Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Early Medieval Europe: from Chlothar to Charlemagne
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 18 x 50 minute lectures (delivered twice a week)
Practical 10 x 50 minute weekly seminars 2 tutorials of 10-15 minutes for each student


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay 2  1 x 2,500 word essay  25%
Semester Assessment Essay 1  1 x 2,500 word essay  25%
Semester Exam 3 Hours   Examination  1 x 3 hour closed examination  50%
Supplementary Assessment Resit Essay 1  Resit Failed written work  25%
Supplementary Assessment Resit Essay 1  Resit failed written work  25%
Supplementary Exam 3 Hours   Supplementary Exam  Resit 3 hour examination  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Demonstrate a firm understanding of current approaches to and on-going debates on the history of early medieval Europe; demonstrate an enhanced understanding of the area during the period under review and the internal and external influences at work upon it.

Demonstrate an understanding of the longer term historical questions of continuity and discontinuity in early medieval Europe.

Demonstrate an ability to use and reflect critically upon a range of relevant primary and secondary material.

Demonstrate an ability to collect and analyse relevant historical evidence to produce appropriate arguments both oral (not assessed) and written.

Demonstrate an ability to work independently.

Demonstrate the skills appropriate to the study of the history of early medieval Europe and produce work in a professional manner.


The module will provide an additional element of choice for Part II students, particularly important to students on the Medieval and Early Modern degree scheme (V190), but available to single and joint honours students more generally. This module is intended to provide students with an introduction to Frankish history and the extremely important role played by the Franks in shaping Europe after the decline of the Western Roman Empire. From the early Merovingian kings to the Carolingian Empire, this module will trace the history of the Franks and their impact on the European scene. Through a range of primary sources and archaeological evidence, students will be acquainted with developments in kingship, legal structures, economics, religion and culture.


1. Introduction
2. Romans v Barbarians
3. Establishing ‘The Long Haired Kings’: Chlothar I to Clovis
4. The Development of Royal Power
5. Civil War and Reunification: Chlothar II - Clovis II
6. Merovingians and their Neighbours
7. Obsolescence and the Rise of the Carolingians
8. The Rise of Ecclesiastical Power
9. Charlemagne and Carolingian Consolidation
10. Carolingian Wars of Expansion
11. The Imperial Coronation
12. The Saxon Affair
13. The Development of Education and Administration
14. The Carolingian Renaissance
15. The Two Empires: Carolingians and Byzantium
16. Vikings, Death and Succession
17. ‘Bald, Fat and Stammering’: Later Carolingian Kings
18. Overview

1. Kingship
2. Laws and Legal Structures
3. Wealth and the Economy
4. Women in Power
5. Charlemagne’s Courtier: Einhard’s View
6. Alcuin and the Role of the Insular Peregrini on the Continent
7. Charlemagne’s Influence on Alfred
8. Charles the Bald and the Vikings
9. Reading Frankish Annals
10. Carolingian Historiography and the Pirenne Thesis

Brief description

By the end of the fifth century in western Europe, the Roman Empire had ‘fallen’ to the ‘barbarians’, groups from northern Europe who swept south and established themselves as the ‘heirs of Rome’. Among the most important of these barbarians were the Franks. This module examines the rise of Frankish power in Europe and its impact. Beginning with the rise of the Merovingian Franks out of the debris of the Roman Empire, this module will trace the development of Frankish power into the mighty Carolingian Empire. We will use a range of primary sources to interrogate important themes in Frankish history: kingship, law, economics, religion and culture. We will consider the roles of key Frankish monarchs and their relations with other European powers, especially the increasingly powerful papacy in Rome. The module will illuminate a key area of debate: the extent to which early medieval Europe can be said to have undergone a ‘civilising process’ from barbarian Frankia to Holy Roman Empire.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number n/a
Communication Written communication skills will be developed through the coursework and written examination; skills in oral presentation will be developed in seminars but are not formally assessed.
Improving own Learning and Performance Students will be advised on how to improve research and communication skills through the individual tutorial providing feedback on submitted coursework.
Information Technology Students will be encouraged to locate suitable material on the web and to apply it appropriately to their own work. Students will also be expected to word-process their work and make use of Blackboard. These skills will not be formally assessed.
Personal Development and Career planning Students will develop a range of transferable skills, including time management and communication skills, which may help them identify their personal strengths as they consider potential career paths.
Problem solving Identify problems and factors which might influence potential solutions; develop creative thinking approaches to problem solving; evaluate advantages and disadvantages of potential solutions.
Research skills Students will develop their research skills by reading a range of texts and evaluating their usefulness in preparation for the coursework and the written examination.
Subject Specific Skills
Team work Students will be expected to play an active part in group activities (e.g. short group presentations in seminars) and to learn to evaluate their own contribution to such activities..


This module is at CQFW Level 6