AMS presents, Eric Goldberg "Warfare, Rapine, and the Decline of the Carolingian Empire"

Tuesday, November 28, 2023 at 5:00pm

Building 51, 275
134 MEMORIAL DR, Cambridge, MA 02139

Abstract: Historians have long debated the forces that led to the collapse of the Frankish empire under Charlemagne’s descendants around the year AD 900. Various arguments have been offered: dynastic conflict, incompetent kings, succession crisis, Viking invasions, the proliferation of castles, “Feudal Revolution,” even “Feudal Mutation.” I offer a different explanation based on the neglected topics of warfare and military logistics. I argue that the Carolingian military underwent a profound yet largely overlooked transformation during the ninth century that created growing challenges for the supplying and garrisoning of soldiers and their horses. These logistical problems increasingly led to illegal requisitions and violence committed by Frankish soldiers against the common people, a phenomenon that chroniclers and royal laws described as “rapine.” This growing problem of rapine committed by Frankish armies undermined the legitimacy of the Carolingian dynasty in the eyes of the Church and facilitated the breakup of their empire in the late ninth and early tenth centuries.

Bio: Eric Goldberg is a professor of medieval history at MIT. His research explores the vibrant politics and culture of early medieval Europe under the Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties.

Image: ”Le comte Eudes défend Paris contre des Normands, 885-886 (Count Eudes defends Paris)" by Jean Victor Schnetz, 1834-37

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