Charlemagne and Europe

by Jinty Nelson

14 Apr 2016
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Full text of article by Jinty Nelson posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 2, pp. 125-152.

Abstract: This paper, ‘Charlemagne and Europe’, is a revised and expanded form of the lecture I read on 12 November 2013. I begin by asking what Europe has meant to medieval historians in recent times, focusing on some answers given in the 1990s and around the year 2000, and reflecting on the different ways Charlemagne is being commemorated in different parts of Europe now, 1,200 years after his death. I then re-examine Charlemagne through evidence from his own time, as a ruler of a recognisably European empire, and, in the light of recent research and new approaches, I reconsider his record as a political figure. A brief survey of his posthumous reputation as man and myth in the middle ages, and after, leads into a closer look at the roles assigned to him in post-war rhetoric. Finally I ask whether Charlemagne has, or might have, anything to offer Europeans today.

Keywords: Charlemagne, Europe, empire, commemoration, myth

Raleigh Lecture on History, read 12 November 2013 (video recording)

Text printed 2015 in British Academy Lectures 2013-14

Version of article available in British Academy Scholarship Online (HTML)

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