Friday, June 15, 2007

Justinian's Flea

The Economist has a mixed review of William Rosen's Justinian's Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe. Some highlights:

Mr Rosen argues his position methodically and thoughtfully. He has a lot of ground to cover and he will not be rushed. So there are chapters not only on Justinian and the plague but also on the migration of the Goths, Visigoths, Ostrogoths and Huns; on Byzantine architecture; on Roman law; on China and the silkworm; and on the emergence of Islam...

At this point, thumbing the remaining 200 or so pages to come, one begins to wonder whether the whole thing might be somewhat overlong and overdone. There is no sense of its having been padded—just a slightly crushing abundance of riches, of multiple lines of inquiry, to every one of which Mr Rosen gives his close attention...“Justinian's Flea” reads like several books in one and the glut is, by the end, a little hard to digest.

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