Short Review: Through the Eye of a Needle

Peter Brown takes on the end of the Western Roman Empire through the lens of wealth and religion, shining a brilliant light on the transition from Antiquity to the beginning of the Middle Ages. He writes extremely well for non-specialists, but with authority, and as he has elsewhere, makes a strong case that the Dark Ages as commonly understood did not exist. While there certainly was plenty of discontinuity, the Roman Empire did not abruptly disappear followed by blank centuries. Instead, as Brown traces, there were interrelated military, political, economic, social and religious evolutions as the Empire dissolved into a new social order that itself evolved into what we think of as the Middle Ages. As with the great social transitions, the period represents critical centuries in the evolution of Christianity, and this wonderful book offers real insights into what it could have become and what it did.

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