All in the family? A beginner’s guide to Carolingian genealogies in the 10th and 11th century

One of the genres of source that I’m closely working with as part of the After Empire project is genealogies. Genealogies are especially interesting texts both for the questions that this project is investigating and for my own research interests: how do people engage with the past? And how in particular do they engage with…

A Letter from Abbot Odilo of Cluny

In the early middle ages, letter-writing was a difficult art to master. Letters were supposed to follow elaborate stylistic models. The language was supposed to be sophisticated and rhetorically complex. Many letters were conspicuously public documents, written to be read aloud, and not only by the recipient. But accomplished letter-writers could use their skills to…

I’ll be in Rome for Christmas: Ottonian memories of the past at Christmas

Where do you spend Christmas? For medieval rulers, this was a very important question, and one that had many possible answers. In the tenth century, the itinerant Ottonian rulers spent Christmas at many different places across the empire, often at major cities like Frankfurt, Pavia, Rome, Cologne and Ravenna. Celebrating Christmas was one of the…

The Ottonian queen as ‘consors regni’

Uses of the past, or responses to it, are not only to be found in historical narratives, but are also necessarily reflected in a society’s political institutions. The history of Ottonian queenship provides an interesting case in point, since we cannot begin to analyse it without taking a position on the debt it owed to…

Pocket Change: the Transformation of Money in the Tenth Century

At the heart of After Empire is a view of the tenth century as an era of change. New dynasties, sometimes even new kingdoms, had to reshape the tools available to them – or craft fresh ones – in order to rule effectively. One of these tools was coined money. The Carolingians had laid a…

The Quedlinburg Annals: writing the Ottonian past in the 11th century

Shortly after the turn of the first millennium CE, a new history of the Ottonian empire was written. The Quedlinburg Annals, a chronicle of world history created at the imperial Saxon convent of Quedlinburg, is one of the most important contemporary historiographical works we have for Ottonian Empire. The Annals track the history of the…

After Empire Inaugural Conference Report

On 17th May 2017, in the leafy environs of Topoi Haus Dahlem, the Freie Universität Berlin hosted the inaugural conference of our project, ‘After Empire: Using and Not Using the Past’, funded by HERA and bolstered by a selfless donation from Professor Patrick Geary’s Annelise Meier Fund. With an intentionally open theme and speakers ranging…

The paradox of the past in the crisis of the Carolingian Empire

Any casual reader of the relevant modern historiography would rightly come away with the impression that the legacy of the Carolingian Empire was pervasive across centuries of European history. The figure of Charlemagne was particularly attractive to posterity: idolised by French rulers from the Capetians to Napoleon, and canonised by Frederick Barbarossa in 1165. How,…