The Transformation of the Roman West


The Transformation of the Roman West

ISBN: 9781942401438


The history of the Late Roman Empire in the West has been divided into two parallel worlds, analysed either as a political and economic transformation or as a religious and cultural one. But how do these relate one to another? In this concise and effective synthesis, Ian Wood considers some ways in which religion and the Church can be reintegrated into what has become a largely secular discourse. The Church was at the heart of the changes that look place at the end of the Western Empire, not only regarding religion, but indeed every aspect of politics and society. Wood contends that the institutionalisation of the Church on a huge scale was a key factor in the transformation which began in the early fourth century with an incipiently Christian Roman Empire and ended three hundred years later in a world of thoroughly Christianised kingdoms.


Introduction. The End of the West Roman Empire: From Decline and Fall to Transformation of the Roman World

1. Gibbon’s Secondary Causes: “The Disorders of Military Despotism” and “the Division of Monarchy”
2. Barbarism: “The Invasion and Settlements of the Barbarians of Germany and Scythia”
3. Religion and the Transformation of the Roman World
4. Religion: “The Rise, Establishment, and Sects of Christianity”
5. Religious Reaction to the Fall of Rome
6. Doctrinal Division
7. The Impact of Christianity: A Quantitative Approach
8. Clerics, Soldiers, Bureaucrats
9. Ecclesiastical Endowment
10. Beyond Gibbon and Rostovtzeff
Appendix. Clerical Ordinations
Further Reading

Author Bio(s)

Ian Wood, Emeritus Prof. (Univ. of Leeds), has authored over 200 articles on the post-Roman West and the recent monograph: The Modern Origins of the Early Middle Ages.

Reviewer Quote(s)

“Nobody writes with more assurance, clarity, and precision on the history and historiography of the late Roman Empire and early Christian West than Ian Wood. This may prove to be the most original and influential short book in that line of work since Montesquieu’s of 1734.” – Mark Vessey, University of British Columbia

“Ian Wood’s new book is the distillation of a lifetime of research on and thinking about the crucial centuries of the end of the ancient world and the beginning of the middle ages in the west. His work on the Merovingians, Burgundians, and Anglo-Saxons is justly famous; and he has in recent years also thought hard about the origins of early medieval history-writing, going back in to the seventeenth century. He has never, however, given his own view of what really changed at the beginning of the middle ages in the west. Here, in a remarkable synthesis which draws on all his previous work, he sets it out, fast and effectively. Ian Wood is not a lover of catastrophe theory, and he shows here how nuanced any description of the changes in politics and culture across the fifth to eighth centuries must be. There were never very many ‘barbarians,’ so the effect which they could have had was not, for the mass of the population, huge. What was new, however, was the institutionalization of the church, on a huge scale, with as many clerics as there had been members of the Roman army, and as there were, by now, ‘barbarian’ groups. This new, and increasingly wealthy, structure, is in Wood’s view the real novelty of the early middle ages. His argument is new in this form, forcefully expressed, and is bound to excite debate. This masterful work will be very influential.” – Christopher Wickham, All Souls College, Oxford

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Arc Humanities Press