Dame Janet L. Nelson
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The Carolingian moment
in Debating medieval Europe
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This chapter deals with the Carolingian Empire as a relatively short-lived but highly significant and influential ‘moment’ in western European history. It considers first the nature of Carolingian governmentality as an exercise in Foucauldian bio-power, as something that one might describe as a ‘family-state’. It asks whence the Carolingian Empire derived its income (taxation or tribute?) and how its public state structures operated. The chapter turns next to identity, and how a Frankish identity was constructed and maintained, operating alongside and sometimes against other, more particular ethnic identities. Finally, it examines the religious component to the Carolingian Empire: the cultivation of a form of theocratic religiosity that demanded a great deal of its rulers and of its ruled in terms of the expectations of their faith and their religious practice.

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Debating medieval Europe

The early Middle Ages, c. 450 –c. 1050



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