wrote is still accurate, Prof. Daileader notes that there were significant drops in population over Europe and the entire Mediterranean area, and that helped transition the Roman Empire into the Early Middle Ages. It also is noted that only the WESTERN past of the Roman Empire fell in 476, the Eastern half laster until 1453, and the effects of Roman rule would last for several centuries, with the notable exception of Britain. Prof. Daileader is a very knowledgeable lecturer, and I did appreciate him summarizing each lesson at the end and also at the beginning of the next lecture. I did not give him a 5 for presentaition, however, as he had an annoying tendency of stretching "and.........."s and other words like that. To me, it detracted from the presentation. Other than that, I did learn a lot about the Early Middle Ages that I did not know, and was challenged in several loing held beliefs. I would recommend this course.
Date published: 2014-02-21
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