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The Early Middle Ages

Shed light on the Dark Ages with this absorbing course that relates the often surprising true story of how Rome ended and Western civilization began.
The Early Middle Ages is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 245.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Like a warm blanket I've listened to Prof. Daileader's medieval lecture series so many times... such a great presentation style. I hope he does many more in the future.
Date published: 2022-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Surprised by Joy This course was certainly a surprise. I expected to learn about the sleepy “dark ages”, and the end of Rome. Rather it was a fascinating discussion of the interaction of outsider groups including the Slavs, Goth, Vikings and Islam with the Roman remnants. At the same time the professor fleshed out the emergence of Charlemagne and the formation of modern France and Germany. What a great bridge for me to move from ancient biblical history and The Triumph of Christianity to: * Reason & Faith: Philos Middle Ages * Skeptics& Believers: Western Religious Debate The professor has a friendly, thoughtful personality with a dry sense of humor. I believe he genuinely lectured rather than read a teleprompter. I’m certain his other courses would be excellent.
Date published: 2022-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exceptional The elbows of history, like neighbourhood, are always the best bits. So it is with the transition from the Western Roman Empire to to early medieval Europe. These lectures are beautifully structured, framed by the divergent analyses of the fall of the Western empire by two epochal historians of the period, Gibbon and Pirenne. After hours of archaeological data and a swing through the Viking "Northern Arc", the Byzantine Empire, Carolingian institutions and much else, Mr Daileader suggests why neither Gibbon's explanation (Christianity) not Pirenne's (economic collapse due to the Arab upsurge) is as convincing as the disease-induced drop in population in the Empire itself. I'm sorry to see the Great Courses leaving Audible. I live in France and have had trouble in the past getting hold of them any other way.
Date published: 2022-05-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Excellent course that provides a lot of fascinating information and context. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2022-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great style and knowledge on a dark period I listened to this class while running each morning, and found it worked great in audio-only. Prof. Daileader really makes this class happen. Great style and curiosity from him, and I enjoyed his pride in describing a period that isn't popular among historians. I'd learned a lot from other classes about the late Roman Empire, and also about the period after 1300, so it was great to have him stitch together the first part of that. There were some great unexpected topics I really enjoyed, such as the second-to-last lecture on the nature of family in this period.
Date published: 2022-04-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Makes History Relatable My husband and I watch an episode every day while eating lunch. Perfect timing. The professor has some mannerisms that were initially off putting, hand and arm movements, etc., but now we have gotten to enjoy the course very much. He has a great way of explaining history so we can imagine the people in the current events of our time. We'll be looking for the next series when we get to the last disc.
Date published: 2022-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding course - well worth it I love that Professor Daileader went through the collapse of Rome and the theological battles to set up the discussions. Too often, we promptly begin discussion of this period when the Western Roman Empire fell and gloss over the continuum of the later empire and the early Middle Ages. This was an outstanding set of lectures. Even for someone like me very well versed in the era, I learned a fair amount of new things and some of my assumptions were challenged.
Date published: 2022-04-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Background I recently went through this course for the second time. It is one of the older (2004) courses and I am not sure when I took it the first time but no matter. I wanted to go through it again because I had just bought two other courses on Charlemagne and Jennifer Paxton's new course on Anglo-Saxon England. All the parts fit together. This course covers a lot of ground from Rome to the Viking age but Professor Daileader does a good job. Yeah, he has a few quirks in his lecturing but what lecturer does not. You can get past it if you focus on the information. As I mentioned, I have taken a number of courses related to this period in history. I would like to see a course covering the Greek/Roman history in western Europe maybe starting with Pitheas and ending with the abandonment of Britain. Just a thought.
Date published: 2022-03-21
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Professor Philip Daileader of The College of William and Mary returns in this 24-lecture series to give you new insight into the Dark Ages, the era which spanned the decline and fall of Rome's western empire and lingered for centuries. Discover what findings modern archaeology has unearthed, and look into the fascinating personalities and events of this once-lost era.


Philip Daileader

Making courses over the years has been an honor, and I'd like to think that as The Teaching Company has grown and developed, I've developed with it.


William & Mary

Philip Daileader is a Professor of History at William & Mary. He earned his BA in History from Johns Hopkins University and his MA and PhD in History from Harvard University. Philip has won multiple teaching awards throughout his career. As a graduate student, he was a four-time recipient of the Certificate of Distinction in Teaching from the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, and in 2016, William & Mary awarded him the Thomas A. Graves, Jr. Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching. In 2012, The Princeton Review named him one of the 300 best professors in the United States.

Philip is the author of two historical monographs: True Citizens: Violence, Memory, and Identity in the Medieval Community of Perpignan, 1162–1397, which appeared in French translation in 2004, and Saint Vincent Ferrer, His World and Life: Religion and Society in Late Medieval Europe, which appeared in Spanish and Catalan translations in 2019 and won the 2018 La corónica International Book Award for the best monograph published on medieval Hispanic languages, literatures, and cultures. Philip is the coeditor of French Historians 1900–2000: New Historical Writing in Twentieth-Century France, and his articles have been published in journals including Speculum, Annales du Midi, and Archivum Historiae Pontificiae.

By This Professor

The Early Middle Ages
Charlemagne: Father of Europe
The Early Middle Ages


Long Shadows and the Dark Ages

01: 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.

32 min
Diocletian and the Crises of the Third Century

02: 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.

31 min
Constantine the Great-Christian Emperor

03: 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.

31 min
Pagans and Christians in the Fourth Century

04: 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.

30 min
Athletes of God

05: 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.

31 min
Augustine, Part One

06: 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.

31 min
Augustine, Part Two

07: 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.

31 min
Barbarians at the Gate

08: 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.

31 min
Franks and Goths

09: 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.

31 min
Arthur's England

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.

31 min
Justinian and the Byzantine Empire

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.

31 min
The House of Islam

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.

31 min
Rise of the Carolingians

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.

31 min

14: Charlemagne

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.

31 min
Carolingian Christianity

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.

31 min
The Carolingian Renaissance

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.

31 min
Fury of the Northmen

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.

31 min
Collapse of the Carolingian Empire

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.

31 min
The Birth of France and Germany

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.

31 min
England in the Age of Alfred

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.

30 min
Al-Andalus-Islamic Spain

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.

31 min
Carolingian Europe-Gateway to the Middle Ages

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.

31 min
Family Life-How Then Became Now

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.

31 min
Long Shadows and the Dark Ages Revisited

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.

33 min