Framing the Early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean, 400-800



The Roman Empire Tends To Be Seen As A Whole Whereas The Early Middle Ages Tends To Be Seen As A Collection Of Regional Histories, Roughly Corresponding To The Land Areas Of Modern Nation States As A Result, Early Medieval History Is Much Fragmented, And There Have Been Few Convincing Syntheses Of Socio Economic Change In The Post Roman World Since The S In Recent Decades, The Rise Of Early Medieval Archaeology Has Also Transformed Our Source Base, But This Has Not Been Adequately Integrated Into Analyses Of Documentary History In Almost Any CountryIn Framing The Early Middle Ages Chris Wickham Aims At Integrating Documentary And Archaeological Evidence Together, And Also, Above All, At Creating A Comparative History Of The Period , By Means Of Systematic Comparative Analyses Of Each Of The Regions Of The Latest Roman And Immediately Post Roman World, From Denmark To Egypt Only The Slav Areas Are Left Out The Book Concentrates On Classic Socio Economic Themes, State Finance, The Wealth And Identity Of The Aristocracy, Estate Management, Peasant Society, Rural Settlement, Cities, And Exchange These Are Only A Partial Picture Of The Period, But They Are Intended As A Framing For Other Developments, Without Which Those Other Developments Cannot Be Properly UnderstoodWickham Argues That Only A Complex Comparative Analysis Can Act As The Basis For A Wider Synthesis Whilst Earlier Syntheses Have Taken The Development Of A Single Region As Typical , With Divergent Developments Presented As Exceptions, This Book Takes All Different Developments As Typical, And Aims To Construct A Synthesis Based On A Better Understanding Of Difference And The Reasons For It This Is The Most Ambitious And Original Survey Of The Period Ever WrittenFraming the Early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean, 400-800

Chris Wickham is Chichele Professor of Medieval History, and Faculty Board Chair 2009 12.I have been at Oxford since 2005 Previously, I was Lecturer 1977 , Senior Lecturer 1987 , Reader 1988 , and from 1995 Professor of Early Medieval History, University of Birmingham and I was an undergraduate and postgraduate at Keble College, Oxford, from 1968 to 1975.I am a Fellow of the British Academy, a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales, and a socio of the Accademia dei Lincei.

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  • Paperback
  • 990 pages
  • Framing the Early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean, 400-800
  • Chris Wickham
  • English
  • 06 September 2017
  • 0199212961

10 thoughts on “Framing the Early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean, 400-800

  1. says:

    This book is a huge accomplishment and a genuinely impressive work of scholarship It s quite dense to read at points though Wickham does admirably in making what could be a chore rather engaging , but Wickham s sturdy and methodical scholarship are really pretty wonderful and he does a great job in painting the former Roman Empire plus Denmark and Ireland from 400 800 as taxation systems simplified or disappeared , aristocracies markedly decreased in their wealth and consequently their buy This book is a huge accomplishment and a genuinely impressive work of scholarship It s quite dense to read at points though Wickham does admirably in making what could be a chore rather engaging , but Wickham s sturdy and methodical scholarship are really pretty wonderful and he does a great job in painting the former Roman Empire plus Denmark and Ireland from 400 800 as taxation systems simplified or disappeared , aristocracies markedly decreased in their wealth and consequently their buying power, generating a localization of systems of exchange and militarized in their culture, and peasants often became increasingly autonomous For Wickham, the world didn t end with the fall of Rome but it did change in substantial ways.One possible caveat to this book is one that Wickham openly acknowledges it s an economic history through and through, and potential cultural developments aren t generally addressed Considering the importance of the spread of the Church through this period it s a tough omission But a book can t include everything, and it s not particularly fair of me to criticize what the author consciously chose not to address in this work It s just that he did a very good job on all the rest, and it would be interesting to see in what ways if any cultural and ecclesiastical change affect Wickham s argument

  2. says:

    Revised 4 29 12 After having read The Inheritance of Rome Illuminating the Dark Ages, 400 1000 by Chris Wickham, that is now my number one referral for people who want an introduction THIS book is for people who want to knowdetail Publication of books for the general public about the transition from the Roman world to the European world from about 400AD to about 800AD, aka Late Antiquity, Early Medieval, Dark Ages has been growing rapidly, reflecting a huge development over the past Revised 4 29 12 After having read The Inheritance of Rome Illuminating the Dark Ages, 400 1000 by Chris Wickham, that is now my number one referral for people who want an introduction THIS book is for people who want to knowdetail Publication of books for the general public about the transition from the Roman world to the European world from about 400AD to about 800AD, aka Late Antiquity, Early Medieval, Dark Ages has been growing rapidly, reflecting a huge development over the past 30 years.Chris Wickham s thesis is that this period is characterized by increasing regionalism and loss of an overall unifying political, cultural and social structure He says that earlier European histories tended to start with one region particularly Northern France and generalize from there This work looks at a number of regions, then after that tries to see what, if any, patterns there are This is a social and cultural study, not a political one, so higher level politics are not analyzed He is one of the members of the Fall of Rome was not so cataclysmic school, in that he notices the long term consistenciesthan the changes He believes that many of the regional differences were already there under Roman rule, just submerged under the empire wide consistencies He also includes Eastern Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean, and North Africa another change from 30 years ago.This work is focused on regions and there is very little mention of the barbarian migrations mainly because in most places the effect of these was temporary and mostly at the highest political level The Rise of Western Christendom Triumph Diversity 200 1000 by Peter Robert Lamont Brown is a great companion book that covers this time This is big picture, Cultural with a capital C, and religious history Also try Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376 568 by Guy Halsall for migration history These are all upper undergraduate, early graduate level reading The Fall of the Roman Empire A New History of Rome and the Barbarians by Peter Heather takes thecataclysmic view and is a lot easier to read Of course there s always the classic The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Gibbon It is still influencing people today

  3. says:

    Pernicious teleology exists in most history telling It takes a master historian to separate the now of today from the way things were in the past The reality of today represents what came before it and most histories force the meta history into what is instead of what actually was This author realizes the problem of teleology and makes a note of that at the end of this book, and he ends up writing a history for real students of history by putting the world into relative, relational and contex Pernicious teleology exists in most history telling It takes a master historian to separate the now of today from the way things were in the past The reality of today represents what came before it and most histories force the meta history into what is instead of what actually was This author realizes the problem of teleology and makes a note of that at the end of this book, and he ends up writing a history for real students of history by putting the world into relative, relational and contextual relationships for the socio economical and cultural characteristics for regional and within regions and between regions in such a way that this book can easily be considered the only must read book for students of the early middle ages No other book does what this author does, and all other traditional historical story telling books of which this book is most certainly not would profit from having read this book first This book is unlike any other history book you have ever read unless you happen to be historian of the middle age with a couple of history degrees behind your name, and in that case, you would already know about this book and you can ignore what I just said In order to understand history one does need to hear about the battle between that king on that bridge that you never heard about, the stories, or the meta stories that are understood because of who we became today, the kind of history story telling that Gibbons or Susan Jacoby will give you, but not this book since this book gets at who they were by considering who they were in there own terms not who they were by modern terms A parenthetical remark Vico wrote a highly influential book for the 20th century but not much read in the 21st in 1745 called the New Science which shows how to do history by doing meta history by considering ancient peoples within their own terms not by the terms of today and that lead to books like this one, imo Also, Hans Georg Gadamer does something similar as a last hurrah for Phenomenology in Truth and Method The connections are there, but I ll just keep it to the parenthetical remark as not to further bore the reader of this review There are truths that this book will reveal that other standard history books with their one darn thing after another approach ODTAAA didn t even hint at because they seem to want to dwell on the political and the religious rather than the actual relationships that were transpiring at the time Who would have thought that taxes, social interactions, economics, aristocrats, trade, no politics, very little religious puffery and a real framing of the events could have made for such an entertaining and necessary revealing of history I m glad I took a chance on this book BTW, there is a reaffirmation of some Marxist approach to historicity that floats throughout this book and I noticed that the author has written on Marx in the past This is not like any other history book you have ever read There are hidden layers of meaning within the early middle ages that get revealed expertly by this author There seemed to be hidden themes that popped up throughout this period One for example, of all the time periods through history, the regular folk, the peasants, the workers, the doers, of this time period were least exploited by the upper classes or the rich or the religious or the government, the Gini index, the index used to show inequality between classes of people would have been the lowest, that is at the most equal the author doesn t cite the Gini, but he tells his story such that one can deduce inequality was less during 400 800 than it would have been before that time period or after This period of history 400 800 is one of the most interesting of all and this book is a necessary and sufficient requirement for any other book that covers this period of time because the author really does frame the history in ways that no one else has done except, perhaps, in history journal articles.There are three methods for understanding the world within a philosophy of science perspective 1 theoretical without contradiction 2 experience comporting to reality and 3 pragmatism leading to instrumentation This author sees history for the science that it is The author would use all three methods appropriately For example for the first he would say we have fact 1,2,3, N and we can theorize such and such from that set of facts, or he would say for the second method we have pottery that looks like so and so and we can comport that to what we think we know and conclude this, or he would say for the third method we have this hypothesis accepted widely by most historians of the period that seems to work and that s how we explain that, or even better, he would say that most historians think one thing and I think the opposite for the following pragmatic reasons This book shows that history is anything but a dead subject It is vibrant and when a gem of a book like this one comes along that breaks all the modes you think you knew about history, I can do nothing but recommend this book to others BTW, this book is 50 atin kindle or you can find it for free at Framing the Middle Ages I put it in to voice dream on my Iphone and listened to it as an audio book and therefore I am probably the only person who read all of the footnotes in addition to the text I should warn everyone This is not a particularly easy book to follow at all times The author does assume a familiarity with the time period The footnotes did get tedious from time to time But, overall this book is worth the extra concentration that would be required by most readers at least it was worth it for me

  4. says:

    Weighing in atthan 800 pages of text andthan 100 of bibliography, Framing of the Middle Ages is worthy of the name tome Chris Wickham examines a variety of regions in Western Europe, North Africa and Western Asia which were part of the Roman Empire together with Denmark and Ireland as non Roman comparatives between roughly 400 and 800, looking primarily at the political and economic transformations which occurred in the Empire s aftermath He uses both documentary and archaeolog Weighing in atthan 800 pages of text andthan 100 of bibliography, Framing of the Middle Ages is worthy of the name tome Chris Wickham examines a variety of regions in Western Europe, North Africa and Western Asia which were part of the Roman Empire together with Denmark and Ireland as non Roman comparatives between roughly 400 and 800, looking primarily at the political and economic transformations which occurred in the Empire s aftermath He uses both documentary and archaeological evidence to do this, as well as engaging with a previous historiography which Wickham critiques rightly, I think for being too binary and too focused on the wrong questions such as when did medieval Europe become feudal or were early medieval European societiesRoman or Germanic Wickham instead argues that closer attention should be paid to the particularities of each region, rather than looking for one overarching mechanism of change It s a massively ambitious project, therefore, even in a book of this size, and an impressive achievement Wickham synthesises a huge amount of material, and in a lot of instances though admitting that I have no expertise in, say, the ceramics of the 7th century Levant he seems generally to be on the right track I do have some quibbles with it, however there are times when Wickham uses a model derived from one area when considering another, without presenting real justification for why Issues of gender are ignored and while, yes, we have very little direct evidence about the involvement of women in economic and political activities, there is some, and gender considerations do make a difference in how power is used Female lordship may not have been often exercised, but it did exist and it was a little frustrating to see it ignored Though I m sure Wickham would argue that it lies outside the scope of the work The role of the church, particularly monastic institutions, in the creation and sustaining of socio economic power, is likewise largely ignored Wickham frequently points out the dangers of teleological arguments for historical development, but seems to fall into that trap a time or two, and I m not entirely comfortable with how he characterises social structures in early medieval Ireland or with how he uses anthropological evidence about forms of slavery in Africa as a comparative In other words, there are times when I don t think he realises that he s using Western European social structures as defaults, or even that there are forms of social organisation which are not those most familiar to us in the west All in all, definitely a book worth reading if you have an interest in this area, though you ll most certainly want to set aside a chunk of time in order to read it

  5. says:

    This wasof a project than a book It s massive and detailed, not for a general reader see Wickham s The Inheritance of Rome for that It s also hard to know how to rate, but I am giving it 5 stars for usefulness, clarity and for accomplishing the author s stated goals With its broad focus, this would be an excellent book for someone looking for thesis topics or a research area The early Middle Ages really cries out forstudy and excavation.Wickham wants to provide a synthesis of d This wasof a project than a book It s massive and detailed, not for a general reader see Wickham s The Inheritance of Rome for that It s also hard to know how to rate, but I am giving it 5 stars for usefulness, clarity and for accomplishing the author s stated goals With its broad focus, this would be an excellent book for someone looking for thesis topics or a research area The early Middle Ages really cries out forstudy and excavation.Wickham wants to provide a synthesis of documentary and archaeological evidence across the disciplines of social, economic, legal and military history, for the post Roman world He states that this seems to be lacking for the early Middle Ages compared to the periods before and after it His geographic scope is from Syria and Palestine in the East to Spain and Ireland in the West, from Egypt as a southern pole to Denmark and very brief mentions of Norway The time frame is 400 800 A.D The book has a heavy emphasis on material culture, economics and social hierarchies, less on cultural or military history The book gives detailed description, which will be too detailed for many readers, andsubtle is any kind of argument or narrative, though Wickham does make one of those, mainly that this period needs to be looked at in terms of local detail rather than broad brushes, which have too often led to oversimplification, catastrophe narrative the whole Dark Ages bugbear and teleological approaches what s important is what s important to Us.Most interesting to me were the chapters on peasant organization, especially in Wales and the Germanic regions and in Egypt, and somewhat the chapter on exchange systems Anything you find interesting here, though, will suffer from being treated only briefly The book has most usefully served me as a bibliography of works to read next, to goin depth on topics that Wickham just brushed I ve got quite a list That in itself is not a criticism, though, because it s what the book set out to provide a frame, some basic structure for further work That s a goal I think Wickham accomplishes very well

  6. says:

    Long, boring book about stuff that happened so long ago we aren t sure if it did The author stresses the unique, internally driven development of each region he discusses, and wishes to move analysis away from teleological or nationalistic readings of evidence In the conclusion he states that the early middle ages was 1 a period in which fiscal structures were nearly universally simpler then they had been before, 2 a period of relative aristocratic weakness marked by 3autonomous pea Long, boring book about stuff that happened so long ago we aren t sure if it did The author stresses the unique, internally driven development of each region he discusses, and wishes to move analysis away from teleological or nationalistic readings of evidence In the conclusion he states that the early middle ages was 1 a period in which fiscal structures were nearly universally simpler then they had been before, 2 a period of relative aristocratic weakness marked by 3autonomous peasantries, 4 a period in which aristocracies changed substantially in their culture and identity ancestry became temporarily less important nearly everywhere, 5divergent the end of Roman unity, and 6 a time of notable social fluidity.Near the end the author questions the validity of the statement It is thus rigorously true to say that, without Mahomet, Charlemagne is inconceivable He would replace that popular sound bite of history with the less appealing exchange complexity in the early medieval period was always the product of the accumulation of wealth inside regions What a nerd.It s nice to be finished with that one Carrying it around for the last couple of months has caused my spine to pop and grind unfavorably

  7. says:

    will be the death of me.

  8. says:

    Wickham s Framing the Early Middle Ages represented what I consider a paradigm shift in the scholarship around late antiquity, largely due to updated knowledge of new archaeological findings that scholars of 1970s and 1980s didn t possess The book essentially presented the transformation of the broader Roman world that is, the Roman Empire proper as well as many of its peripheral regions such as Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, etc from late antiquity to early Middle Ages as an economic history Wickham s Framing the Early Middle Ages represented what I consider a paradigm shift in the scholarship around late antiquity, largely due to updated knowledge of new archaeological findings that scholars of 1970s and 1980s didn t possess The book essentially presented the transformation of the broader Roman world that is, the Roman Empire proper as well as many of its peripheral regions such as Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, etc from late antiquity to early Middle Ages as an economic history much to Henri Pirenne s likeness but with utterly different approaches, methodologies, and conclusions Whereas the famous Pirenne thesis viewed the rise of Islamic caliphate as an ultimately disrupting factor that undermined Mediterranean trade networks that characterized classical civilization, thus ending the Roman world for good, Wickham s thesis was muchmulti faceted, dealing with complex social and economic phenomenons from the demonumentalization of Roman cities to the gradual formation of a distinctive frontier culture Wickham did not necessarily disprove Pirenne s arguments, what he presented waslike a c mon, let s move on already call for those who were still debating issues of late antiquity in the 1970s mindset The collapse despite constant debates over whether a transformation is better suited for that period of time than the traditional concept of collapse, I see no ideological gap between the two as a whole, the broader Roman world experienced fundamental transformations, while specific entities communities, cities, or even the entire Western Empire, did collapse of complex systems cannot be explained through one line reasoning or any single factor causal relationships Although this may seem quite intuitive to modern readers, it has, for a long period of time, been the mainstream way of interpreting the fall of the Roman Empire Integrating new archaeological findings with existing scholarly works succeeding Peter Brown, Wickham has indeed achieved something quite monumental bidding farewell to an entire academic framework

  9. says:

    Masterly review of the post Roman world An absolute must to understand the role of states, fiscal systems and systems of exchange in the making of Europe and the Middle East How to treat a post apocalyptic world seriously.

  10. says:

    Dense, engaging, ruthlessly materialist and extremely thorough.

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