Historian Chris Wickham defies conventional views of the "Dark Ages" in European history with a work of rigorous yet accessible scholarship. Drawing on a wealth of new material and featuring a thoughtful synthesis of historical and archaeological approaches, Wickham argues that these centuries were critical in the formulation of European identity. Far from being a "middle" period between more significant epochs, this age has much to tell us in its own right about the progress of culture and the development of political thought. Wickham focuses on a world still profoundly shaped by Rome, which encompassed peoples ranging from Goths, Franks, and Vandals to Arabs, Anglo-Saxons, and Vikings. Digging deep into each culture, Wickham constructs a vivid portrait of a vast and varied world stretching from Ireland to Constantinople, the Baltic to the Mediterranean--the crucible in which Europe would ultimately be created.--From publisher description.