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The Short Oxford History of Europe

The Early Middle Ages


Classical Greece

edited by Robin Osborne

The Seventeenth Century

edited by Joseph Bergin

The Eighteenth Century

edited by Tim Blanning

The Nineteenth Century

edited by Tim Blanning

Europe since 1945

edited by Mary Fulbrook


The Romans

The Later Middle Ages

The Sixteenth Century

The Early Twentieth Century


Figure 1 Stucco relief from the eighth-century church of Santa Maria in Valle, Cividale


The Short Oxford History of Europe

General Editor: T. C. W. Blanning

The Early Middle Ages

Europe 400-1000

Editor: Rosamond McKitterick






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Data available ISBN 0-19-873173-6 (hbk) ISBN 0-19-873172-8 (pbk)

13579 10 8642

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Printed in Great Britain by T.J. International Ltd, Padstow, Cornwall


General Editor's Preface

The problems of writing a satisfactory general history of Europe are many, but the most intractable is clearly the reconciliation of depth with breadth. The historian who can write with equal authority about every part of the continent in all its various aspects has not yet been born. Two main solutions have been tried in the past: either a single scholar has attempted to go it alone, presenting an unashamedly personal view of a period, or teams of specialists have been enlisted to write what are in effect anthologies. The first offers a coherent perspective but unequal coverage, the second sacrifices unity for the sake of expertise. This new series is underpinned by the belief that it is this second way that has the fewest disadvantages and that even those can be diminished if not neutralized by close cooperation between the individual contributors under the directing supervision of the volume editor. All the contributors to every volume in this series have read each other's chapters, have met to discuss problems of overlap and omission, and have then redrafted as part of a truly collective exercise. To strengthen coherence further, the editor has written an introduction and conclusion, weaving the separate strands together to form a single cord. In this exercise, the brevity promised by the adjective 'short' in the series' title has been an asset. The need to be concise has concentrated everyone's minds on what really mattered in the period. No attempt has been made to cover every angle of every topic in every country. What this volume does provide is a short but sharp and deep entry into the history of Europe in the period in all its most important aspects.

T. C. W. Blanning

Sidney Sussex College



Editor's Preface

When the six of us agreed to try to write about the history of Europe in the period 400-1000 in 80,000 words, we knew it was a challenge and some might think it was foolhardy. Quite how difficult but also how enjoyable it would be became increasingly apparent as we settled down to writing. With such a long period to discuss, our perspective is what might be termed the Boeing 767 view of early medieval Europe. We have not attempted to be comprehensive, for that was clearly impracticable. We have emphasized, therefore, what we think are the most important elements within the period and have tried to make generalizations that are sufficiently valid in relation to the surviving evidence and on which we are more or less agreed. A homogeneous view of this crucial period in Europe's history is not possible, but we have endeavoured at least to provide one that is coherent. The six authors have worked very closely together on this book. We exchanged and discussed our original synopses and, once our drafts were written, met for a full day in Cambridge to discuss all the chapters and the distinctive interpretations they offered, moving paragraphs from one chapter to another and deciding what should be discussed where. Thus, in addition to many small exchanges between us all, Chris Wickham and Jonathan Shepard contributed a number of paragraphs to the Introduction, notably those concerning Byzantium, Jean-Pierre Devroey provided the section on finances to the chapter on politics and Rosamond McKitterick offered material on Carolingian and Ottoman culture and we have all contributed to the Conclusion. We circulated our revised and final versions thereafter so that all six of us are indeed the authors of this book: it represents a truly collaborative effort.

As Editor I wish to thank my fellow authors for all their hard work, frank criticism, and good cheer, especially during the inevitable interruptions to writing time. I am indebted to Caroline Burt for her help with the Chronology, and to Lucy McKitterick and Laurent Terrade for their help with the translation of Jean-Pierre Devroey's chapter from French into English. Collectively the six authors benefited greatly from the candour and learning of each other as well as the many


friends and colleagues who were willing to read and comment on our chapters, especially David McKitterick, Yitzhak Hen, Christina Possel, David Pratt, Barbara Rosenwein, Thomas Noble, and Julia Smith. We wish to thank our anonymous referees of the original proposal made to Oxford University Press, whose scepticism about the feasibility of our particular enterprise was a useful stimulus. We are also very grateful to our General Editor Tim Blanning, whose brain children this series and this volume are, and to Ruth Parr and our special editors, Andrew Maclennan and Fiona Kinnear, and Jo Stanbridge at Oxford University Press for their advice and support.

Rosamond McKitterick


August 2000

viii ix


List of Illustrations xii

List of Maps xiv

List of Contributors xv

Introduction 1

Rosamond McKitterick


Evidence 4

Events 9

The establishment of the early barbarian kingdoms 10

Byzantium 15

The emergence of the Carolingians 16

The tenth century 1 8

1 Politics 21

Rosamond McKitterick

Late Roman political structures 23

The early medieval kingdoms of Europe 24

The king 28

The queen 30

Power and responsibility: consensus 32

The court and closeness to the king 34

Officials and assemblies 36

Law 43

The resources and practicalities of government: finance and the army 47

Political ideology 53

2 Society 59

Chris Wickham

Roman aristocracies 60

Early medieval western elites 64


Byzantium and the Arabs 73

England and Norway 75

The peasantry 80

The year 1000 90

3 The economy 97

Jean-Pierre Devroey

The traditional interpretations 98

Facts and key issues 100

The awakening of the eighth century 104

The late antique city 105

Justinian and Charlemagne 106

The western city 110

The Roman villa 113

Rural transformations, 400-1000 115

The evolution of the great estates 117

Rural society and the state 121

The problem of rural growth 123

The year 1000 and beyond 124

The long slow rise of the western European economies 126

4 Religion 131

Mayke de Jong

'Real Christianity' 131

New Christendoms 132

Elusive others: Jews, heretics, and pagans 142

Sacred domains and strategies of distinction 148

Changing legacies 161

5 Culture 167

Jan Wood

The last century of the western Roman empire 168

The successor states and the imperial tradition 171

Spain after 711 182

The Carolingian Renaissance 185

The tenth century 194


6 Europe and the wider world 201

Jonathan Shepard

Empire without end? 202

The Mediterranean as a barrier to east-west travel 209

Out-of-body experiences in east and west 212

The eastern empire's survival tack 214

Byzantine reports on 'barbarians': the focus narrows 217

Christians across the sea: Bishop Liudprand's viewpoint 220

Views from the fringes: Orosius, Isidore, Bede 223

Travelling and converting 227

Charlemagne's ambit 230

Ends of empire and Otto III 237

Conclusion: into the eleventh century 245

Rosamond McKitterick

Further reading 251

Chronology 261

Maps 279

Index 293


List of Illustrations

Cover The personification of the provinces, Sclavinia, Germania, Gallia, and Roma doing homage to the Emperor Otto III

Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 4453, fo. 23". Reichenau c.1000

1 Stucco relief from the eighth-century church of Santa Maria in Valle, Cividale ii

Photograph © Archivi Alinari

2 Stilicho, magister militum, and his wife Serena (the niece of Emperor Theodosius I), and his son Eucherius xviii

Ivory diptych from Monza cathedral treasury. Photograph © Archivi Alinari

3 Charles the Bald, king of the west Franks (840-877), enthroned 20

Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 14000, fo. 90. Palace school of Charles the Bald, west Francia, c.870

4 The Utrecht Psalter: A Carolingian assembly 42

Utrecht Psalter, Utrecht University Library, MS 32, fo. 90".

Hautvillers near Rheims, c.820

5 Beatus of Liebana, Commentary on the Apocalypse 58

Girona Beatus, Museu de la Catedral de Girona, Num. inv. 7(11), fo.134.

6 July 975, produced in the Christian kingdom of Leon, probably at Tabara. Written by the scribe Senior and painted by the artists Ende and Emeterius. © Cabildo de la Catedral de Girona

6 Palace of Santa Maria de Naranco, Oviedo, built during the reign of King Ramiro I, 842-850 96

Photograph by permission of the Conway Library, Courtauld Institute of Art

7 Franks Casket 130

The British Museum, London. A whalebone box with a depiction of Weland the Smith, and the Adoration of the Magi Photograph © The British Museum, London

8 Gelasian Sacramentary, produced probably at Chelles, or Jouarre, in the first half of the eighth century 153

Alpha et Omega page. Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, reg. lat. 316, fo.316

9 Missorium of the Emperor Theodosius I (379-395) 166

Madrid, Real Academia de la Historia


10 Caroline minuscule script 187

By permission of the British Library, London. Harley 3012, fo. 1. The text is Augustine's Retractationes, 'De animae quantitate', 1. Possibly written at Lorsch in the first half of the ninth century

11 Otto III, king (983-996), emperor (996-1002), enthroned 200

Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 4453, fo. 24'. Reichenau c.1000

12 Hraban Maur, Liber sanctae crucis, with the portrait of Louis the Pious, emperor of the Franks (814-840) as miles Christi 244

Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, reg. lat. 124, fo. 4". Fulda c.840


List of Maps

1 Europe c.400: The late Roman empire 279

2 Europe c.526: The early medieval successor states 280

Based on The Times Atlas of European History, 2nd edn. (1998)

3 Europe c.732: Arab expansion 282

Based on The Times Atlas of European History, 2nd edn. (1998)

4 Europe c.814: The Carolingian empire 284

Based on map 4 in R. McKitterick (ed.), The New Cambridge Medieval

History, II. C.700-C.900 (Cambridge, 1995)

5 The division of the Frankish empire in 843 286

6 Early medieval Europe: Monastic and cathedral centres of learning and culture 287

Based on map 20 in R. McKitterick (ed.), The New Cambridge Medieval History, II. c.700—c.900 (Cambridge, 1995)

7 The ecclesiastical provinces of Latin Europe (reflecting changes made in 811) 288

8 Europe c.1000 290


List of Contributors

MAYKE DE JONG is Professor of Medieval History at the University of Utrecht. After earlier publications on early medieval monasticism, notably In Samuel's Image: Child Oblation in the Early Medieval West (Leiden, 1996), she has now turned her attention to the interface of politics, ritual, and exegesis in the Carolingian world. She has edited a special issue of Early Medieval Europe, 7 (1998), on 'The power of the word: The influence of the Bible on early medieval polities', and two collaborative volumes: (with Esther Cohen) Medieval Transformations (Leiden, 2000) and (with Frans Theuws and Carine van Rhijn) Topographies of Power in the Early Middle Ages (Leiden, 2001). Her forthcoming book will address the dynamics of penance in the politics of the reign of Louis the Pious.

JEAN-PIERRE DEVROEY is Professor of Medieval History at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles and a member of the Academie royale de Belgique. In addition to many seminal articles on the economy of the early middle ages he has published editions of the Carolingian polyptychs, notably Le Polyptyque et les listes de Cens de I'abbaye Saint-Remi de Reims (IX'-XF siedes) (Reims, 1984) and Le Polyptyque et les listes de biens de I'abbaye de Saint-Pierre de Lobbes (IXe-XFe siedes): Edition critique (Brussels, 1986), and Etudes sur le grand domaine carolingien (Aldershot, 1993). He is currently writing a book on Peasant Economy and Societies in Carolingian Europe.

ROSAMOND MCKITTERICK is Professor of Medieval History at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Newnham College. She is a Korrespondierendes Mitglied of the Monumenta Germaniae His-torica. Her work includes The Frankish Church and the Carolingian Reforms, 789-895 (1977), The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolin-gians, 751-987 (1983), The Carolingians and the Written Word (1989), Books, Scribes and Learning in the Frankish Kingdoms, Sixth to Ninth Centuries (1994), The Frankish Kings and Culture in the Early Middle Ages (1995), and the edited volumes The Uses of Literacy in Early Mediaeval Europe (1990), Carolingian Culture: Emulation and Innovation (1994), The New Cambridge Medieval History, II. C.700-C.900 (1995) and (with Roland Quinault) Edward Gibbon and Empire


(1997). She is currently completing a book on The Migration of Ideas in Early Medieval Europe and a new study of Charlemagne's reign is in preparation.

JONATHAN SHEPARD was until recently Lecturer in Russian History at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Peterhouse. His various contributions to Byzantine, Russian, Scandinavian, and Balkan history include the synthesis (with Simon Franklin) The Emergence of Rus 750-1200 (1996), which has now also been published in Russian, and the edited collection (with Simon Franklin) Byzantine Diplomacy (1992). He is currently completing Byzantium between Neighbours, 812-C.1050.

CHRIS WICKHAM is Professor of Early Medieval History at the University of Birmingham, a Fellow of the British Academy, and a Corresponding Fellow of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei. His books include Early Medieval Italy: Central Power and Local Society (1981), The Mountains and the City: The Tuscan Appennines in the Early Middle Ages (1988), Land and Power: Studies in Italian and European Social History, 400—1200 (1994), and Legge, pratiche e conflitti (Rome, 2000).

IAN WOOD is Professor of Early Medieval History at the University of Leeds and was recently Visiting Professor at the University of Vienna. His publications include The Merovingian Kingdoms, 450-751 (1994) and The Missionary Life: Saints and the Evangelisation of Europe, 400-1050 (2001). Among his edited works are (with Evangelos Chrysos) East and West: Modes of Communication (1999). He is the general editor for the series The Transformation of the Roman World. This is the outcome of the European Science Foundation's research project of the same name of which he was a coordinator.

xvii xviii

Figure 2 Stilicho, magister militum, and his wife Serena (the niece of Emperor Theodosius I), and his son Eucherius



Rosamond McKitterick

When the poet of the Paderborn epic in 799 referred to Charlemagne as the pater Europae, father of Europe, he gave an ancient classical name to a new Christian territory, embodied, for the poet at least, in the rule and realm of the Frankish ruler. In this volume we have elected to take the long view of historical developments within an even greater geographical extent than the European kingdoms over which Charlemagne ruled. The definition of Europe between 400 and 1000 is ambiguous. In many ways it was coterminous with Latin Christendom. But Latin Christian Europe was dynamic, polymorphous, and constantly expanding and thus does not fit neatly for long into any one political mould. Further, westerners knew of the existence to the east of another, well-established, form of Christian order. As we shall see, Latin Christendom had moreover crucial contacts with other areas, themselves affected by, or affecting, western European civilization. These include Scandinavia, the Celtic areas of western Britain and Ireland, the Slavic regions of the Balkans and eastern Europe, the Islamic Middle East and North Africa, and Byzantium. A sense of a shared 'Roman' imperial past and a common Christian religion did not create an integrated Europe in any political or ecclesiastical sense, but the forces straddling, if not binding together, this politico-cultural magnetic field were strong. We shall follow the particular themes of this Short Oxford History, namely, politics, society, economy, religion, culture, and links with the wider world, through the entire period with the appropriate geographical diversity and a comparative element between the earlier and later parts of the period. Unlike the other volumes in this series, we have integrated military matters and warfare, which were so entrenched in social and political structures in this period, into the chapters on


politics, economics, and society where they can be discussed in context. We have added a separate chapter on religion, for the institutional foundations of the Christian church, as well as the crucial developments in faith and ritual and the definition of relations with other religions to be observed in Europe subsequently, were established in this period. This is not, therefore, a narrative history but a set of thematic interpretations. In this introduction, however, I provide, after a discussion of modern historiographical debates and the original sources, a brief narrative of the principal developments within Europe between 400 and 1000. The reader is also directed to the detailed chronological table and the guide to further reading at the end of this book.


The period between c.400 and c.1000 has been seen in the past as a transitional period, overly Franco-Germano-centric in emphasis, between the supposedly coherent world of the Roman empire and its provinces and the disparate world of medieval Europe, where local differences assumed far greater significance. More recent perspectives, however, stress two things. First, there is the great diversity of the Roman world of late antiquity. Secondly, a strong coherence was lent to the successor states of early medieval Europe by the institutional religion of Latin Christianity and a rich but distinctive blend of classical, Christian, and non-Roman culture. Major issues for this period remain the collapse of the western Roman empire in the fifth century; its replacement by Germanic political and military elites, the unification and expansion of the Frankish kingdoms and their ultimate reintegration (largely via cadet lines and marriage) into the local aristocratic power-bases in the tenth-century successor states within the areas we now label Germany, France, Benelux, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. Nevertheless, the relationship between central power and the localities in the lands west and east of the Rhine, and the sheer variety of polities across Europe warn us that the old simplistic understanding, governed by developments in what became France and Germany, is inadequate.

This volume takes into account, therefore, the diversity of Ireland;


the gradual unification of the English kingdom in the tenth century; the small Christian kingdoms of northern Spain; the emergence of kingdoms such as Denmark, Norway, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, the Kievan Rus, and Bohemia and their adoption and exploitation of Christianity; the complexities of Byzantine politics throughout the period; and the strength of the maritime communities based around the Mediterranean, Irish, Baltic, and North Seas. Dominant themes of this period, which the subsequent chapters will explore in detail, are the continuity and discontinuity with the Roman world and the ways these can be examined. A major preoccupation for much of this period is the degree to which a particular culture or society (in this case, Rome) as observed in its forms of government, ideologies of rulership, social organization, and intellectual and cultural preoccupations, can provide such an overwhelmingly powerful model that societies with which it came into contact (in this case, the barbarian successor states of western Europe) sought consciously to emulate it. The strength of the Roman heritage in many different contexts and the degrees of continuity and discontinuity with the Roman world need to be explored further. How and why have historians perceived this period in the shadow of Rome? Why has the earlier period in particular been seen in such stark terms of cultures in conflict? Why was the traditional picture one of a civilized Roman empire overrun by barbarian tribes?

Yet anyone writing the history of western Europe in a six-hundred-year period must also be concerned with unconscious emulation and assimilation, continuities as well as discontinuities, selection and rejection, and new influences. How can the barbarian successor kingdoms and their peoples be defined? How can notions of identity and self-consciousness be identified? These questions are considered in the context of the broad areas of political development, social groups, the economy, religion, intellectual traditions, and cultural developments. Many themes within these broad categories, such as literacy, memory and orality, the role of women and gender, the working of law and justice, perceptions and representations of the past, belief and its expression, or ethnicity and identity are of crucial importance. How can we document the cultures of power at central and local levels, the role of courts, lordship, kingship, 'queenship', and the family? Further questions arise concerning the modern perception of the later part of the period as dominated by the Carolingians. What is

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