France in the Making, 843-1180

France in the Making, 843-1180

France in the Making, 843-1180

France in the Making, 843-1180

Excerpt

The past fifteen years have seen many French medieval historians move away from intensive regional studies and return to rather more traditional forms of political history. In part this is because by now most regions have scholarly studies for the period up to about 1200. But the change of focus also marks a desire to tackle again the old question of the rise of the French monarchy, this time exploiting the numismatic, demographic and diplomatic techniques that have been developed in the past half century, in order to give new depth to our understanding of the political structures. What follows is a brief resumé of my own reactions to some of the work produced since 1985, in the hope that it may help my readers to find material of interest to them.

For tenth-century studies of royal power, the most significant contribution has been the argument of K. F. Werner (in Les origines avant l'an mil, vol. 1 of Histoire de France sous la direction de Jean Favier (Paris, 1984), 494–7), that the agreement between Eudes and Charles the Simple in 987 established a 'Robertian wall' across northern France, cutting the Carolingians off from control in the new principality between the Seine and the Loire held hereditarily by Eudes's brother Robert. This insight gives new clarity to the origins, extent, and ecclesiastical importance (in terms of Robertian monastic protection) of the duchy of Neustria (see infra pp. 30, 66–8). Werner develops this further in 'Les Robertiens' in Le Roi de France et son royaume autour de l'an mil éd. M. Parisse and X. Barrai I Altet (Paris, 1992), 15–26. 'The Robertian wall' also explains the insuperability of the problems facing the last Carolingians. As Werner himself has acknowledged ('Hugues Capet. Duc puissant—roi faible. Un essai d'explication' in éd. P. Riché, C. Heitz, and F. Héber-Suffrin, Xe Siècle: recherches nouvelles (Nanterre, 1987), 9–11), it leaves as problematic the apparent failure of royal power to grow dramatically when in 987 the 'wall' fell with the accession of Hugh Capet.

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