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Charlemagne: The Formation of a European Identity [Hardcover]

Rosamond McKitterick
2.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: £60.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

24 April 2008
Charlemagne is often claimed as the greatest ruler in Europe before Napoleon. This magisterial study re-examines Charlemagne the ruler and his reputation. It analyses the narrative representations of Charlemagne produced after his death, and thereafter focuses on the evidence from Charlemagne's lifetime concerning the creation of the Carolingian dynasty and the growth of the kingdom, the court and the royal household, communications and identities in the Frankish realm in the context of government, and Charlemagne's religious and cultural strategies. The book offers a critical examination of the contemporary sources and in so doing transforms our understanding of the development of the Carolingian empire, the formation of Carolingian political identity, and the astonishing changes effected throughout Charlemagne's forty-six year period of rule. This is a major contribution to Carolingian history which will be essential reading for anyone interested in the medieval past. Rosamond McKitterick has also received the 2010 Dr A. H. Heineken Prize for History for her research into the Carolingians.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (24 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521886724
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521886727
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,504,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

'… this erudite study sheds much new light on Charlemagne.' NRC Handelsblad

'This is an important study, a reflection of a life spent considering and writing on Carolingian issues. It supersedes existing studies on Charlemagne in English and, to my mind, those in French as well.' The Historical Association

'[A] magisterial study of this historical figure' H-German

'… this book is a mile-stone in Carolingian scholarship, a critically significant reappraisal of the celebrated emperor and of the impact of his rule, and an achievement which cannot fail to stimulate further work on a number of fronts.' English Historical Review

Book Description

Charlemagne is often claimed as the greatest ruler in Europe before Napoleon. In this magisterial study, Rosamond McKitterick reexamines Charlemagne the ruler and his reputation. This is a major contribution to Carolingian history which will be essential reading for anyone interested in the medieval past.

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Customer Reviews

2.2 out of 5 stars
2.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An extremely heavy academic treatment 23 Nov 2013
By rob crawford TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This book is 95% academic proof, with the rest a narration of what it meant. I.e. for every 20 pages of turgid reasoning - collating the sources and even versions of texts, weighing them, painstakingly drawing conclusions - there is one page of substantive interest on what happened. Now, I do not mean to disparage this kind of exercise, but it is far more the technical provence of academics than it is something for the general reader who is interested in a detailed account of what Charlemagne did and how he did it.

The thesis is very clear and fascinating. Presiding over a massive realm that he expanded and consolidated at the beginning of the 9C CE, Charlemagne created a religious and educational system that served as a way to unify the disparate people's under his regime into a coherent culture. He did so by empowering and creating churches, closely allied with Rome (which conferred legitimacy on him as "emperor" in exchange for defense), and establishing ciceronian Latin with reference to Roman and Merovingian history as a link of continuity with the past and future. In a practical sense, he travelled often but mostly delegated, often expressing himself through the "correctio" (somewhat vague descriptions of how to do things right) and other means, such as the investment of relics and other symbols of Christian faith. This was the time when many Germanic peoples were brought into the Christian fold, beyond the borders of what once constituted the western Roman Empire.

The level of what McKitterick is proving is surpassingly recondite and subtle, with a precision analysis deep into the individual texts, that few but the most specialized academics would know or care about or fully understand the nuances.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Charlemagne - a good academic history 13 May 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Charlemagne: The Formation of a European Identity
This is a fascinating academic history, going back to the primary sources and investigating why the documents were produced. It is not a popular history for the general reader - knowledge of the period is assumed.

But as a way of understanding what the business of history is about and why the 'facts' in popular histories are subject to so much interpretation, it is highly recommended.
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4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor 26 Aug 2009
Format:Paperback
This was like wading through treacle. The author has obviously reviewed all the source material but fails to consolidate or summarize it in an interesting or understandable manner. I learnt pratically nothing about Charlemagne. It was very disappointing.
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1 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars disappointing 17 Mar 2009
By Leb
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I think the one star rating says it all for me. Very little information or insight into Charlemagne as a person.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent scholarly appraisal of Charlemagne 12 July 2008
By James C. Hamilton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Professor McKitterick's magisterial examination of Charlemagne is a welcome addition to literature on the King of the Franks,after 800 Emperor. The book is not a biographical narrative but an examination of five central concepts: (1) Charlemagne's contemporary "representation," that is, how he was portrayed in chronicles and other accounts, (2) the creation of the "Pippinid" dynasty, beginning with Charlemagne's father, Pippin III, and his grandfather Charles Martel, (3) Charlemgne's court, (4)royal communication in the Frankish kingdom and Empire, and (5) the relationship between knowledge and the exercise of power, with special reference to religious authority. This book is best read with a prior understanding of 8th and 9th century Continental history or after first reading a general recent biography on Charlemagne such as Derek Wilson's Charlemagne: A Biography. McKitterick's well-written book will likely serve as a standard reference for years to come. This is an excellent book.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book and great price 20 Oct 2011
By bcf5009 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book is very good but only for scholars or people with a strong interest in Charlemagne. I am a graduate student and the book was a great source but not an easy read and not something I would pick up for a casual read.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much more than I expected 17 Dec 2012
By Dick from New Hampshire - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I ordered this book expecting it to be just another narrative history meant for the general public. Instead I received a scholarly tome.
Most of the written sources exist in only one copy, and perhaps in fragments at that. McKitterick lists her cources and tells where they may be found--whether library, museum, or monastery--and provides their document numbers.
Footnotes often cover half the page.
She does not progress chronologically but covers aspects of Charlemagne's life and government topic by topic, debunking much of the received wisdom as she does so. For example, she simplifies, and makes more plausible, Charlemagne's itineraries, pointing out that if he supposed to be at Point A on a given date and point B three days later, and the distance is 300 km (180 mi), it is very unlikely the trip occurred. Perhaps a notary at one point or the other supplied his location and not the king's.
This is a book for the serious student of Carolingian history. I predict it will become a classic.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An extremely heavy academic treatment 23 Nov 2013
By Robert J. Crawford - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is 95% academic proof, with the rest a narration of what it meant. I.e. for every 20 pages of turgid reasoning - collating the sources and even versions of texts, weighing them, painstakingly drawing conclusions - there is one page of substantive interest on what happened. Now, I do not mean to disparage this kind of exercise, but it is far more the technical provence of academics than it is something for the general reader who is interested in a detailed account of what Charlemagne did and how he did it.

The thesis is very clear and fascinating. Presiding over a massive realm that he expanded and consolidated at the beginning of the 9C CE, Charlemagne created a religious and educational system that served as a way to unify the disparate people's under his regime into a coherent culture. He did so by empowering and creating churches, closely allied with Rome (which conferred legitimacy on him as "emperor" in exchange for defense), and establishing ciceronian Latin with reference to Roman and Merovingian history as a link of continuity with the past and future. In a practical sense, he travelled often but mostly delegated, often expressing himself through the "correctio" (somewhat vague descriptions of how to do things right) and other means, such as the investment of relics and other symbols of Christian faith. This was the time when many Germanic peoples were brought into the Christian fold, beyond the borders of what once constituted the western Roman Empire.

The level of what McKitterick is proving is surpassingly recondite and subtle, with a precision analysis deep into the individual texts, that few but the most specialized academics would know or care about or fully understand the nuances. For example, to determine how much Charlemagne travelled himself (as opposed to sending plenipotentiaries out), she goes to great lengths to dissect individual communications and vocabulary of various courtiers, over about 50 pages. This is important because it establishes evidence for how Charlemagne governed - she concludes mostly by delegation and symbolic communication - but it is a slog.

I would never have bought this had I known it was so technical and academic. I write this to inform the various potential audiences of this: I would recommend it for professional historians and advanced students, but definitely not the lay reader. The book assumes a very high level of familiarity with the period and so should not be approached as an introductory text; that I knew much of this background saved the reading experience for me. I felt no wonder, even as I studied it with interest.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ground Breaking! 11 Nov 2012
By R. Hurst - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is an amazing read and ground breaking scholarship that shines new light on THE formative period of medieval European history (and medieval church history)!
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