This is a new account of the most important period in the history of Europe between the end of the Roman Empire and the Italian Renaissance. The reign of Charlemagne (768-814) saw the unification of many areas of France, Italy and Germany, Spain and central Europe, as well as the revival of the title 'Emperor in the West.' At the same time, the cultural and artistic revival that took place in western Europe under Charlemagne's rule both led to the preservation of much of the intellectual heritage of Antiquity and inspired succeeding generations of scholars and artists up to the time of the Renaissance. While the empire that Charlemagne created proved short-lived, the title 'Holy Roman Emperor' remained in continuous use until 1806, and his achievements have inspired a succession of both military conquerors and would-be unifiers of Europe up to the present day. Numerous ideas and institutions were revived or created in this period which would serve to shape the future development of western Europe throughout the Middle Ages and beyond.