Show/hide main menu

Level 5

5AAH1079 Charlemagne and his Heirs: France and Germany in the 9th Century

Credit value: 15
Module convenor/tutor 2018/19: Dr Alice Rio
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2 hour seminar (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 2 x 2,500 word essay (50% each)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

The Carolingian empire was a formative and boldly experimental moment in the history of European political thought. At the hinge between the post-Roman world and the high middle ages, it has been described by some as the last of the barbarian successor-states, and was perhaps the most self-conscious heir to the Roman empire; at the same time it gave birth to a distinctly new political culture, and a new style of political discourse, which continued to dictate the rules of the game for centuries. It saw extraordinary military success as well as traumatic civil wars, which focused the minds of all on what it was that kings owed to their followers, as much as the other way around. It made the power of kings authoritarian yet rooted in consensus; God-given, but also more vulnerable to admonishment and criticism. The course will focus on several generations of Carolingian kings, players, and thinkers, to see how often extremely short-term and deeply partisan considerations gave birth to complex and far-reaching new ways of thinking about government and responsibility.

Provisional teaching plan

  1. The courtier and the emperor: Einhard and Charlemagne
  2. Carolingian government: law and order
  3. Charlemagne goes to Rome: emperors and popes
  4. Poetry and government
  5. Family values: Louis the Pious, dream visions, and the cleansing of the palace
  6. Spiritual power: martyrs, relics, and penitential kingship
  7. Massacre at Fontenoy
  8. Cold civil war
  9. Getting ahead at the Carolingian court: patronage and elite sociability
  10. Mirrors for princes: Charlemagne in the late ninth century and beyond

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these texts is not mandatory.

M. Costambeys, M. Innes and S. MacLean, The Carolingian World (Cambridge, 2011)

Sitemap Site help Terms and conditions  Privacy policy  Accessibility  Modern slavery statement  Contact us

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454