Powers and Thrones Book Summary - Powers and Thrones Book explained in key points
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Powers and Thrones summary

Dan Jones

A New History of the Middle Ages

4.6 (325 ratings)
32 mins

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Powers and Thrones by Dan Jones is a history book that explores the evolution of monarchy in England from William the Conqueror to present day. It offers insight into the political, cultural and social factors that shaped the monarchy and the country over the centuries.

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    Powers and Thrones
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    Climate change and mass migration led to the collapse of the western Roman Empire.

    The Roman Empire was a global force for more than one thousand years. During its heyday, it spanned northern Africa, Asia Minor, and most of Europe. Roman rule influenced the politics, culture, religion, and military of its dominions. It had transformed from its pagan beginnings to an empire-wide adoption of Christianity, solidifying Christianity’s status as a major global religion. Its official language, Latin, would influence languages across the European continent and remain the de facto written language in western Europe throughout the Middle Ages. 

    But by the fourth century CE, the Roman mega-state was beginning to collapse. And, surprisingly, a large factor in its fall was climate change – thousands of miles away from central Italy.

    The key message here is: Climate change and mass migration led to the collapse of the western Roman Empire.

    In the mid-fourth century, eastern Asia experienced the most severe drought recorded in the last two millennia. So the Huns, a nomadic people living in eastern Asia at that time, began to migrate across the Volga river, invading the lands of Germanic tribes known as the Goths. Since the Huns had an upper hand with their advanced archery capabilities, huge bands of Gothic tribes were forced to flee and seek refuge in the Roman Empire. Soon, eastern Europe was overwhelmed with a migrant crisis.

    At first, the Roman Empire was able to control the crisis. Emperor Theodosius I made arrangements to settle and employ the Goths in the Roman army. But in the 390s, the Huns continued their march west, displacing an even larger population of non-Roman tribal groups. Over the decades that followed, waves of barbarian migrant tribespeople posed an increasing threat to Roman power.

    Perhaps the most famous barbarian assault on the Roman Empire was led by Attila the Hun, who, in the fifth century, united the Huns and many Germanic tribespeople against Roman rule. Attila’s barbarian army pillaged its way from eastern Europe into Italy before he decided to retreat, his forces decimated by disease and a lack of resources. Ironically, Attila’s death the following year caused further chaos, as Germanic tribespeople freed from Hunnic rule scattered across Europe.

    The power of the western Roman Empire had all but dissolved by the time a coalition of Gothic tribes led by Odoacer deposed the final Roman emperor, Romulus Augustus, in 476. In the wake of the empire’s collapse, barbarian realms including the Visigoths, the Ostrogoths, the Burgundians, and the Franks established themselves across Europe, laying the foundations for the kingdoms of medieval Europe.

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    What is Powers and Thrones about?

    Powers and Thrones (2021) is a comprehensive history of the Middle Ages. Tracing time from the fall of the western Roman Empire to the Protestant Reformation, these blinks reveal how forces such as global networks, climate change, mass migration, pandemics, and technological innovation, as well as political leaders, the clergy, and knights, shaped the medieval world.

    Who should read Powers and Thrones?

    • History nerds fascinated by the Middle Ages
    • Anyone curious about the history of pandemics
    • Sociologists, archeologists, and political scientists

    About the Author

    Dan Jones is a historian, broadcaster, and award-winning journalist. His books include Magna Carta, The Plantagenets, and The Templars, and have sold more than a million copies worldwide. He has written and hosted dozens of TV shows including the Netflix/Channel 5 series Secrets of Great British Castles. His writing has been published in newspapers and magazines including the Evening Standard, Sunday Times, and Spectator.

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