Charles West

Of all Carolingian writers, it was Hincmar of Rheims who had most to say about the rural parish church of the ninth century. This chapter draws attention to the tensions that characterised Hincmar’s views on the matter – that parishes were both ancient and evolving, that their priests were both separated from and part of the community they served, and that the parish was both under attack and unchallenged. Rather than seeking to resolve these tensions in favour of one side or another, it argues that they reflected Hincmar’s view of the parish as a microcosm of the church as a whole. It further suggests that such an approach helps us understand the Carolingian parish not simply in teleological fashion as an underdeveloped version of an institution that would only later be properly perfected, but as bearing a quite specific significance and role in Hincmar’s own time.

in Hincmar of Rheims
Hincmar of Rheims’s De divortio
Authors: Rachel Stone and Charles West

Between 858 and 869, an unprecedented scandal played out in Frankish Europe, becoming the subject of gossip not only in palaces and cathedrals. It was in these years that a Frankish king, Lothar II, made increasingly desperate efforts to divorce his wife, Queen Theutberga, and to marry instead a woman named Waldrada, the mother of his children. Lothar, however, faced opposition to his actions. Kings and bishops from neighbouring kingdoms, and several popes, were gradually drawn into a crisis affecting the fate of an entire kingdom. This book offers eye-opening insight not only on the political wrangling of the time, but also on early medieval attitudes towards issues, including magic, penance, gender, the ordeal, marriage, sodomy, the role of bishops, and kingship.

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Life and work
Editors: Rachel Stone and Charles West

Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims (d. 882) is a crucial figure for all those interested in early medieval European history in general, and Carolingian history in particular. As the powerful Archbishop of Rheims, Hincmar shaped the times in which he lived, advising and admonishing kings, playing a leading role in the Frankish church, and intervening in a range of political and doctrinal disputes. But Hincmar also shaped how those times would later be seen by historians up to the present day, by writing historical accounts such as the Annals of St-Bertin, and by carefully preserving dossiers of material for posterity.

This book puts the archbishop himself centre-stage, bringing together the latest international research across the spectrum of his varied activities, as history-writer, estate administrator, hagiographer, pastorally-engaged bishop, and politically-minded royal advisor. For the first time since Jean Devisse’s magisterial studies in the 1970s, it offers a three-dimensional examination of a controversial figure whose actions and writings in different fields are often studied in isolation, at the cost of a more integrated appreciation. Combining research from recognised experts as well as early-career historians, it will be an essential companion for all those interested in the early medieval Frankish world, and in the history of early medieval Europe more broadly.

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Rachel Stone and Charles West

This introduction puts the text into its early medieval context and explaining Hincmar's sometimes-dubious methods of argument. The book is a translation of the most significant source for the attempted divorce, a treatise known as De divortio Lotharii regis et Theutbergae reginae, written in 860 by Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims. It sheds much light on the Frankish world of its protagonists and on early medieval Europe in general. In 860 those supporting Lothar II's divorce were still able to discomfort Hincmar by drawing parallels between the trials of Ebbo and Theutberga; the matter was only finally settled in 868. The book offers eye-opening insight not only on the political wrangling of the time, but also on early medieval attitudes towards a host of issues including magic, penance, gender, the ordeal, marriage, sodomy, the role of bishops, and kingship.

in The divorce of King Lothar and Queen Theutberga
Rachel Stone and Charles West

This chapter contains the translated text ofDe divortio. It has several underlying sections, responding to the questions that Hincmar initially received. These sections were, however, further divided to make the twenty-three responses which appear in the manuscript. The original sections are as follows: the procedure at the councils of Aachen, rules on marriage, divorce and remarriage, the validity of ordeals, the next steps in Theutberga's case, the sodomy charge, Lothar's relationship with Waldrada and sorcery, Lothar's possibilities of remarriage, and the response of bishops towards appeals to them and the case of Engeltrude. De divortio also deals with seven further questions which Hincmar received six months after the first: who is able to judge the king, can the king avoid further judgement in the case, the case of Engeltrude, and the effects of communion with the king.

in The divorce of King Lothar and Queen Theutberga
Local societies in early medieval Europe

This is an exploration of social cohesion in rural settlements in western Europe in the period 700–1050 CE, and of the extent to which settlements, or districts, constituted units of social organisation. It focuses on the interactions, interconnections and networks of people who lived side by side – neighbours. Drawing evidence from most of the current western European countries, the book plots and interrogates the very different practices of this wide range of regions in a systematically comparative framework, offering a new approach to well-known problems of the early Middle Ages by bringing together expertise from different national traditions. It examines how people in the localities of the early medieval West worked together in pursuit of shared goals beyond the level of the household, and how (and whether) they formed their own groups through that collective action. It considers the variety of local responses to the supra-local agents of landlords and rulers and the impact, such as it was, of those agents on the small-scale residential group. It also assesses the impact on local societies of the values, instructions and demands of the wider literate world of Christianity, as delivered by local priests.

Lower office holders
Bernhard Zeller, Charles West, Francesca Tinti, Marco Stoffella, Nicolas Schroeder, Carine van Rhijn, Steffen Patzold, Thomas Kohl, Wendy Davies and Miriam Czock

Local societies were also influenced by other kinds of landowner, who may have been absentees or have had a wide spread of interests beyond that of a single local group. This chapter treats the ways in which outside authorities, office holders and aristocrats intervened in local society. On the one hand, members of these elites were themselves part of local societies; on the other, office holders acted as mediators linking local societies to higher levels such as the kingdom, the county or distant landowners. They therefore occupied a double position: they were themselves members of a local society and at the same time they were legitimised and commissioned by outside authorities. Numerous different types of secular office holder, from both the public and the private sphere, are referenced. However, the frequency of their appearance varies: lower-level office holders are extremely well documented in some parts of northern Italy, are less common in the Frankish and Anglo-Saxon world, and are rare in the Iberian peninsula.

in Neighbours and strangers
Searching for the local
Bernhard Zeller, Charles West, Francesca Tinti, Marco Stoffella, Nicolas Schroeder, Carine van Rhijn, Steffen Patzold, Thomas Kohl, Wendy Davies and Miriam Czock

There is no evidence that the residential group was the only group to which local people belonged. The locality, understood as a zone of the order of 10 km diameter, with a multiplicity of settlements, was a meaningful unit of operation, although the scale of association in northern Iberia appears to have been wider. Some members of some settlements engaged in collective agricultural practices, and some households joined together to take legal action, but there is no reason to suppose that all members of any one settlement regularly did so. There is little awareness of belonging to a group, although the integration of immigrants and the exclusion of individuals are well evidenced. There cannot have been a shared view of social cohesion in every settlement or every locality. The same Christian message was heard by every flock, meaning that the sphere of responsibility of the local priest defined a community of a kind, although some people clearly stole from their neighbours, as others fought or assaulted or raped them. The number of officers within range, and the frequency of their visits, must have made a difference to the lives of peasant farmers: so, life in a farming settlement in northern Iberia must have been free from the micro-management of those in the Carolingian Empire.

in Neighbours and strangers
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Bernhard Zeller, Charles West, Francesca Tinti, Marco Stoffella, Nicolas Schroeder, Carine van Rhijn, Steffen Patzold, Thomas Kohl, Wendy Davies and Miriam Czock

This chapter outlines the main problems the book will address, surveys the national historiographies of Germany, England, France, Italy and Spain and identifies the problems highlighted therein. While national historiographies have different preoccupations, we note the widespread influence of German writing of the nineteenth century and of French regional studies in the twentieth. There are also common themes: free proprietorship and personal freedom and their impact (or not) on emerging institutions; lordship and its many varieties, with a tendency to treat the local through the structures and relationships of great estates; the importance of archaeology and its increasing provision of new data.

in Neighbours and strangers
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Bernhard Zeller, Charles West, Francesca Tinti, Marco Stoffella, Nicolas Schroeder, Carine van Rhijn, Steffen Patzold, Thomas Kohl, Wendy Davies and Miriam Czock

This chapter provides basic orientation, with essential information on the physical geography and political history of the period 750–1000, outlining the main political trends in Francia, Italy, England and Spain. Though a period of extreme political instability at the highest levels of kings and emperors, complicated by the long-term impact of invaders from outside, many of the regions within kingdoms sustained an identity over many centuries. The chapter continues with a brief survey of available primary source material for the study of local societies (which is extended in the Appendix). It surveys charters, estate records, narratives (including annals, chronicles and hagiography), capitularies, law texts and liturgy.

in Neighbours and strangers