“As perceptive as it is learned, Rosamond McKitterick’s book unpicks the complex web of Frankish perceptions of the past. Christian universal history and Roman imperial biography, Roman martyrologies and burial customs, pilgrimage accounts and annals—these and other threads are traced, sorted, and made to reveal fascinating information about lay and clerical, local and imperial experiences, attitudes, and ideologies. McKitterick deftly transforms texts that previous scholars have usually dismissed into clues from which she draws cogent arguments. This study of historical imaginations in the past is itself a model of imaginative history.” —Anthony Grafton, Princeton University
“What McKitterick calls the ‘explosion of historical writing’ in the Carolingian age marked the dawn of a radically new and lasting culture in Europe and disclosed the mind-sets of its creators. Yet, in many cases, published editions deform the texts, not least by omissions, and obscure what Frankish authors actually wrote. Building on her internationally acclaimed studies of oral and written communication in the early Middle Ages, McKitterick goes back to manuscript sources. She discovers what Carolingians actually wrote as she advances a compelling new key to the catalysts of Europe’s historical identity and how they did their work.” —Karl F. Morrison, Lessing Professor of History and Poetics, Rutgers University
“Rosamond McKitterick is one of the three or four top early medieval historians in the world. This book makes an original and distinctive contribution to our understanding of how people in the early Middle Ages imagined the various pasts that lay behind them. McKitterick’s treatment of universalizing histories is fresh and goes further than the work of her predecessors . . . Her treatment of Rome in the Carolingian mind is original and really important, and her last chapter permits some fascinating insights into how contemporary events became historical, became history.” —Thomas F. X. Noble, University of Notre Dame
Historical writing of the early middle ages tends to be regarded as little more than a possible source of facts, but Rosamond McKitterick establishes that early medieval historians conveyed in their texts a sophisticated set of multiple perceptions of the past. In these essays, McKitterick focuses on the Frankish realms in the eight and ninth centuries and examines different methods and genres of historical writing in relation to the perceptions of time and chronology. She claims that there is an extraordinary concentration of new text production and older text reproduction in this period that has to be accounted for, and whose influence is still being investigated and established.
Three themes are addressed in Perceptions of the Past in the Early Middle Ages. McKitterick begins by discussing the Chronicon of Eusebius-Jerome as a way of examining the composition and reception of universal history in the ninth and early tenth centuries. She demonstrates that original manuscripts turn out in many cases to be compilations of sequential historical texts with a chronology extending back to the creation of the world or the origin of the Franks. In the second chapter, she explores the significance of Rome in Carolingian perceptions of the past and argues that its significance loomed large and was communicated in a great range of texts and material objects. In the third chapter, she looks at eighth- and ninth-century perceptions of the local past in the Frankish realm within the wider contexts of Christian and national history. She concludes that in the very rich, complex, and sometimes contradictory early medieval perceptions of a past stretching back to the creation of the world, the Franks in the Carolingian period forged their own special place.
“These studies, first offered as a lecture series at the University of Notre Dame, are here published with elegant illustrations and a full apparatus, reflecting the author’s customary generosity to the work of other scholars.” — English Historical Review
“Rosamond McKitterick’s work is extremely influential and highly regarded across all disciplinary aspects of medieval studies. Her latest work, part three of the Conway Lectures at the Medieval Institute, Notre Dame series, is a continuation of her response to the cultural imaginings of the past in various literary historical periods. . . . McKitterick elegantly opens up new avenues of thinking about the Carolingians in the world and about their own sense of their role in history.” — Journal of American Folklore