Kingship and Politics in the Late Ninth Century

Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought: Fourth Series

Book 57
Cambridge University Press
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This is a major study of the collapse of the pan-European Carolingian empire and the reign of its last ruler, Charles III 'the Fat' (876–888). The later decades of the empire are conventionally seen as a dismal period of decline and fall, scarred by internal feuding, unfettered aristocratic ambition and Viking onslaught. This book offers an alternative interpretation, arguing that previous generations of historians misunderstood the nature and causes of the end of the empire, and neglected many of the relatively numerous sources for this period. Topics covered include the significance of aristocratic power; political structures; the possibilities and limits of kingship; developments in royal ideology; the struggle with the Vikings and the nature of regional political identities. In proposing these explanations for the empire's disintegration, the book has broader implications for our understanding of this formative period of European history more generally.
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About the author

Simon MacLean is Lecturer in History at the University of St Andrews, Scotland.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Cambridge University Press
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Published on
Sep 25, 2003
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9781139440295
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / General
History / Europe / Medieval
Political Science / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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This is the first major study in English of the queens of the Ottonian dynasty (919-1024). The Ottonians were a family from Saxony who are often regarded as the founders of the medieval German kingdom. They were the most successful of all the dynasties to emerge from the wreckage of the pan-European Carolingian Empire after it disintegrated in 888, ruling as kings and emperors in Germany and Italy and exerting indirect hegemony in France and in Eastern Europe. It has long been noted by historians that Ottonian queens were peculiarly powerful - indeed, among the most powerful of the entire Middle Ages. Their reputations, particularly those of the empresses Theophanu (d.991) and Adelheid (d.999) have been commemorated for a thousand years in art, literature, and opera. But while the exceptional status of the Ottonian queens is well appreciated, it has not been fully explained. Ottonian Queenship offers an original interpretation of Ottonian queenship through a study of the sources for the dynasty's six queens, and seeks to explain it as a phenomenon with a beginning, middle, and end. The argument is that Ottonian queenship has to be understood as a feature in a broader historical landscape, and that its history is intimately connected with the unfolding story of the royal dynasty as a whole. Simon MacLean therefore interprets the spectacular status of Ottonian royal women not as a matter of extraordinary individual personalities, but as a distinctive product of the post-Carolingian era in which the certainties of the ninth century were breaking down amidst overlapping struggles for elite family power, royal legitimacy, and territory. Queenship provides a thread which takes us through the complicated story of a crucial century in Europe's creation, and helps explain how new ideas of order were constructed from the debris of the past.
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