The projects in this working group approach the formation and transformation processes in Carolingian Francia and its successor-states from different groups of sources. As one of the most successful early medieval examples of community-formation, the Carolingian Empire formed the political, social, religious and cultural order in much of Europe from the eighth well into the tenth century. Its gradual disintegration, which was already underway in the ninth century, has frequently been depicted as a tragedy, both by contemporaries and by modern researchers – supposedly an unexceptional fate in a bleak era between the shaping of Europe by the family of Charlemagne and the dawn of the more nation-state-oriented Middle Ages in the eleventh century.

Older historical research saw the post-Carolingian era as a period in which the old imperial centre and political order lost importance, which acted as a catalyst for political fragmentation and the development of the later European nation-states. Modern narratives often interpret this time as a period formed by the disintegration of the political geography, institutions and structures of the ninth century. However, it was precisely this regional diversity and fragility of political structures in the tenth century that made it as much a time of transition as of crisis, and gave it an enormous potential for fundamental and lasting changes in the social and political order of Europe. Authority took on new forms through the growth of the power of influential families and bishops, regional communities emerged as political actors, borders changed constantly and inherited political structures and institutions were adapted.

Fragmentation, particulisation and regionalisation can be interpreted not only as symptoms of a time of crisis, but also as part of a search for opportunities to establish new structures in all areas of life – from politics to religion, from law to scholarship. These developments necessitated changes in discourses about political and social order – changes which historians can detect in the sources preserved from this exciting period. The post-imperial loss of unity concerning the location and manner of social and political authority was an essential trait of the tenth and eleventh centuries, and the team of this working group examines this in the many different possibilities for the use of the past.



PD Dr. Maximilian Diesenberger MAS