Matthew J. Culligan
& Peter Cherici,
The Wandering Irish in Europe:
Their Influence from the Dark Ages to Modern Times

(Barnes & Noble, 2000)

In the preface to The Wandering Irish in Europe: Their Influence from the Dark Ages to Modern Times, authors Matthew J. Culligan and Peter Cherici state: "For we do not see the Irish as injecting any characteristics or determining any directions which were not inherent in European civilization as a whole. The Irish were teachers, leaders, and innovators in different fields, counselors, compatriots and sometimes examples; they were not invaders, conquerors, or rulers." They continue by explaining that the Irish skills, knowledge and activities did have a distinct effect on Europe. The Irish touch can be seen in the fads and beliefs of society in the areas of their influence.

The authors dispense textbook information in a flowing, cohesive narrative. Beginning with the Celts in 8000 BC, they chronicle the Irish movements through Europe to present day.

The Irish monks brought a Christianity that was grown directly from their Celtic roots. Two of their beliefs became a source of perpetual conflict with the predominant Roman Christianity officials. First, the Celts regarded women and men in equal stature. Women could become monks and even lead the monasteries. Second, the Celts believed that humans could attain a state of perfection that would lead to sainthood. When a person reached this level of perfection, he or she became known as a White Martyr.

Although the Roman Christian monks rejected and opposed these ideas, the people of Europe were mostly uneducated and lacking skills, still impoverished from the Dark Ages. They readily accepted the Irish for their skills in all facets of construction, agriculture and needlework. Along with these skills came the Irish beliefs.

The authors have compiled a wonderful comparative survey of the Irish and Europeans. As you read, you will be drawn into the struggles, battles and victories of both sides. You will view these peoples in a totally new light.

Culligan and Cherici have done an exceptional job of creating a narrative of history. It flows along smoothly and is easy to understand. The chronological sequence is ideal. The writing is brisk and descriptive. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter and relevant, delightful, and do a solid job of setting the stage for the following information. If you have an interest in history, Celtic, Irish or European culture or religion, this is a must read. I'm sure you will love it as much as I did.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 8 February 2003

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