17 March 2010

Clemens' Notebook

This is a post more or less to myself, so I have a convenient place to stash some info I may need in the future for my Migrations in World History Class.

This is a review of Peter Heather's new book, Empires and Barbarians. Everything I have read by Heather has been excellent and this one promises to live up to that standard.

Heather has a fine track record in rescuing historical babies from being thrown out with the revisionist bathwater. His The Fall of the Roman Empire put a new case for the old view that barbarian invasions were an important factor in the collapse of the Roman empire. Empires and Barbarians partly overlaps with that, reinstating mass migration as an important phenomenon in the first millennium and one key factor in the formation of modern Europe.

This is not merely an attempt to turn back the ­historiographical clock. Heather has no patience with the old “billiard ball” model of migration — in which, as Ammianus saw it, Huns bumped into Goths and so pushed them towards the Roman empire. Instead he has tried to look at the first millennium afresh, using modern theories of migration and its motives. We are not dealing with anything like the vast Rwandan exodus, but many of the claimed movements would fit the patterns observed in recent history: people tend to move from poorer to richer regions; groups with a tradition of migration tend to be more mobile than those without; people tend to migrate to areas about which they have information. All those conditions apply to Ammianus’s Goths moving towards the Danube.

I suppose I will have to buy this one. Perhaps more difficult even than spending $$, I will have to find time to read it.

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