Barbarian Tides: The Migration Age and the Later Roman Empire
by Walter Goffart
Published in December 2009
Thibault’s Score: 2/5
This book should be called “1000 Reason Why there is no Germany.” The central thesis of this book is that “Germany” is a historical social construct, and that the barbarian tribes in the Roman Empire weren’t unified.
I was hoping that the book would serve as a chronological account and draw extensively on archeology. Instead, this book is an academic critique of Walter Goffart’s rivals.
The writing style is extremely repetitive. There is no need to say that “Germany is a social construct” 23 times in a single chapter. I also got a vague sense that there was something petty about the writing style - for example, he makes condescending statements alluding that his academic rivals think like people from the Middle Ages.
I agree with Walter Goffart’s central argument that there isn’t a distinctly “German” common ancestry dating back to the Roman era shared by modern day Germans, but can’t stand the book’s writing style.
After getting about 1/4 of the way through, I decided to put the book down, and quit wasting my time. This book reminds me of “Tales of the Barbarians.”
Most of my articles are book reviews, but I also write about many other topics.