This book presents a translation of the Annals of St-Bertin (AB). The AB give a detailed record of events in the Carolingian world, covering the years 830-882. They constitute the most substantial piece of contemporary historical writing of their time, a time that was a critical one in western European history. The AB contain uniquely extensive information about Viking activities, constructive as well as destructive, and also about the variety of responses to those activities. Produced in the 830s in the imperial palace of Louis the Pious, the AB were continued away from the Court, first by Bishop Prudentius of Troyes, then by the great scholar-politician Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims. The AB have little information for the year 840 after the death of Louis the Pious, and something like the earlier density of reporting is resumed only with the battle of Fontenoy. From 841 on, the AB were based in the western part of the old empire, in what became, with the Treaty of Verdun in 843, the kingdom of Charles the Bald. Thus the division of Verdun is, again, faithfully reflected in the AB's record. From time to time, information was received from Lothar's Middle Kingdom, and from Louis the German's East Frankish kingdom; but the AB's main focus after 843 was on events in the West and on the doings of Charles the Bald.
Hincmar of Reims wrote a great deal, and often self-referentially. More is
knowable about his life than about most other lives in the ninth century, in
part because Hincmar inserted himself into his historical writing. But this
paper’s focus is not biographical: its purpose is to contextualize and
understand his historical writings, with biographical information used as a
means to that end. ‘Historical writing(s)’ is an elastic term. Capitularies
are usually classed as administrative, regulatory and strongly ideological
texts, addressed ad hoc to particular contemporary problems; but in several
cases, capitularies are historical writings as well and can be credited to
Hincmar’s account. Several of Hincmar’s expert legal opinions, notably the
De ecclesiis et capellis, and the De divortio, include
rich historical content. Indisputably historical are the so-called Annals
of St-Bertin, whose author from 861-882 was Hincmar. He himself
called them Deeds of Kings, writing them up more or less
contemporaneously; but he also made them a depository of highly personal
opinions and autobiographical insights, sometimes adding retrospectively to
earlier sections of the annals. Not despite but because of this, Hincmar’s
historical writings are an exceptionally interesting source of information
on his times.
The earlier Middle Ages are generally thought of as a period when there was no such thing as equality. Nevertheless, parity, however circumscribed by particularity, is attested in enough contexts, and in sufficiently many terms, to demand serious attention as an aspect of social relations and political thinking in the earlier Middle Ages. This chapter focuses on the period before 900, though it is gazed occasionally. In Philippe Buc's L'Ambiguïté du livre, there is a striking insistence both on the role of the Bible as a source of legitimacy in the Middle Ages, and on the possibility of egalitarian readings of Holy Writ. Not that Buc means 'egalitarian' in the universalistic sense of the Enlightenment. But he notes that for some twelfth-century Bible commentators, ecclesiastical authority was legitimately and normally wielded by local clergy rather than the pope.
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.
This book is dedicated to Susan Reynolds and celebrates the work of a scholar whose views have been central to reappraisals of the position of the laity in the Middle Ages. The themes and concerns include a medieval world in which the activity and attitudes of the laity are not obscured by ideas expressed more systematically in theoretical treatises by ecclesiastics; a world in which lay collective action and thought take centre stage. Reynolds has written her own Middle Ages, especially in her innovative book Kingdoms and Communities whose influence can be seen in so many of the essays. Collectivities, solidarities and collective action are everywhere in these essays, as Reynolds has shown us to expect them to be. Collective action was carried out often in pursuit of social peace, but it existed precisely because there was discord. Of the narratives and interpretative frameworks with which Reynolds's work has been concerned, the book has least to say directly on the debate over feudalism. The book engages many of the themes of Reynolds's work and pursues some of the issues which are prominent in re-examinations of the medieval world and in studies of the medieval laity. It discusses secular aristocratic attitudes towards judicial combat within the broader setting of fictional 'treason trials' of the later twelfth century. Although kinship did not start out as an explicit and overt theme of the book, it emerges as a leitmotiv, perhaps in part because when feudalism is removed, kinship is thrown into sharper relief.
Pauline Stafford, Janet L. Nelson, and Jane Martindale
This introduction presents an overview of key concepts covered in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book is dedicated to Susan Reynolds and celebrates the work of a scholar whose views have been central to recent reappraisals of the position of the laity in the Middle Ages. It is arranged chronologically but is bound together by a series of themes and concerns. Those themes and concerns are hers: a medieval world in which the activity and attitudes of the laity are not obscured by ideas expressed more systematically in theoretical treatises by ecclesiastics; a world in which lay collective action and thought take centre stage. Susan Reynolds has written her own Middle Ages, especially in her innovative book Kingdoms and Communities. It is a world of overlapping communities or, as she would prefer it of 'collectivities' and 'solidarities'.