Bunch of cross-dressing skinheads the lot of them

Between 1975 and 1978 a chap by the name of Jean Verdon who has subsequently become quite important in the field—Regesta Imperii counts 23 books, produced at a fairly Pratchett-like rate—and who had at that stage only a couple of articles out suddenly came out with about ten more, of which a fair bunch were on nuns, one or two more on monasticism and the remainder either on women or the Chronicon Sancti Maxentii, of which he was then finishing an edition.1 I presume that this must have been his thèse d’état, broken up into papers, but in those I’ve so far tracked down, the nuns ones mainly because of finishing a paper, this is certainly never said. Tracking them down is quite an effort though. I’m lucky, in as much as just down the road from my current location is a library which has all of Revue Mabillon, Annales du Midi and Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévale and probably some of the others too on open shelves, but that can’t be true of many places. Some of the articles are really close analysis of social contexts, and some are little more than lists of recorded houses of female monastics with some generalised (and now badly dated) history attached.2 But tucked into one of the latter I find this piece of Carolingian conciliar legislation which made my eyes widen rather:3

Si quae sanctemoniales causa religionis, ut eis falso videtur, vel virilem habitum sumunt vel crines adtondent, quia ignorantia magis, quam studio eas errare putamus, admonendas castigandasque decernimus…

Which, if I’m getting it correctly, Englishes roughly as:

If nuns for the cause of religion, as it falsely seems to them, either put on a male habit or shave their hair, since we suppose them to err more from ignorance than from zeal, we decree that they are to be admonished and castigated…

I’m afraid this made me think, irreverently I suppose but not uselessly, of the women’s colleges here in Cambridge when I was an undergraduate. Most people in these institutions were completely usual, and I don’t mean to suggest that the other colleges were any less weird in their various ways—some more—but the parallel of all-female institutions invites comparison. Because of their segregated environment, it was my sense then that the women’s colleges tended to pick up more than their share of two extremes, new undergraduates who didn’t feel ready or whose parents didn’t think them ready for the world outside their all-girls school, and radical ‘nu-feminists’ who wanted an environment from which men were mostly excluded. Some of the latter, indeed, wore male or ungendered clothing by policy and some shaved their heads; I fell half in love with one of the latter who later got back in touch with me only to invite me to her wedding, but that’s another story. The point I’m going to make with this, badly perhaps but stay with me, is that the sheer range of experience early medieval women’s monasticism is made to contain, from the teacher Abbess Hild of Whitby through Hrotsvita of Gandersheim and her poetry to the Merovingian rebel princesses of Poitiers and the many many denunciations for lust, laziness, disorder or plain old ignorance (on which Verdon mainly concentrates on in at least one article, sad to say), was kind of all there; earnest religious afraid of the dangers of the world, angry women keen to have power in an all-female space, dedicated teachers (of both girls and boys, I was supervised in Newnham College for a couple of years), and those who were fonder of close company than their agreed code of conduct might have permitted.

Eleventh-century capital from Poitiers showing two men squaring up to fight, with a woman behind each trying to pull them apart

Eleventh-century capital from Poitiers showing two men squaring up to fight, with a (veiled?) woman behind each trying to pull them apart, from the Musée de Saint-Croix, Poitiers; somehow appropriate...

Of course these colleges are bigger than most nunneries would have been; for the simile to work one really needs the colleges to contain several variant congregations, which as I say, it seemed to me that they did. In the medieval case, an awful lot presumably depended on the abbess and other sources of prescription and enforcement. An effective abbess maybe wouldn’t have let this sort of thing happen, but on the other hand one also has to consider the nuns themselves and their station before one decides what ought to have been possible for an abbess: Gregory of Tours tells us that despite a future saint as abbess and a Mother Superior whom she had appointed, despite the entreaties of him as bishop and of other senior churchmen and orders from the king, yet, already, it still took actual military force to make the princesses at Ste-Croix de Poitiers, and the scratch group of bandits and soldiers they’d gathered, stand down from their revolt: “We are of royal blood,” he has them say, “and we will not set foot inside our nunnery until the Mother Superior has been dismissed.”4 Enforce an observance on that! An early medieval nunnery might have been any of these places, depending on who had founded it, who was recruited and who was in charge and how those factors interacted: a retreat for the pious, a family estate with liturgical cladding, a school for the local nobility, a hospital for travellers… it’s not surprising that despite the Carolingians’ best efforts, one Rule never really fitted all.

So there must necessarily have been a range of responses to standards of female monasticism, depending on who was involved. The article of Verdon’s that set this post off stresses, in its very closing pages, that there were many ‘good’ houses among the ‘bad’, accepting the contemporary moral binary of his sources, but this council extract seems to show a more nuanced treatment; acting weird out of zeal might have been different (OK? or more punishable? I don’t know) but plain ignorance was to be corrected, the girls to be set back on track and allowed to continue more properly. To me, you see, that seems more like the academic college than a carefully-sealed-off zone of exclusion designed to protect purity at all costs. So let’s be prepared for flexibility of standards, I suppose. This may not be a very good analogy, but I hope there’s a point in there somewhere that doesn’t completely succumb to wilful anachronism…


1. The ones I’ve caught so far are J. Verdon, “Recherches sur les monastères féminins dans la France du nord aux IXe-XIe siècles” in Revue Mabillon Vol. 59 (Ligugé 1976), pp. 49-96, “Les moniales dans la France de l’Ouest aux XIe et XIIe siècles. Étude d’histoire sociale” in Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévale Vol. 19 (Poitiers 1976), pp. 247-264 and idem, “Recherches sur les monastères féminins dans la France du Sud aux IXe-XIe siècles” in Annales du Midi Vol. 88 (Toulouse 1976), pp. 117-138, and I guess I also need to get through idem, “Notes sur le rôle économique des monastères féminins en France dans la seconde moitié du IXe et au début du Xe siècle” in Revue Mabillon 58 (1975), pp. 329-343. The edition I mention is idem (ed.), Chronique de Saint-Maixent, 751-1140 (Paris 1979). For the rest, you can hit up Regesta Imperii as easily as I could

2. Verdon, “Notes sur la rôle économique”, is definitely the former, and idem, “Recherches sur les monastères féminins de la France du nord” and “Recherches sur les monastères féminins dans la France du Sud” are definitely the latter. That said, though in any individual case you would have to do further research since the sources tend to be hagiography or the Gallia Christiana which is not really that much better for accuracy and critique, just having a reasonably-full list of all recorded houses is quite useful, whether they’re dodgy or not.

3. Concilium Vernense (December 844), ed. Alfred Boretius & Victor Krause in eidem (ed.), Capitularia regum francorum Vol. II, Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Leges sectio II: Capitularia Regum Francorum) II (Hannover 1897), online here, no. 291, cap. 7, quoted from Verdon, “Recherches sur les monastères féminins dans la France du nord”, pp. 64-65 & n. 305.

4. Gregory of Tours, Libri historiarum francorum decem, transl. Lewis Thorpe as History of the Franks, capp. IX.39-43, quote at IX.40.

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33 responses to “Bunch of cross-dressing skinheads the lot of them

  1. Much as I hate to pick holes, I do have to take issue with your terminology here. Girls’ colleges? Women’s, please. My esteemed supervisor and former fellow of Newnham, would not be happy to be described as a girl and where would you place Lucy Cavendish in this? It does rile me when men refer to scholarly women as girls, however well-intentioned :-)

    Lived experience of monasticism is as varied as the people who professed a vocation. The core of what it is to be a monk or a nun may be the same (I’ve had stand-up rows with post-modernists on this one), but the expression of that vocation is more localised and individual. We see this clearly in hagiography, visitations, chronicles – you name it. Also, doesn’t the amount of conciliar legislation presuppose great variety?

    Which brings me nicely to the clerical cosmos (which I hope to blog soonish). The one thing that struck me more than anything about that day was, that for all the talk of a singular clerical culture, the sheer variety of episcopal experience. Great papers all of them (incl. yours).

    • Sorry, I will correct. This is, I think, memories of teenage perspectives not properly edited out.

      I think you’re right that the conciliar legislation is very varied in the outlooks it’s aiming to cover; my point here was more supposed to be that the normative picture of monasticism that we often get peddled by text-books or even more focussed studies (especially those involving the date 816 or the word `reform’) doesn’t always take account of that. we end up with paradigms of Rule and deviation when sources like this make me think that wasn’t always in the mind even of the people who legislated in favour of the Rule.

      As to the conference, yes, there’s a lurking point there, isn’t there, especially in John’s question about the pope’s connection to my area, about how far one can genuinely talk of a single Church. Conrad and I argued about this, too, but for once agreed that whatever the unifying factor is, it isn’t Rome half as much as some people have argued. There was really lots to talk about there.

  2. I have to say your depiction of feminism (in the university or convent) is a little narrow and perhaps also betrays your teen memories (at least I hope so). You don’t have to be *angry* to be “keen to have power in an all-female space.” You simply have to have been a woman and lived in the world, in the Middle Ages or now.

    And some of us just ended up in a women’s college. I was at Newnham because my US university’s Oxford-Cambridge program didn’t let us pick the college (and we could only say which of the two universities we *preferred*). I imagine there were a lot of nuns like that, too!

    But what I came to appreciate about my all-women’s college — like my all-girls’ school — was that without the men around, a lot of the women could relax, be smart and confident without worry of being “too smart” for the men, and get a word in edgewise. I saw a lot more of the quiet women pipe up at Newnham than at Columbia (though class size might have accounted for that, too).

    The one thing I never appreciated, though, was the frequency with which any given Cambridge man I talked to at a party assumed I must be chatting him up, so desperate must a Newnham woman be for a man. Sigh. There’s your “denunciations of lust.” Plus ca change…

    At any rate, your general point that medieval convents were probably as diverse as modern women’s colleges makes sense.

    (This was 89-90, btw. Just for sake of reference.)

    • I was a bit worried about how this post read when I drafted it but I obviously didn’t do enough to fix it. Oh dear. There was obviously a full church of feminism represented in the two of these colleges I knew best and I’ve deliberately picked on the extremes but I probably shouldn’t have. I did have a lot to learn at that point; a friend of mine lent me a book on female circumcision and I was wracked by species guilt for some days, having had no idea about it before, and so on.

      I was briefly in touch with a US summer school student via a music list who’d been billeted in Newnham, which amused him, happily, only mildly. I don’t know what that practice does to the grads’ supposedly all-female space. Obviously as a male myself I would never have seen that safe space operating, but it’s certainly one of the reasons used for the maintenance of the single-sex colleges.

      I think it is safe to say that as an undergraduate I never assumed any woman, Newnham or otherwise, was chatting me up. That may also be important context, I fear.

  3. But isn’t it the case that most female monastics in German-speaking lands lived in a Damenstift, a kind of holding pen for unmarriageable daughters from noble families, administered ultimately by the local bishop who sent priests round to celebrate mass for the women?
    Certainly this was a very common practice from Ottonian times even into the present — I recall being shown the charming nunnery at Fischbeck (est. 955, at http://www.stift-fischbeck.de/) by a last surviving Stiftsdame from the German aristocracy, who entered the (Protestantized since Secularization) foundation after WWI.
    And is it really accurate to think of Roswitha as Carolingian rather than Ottonian? Otto himself established Damenstifte in Quedlinburg and I think Magdeburg, thus supporting, if not actually creating, a specifically German kind of female monastic template.
    From what I can understand, Carolingian officials had enough on their hands trying to get the guys to practice one common Benedictine rule, but I’m not sure if their solicitude extended as far as the nunneries, which were controlled by bishops anyway, and whose occupants may not have been all that religiously motivated to begin with.
    What totally surprises one is how socially aware and intellectually uncloistered many of these women seem to have been. In her Pelagius narrative, Roswitha knows all about gay men, for example, and knows something about the Muslims in Spain.

    • The Carolingians provide the best case of what is supposed to be a single Rule being applied, which is what I’m questioning here, but in terms of practice I’m deliberatly pulling examples of variety from far and wide, Merovingians, Ottonians and all points between. The issue of how far any given set of regulations were applied to nunneries rather than monasteries, though, that’s an interesting one and one that is only lately getting the work it deserves. What I’m mainly getting at, though, is that any sentence framed like, “most female monastics…” may then have trouble not being falsifiable. We haven’t really got figures for this sort of thing!

  4. I’m enjoying the notion of Hild as a cross-dressing skinhead! Thanks for brightening my day.

  5. It seems to me often that your conception of Carolingia is so heavily weighted to the South that it tends to pass over significant, often radical innovations in the North, where the Franks are simply gone after around 900.

    I just don’t see any evidence that Roswitha, a non-Carolingian abbess, presumably a Saxon noblewoman, whose plays certainly demonstrate a more than passing concern with gender matters, was much worried about uniformity of monastic practice, including those you’ve framed around Jean Verdon. I suspect these would really have belonged to a world largely different than hers, and that she would have cooled out emergent problems with her bishop.
    But maybe that was the point you were making?
    As for differences in the often astonishing talents of the women, couldn’t we assume that to begin with?

    Parenthetically, I think that citing Bishop Gregory as an authority about what’s going on in the North of Merovingia is a terrible idea. This is clearly a different debate, but Gregory was situated miles and miles away from the Franklish heartland, and who knows how good his information was / could have possibly been.

    • I think we would need to disentangle `Carolingian’ from `Frankish’ as terms (and indeed `North’ from `Germany’ by the looks of it) before we really get to dialogue on this. My concept of `Carolingian’ is arguably weighted to the *West*, but then that is where the Carolingians continue longer.

      The point, which I have obviously made very badly, was that even when reform and uniformity were the apparent watchwords we should expect variation on the ground. The variety of forms that female monasticism took when such pressure was not being applied (Gregory’s Francia, Hrotsvita’s Germany) show what would have had to be unified and how hard that would have been. So a dualist paradigm of rule and deviation doesn’t really serve to explain what ‘good’ or ‘bad’ nunneries might have been and what purposes their founders, controllers or occupants might have expected them to fulfil.

      As for Gregory particularly, there there is the oldest problem of all: if we don’t use that source, we know almost nothing. It is therefore very hard to throw away an answer even if we know it’s likely to be wrong.

  6. James Mitchell

    All well and good, but can’t we imagine a kind of Mason-Dixon Line separating Gallo-Roman Merovingia from Frankish Merovingia? I’m thinking you could have walked across the countryside at the latitude of say Tours and not come across a single Frank for five whole days in a row. Whereas the Carolingians–I mean Charles Martel and his descendants– evidently originated somewhere around modern Belgium, and the earlier Pippinids were apparently orbiting around Metz, the area where the Franks fought as Roman foederati against the Huns at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains in 451.

    The Royal Frankish Annals do at least show that the feuding Frankish nobles were quite literally engaged in non-stop warfare, not the kind of environment in which culture of any kind flourishes. There were at least two centuries of mainstream, ecumenical Christianity in Tours: quasi-aristocrat, non-Frankish and non-Frankish-speaking Gregory was preceded by a chain of 18 bishops, that’s a pretty long and strong Christian cultural tradition, all of which nested in the residue of a substantial and quite visible Roman heritage. Imagine what Gregory must have really thought about the Frankish overlords to the North.

    I’m just guessing at all this, but surely there must be material evidence to indicate at what level across the north of France that Gallo-Roman or Gaulish artifacts abruptly stop in say the mid-7th c.

    • Well, what the heck’s a Frank, in these terms? Childebert II probably thought he was a Roman; Anna Comnena thought Bohemond of Taranto was a Frank. The Royal Frankish Annals, note title etc., is stuffed full of references to the ‘Frankish people': Charlemagne carries out all his major actions in consultation with them. If you’re saying that all these identifications of people as Franks are false, you need a pretty rigorous definition of Frank, and an ethnic one moreover, and I don’t think you can find one, because when we first start seeing Franks (in Ammianus Marcellinus, say) it’s already a political confederation of several peoples between whom we can demonstrate no biological link. If you are saying that very few persons actually moved from the limes germanicus to the Touraine through the period, then you might have something, though it’s based on assumption rather than archæology as that kind of work hasn’t been done. It’s also problematic, given the movements of a presumably-large number of people who identified as Visigoths through that area… But masses of people in that area by 814 would have identified as Franks, used the Salic law at trial and responded to rhetoric invoking the name of the Frankish people. If you want to say they were wrong, I think you have to recognise that it’s your categories that are anachronistic not theirs.

      • Sorry, I’m not following, are you saying that in Bishop Gregory’s time we should not have been able to recognize a Frank? Disregarding ethnicity, there actually does exist material evidence to distinguish Franks from other German groups, and it’s clear from Einhard that the Franks had the their own language–evidently the basis of Old Low Dutch–and of course that they wore distinctive clothing. As for Salic law, I suspect you may be confusing the Franks with their own subjects.

        • Material culture is portable, so it can’t possibly indicate ethnicity! It might indicate aspiration, if we could be sure of what looking ‘Frankish’ said about one. We could recognise someone who looked like a Frank, then; we could recognise someone who claimed Frankish ancestry. But how far back would that ancestry have to stretch to qualify? Was the last Merovingian a `Frank’, by your unstated criteria, despite being many many halves as Frankish as Clovis? When does the bloodline or even the ethnicity start? Were the Cherusci and Chatti Franks? Ammianus says they were, once I think, but only when they were part of a larger coniuratio. Were they still Frankish when acting alone? If they were only ‘politically’ Frankish (and we are talking here about a people calling themselves ‘the Free’ in Latin, which looks pretty political to me), would they count as Frankish if they moved across the border and settled in, say, Metz? Surely they would, if that’s what they claimed. But they could have claimed several other ethnicities or material culture identities (not least Roman military, in that latter) instead, presumably. Where’s Frankishness here? The category slides away as soon as any weight’s put on it. If you think you have a definition, can you state it rather than just ruling my examples in or out?

          I suspect you may be confusing the Franks with their own subjects.

          If I am, so by 800 had a large part of Francia. Why were those calling themselves Franks then wrong? Equally, by any criterion of descent, how could they have meaningfully been right?

  7. highlyeccentric

    *sporfles slightly* As an alumna of the most august Women’s college in Australia, I’m not sure whom to be more envious of: the women collegiates of your undergraduate experience, or the Carolingian nuns? Shaven-headed cross-dressing was not a feature of my college experience, more’s the pity.

    Although I think it *is* true that Womens’ girls (yes, girls; possibly that’s the difference between us and Cambridge. On the other hand, we could get degrees decades before you lot, so nyah) had, overall, a safer space than the mixed colleges; and Women’s has a sterling tradition of advocacy for women’s educational and professional opportunities; as far as gender performativity went, it was a pretty conservative space.

    Also, I bet naked men were a far less prominent feature of a Carolingian nun’s life. I remain baffled as to how residence in a *single-sex college* nevertheless lead to so very many encounters with naked blokes just wandering (or running or skipping or stampeding en masse) around the corridors. Nor, I suspect, were they threatened by packs of football-playing type blokes on their own territory. Sign me up for Carolingian nunhood at once!

  8. Fine, give me a couple months and I’ll return with the perfect definition of a Frank — if you agree to go out of Ludwig-Wittgenstein-mode anytime someone brings up something Germanic.

    Meanwhile I leave you with a picture of a couple Franks, at http://tinyurl.com/379avvj. The Stuttgart Psalter is chock-a-block full of ethnicity reference: I’m surprised Helmut Reimitz hasn’t written about it (or has he?).

    • The work I know by Helmut has mainly concentrated on the Royal Frankish Annals and the Annales Mettenses priores.

      I’m not sure what you mean by the Wittgenstein reference (showing my lack of general education I fear) but I could cite you a good few things in support of my malleable ethnicity claims if it would help. This is very much the school of work I was trained in.

      • James Mitchell

        Wittgenstein, later resident at your alma mater, said famously: Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen. This pernicious notion has of course been universally rejected by early medievalists everywhere.

        (And notably also by Gustaf Sobin in “Luminous Debris,” who comes up with some really remarkable conclusions concerning the Neolithic in the South of France. It’s the best book for me this year, reviewed by Jeff Cohen earlier this summer.)

        I understood from your unjustly tantalizing Leeds report that Prof Reimitz had discoursed on Frankish ethnicity problems, of which I think I am finding some evidence in the Stuttgart Psalter.

        I would be grateful to learn of your own ethnicity claims/experience, assuming they don’t overly involve the Franks before 650, about whose confused origins I am reasonably informed.

        Let me send you an email this weekend, I do appreciate your offer, as I do need some basic context and vocabulary.

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  11. “Disregarding ethnicity, there actually does exist material evidence to distinguish Franks from other German groups.”
    Er, no there ‘actually’ doesn’t.

  12. James Mitchell

    From July to October 1997 there was a substantial exhibition in Berlin entitled . It and the catalog published with it (Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, Berlin) displayed dozens of Merovingian Frankish artifacts, most spectacularly from the royal burial sites at St Denis, but from several other places as well.

    It was a terrifically interesting show, teeming with all sorts of stuff, and no doubt it inspired many to develop an interest in the archaeology of the period in a way that books might never do.

    I agree, respectfully, that there may be nothing comparable found elsewhere in the Germanic populations, but perhaps the absence of an artifact like the throne of King Dagobert (St Denis, 7-9th c) might suggest that they had no similarly powerful royalty.

    The Stuttgart Psalter (820-830, St Germain des Pres), online at , in addition to showing quite clearly the dress of Frankish elites*, illustrates dozens of contemporary tools and artifacts.

    I suppose there is nothing distinctively Frankish about them, but the 300+ images depict axes, wicker baskets, boats, anchors, anvil and forge, chariots, knives, ladders, oil lamps, locks, nets, plows, scales, writing scrolls, sheaths, farm tools, whips, weaving devices, music instruments, a lot of militaria and the like more.

    I wonder if archaeology can’t be conducted on this level as well.

    ——–

    * St Germain was historically a Frankish burial place, and neighboring St Denis was run under royal appointment by Ebbo, presumably Frankish from his name.

  13. James Mitchell

    There was a screw-up with the html in my last comment.

    The title of the Berlin exhibition was “Die Franken, Wegbereiter Europas, 5.-8.Jahrhundert.”

    The Stgt Psalter is online at http://tiny.cc/1htru.

    Or else google: “Stuttgarter Psalter – Cod. bibl. fol. 23 – Württembergische Landesbibliothek”

  14. I have the books of the exhibition. The commentaries are alas very old-fashioned and untrustworthy in their interpretations. The problem is that there really is no necessary a priori link between these artefacts and ‘Franks’. Saint Germain is in Paris and by the ninth century, when the psalter was drawn up, the difference between Franks and Gallo-Romans had long gone.
    For myself I think that one might well have been able to tell a Frank from, say, a Goth by certain elements of dress, costume, haircut, in some circumstances at least – but these are all elements of a contingent, constructed identity, not genetic or biological realities, or signs of actual geographical origins. The problem with the archaeology is that if you study it on its own merits, without trying to hammer it into a historical framework, you find that the links between objects and ethnic groups are tenuous to non-existant – say looking at distributions and so on.
    There are some elementary points here: http://600transformer.blogspot.com/2010/12/ethnicity-and-early-medieval-cemeteries.html

  15. James Mitchell

    Oh dear, well if Dagobert’s throne, his solidi and triens, or the seal ring of Queen Arnegunde (St Denis, Grave 49) turn out Made in China, I promise you a free pint at any pub of your choosing in downtown Berkeley.

    I was trying above to point out above that we do learn something about the early Franks through later textual sources, for example that they had their own language and dress code (Einhard), conforming therefore to Isidore’s definition of a gens (Isidor, Et. 19, 23.7), which seems alarmingly similar to our own.

    That the Carolingian Franks had at least achieved a certain level of self-consciousness in differentiating themselves from barbarians is manifest in the Stgt Psalter folio 71v (at http://tiny.cc/sl6r4), where we view the former beating the guacamole out of the latter, who are disadvantaged by inferior weaponry and lack of armor, and who ride their horses backward—a meme that goes back I think to Ammianus Marcellinus. (B. Bachrach wrote a rather terrible article about this particular picture, claiming the barbarians weren’t Avars— but who said they were).

    The demography of early 9th c. Paris is, so I’ve read, quite in doubt, but it seems correct to consider St Denis and St Germain as de facto Frankish royal foundations. There’s a record that Charlemagne visited the grave of his father in St Denis, while St Germain included the burial place of Childebert I — one of the four sons of Clovis I who shared the kingdom of the Franks upon their father’s death in 511. So I don’t imagine the artist in the scriptorium at St Germain, Gallo Roman or not, and standing upon Frankish holy turf, was much motivated to subvert any dominant Carolingian cultural paradigms.

    * * *

    While I have you on the line, so to speak, could I just mention another point. It occurred to me after reading your Metz book a couple years ago that logically there might have been somewhere in the northern half of Francia a kind of acoustic Maginot line, separating populations speaking Germanic and G-R languages, sort of like modern Belgium. Assuming there existed ethnologically relevant cultural differences, why isn’t there material evidence? Or is it, do you feel, that the cultural differences simply weren’t profound enough?

    And, generally, do you think it is fair to say that we have so little material record from the Merovingian Franks because their population was minimal compared to the magnitude of the territory they ruled, and thus in individual instances they found it more practical to go native?

  16. “Oh dear, well if Dagobert’s throne, his solidi and triens, or the seal ring of Queen Arnegunde (St Denis, Grave 49) turn out Made in China, I promise you a free pint at any pub of your choosing in downtown Berkeley.”

    When arguments descend to this level, there’s not much point continuing.

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