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The Carolingians : A Family Who Forged Europe Paperback – January 1, 1993

8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Riché has managed to make an often confusing period of history accessible to the reader, and this is a considerable achievement."—Historia

"Invaluable to those who need to disentangle the complex family relationships of those who controlled much of Europe for so many centuries."—American Historical Review

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: The Middle Ages Series
  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press; Reprint edition (January 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812213424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812213423
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #537,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 9, 1997
Format: Paperback
For those of you who think that the Dark Ages was characterized by illiterate drunk men dressed and acting like Thor, Pierre Riche's The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe will come as welcome releif.
By tracing the evolution of this one family from obscurity to the zenith of power under Charlemagne and decline under the late pre-Capetian kings of France and the Ottonians of Germany, Riche has in essence captured the spirit of Western/Central Europe itself. Plentiful notation and research not only documents the world of Late Merovingian Sub-Roman Gaul, but that of the early Middle Ages as well. We learn about Byzantine politics, assasination, love affairs, the Church, Basques, Moors, political crises, architecture, international relations, war, scholarship, barbarians, beauty, decay, petty dynasts, torture, and literacy.
Family histories are difficult to write. There is a tendency to speculate on interpersonal relationships, petty rivalries, recurring family traits, fighting over the family business, etc. However, the Carolingians were a family whose business was Europe. It is interesting to see how cooperation and organization could help the Caroligingians to climb the lofty heights of power and recover from disaster, including an abortive attempt to place one of their members on the French throne about a century before Pippin the Short took the crown from the Merovingians. However, a century after Pippin, his great-great grandchildren were the masters of most of Europe and spent most of their energy fighting each other and ultimately became politically impotent and insignificant. Their last known family members either married into the Capetian/Ottonian families or simply vanished into the mists of time never to rule again.
Riche is adept at combining the history of this remarkable family with that of Europe as a whole. After reading The Carolingians, one will have a much clearer notion of what life was like during the Dark Ages
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Glenn McDorman on August 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
Riche's treatment of the Carolingian dynasty and era is masterful, and towers above other such treatments. Beginning with the late Merovingian kings and the slow rise of the Carolingians, and ending with the establishment of the new regional dynasties this book covers almost three hundred years of history in dramatic fashion. Riche focuses on who the Carolingians were as persons and as rulers, giving his descriptions of events a feeling of real truth. At the same time, Riche rises above merely writing a narrative history. Woven into the story of the Carolingians is much academic discussion of policies, administration, linguistics, economics, military science and technology. Riche goes so far as to end the book with an eighty-page discussion of Carolingian society, focusing on the Church, the features of kingship, economics, and the "Carolingian Renaissance."
For those of you wary of Romance-language scholarship, know that the book does lack notes, but the sources are clearly stated within the text. As far as translation goes, this is the best French-into-English translations out there.
Given that there is only one map, it would be a good idea to get a historical atlas to accompany this book.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
An excellent book, with sufficient detail for professional historians yet presented clearly and engagingly enough for the non-expert. I highly recommend this for anyone with an interest in European history, and particularly in the Middle Ages, as the noble families who rose to power across Europe under the Carolingians -- the dukes of Normandy and Aquitaine; the house of Anjou, etc. -- figure prominently in the following centuries. The family trees at the back were invaluable -- but I was irked to note that the number of maps had been cut badk "at the request of the publisher," so there was only one...and it was inadequate.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Antonio Calabria on May 12, 2011
Format: Paperback
I hate to break the consensus about this book, but I found it terrible, and tedious to the extreme. Riche' is a well-published historian, but in this book he fails to write a "history". He has no major, over-arching argument about this important family, except that it was, indeed, an important family. The task Riche'sets for himself is to track down the Carolingians in any byway he can find them. So the book is not analytical but overwhelmingly descriptive. It focuses on minutia rather than on major points, let alone trends.

If you're interested in learning about what the Carolingians achieved; how they failed in halting the pattern of a creative outburst in government, preceded and followed by anarchy, like the Merovingians before them; what the impact of their rule was, and such matters, this is not the book for you.

Hodges by himself and with Whitehouse, to mention only a few oter scholars, have been able instead to connect the Carolingians to larger themes in the history of Medieval Europe (like the Pirenne thesis [stated in MOHAMMAD AND CHARLEMAGNE], urbanization, international trade in a big loop north to the Viking lands, down the Volga and over to Baghdad, no less). And lots of writers, starting with Marc Bloch have traced the roots of Feudalism to (among other factors)the disintegration following Charlemagne's death and the violent warfare between his three feckless grandsons. If you care for history and meaning, these are the books to start with.
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