The Carolingian Experiment

  • Edward James
Part of the New Studies in Medieval History book series (NSMH)


Is there any harm in trying, as I have been instructed, to commemorate the deeds of our princes and nobles by writing them down? … If I cannot be useful to posterity in other ways, I will at least by this effort disperse the haze of error’about these matters for those who come after us.’1 Nithard, the son of Charlemagne’s courtier Angilbert and his successor as Abbot of St-Riquier, was killed in a battle against the Vikings shortly after writing those words. His history of the conflict between his patron Charles the Bald and his royal brothers, particularly in the three years following the death of their father Louis the Pious, does indeed give us an insight into the relationships between the princes and their nobles, and above all into the problems created for the Frankish monarchy by the conflicts of loyalty which inevitably resulted from civil war. Nithard wrote in 843, when it was already clear that the Carolingian experiment to create a unified monarchy and Church administered by a united and loyal aristocracy had failed. For some aristocrats, local ambitions and interests proved more compelling than the public interest. Nithard, at the end of the century inaugurated by the deposition of the last Merovingian king, was aware of this. But, like earlier writers, he concentrates on the doings of the kings and of those aristocrats particularly involved with the affairs of the kingdom.


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    Fredegar, Continuation 33: Wallace-Hadrill, p. 102.Google Scholar
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© Edward James 1982

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  • Edward James

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