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Janet L. Nelson

The earlier Middle Ages are generally thought of as a period when there was no such thing as equality. Near the beginning of his fine book, Lebensordnungen , Heinrich Fichtenau writes: ‘the absolute necessity of a hierarchical order . . . resulted from the medieval reception of Neoplatonic thought’. Thus there was ranking of churches, of cities, of orders, of dignities, of seating arrangements; rank operated within monasteries . . . and in secular life (where they were not so au fait with Neoplatonism). 1 Even though, in Fichtenau’s view, feudalism was too

in Law, laity and solidarities
Susan Reynolds

the origins of the modern law have generally seen them in the recovery of Roman law and the rise of communal activity in the twelfth century. 2 Their arguments seem to be predicated on the supposed absence of any sense of the common good or public spirit, or indeed of any effective law, in the earlier Middle Ages. No one who has read Janet Nelson on Carolingian government or on early medieval political ideas in general can

in Frankland
Bernhard Maier

1 Gaelic and Catholic in the early middle ages Bernhard Maier When we are asked to try to visualise Ireland’s material culture in what is com­mon­ly known as the early historic period, it is probably the remains of an ex­plicitly Christian civilisation that immediately come to mind: ruins of churches and monasteries, round towers, high crosses, illuminated manuscripts, and precious metalwork serving an explicitly Christian liturgical purpose. In some instances, what we see today still looks very much as it did when it was first produced, whereas in other cases

in Irish Catholic identities
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.


Archbishop Wulfstan of York is among the most important legal and political thinkers of the early Middle Ages. A leading ecclesiastic, innovative legislator, and influential royal councilor, Wulfstan witnessed firsthand the violence and social unrest that culminated in the fall of the English monarchy before the invading armies of Cnut in 1016. This book introduces the range of Wulfstan's political writings and sheds light on the development of English law during the early eleventh century. In his homilies and legal tracts, Wulfstan offered a searing indictment of the moral failures that led to England’s collapse and formulated a vision of an ideal Christian community that would influence English political thought long after the Anglo-Saxon period had ended. More than just dry political theory, however, Wulfstan’s works are composed in the distinctive voice of someone who was both a confidante of kings and a preacher of apocalyptic fervour. No other source so vividly portrays the political life of eleventh-century England: what it was, and what one man believed it could be.

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The Franks and the world of the early middle ages
Editors: and

This volume of essays in honour of Dame Jinty Nelson celebrates the way in which Jinty has used her profound understanding of Frankish history as a frame for reflecting upon the nature of early medieval culture and society in general. It includes a tabula gratulatoria of those very many others who wish to express their appreciation of Jinty's work and their warm personal gratitude to her. She has remained at King's throughout her entire career. Her early career was combined with young motherhood, a tough experience that has made her strongly supportive of colleagues trying to balance work and family. Although she continued to write about early medieval inauguration rituals, a new departure came with the 1977 paper 'On the limits of the Carolingian Renaissance'. The book discusses what factors determined and informed their particular take on the Frankish world, and how this compares to law-codes and charters. It considers the possibility that land was sometimes taken in early medieval Europe, whether by kings or local lords, for what they claimed was the common good. Whenever only meagre information was available, it was impossible to make sense of the past, that is, to take a prosaic approach to a sense of oblivion. The book explores both the roots of the historical interpretation and the stimuli for change, by considering the long historiographical tradition, attitudes to textual sources, and the changing political environment. The subjects of queens and queenship have figured prominently among Nelson's publications.

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Kriston R. Rennie

monasteries were seeking exemption privileges directly from Rome. What significance did they hold for monks, bishops, secular lords, and popes? How and why did this practice develop throughout the early Middle Ages? I consider as my evidence a growing number of cases whereby privileges were granted to individual religious houses, as a means to understand the papacy’s vigilant efforts to protect, support, and even control them from afar. Given that such practices were frequently interpreted as an affront to episcopal order, jurisdiction, and authority, moreover, this book

in Freedom and protection
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Rosamond McKitterick

Introduction Rosamond McKitterick Among early medievalists today it is a commonplace to state that in the early Middle Ages politics and religion were so closely intertwined that they can barely be separated, not even conceptually. This awareness, however, is quite a recent one. Until the 1970s the history of religion remained mainly the domain of religious specialists, while political historians in general kept their distance from treating religious issues. It was only from that decade onwards that historians of the early Middle Ages started to see religion ‘as

in Religious Franks
Kathleen G. Cushing

effectively meant a fundamental change in the structure of the aristocratic family. Whereas, in the earlier middle ages, power and land were often shared among a much more extended family network, from around the mid-tenth century smaller family units appear to have started claiming specific lands that would later be passed on to children. Moore cautions that we must not assume that the significance of the extended kin group had become negligible. 20 Yet it is clear that the trend towards establishing individual patrimonies was becoming more pervasive. These concerns

in Reform and papacy in the eleventh century
1 Peter 2.9 and the Franks
Gerda Heydemann

, the passage in 1 Peter that Alcuin paraphrased in the Vita Vedastis will be used as a test case for the ‘rhetoric of election’ and its uses in the early Middle Ages. The First Letter by Peter told the early Christians: But you are a chosen lineage [genus electum], a royal priesthood [sacerdotium regale], a holy nation [gens sancta], a people of His own [populus adquisitionis], so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. You once were not a people [populus], but now you are God’s people. You were shown no

in Religious Franks