"For more than forty years Ian Wood has been among the most productive and creative historians of the period running from roughly 300 to 800. To all but the uninformed or recalcitrant this period is now characterized as one of transformation. [...] Wood’s overall effort is an attempt to use religion as an interpretive framework for explaining how the Western Roman world was different in 600 than it had been in 300. [...] I believe that Wood’s argument is convincing. Not everyone will agree. Wood’s analysis should do what every good argument does: spark debate."
- Thomas F. X. Noble, University of Notre Dame, Emeritus, Speculum 96/3 (July 2021)
"Nobody writes with more assurance, clarity, and precision on the history and historiography of the late Roman Empire and early Christian West than Ian Wood. This may prove to be the most original and influential short book in that line of work since Montesquieu's of 1734."
- Mark Vessey, University of British Columbia
"Ian Wood's new book is the distillation of a lifetime of research on and thinking about the crucial centuries of the end of the ancient world and the beginning of the middle ages in the west. His work on the Merovingians, Burgundians, and Anglo-Saxons is justly famous; and he has in recent years also thought hard about the origins of early medieval history-writing, going back in to the seventeenth century. He has never, however, given his own view of what really changed at the beginning of the middle ages in the west. Here, in a remarkable synthesis which draws on all his previous work, he sets it out, fast and effectively. Ian Wood is not a lover of catastrophe theory, and he shows here how nuanced any description of the changes in politics and culture across the fifth to eighth centuries must be. There were never very many 'barbarians,' so the effect which they could have had was not, for the mass of the population, huge. What was new, however, was the institutionalization of the church, on a huge scale, with as many clerics as there had been members of the Roman army, and as there were, by now, 'barbarian' groups. This new, and increasingly wealthy, structure, is in Wood's view the real novelty of the early middle ages. His argument is new in this form, forcefully expressed, and is bound to excite debate. This masterful work will be very influential."
- Christopher Wickham, All Souls College, Oxford