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McKitterick, R.D.

McKitterick, R.D.

Rosamond McKitterick, born in Chesterfield, UK, in 1949. Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. Professor of Medieval History and Professorial Fellow of Newnham College at the University of Cambridge.

Fellow (1 September 2005 – 30 June 2006)


During my NIAS year I focussed on the formation of Frankish political identity during the reign of Charlemagne. The basic premise of my book was that important formative elements of political identity, as well as a means of articulating it, are a people’s knowledge and use of the past. Charlemagne’s huge empire presents an extraordinarily interesting opportunity to explore the development of political identity in a very diverse region. In my analysis I stripped the reign of Charlemagne right down to what we can reconstruct from sources written during his reign. I tried to take a fresh look at the development of the Frankish empire from its beginnings, and to free it from the clutter of accumulated arguments, and of hypotheses which have somehow become facts. I aimed, therefore, to examine the primary evidence anew and to take nothing on trust. Rather to my surprise, I ended up challenging nearly everything, even that which I had thought was secure. The outcome is a monograph which offers a new perspectives and interpretation of the period from c. 751 to 814, with many new analyses of the primary source material.

The first Chapter of my book considers representations of Charlemagne, examining in detail the ninth-century texts produced after Charlemagne’s death. In Chapter 2, I explore Charlemagne’s family background and rise to political prominence, as well as his sole rule from 771 to 814, the development of a special relationship with the papacy, and the conquest of the Lombard kingdom, the Saxons, the Bavarians and the subjugation of many more peoples. In Chapter 3, I address the issue of the royal household and the court and whether or not the court was itinerant, as a means of working out how the king set about governing the huge empire he conquered. In Chapter 4, I explore royal government in the empire at large. I take communications as my overarching theme in an analysis of Charlemagne’s administration and the problem of multiple loyalties and identities in a diverse realm. The final Chapter is concerned with cultural identities and the themes of correctio, ecclesiastical reform, the patronage of learning and the legacy of Rome. I analyse the many ways in which the Christian piety of Charlemagne was demonstrated My overall theme in this Chapter is the creation of a sacred topography of the Frankish empire and the role of the Christina religion in shaping political identity in the Carolingian world. I also completed the final version of short book, Perceptions of the past in the early middle ages, to be published later in 2006, and oversaw the French translation of my monograph, History and memory in the Carolingian world (Cambridge University Press, 2004), for publication by Brepols later this year. In addition I wrote three short chapters in edited books.

I have, in short, had a wonderfully productive and enjoyable year. I should like to thank NIAS and KNAW for its generosity in selecting me for a Fellowship-in Residence, and all the staff at NIAS for doing so much to support the Fellows’ work and create a pleasant atmosphere in which to live.