The Era of Charlemagne: Frankish State and Society

The Era of Charlemagne: Frankish State and Society

The Era of Charlemagne: Frankish State and Society

The Era of Charlemagne: Frankish State and Society

Excerpt

It has been the purpose of the authors of this book to provide an analysis of state and society in Western Europe in the time of the Frankish rulers of the Carolingian house, concentrating their primary attention on the reign of Charlemagne, or Charles the Great.

Both the French and the Germans claim Charlemagne as their national hero and the founder of their national institutions. But Charles, of course, built on the work of his predecessors. It has, therefore, been found essential to give some consideration, however brief, to the preceding centuries, going as far back as the fifth century, when the Franks, under Clovis, the first Merovingian monarch, were consolidating their power in Roman Gaul with the conquest of the last Roman territory in that province.

By extending their study back into the fifth century the authors were compelled to come to grips with some of the most thorny and controversial problems of European historiography. This period is often superficially referred to as a "transition" between ancient and medieval times; but this concept begs a number of important questions. How much, for example, of Roman civilization survived the destruction that followed in the wake of the Germanic invasions? What were the chief factors leading to the numerous changes in political, social and economic life that occurred in Frankish society after the long period of anarchy and confusion? What were the main symptoms of this later development in earlier times? How far back in Roman history can they be traced? Was the Frankish society really a new one? Or was it the result of the integration of some of the components of the Roman and Germanic heritage?

If the authors were to attempt to reach conclusions on all these questions, after giving full consideration to all that modern scholarship has contributed to their solu-

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