1st Edition

Converting the Saxons A Study of Violence and Religion in Early Medieval Germany

By Joshua M. Cragle Copyright 2024
    296 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Utilizing a “crusading ethos,” from 772 to 804 AD, Charlemagne, King of the Franks, waged war against the continental Saxons to integrate them within the growing Frankish Empire and facilitate their conversion to Christianity. While substantial research has been produced concerning various components of Carolingian history, this work offers a unique examination of Charlemagne’s Saxon Wars as a case study for understanding methods of conversion used in the Christianization of Europe, as well as their significance for subsequent conversion strategies employed around the globe.

    Converting the Saxons builds on prior scholarly research, is grounded in primary sources, and is contextualized with a robust historical introduction. Throughout the text, particular emphasis is given to Christian encounters with paganism and the way paganism was interpreted, confronted, and transformed. Within those encounters, we observe myriad forces of coercion and incentivization used in societal religious conversion, demonstrating the need for a serious reconsideration of the standard narratives surrounding Christian missions.

    This book provides a scholarly and accessible resource for students and researchers interested in transhistorical methods of conversion, the history of Christianity, Early Medieval paganism, Colonial religious encounters, and the nature of religious conversion.


    Part I: Origins

    1. The Kingdom of the Franks
    2. The Early Saxons
    3. Early Franco-Saxon Conflict
    4. Old Saxon Paganism
    5. Confronting Paganism and the Foundations of the Early German Church
    6. Part II: Charlemagne’s Saxon Wars

    7. The Makings of a Crusade, 772–777
    8. The Rise and Fall of Widukind, 777–785
    9. The Northern Campaigns, 786–804
    10. Turbulent Frontiers
    11. Part III: Consequences

    12. Saxons in the Age of Louis the Pious
    13. Christianization in Saxony under the Late Carolingians
    14. Stellinga and Beyond




    Joshua M. Cragle has an MSc in Social and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Amsterdam, where he conducted research on historical and contemporary Germanic/Norse paganism. He formerly worked as a Social Science Field Researcher for the University of Michigan as well as taught history in China. His previous publications primarily concern philosophy, Early Medieval religion, and paganism and can be found in The Pomegranate and Journal of Thought. He currently works at the University of Colorado-Boulder.