Cover Image: The Emperor Charlemagne

The Emperor Charlemagne

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Member Reviews

This is a very complete and well-researched book about Charlemagne. You'll find everything from his family history, to his personality, his relationship with his loved ones and servants, to the way his empire was organised (very impressive!), how daily life looked like for peasants and how the yearly cycle looked like for them (loved this part), the first signs of upcoming feudalism, Charlemagne's struggles and triumphs with Rome and Constantinople, etc. etc. 
I just cannot sum up everything that you'll find in this book, because the scope is so wide and yet the writer dives deep. I've learned so much. Not only about Charlemagne, but also about his world and the people who mattered most to Charlemagne. 

Learning more about Charlemagne has always been on my 'history to do list'. I live at about 20 minutes driving distance from Aachen and I love spending time there. It's a relatively small city, but you can easily spend a few days there just scrolling through the historical city centre, enjoying the 'Carolus Thermen' (lovely spa complex!), and taking walks in the surrounding hilly forests. I can imagine why Charlemagne favoured this place and decided to settle down there. 

When I finished this book I fully understood why this man has had such an impact during his lifetime and in all the centuries after. His legacy is great on so many levels. (But please be aware: of course he was not a saint. An early medieval ruler undoubtly had blood on his hands in one way or another.)
This aside, I'm so impressed by him. He must have been such an amazing person. Charismatic, VERY smart, politically astute, and a fervently loving family man. Many of his ideas and strategies were far ahead of his time. He started to implement many of them. Sadly his successors were not able to manage and maintain this and the Carolingian renaissance was therefore short-lived. 

I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Charlemagne. 

Many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC.
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Wow, I really enjoyed learning more in depth about the life, rule and other history of Charlemagne. ER Chamberlain does a fantastic job about discussing how society was then and the rulers failures/successes before Charlemagne became king. Yes, this is a history book and a memoir but reads more like a story thanks to the expert story telling and attention to detail Chamberlain is just so good at. I was engrossed after chapter 1 to the end! 

If you want to learn more about early rulers in the world, I highly recommend this! Fans of biographies? This is a great and fascinating!

Thanks to Netgalley, ER Chamberlain and Sapere Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Available: 8/16/20
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Only when I started reading this amazing biography did I realise I had already read and reviewed another book by this author, i.e. “The bad Popes”. What made me notice this fact was the force with which I was immediately drawn in—so much so that I simply had to stop and check the author’s name, and there was the answer. E.R. Chamberlin knows how to tell history as if it were a story (which history basically is, of course—a collection of stories; no wonder both words have the same root, no wonder the same word is used for both in many languages).

Little is known with absolute certainty about this legendary emperor, anachronistically claimed as a national hero by the French as well as the Germans, so I was surprised by the length of the book. But of course, Mr Chamberlin doesn’t merely recount Charlemagne’s life. He first sets the stage, so to say, by presenting Charles’s predecessors and by describing how things were back in the years 400–800 so that the reader gets a very good impression of the times and the places. A seasoned storyteller, he excels in painting a vivid picture relying on the scarce sources that exist. He often warns the reader that comments left by writers of the time must be taken with a grain of salt as historiography back then was a different exercice from what it is nowadays. Personal likes/dislikes and political agendas were freely thrown in, documents were shamelessly falsified in order to underline one point of view or another, and one must read those contemporary writings with lots of caution, which the author does intelligently and sometimes with a sympathetic wink.

When reading this book, I was once again reminded how single-mindedly and often erroneously history is taught at school. Interpretations vary depending on where you’re living and are given a French, German, Austrian, English twist. Periods are cut up because it seems more convenient for pedagogical schedules. That’s why I like it when historians look at history differently while trying to keep their bias at a minimal level and attempting to show that history has always been more about flows and fluxes than about ruptures. The Roman Empire didn’t fall or end at a given date, not with Romulus Augustulus’s deposition at any rate, and Mr Chamberlin outlines that very well. Yes, the last Western Roman emperor ceased to rule in 476, but the Eastern Empire still existed, and Italy plus the rest of Western Europe didn’t fall into a political void suddenly filled by a barbarian upstart from the German forests some 400 years later. Reading this book, I was given the sense of how reality must have felt back then, how it was perceived, how it (maybe, probably) was.

So, this is a major sweep of a period that seems so dark and strange and that Mr Chamberlin peoples with men and women, that he fills with colours and scents. I got a pretty good impression of the vast Empire Charlemagne tried to build and think I know much more about that legendary figurehead now. The best thing is, Charlemagne doesn’t loom statue-like in my mind anymore but has become a person of flesh and bones. Some questions remain, and the author doesn’t try to come up with answers when there are none, yet, to be given with certainty. For lovers of well-written, well-researched biographies, this is a must-read.
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This is a fantastic biography on Charlemagne, full of fascinating facts about both the man himself and his achievements and reign, yet it remains highly readable and engrossing. This book is a great title for readers newly interested in the period/Charlemagne as well as seasoned learners of the era as I'm sure you'll learn at least a few new things, just as I did, 

It's tough writing a history book, being able to present facts and events in a way that is absorbing instead of reading like a text book, however Chamberlin has done just that was this thoroughly enjoyable and highly accessible biography of one of history's most notable rulers.
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I read this ARC for an honest review
All thoughts and opinions are mine

I've been waiting for a great biography on Charlemagne and finally this is it

Really enjoyed this
I found it accessible and fascinating
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