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Before France and Germany: The Creation and Transformation of the Merovingian World Paperback – February 25, 1988

ISBN-13: 978-0195044584 ISBN-10: 0195044584

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (February 25, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195044584
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195044584
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.5 x 5.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #306,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Clear and concise survey."--James Grier, Yale University

"An excellent guide to the Merovingian world, especially for my beginning graduate students!"--Coor, University of Arkansas

"A history of the transformation of the Roman provincial world....All archaelogists will be grateful to the author for this large and beautifully produced work, since there has been no comparable publication...Geary is a gifted synthesizer."--Classical World

"A marvelous synthesis and competent survey of Northern Europe after the German tribes entered the Roman Empire...Geary wrote this clearly and simply which makes it valuable for both an undergraduate and graduate audience."--Louis Haas, Duquesne University

"Full of insights, related in clear and concise form, in a manner likely to appeal to and enlighten undergraduates. It will arouse a new interest in a period relatively neglected, even by medievalists."--Karen Nicholes, State University of New York, Oswego

"This is a reliable and readable synthesis that makes good sense of recent research."--T. N. Bisson, Harvard University

"A fine and important book. Geary really does know the literature in all the relevant languages. He is not merely a gifted synthesizer; he is one of the research scholars in the field. I would adopt it; I have been waiting for such a survey."--Edward Peters, University of Pennsylvania

"An excellent survey of the Merovingian period. The...integration of perspectives from political, social, and religious history along with material culture and archaeology explains Merovingian civilization clearly and ...brings the Merovingians to life."--Karen Gould, University of Texas at Austin

"The first book of its kind in English...very good. It steers a sensible course through minefields of controversy."--Thomas F.X. Noble, University of Virginia

"A very revealing yet succinct account of a topic long considered confused if not irrelevant. Geary's synthesis is based upon firm control of early medieval sources and modern scholarship."--Harry Rosenberg, Colorado State University

About the Author

Patrick J. Geary is at University of California, Los Angeles.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Gerald M. Vrooman on June 20, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
During the fifth century, the country we know as France was overrun by a horde of German speaking barbarians called the Franks. After subjugating the Gallo-Roman population, the Franks somehow ended up speaking French and wearing berets. Or so I was taught in high school.
What is wrong with this picture? Generally when a country is conquered, the victors impose their language and culture on the vanquished, not the other way around. Most history books devote about two paragraphs to this period of French history.
If you have ever wondered how a group of plain, down to earth, barbarians could have produced a guy by the name of Charlemagne, Patrick J. Geary has the answer. (Hint: The barbarians were relatively few in number, and the Gallo-Roman aristocracy was never really conquered.) Geary's book is heavy reading in places, but it explores in depth the complex relationship between the Franks and the Gallo-Romans. Much that is confusing about European history can be cleared up by reading this book.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Cas VINE VOICE on July 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
Paints an entirely plausible picture of life after the putative "fall of Rome". Scholarly and in-depth treatment of the time period make this an absolute must-have in any history maven's collection. I haven't ever seen a better treatment of this time period. What is nicest, it's not terribly long or dry. It says what it needs to say with knowledgability and wit, and then it gets out of there, leaving you lots of places to take up study. To the person just seriously delving into this period (this history is not for the casual reader), this is the perfect book to get you started. It definitely was for me.
Also an excellent bridge between "fall of Rome" period history and the "Middle Ages". You don't see a lot about that period. It's largely a mystery how it all went from togas to braies. This dispels many notions of pseudo-history and once-cherished errors, and effectively explains how we got from there to here. There's a very sweeping sense of history about this book. When I finish reading it, I get a sense that Charlemagne wouldn't have happened if this period hadn't happened the way it did, and see the whole time period in a different light -- the light of perspective. Definitely recommend it.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Glenn McDorman on September 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
Geary's work is an enlightening look at the transformation from the Roman to the medieval in the transalpine Roman provinces. Geary easily dispels the myth of barbarian invasions and the "fall" of Rome. A complex and weary narrative is turned into a simple and intersting one. Geary does not waste his time (and ours) in pointless name-dropping. He gets right down to the core of the social, economic, and political story. Additionally, Geary quietly, but effectively, addresses one of the major controversies in early medieval studies: what was the economic impact of the Germanic migrations? This book is a must have for anyone interested in the classical or medieval periods and goes a long way to clearing up a lot of misconceptions.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By James V. Sylvester on August 6, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In his own words, Geary's purpose was "not to launch some new theory about the origins of European civilization, but to make available the vast literature on late antiquity and the early Middle Ages which has, for a variety of reasons, seldom been presented in a manner accessible to a broader audience, particularly to an English-reading one."
Understanding that the intent was to synthesize a much larger body of work, it is important to also understand that Geary's focus is laser-beam tight on the Merovingian dynasty within the Frankish kingdoms of the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th centuries. For those without some familiarity to the period, I would suggest reading a couple of chapters from a more general work such as "Medieval Europe" (Hollister & Bennett) even if just not to be surprised when the early Carolingians start showing up on the page. (Geary assumes you'll instantly know who "Pippin" was.)
My one reservation about the book lies in the torrent of names that take up about forty pages towards the end. That is probably a curse of writing about Merovingians in the 8th century, period, but I found it impossible to keep my Nantechildis separate from my Flaochad while keeping a mental finger on Clothar II, Grimoald, and Childebert (along with many more).
Otherwise, I found the book quite engaging, particularly with respect to the early merger of the Franks into Roman-Gallo society and its reporting on the differing roles and influences that the bishops, monks, and eventually the Roman Benedictines assumed and exercised within the early Frankish kingdoms.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Axel Mickyfinn on November 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
The transformation of the Roman Empire of the West into the barbarian kingdoms and thence into Mediaeval Europe was a process of interaction and assimilation between Rome and the barbarians during which both refashioned the other.

Geary examines the Roman and barbarian worlds before the 5th century AD. In the West, the Roman world was faced with depopulation of rural areas, low tax revenues, and the stratification of society as occupations became hereditary - the distinction between free labourers and slaves all but vanished while the senatorial aristocracy enjoyed vast agricultural holdings. The barbarian 'tribes', somewhat loose confederations of peoples, vacillated between fighting against and for the Empire, while absorbing by one means or another the material benefits Rome could provide. Thus the Visigoths entered the Eastern Empire as foederati, or allies, after which followed a period of turbulent relations - in AD 410 they sacked Rome; three years the Visigoths were an official Roman army in Gaul.

After this overview, the emphasis is on the kingdom of the Franks (consisting of large parts of what are now France, Germany, Switzerland and the Low Countries) and the interaction amongst the Frankish barbarians and the Gallo-Roman aristocracy, in particluar the role played by the Church through the bishops (largely an aristocratic preserve) and different monastic traditions. The appearance of the Franks and their expansion of their authority was not a direct displacement of the Roman world, rather a gradual merging of two societies. Despite the disappearance of the political power of the Empire in the West, the lives of the Gallo-Roman aristocracy, with their vast wealth, changed slowly.
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