Charlemagne: The Great Adventure

by Derek Wilson

Hardcover, 2005



Call number




Hutchinson (2005), Hardcover


An incisive and absorbing biography of the legendary emperor who bridged ancient and modern Europe and singlehandedly altered the course of Western history.  Charlemagne was an extraordinary figure: an ingenious military strategist, a wise but ruthless leader, a cunning politician, and a devout believer who ensured the survival of Christianity in the West. He also believed himself above the rules of the church, siring bastards across Europe and coldly ordering the execution of 4,500 prisoners. Derek Wilson shows how this complicated, fascinating man married the military might of his army to the spiritual force of the Church in Rome, thereby forging Western Christendom. This is a remarkable portrait of Charlemagne and of the intricate political, religious, and cultural world he dominated.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member sergerca
Very nice, readable biography. Wilson does a good job sticking to the main points and focuses more on the role Charlemagne has played in history. His main contention is that he created the idea of Europe, and the modern EU is an extension of the idea Charlemagne spent his life creating. The major
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flaw, in my opinion, is that Wilson repeatedly discusses how the idea of Europe is borne out of a common faith that lead to common laws, culture, etc. While talking about the modern EU, and its direct connection to Charlemagne, he fails to mention that Europe is now the most godless continent on the globe. How the idea of Europe can remain without the roots of its Christianity remains to be seen.
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LibraryThing member john257hopper
A very interesting account of the life and Empire of this early Medieval ruler and how his legacy has lived on in myth and in the attitudes and outlook of many rulers since. A whole third of the book is devoted to Charlemagne's legacy and recounts the history of Western Europe ever since in terms
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of that legacy. I thought this was perhaps a bit overdone, while making many interesting points. A very good look into the essence of West European history and its relations with the world outside its borders.
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LibraryThing member NielsenGW
Wilson’s life of Charlemagne is as illuminating as it is scholarly. It is hard to imagine any documents surviving from the eighth and ninth centuries, but Wildon manages to cull them all together to put forth a fully integrated and enthralling view of pre-Medieval Europe. Not only does he tell
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Charlemagne’s life, but he also shows how the legacy of the King of the Franks guided and shaped the ambitions of many leaders to follow—Charles V, Louis XIV, and even Napoleon Bonaparte. He evens manages a slight dig at Bush. A little dense but ultimately rewarding.
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LibraryThing member vpfluke
This is an excellent biography of Charlemagne. Beyond that, the author does a good job of showing how the short-lived Carolingian empire lies behind many more efforts over the centuries to consolidate the core of Europe, culminating now into the European Union. This book illustrates the Christian
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faith that lay behind many of Charlemagne's initiatives, as well as his strengths as a military leader. He lays out the information as we have it, not all of it entirely accurate, as the myth of Charlemagne is very strong. He had multiple wives and his children were not always up to the astuteness of the father.
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LibraryThing member alchymyst
I understand the problem of writing a biography of Charlemagne -- the man left no written records, his official biographer wrote what was essentially a propaganda piece, etc. So reliable sources are hard to come by, meaning that the book by necessity will be full of analysis and attempts to
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establish facts. That's not really the problem. The problem is that this particular book is rather shallow, cursory, with rather uninspired commentary by the author. It's just sort of ... boring. I'm sure that even with the scarcity of sources, there must be more interesting biographies of Charlemagne out there.

Two other gripes about the book: it's in dire need of good maps. Preferably in the beginning or the end of the volume, so they can be easily found. There are a few maps in there, but most of them either have no cities or are not particularly helpful at all. The second problem is that the author likes to refer to pages the reader has not read yet. You are on page 90, and suddenly the author says '(see page 100-101)'. Really, that's inconvenient. Wouldn't it be better to explain whatever it is you want to explain now, and then refer BACK to it when we make it to page 100?
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Physical description

228 p.; 9.29 inches


0091794617 / 9780091794613
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