Charlemagne: Father of a Continent / Edition 1

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The most important study of Charlemagne in a generation, this biography by distinguished medievalist Alessandro Barbero illuminates both the man and the world in which he lived. Charles the Great—Charlemagne—reigned from a.d. 768 to a.d. 814. At the time if his death, his empire stretched across Europe to include Bavaria, Saxony, parts of Spain, and Italy. With a remarkable grasp of detail and a sweeping knowledge of Carolingian institutions and economy, Barbero not only brings Charlemagne to life with accounts of his physical appearance, tastes and habits, family life, and ideas and actions but also conveys what it meant to be king of the Franks and, later, emperor. He recounts how Charlemagne ruled his empire, kept justice, and waged wars. He vividly describes the nature of everyday life at that time, how the economy functioned, and how Christians perceived their religion. Barbero's absorbing analysis of how concepts of slavery and freedom were subtly altered as feudal relations began to grow underscores the dramatic changes that the emperor's wars brought to the political landscape. Engaging and informed by deep scholarship, this latest account provides a new and richer context for considering one of history's most fascinating personalities.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Charles the Great, crowned emperor by the pope on Christmas Day A.D. 800, has at least three claims to be the progenitor of Europe. First, as this excellent translation of Barbero's text indicates, he was the grand orchestrator of a supranational, continental Europe that pre-empted the rise of nationalist allegiances and shaped the cultural underpinnings of today's EU. Second, he attempted to weld together a specifically Christian unity, building on the Franks' long tradition of Catholicism and their close strategic alliance with the papacy. And third, as Italian medievalist Barbero makes quite clear, Charlemagne paved the way for brutal forms of Western colonial aggression conducted in the name of religion. In the course of a war of "unparalleled ruthlessness," 4,500 Saxon rebels were decapitated in a single day. The author of this rich, scholarly but accessible study provides an intimate portrait of the man-right down to his shirt and underpants-and a sensitive analysis of his government and times. Particularly intriguing is Charles's instrumental role in the formation of Catholic doctrine. The apparent paradoxes of Charlemagne's character-his deep intellectual curiosity; his drive to reform Christian practice; and a degree of brutality criticized even by some of his closest supporters-are at root explained by a conviction in his divinely ordained mission that was both culturally productive and deeply destructive. 1 map. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520239432
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 9/10/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 426
  • Sales rank: 630,575
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Alessandro Barbero is Professor of Medieval History at the University of Piemonte Orientale, Italy.
In addition to writing about medieval society and culture, he is the author of the historical novel Bella vita e guerre altrui di Mr. Pyle, gentiluomo, which won the Strega Prize in 1996. Over a period of twelve years, Allan Cameron has translated some twenty books on history, philosophy, and other academic disciplines, including works by leading Italian philosopher Norberto Bobbio and President of the European Commission Romano Prodi.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Paderborn, Summer of 799

1. The Frankish Tradition
2. The War against the Lombards
3. Wars against the Pagans
4. The Rebirth of Empire
5. Charlemagne and Europe
6. The Man and His Family
7. Government of the Empire: The Institutions
8. Government of the Empire: The Resources
9. Government of the Empire: The Justice System
10. An
Intellectual Project
11. The Frankish Military Machine
12. A New Economy
13. Patronage and Servitude
14. Old Age and Death



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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The greatness of the man and his acts

    This a magnifent book about a man who possessed a magnificent character. It is incredibly well written and translated making it very easy to read and understand. This book dissects every aspect of life in Fance in its beginning years from top to bottom and back again. It will always be an excellent resource for those teaching European history, especially the history of France. This is a story of a man who was king and became Emporer. It exposes the problems he encountered and reveals the thought processes he used to overcome those problems in order to build a more just society. It especially reveals how Charles believed that he was actually God's agent on earth and therefore personally responsible for his actions and the consequences on his people. It becomes clear that as God's representative, he was not going to share that responsibility with the church but was going to do what he had to do for the survival and betterment of his people while remaining pious and respectful ofthe church's position within that society. He held Abbots and Bishops responsible for their behavior and their abuses. This book contains a massive amount of information that is extremely enlightening and provocative. There is no doubt that he earned the title "the Great" in every way possible and proved himself to be a loving and compassionate family man. This book is well worth reading more than once.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2006

    Great history

    This book covered any material one would want to know on Charlemagne's rule over Europe: legend, politics, military campaigns, social and economic history. I thought it was a great summer read, and very beautifully portrayed one of a very few times when Europe existed (willing or not) under one loved, if not respected, leader.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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