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The Carolingian Empire (Medieval academy reprints for teaching) (MART: The Medieval Academy Reprints for Teaching) [Paperback]

Heinrich Fichtenau , Peter Munz
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

1 Dec 1978 MART: The Medieval Academy Reprints for Teaching (Book 1)
Originally published by Basil Blackwell Publishers, 1957

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The Carolingian Empire (Medieval academy reprints for teaching) (MART: The Medieval Academy Reprints for Teaching) + The Burgundian Code: Book of Constitutions or Law of Gundobad; Additional Enactments (The Middle Ages Series)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 196 pages
  • Publisher: University of Toronto Press; New Ed edition (1 Dec 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802063675
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802063670
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.3 x 1.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 990,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Heinrich von Fichtenau was an Austrian medievalist best known for his studies of medieval diplomatics, social and intellectual history. Peter Munz was a philosopher and historian, and Professor of the Victoria University of Wellington.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a very good introduction to the Carolingian Empire if a little dated. It is broken into thematic chapters rather than linear narrative. Those chapters deal with Charles the Great as a person and ruler, the government of the kingdom, his replationship with the Papacy and the life of ordinary people in eighth/ninth century Europe. Recommended for undergraduates.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Provocative Analysis of the Reign of Charles the Great 11 July 2004
By Michael Wischmeyer - Published on Amazon.com
The reign of Charles the Great is conventionally described as a brief flash of light in a dark age, one whose embers made succeeding periods less gloomy and laid the foundation for the eventual rise of Europe. In his text titled The Carolingian Empire Heinrich Fichtenau argues that historians have been bedazzled by the legendary Charles the Great and that a richer, truer understanding will emerge if more attention is focused on the disappointing aspects of the Carolingian period.
Fichtenau further states that it is a mistake to attribute the rapid unraveling of the Frankish empire primarily to the incompetence of Charles' successor, Louis the Pious. During his reign, Charles the Great repeatedly addressed the disruptive internal forces within his hastily created empire through temporary measures of political expediency. Likewise, although Charles the Great was able to compel his subject to observe the formalities of Christianity, the ruling class, and even the clergy itself, was only marginally influenced by the spiritual and ethical aspects of Christianity. Throughout his reign the ruling class was characterized by excessive self-interest, greed, and ruthlessness.
Fichtenau refines Einhard's famous depiction of Charlemagne by incorporating the writings of the palace scholar Alcuin as well as a more controversial source, the monk of St. Gall. The translator, Peter Munz, explains that while some might consider Professor Fichtenau's approach to be less precise and less cautious than typical academic studies of the Carolingian period, it is precisely for Fichtenau's thoughtful and provocative analysis that this work was selected as a Medieval Academy Reprint for Teaching.
Professor Fichtenau has created a fascinating overview of the social, economic, political, and religious problems that faced Charles the Great. The Carolingian Empire should appeal to all readers with an interest in the Medieval period.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charles the Great and his Empire 27 Aug 2005
By S. Pactor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is another of the many great books about the Middle Ages I was referred to by Norman F. Cantor in "the inventing of the middle ages". I doubt I would ever have come across this book without the help of Cantor's guide to the literature.

This book is translated from the German... in the sixties, but Fictenau is writing about the 800's, so you shouldn't be put off by the age of the book. The copy that I bought is a reprint by the "mediaveal academy for teaching". It has a plain red orange cover and lacks charm.

The basic idea of the book is that the Carolingian Empire managed to combine a number of conflicting trends through the strong personality of its leader... Charles the Great. After the death of Charles, the conflicts were brought to the front, and the empire disintegrated. So lay off on on Louis the Pious, OK? It wasn't his fault that the Carolingian Empire fell apart!

This is a very manageable book (170 pgs.) on an immense topic and I recommend it as an introduction to the subject.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Light on a Dark Time during The Dark AGes 19 Aug 2012
By James E. Egolf - Published on Amazon.com
During the 1960s, Harper Torchbooks publishers produced several books re very specific historical topics including Heinrich Fichtenau's book titled THE CAROLINGIAN EMPIRE. This shorter book showed the strengths and weaknesses of a historical era that has too often been glamorized by historians who overlook the serious political and economic problems during the reign of Charlemagne (768-814).

Fichtenhau's opening sections surveyed the problems in European at the end of the once mighty Roman Empire. The Germanic and North European tribes had little law-and-order. Political assassinations and endless military feuds were the norm. Due to barbarian invasions and the rise of Islam, Mediterreanean Sea trade was significantly reduced. The only structered authority was the Catholic Church whose authoritiy was limited.

However, Clovis (c. 480-511) was able to assert his authority over what is roughly today France. His marriage to a Catholic helped the Benedictines to open monastaries and convents which were the only centers of actual teaching and learning. Clovis and other rulers took advantage of literate men to manage bureacracies to exert centralized control. Clovis was a Merovingian, but his successors were not as ambitious and left the important business of rule to the Carolingians of which Charlemange was a successor. By 687, the Merovingians had to concede that the Carolingians were to be recognized for their influence, power, and military proess. In fact, Charles Martel (717-741)became very popular when his forces defeated the Moslems at the Battle of Tours in 733 AD. Charles was so powerful that he appointed his own bishops much to the chagrin of Catholic Church leaders. Charles Martel's successor, Pepin the Short (741-768)showed "who was boss" when he ousted the last Merovingian king which was endorsed by Pope Zacharias (741-752). Such an endorsement was tantamount to diplomatic recognition. Readers should note that Pepin's military forces ended a Lombard threat to Papal lands which made for mutual diplomatic relations.

When Pepin abdicated to join a monastary, his successor was Charlemagne whose reign consisted of triumph and tragedy. Charlemagne faced internal threats to his rule some of which originated with family members. The problem with fickle violent Saxons was followed by more violent reprisals. Charlemagne stopped the Avars or decendents of the Huns. His military forces extended his rule into parts of Eastern Europe, and his forces also controlled the threat from then Islamic Spain.

On Christmas of 814, Pope St. Leo III (795-816)crowned Charlemage as Holy Roman Emperor. Charlemagne could be pious but not as pious as his successor Louis the Pius. Yet, Charlemagne practised polygamy and had mistresses contrary to Catholic belief. Yet, the popes and bishops owed too much to Charlemagne to complain. One concept that Charlemagne did not claim was that of a a Catholic priest, Caesaro-Papism never took root as it did in the Byzantine Empire.

Fichtenau provided a good account of Charlemagne's concern for scholarship. He invited scholars from Europe to the schools at Aachen and Aix-le-Chappelle. Charlemagne severely mistreated students who were lazy but had high praise for students from middle class and poor families who often showed more desire to learn than their so-called betters from the nobility. The Carolingians did not and could not celebrate Holy Mass. They could, however, ignore papal rules and abuse their power to appoint abbots and bishops.

While many European Catholics referred to St. Augustine's DE CIVITATE DEI (THE CITY OF GOD)that poltical authority was a necessary evil, Charlemange as a good Catholic tried to rule as a Catholic empeoror. Obviously tensions existed the Latin Catholic West and the Byzantine Empire. When the Byzantine ruler Constantine VI (771-802)was blinded by his mother in the same room in which she gave him birth, this was a symptom of disruptive tensions in the Byzantine of which the Carolingians took sadistic pleasure.

Charlemagne had his share of problems such as famine. Charlemagne's missi dominici who were supposed to fairly supervise areas of the Carolingian Empire often over taxed and exploited poor people. Ficthenhau cited the clergy for abuses whom Alcuin (c. 735-804)condemned for not living the spiritual compassionate life they were supposed to. As an aside Alcuin could show insight when he wrote that the beatitudes for Catholic religious were study, assist the love of God by assisting the poor, love of neighbor, love of God, friendship, etc. He wrote that if men are to love one's enemy, how much more should they love a close friend?
Another problem during Charlemagne's reign was the arrival of the noveux riches who rivaled the standing nobility. Fichtenhau gave precise accounts of such rivalry and the continued exploitation of the poor. Often hired assassinations would assassinate witnesses only to be later assassinated themselves. One such scandal was so well known that the guilty had to be brought to justice. In spite of the Catholic Church's Canon Law against usury, little could be done to stop it. In fact, the nobility resented some of the clergy because the clergy were reminders of what the nobility were supposed to be as Catholics. Needless to say, the very poor had to resort to unlawful ruses re relics and engaged in black market trade to survive.

Fichtenhau "gave credit where credit was due." He also gave detailed accounts of wrong doing and ineptitude. He credited the Carolingian scholars for their preservation of learning. While Fichtenau wrote that the Carolingian scholars did little creative scholarship, he should have countered this assertion by including the philosophical work of Eregina (815-877). Fictenhau should have traslated some of the German and Latin he used. Fichtenhau's book titled THE CAROLINGIAN EMPIRE is a very useful guide to understand the rise and fall of the Carolingian Empire. Fichtenhau ended this book with an isightful remark that,"It is human to overlook what is all too human."

James E. Egolf
August 18, 2012
3.0 out of 5 stars Academic Reading 17 Dec 2013
By showmegrad - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Not really for casual readers, this is grad level stuff on the reformation, ok if you are in to it.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good overview of the period 5 Mar 2012
By Fred Camfield - Published on Amazon.com
This is the best book I have found covering the reign of Charlemagne (Charles the Great). He consolidated and empire including parts of modern day France, Germany, and Italy. This would form the basis of the Holy Roman Empire. He was strong-willed (to word it mildly) and put down competing interests, alledgedly murdering his nephews, and forcing one son to become a monk. Fratricide was common at that time in history, and continued on into following centuries. It was all about power. I read, elsewhere, that he discouraged the marriage of his daughters to prevent competing interests from developing, and he most certainly exercised strong control over his sons.

The book is a good overview of the times, including all the maneuvering for power, and the various alliances. The Christian religion was becoming firmly established at that point in time, but was largely held under the control of the nobility. In spite of its flaws and failings, this was considered a golden age because it formed a firm centralized government with a more or less functioning administration. The poor people did not particularly benefit as most serfs were still "owned," and slavery was still an accepted practice.

At this point a dynasty of hereditary kings and nobles was formed that continued down to the time of the French Revolution, and perhaps the foundations were laid for the eventual decay.
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