The Merovingians : Kingship, Institutions, Law and History book cover
1st Edition

The Merovingians
Kingship, Institutions, Law and History

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ISBN 9781032054230
February 8, 2022 Forthcoming by Routledge
440 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The studies collected here cover a period of about 33 years, from 1986 to 2019, and represent a sustained effort to understand the institutions of the Merovingian kingdom and its history. There has long been a predisposition to cast the Merovingian period in the dark colours of barbarism or to treat it with reference to personal relationships and archaic institutions. The present volume, instead, recognizes the Merovingian world not as an archaic, primitive intrusion on the Mediterranean civilization of the Roman Empire but simply as a participant in the wider commonwealth that remained after the dissolution of the western imperial system; in so doing, it serves to refute the scholarly tendency to primitivize Merovingian governance, its underlying institutions, and the broader culture upon which these rested.


The collection is divided into four parts. Part 1 considers the question of whether Merovingian kingship should be viewed as a species of archaic, ‘sacral’ kingship. Part 2, on institutions, has chapters that deal with various offices (the grafio and centenarius); public institutions (especially immunity and public security); and the broader makeup of the Merovingian state system. Part 3 on charters, procedure, and law, has chapters on the profile of the charter evidence as now presented in the new MGH edition of the Merovingian diplomas and one on particular procedures before the royal tribunal, mistakenly referred to in scholarship as ‘fictitious’ trials; a final chapter provides a reflection on, and basic guide to, the law in general of the successor kingdoms, with an eye to the evidence of Merovingian Gaul. Part 4, a slight change of pace, deals with historiography, both the modern variety (Reinhard Wenskus) and the Merovingian (Gregory of Tours). All chapters deal extensively with the historiography of their subjects.


This book will appeal to students and scholars alike interested in Early Medieval European history, Merovingian history, Early Medieval law and society, Early Medieval historiography, and the influence of Merovingian law and governance on later centuries.

Table of Contents

Part I. Were the Merovingians ‘Sacral Kings’?

1. Post vocantur Merohingii: Fredegar, Merovech, and ‘Sacral Kingship’

After Rome’s Fall: Narrators and Sources of Early Medieval History, Essays Presented to Walter Goffart, ed. Alexander Callander Murray (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998), 121–152

2. Gregory of Tours (Hist. II 10) and Fredegar (Chron. III 9) on the Paganism of the Franks: The Relation of the Texts and What They Say

La rigueur et la passion. Mélanges Pascale Bourgain, ed. Cédric Giraud and Dominique Poirel (Turnhout: Brepols, 2016), 45–55

Part II. Institutions

3. The Position of the Grafio in the Constitutional History of Merovingian Gaul

Speculum. A Journal of Medieval Studies 61/4 (1986): 787–805

4. From Roman to Frankish Gaul: Centenarii and Centenae in the Administration of the Merovingian Kingdom

Traditio: Studies in Ancient and Medieval History, Thought and Religion 44 (1988): 59–100

5. Immunity, Nobility and the Edict of Paris

Speculum. A Journal of Medieval Studies 69/1 (1994): 18–39

6. Merovingian Immunity Revisited

History Compass 8/8 (2010): 913–928

7. The Merovingian State and Administration in the Times of Gregory of Tours

A Companion to Gregory of Tours, ed. Alexander Callander Murray, Brill’s Companions to the Christian Tradition 63 (Leiden: Brill 2016), 191–231

Part III. Charters, Procedure, and Law

8. Review Article: The New MGH Edition of the Charters of the Merovingian Kings

Journal of Medieval Latin 15 (2005): 246–278

9. So–called Fictitious Trials in the Merovingian Placita

Gallien in Spätantike und Frühmittelalter (5.–7. Jh. n. Chr.), ed. S. Diefenbach and G. Mueller (Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2011), 297–327

10. The Law of the Post–Roman Kingdoms

Great Christian Jurists and Legal Collections in the First Millennium, ed. Philip L. Reynolds, Cambridge Studies in Law and Christianity (Cambridge: CUP 2019), 73–106

Part IV. Historiography

11. Reinhard Wenskus on ‘Ethnogenesis,’ Ethnicity, and the Origin of the Franks

On Barbarian Identity: Critical Approaches to Ethnicity in the Early Middle Ages, ed. Andrew Gillett, Studies in the Early Middle Ages 4 (Turnhout: Brepols 2002), 39–68

12. The Composition of the Histories of Gregory of Tours and Its Bearing on the Political Narrative

A Companion to Gregory of Tours, ed. Alexander Callander Murray, Brill’s Companions to the Christian Tradition 63 (Leiden: Brill 2016), 63–101

With an Appendix of selections from "Chronology and the Composition of the Histories of Gregory of Tours"

Journal of Late Antiquity 1/1 (2008): 57–196

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Alexander Callander Murray is Professor of History Emeritus, University of Toronto, Canada. He is the author of Germanic Kinship Structure: Studies in Law and Society in Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (1983); editor of After Rome’s Fall: Narrators and Sources of Early Medieval History, Essays Presented to Walter Goffart (1998) and A Companion to Gregory of Tours (2016); and editor/translator of From Roman to Merovingian Gaul: A Reader (2000) and Gregory of Tours: The Merovingians (2006).