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From Roman Empire to Medieval Kingdoms, c. 300 – 900: The Transformation of Power

30 Credits

This course looks at the tumultuous transformation of Western Europe from then end of the Roman Empire to the dawn of medieval civilisation in the ninth century. The course focuses on the developments in religion and politics. In the third century, Christians had been a persecuted minority but before the collapse of the Roman Empire, Christianity had become effectively the ‘state’ religion of the empire. We investigate further how Christianity adapted to the new world after the fall of Rome and how Germanic kings drew upon the rituals and ideas of Christianity to bolster their status. Politically, the period saw the transformation of Europe from a unified world under imperial leadership to a plurality of smaller kingdoms. Still more importantly, however, the character of politics changed dramatically: the Roman emperors had relied upon taxation and a professional army to maintain control, in the early middle ages rulers had to rely on personal relationships, plunder and charisma. One of the central themes of the course is the way in which rulers and aristocratic elite adapted to this world, culminating in an in-depth exploration of the most successful early medieval polity, the Carolingian empire.