“The Inheritance of Rome” by Chris Wickham is a history of 400-1000 A.D. the first half about western Europe and the second half about the eastern Roman Empire. This period is known as the Dark Ages and Wickham’s raison d’ecrire seems to be to dispel the notion that it was dark and that the hangover of laws and ways of being from Rome contributed a great deal to the establishment of Europe as it exists today.
English history touches on a number of significant dates such as 1066 when the Norman invasion of England took place, the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 which subjected kings to the rule of law and the union of Great Britain in 1603 under James VI and I. But what has been lost is what life was like prior to the Norman Invasion. Indeed, we don’t really know that much about life in England up to 1603, at least not at all levels of society.
The concentration of United States history within the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and today allows for the average American to know what life has been like for Americans from the very beginning of statehood. Granted, many American traditions are juvenile in comparison to most European traditions, but then there is not the weight of what has gone on before. The inbred antagonisms that haunt Europe and the Middle East, some political, some economic and a great many of them religious have never hampered America. That may be changing as politics embraces “culture” wars. We should think twice before going down that road.