The turn of a millennium has a mythical, apocalyptic element to it. Remember the year 2000? Some hid away in bunkers. Others solved a peculiar problem called the millennium bug. This caused computers to crash because the internal calendar could not move beyond 1999. Thankfully, a frenzy of patches and fixed ensured most software lived to see another year. They saved the world from a global IT-collapse.
Here are two books that cover the mindset and global events during the first millennium.
The Events of the Year 1000
Tom Holland, Millennium. (London: Abacus, 2009). ISBN 978-0-349-11972-4. Paperback.
This book takes the reader on a journey through medieval Europe. There is a good overview of the processes that lead up to the events in 1000, and also shows its short-term aftermath. Here be power-hungry kings and popes, indomitable queens, and influential noblemen and clergy. Their actions are sometimes romanticised in novel-like scenes. This is the storyteller’s choice and it works. for this book, making the intricate web of politics, economy and religion much more lively and understandable.
It is the history of how Europe dealt with the idea of the apocalypse in the year 1000… and survived.
My verdict: a good read.
Valerie Hansen, The Year 1000. (New York: Scribner, 2020). ISBN 978-1-5011-9412-2. Ebook.
Hansen takes the reader on a global journey of trade, taxes and conquests. In the year 1000, for the first time in history, Hansen argues, empires and trade routes went global. Via existing trade routes and new routes that emerged by new means of transport – such as the domesticated camel. And the first to take these trade routes global, are the Vikings. From this point Hansen connects the trade routes from the Americas all the way to the Far East.
Her book is sweeping in topic and style. Her sentences are comprehensive, yet clearly written, and she uses an active voice for the paragraphs and anecdotes. This makes it a wonderful read on the surface. And on a deeper level, her analysis is based on cutting-edge research. In addition, the bird eye’s view this book provides, shows a shocking amount of similarities between the year 1000 and 2020.
My verdict: must read.
What about the Vikings?
Both books spend much time on describing the events related ot the Vikings. In the year 1000, the second wave of Viking raids throughout Europe had subsided, they either were still trading, or settling down.
Holland mentions Vikings frequently, especially in connection to the Normans (think 1066 and Sicily). In turn, Hansen uses the Vikings at the heart of her argument how globalism emerged and spread around the year 1000.