I should have read this the moment I bought it, VII: what we need is more power


It’s being very hard to find time to write any substantive blog just now, though I have sufficient queued up that by the time me saying this finally emerges and you read these words this may no longer be true. Anyway, I haven’t quite finished praising Jennifer Davis and Michael McCormick’s The Long Morning of Medieval Europe yet, much though you may wish I had, and it’s time for another dose.

Part Four of the book is on government and power and this is, as Magistra observed when I started talking about this volume, one of the stronger parts of the volume. Janet Nelson, no less, spends a pellucid ten pages analysing a list of hostages and their captors who were to be brought to a royal meeting at Mainz, and produces from it a network of status and responsibility that is emblematic of the way that connection to the court brought both to those in power in the regions, and thus explains why people bothered with the whole kingdom thing one more time.1

The Frankish noblewoman Dhuoda, from Wikimedia Commons and I dont know where before that

The Frankish noblewoman Dhuoda, from Wikimedia Commons and I don't know where before that

Then Matthew Innes talks about this same process with a focus on property, and picks up Dhuoda, two sets of Carolingian officials and the letters of Einhard to show how people got, were given or tried to lay hold of property and how connection to a greater power than them would help to do that. As you will be aware I think most to all of what Matthew writes is brilliant, and this is no exception; on the other hand I had a pre-print draft of this in 2005, so I have, you might say, learned to love it. It hasn’t changed a great deal but I like to think I had a slight effect on it.2

In between these two things, rather oddly, sits Jennifer Davis’s piece arguing that all this emphasis on locality and region is all very well but we mustn’t forget the centre, and having said as much she gets pretty solidly into the capitulary legislation and what it has to say about the actual running of the kingdom. This wouldn’t be much of a new direction were it not for the fact that she is quite post-modern, or at least post-Wormald, about her reading of the laws, accepting that they weren’t meant to impose uniformity; instead she argues that they were couched so as to allow for an almost infinite variety of local circumstances to be negotiated then and there. I don’t think you can go down this road without starting to see Carolingian legislation as an expression of an ideal, rather than a practice, and to be faintly surprised when it seems to actually be in use, but Davis won’t look in that direction and prefers to see an administrative state rather than an ideological one. I’m still not sure, but she uses her evidence well.3

A folio of the Capitulare de Villis, from Wikimedia Commons

A folio of the Capitulare de Villis, from Wikimedia Commons

Lastly Stuart Airlie, as it should be wherever Carolingian power is in discussion, wraps up , emphasising the communications that held the Empire together and demanding more comparison with other empires in an attempt to challenge and refine whatever we think is ‘Carolingian’ about all of this, rather than just, well, successful.4 As he says, if we can’t identify that properly any talk of change before, after or during the Carolingian era is decidedly questionable, to which I say, indeed and don’t we know it who work on the tenth and eleventh centuries and consider Charles the Fat still fairly early? So, well, I aim to help, in the long run, with this programme he throws into the air, but these articles will all help when I do.

1. Janet L. Nelson, “Charlemagne and Empire” in Jennifer R. Davis & Michael McCormick (edd.), The Long Morning of Medieval Europe: new directions in early medieval studies (Aldershot 2008), pp. 223-234, with the key text given in translation as an appendix; if you want Jinty explaining the whole system, of course, you should read her “Kingship and Royal Government” in Rosamond McKitterick (ed.), The New Cambridge Medieval History vol. II: c. 700-c. 900 (Cambridge 1995), pp. 383-430.

2. Matthew J. Innes, “Practices of Property in the Carolingian Empire” in Davis & McCormick, Long Morning, pp. 247-266.

3. Jennifer R. Davis, “A Pattern for Power: Charlemagne’s Delegation of Judicial Responsibilities”, ibid. pp. 235-246.

4. Stuart Airlie, “The Cunning of Institutions”, ibid. pp. 267-271.

8 responses to “I should have read this the moment I bought it, VII: what we need is more power

  1. Your picture is one of the panels from the beautiful tapestry La Dame a la Licorne (Flemish, 15thC) on display at the Musee de Cluny in Paris. I’m not actually convinced that it is Dhuoda, although to be fair, when I saw the tapestry in situ I was a bit distracted by all the monkeys. There’s a description of the panel here: http://www.musee-moyenage.fr/homes/home_id20392_u1l2.htm

    I’ve been enjoying your reviews of this book. You’ve convinced me it’s definitely one to go on the summer reading list.

  2. Oops, sorry, that link just goes to the Home page. See Les Collections/Tapisserie et tissus/La dame a la Licorne.

  3. Amigo Jhonatan Jarrett; en primer lugar disculpas por publicar de esta forma esta información y petición pues desconozco tu correo; la urgencia del caso asi me obliga.



    Since the 1990s, HC Energia has been vying to install a large-scale wind farm at the foot of Mt. Carondio in county Ayande/Allande, West Asturias. These highlands contain one of the most prized archaeological and wilderness settings in Asturias. They also serve as backdrop for the county’s tourist magnet: the traditional highland pasture known as ‘Braña de Campel’.
    According to Decree 42/2008, whereby the General Guidelines for Land Use destined for wind farms were approved in the Principality of Asturias, the area of Mt. Carondio is a no-go area. It is illegal to build infrastructure on its grounds. The regional government of Asturias thereby recognizes the importance of this historic site. Yet, despite the official Decree, the events we have witnessed in the course of 2009 show its inability to endow the area with legal protection. We are now asking for your signature to support the preservation of this area.
    For images of Mt. Carondio and its surroundings: http://www.panoramio.com/user/3172497

    We are against the wind farm for the following reasons:
    – The archaeological and environmental value of Mt. Carondio is enormous. It includes 34 megalithic monuments, Roman-period gold mines, a Roman encampment at Moyapán, traditional highland pastures and endangered flora. This legacy was enough for the area to be declared a ‘Protected Landscape’ in the past decade. But its status as such was never made legal. The municipality and regional authorities continue to use it disingenuously as a way to attract tourism.
    -Together with the wind farm, there is additional infrastructure that needs to be taken into consideration: power lines, access roads and electrical substations. The wind farm project includes setting up a power line along the nearby mountain range of ‘El Palu’, which is the site of Roman-period mines and lies directly on the path of St. James Way in its leg Asturian, also known as the ‘Primitive Way’.

    We demand:
    – The immediate end to all earthmoving works tied to the wind farm project in Mt. Carondio, including the power lines that would link it to a wider distribution grid.
    – A definitive legal protection for Mt. Carondio and its surroundings (‘Protected Landscape for the Mountains of Carondio and Valledor’) together with an agreement between the local administration and the constituents of the county that ensures a sustainable development model. This model should include the protection of the natural as well as the cultural environment, which can be made compatible with technological upgrades in agriculture and fisheries.

    Les ruego a todos Vds un esfuerzo para salvar un enclave tan valioso mediante su firma.

    • Saludos, Neville. Estoy de acuerdo que esté un asunto serio, sobre todo porque, si lo he entendido correctamente, la ley ya ha decidido la cuestión, pero siendo ignorado. Tengo un puesto de enlaces en proyecto y deberá asegurarse de que esta petición se menciona en lugar destacado.

  4. Si, has entendido correctamente.
    Muchas gracias por tu colaboración que toda Asturias agradece.
    Un cordial saludo a todos.

  5. Pingback: Feudal Transformations XVI: who wants that third field? | A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

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