Before France and Germany: The Creation and Transformation of the Merovingian World

by Patrick J. Geary

Paperback, 1988



Call number




Oxford University Press Inc, USA (1988), Paperback


In this innovative new study, Patrick Geary rejects traditional notions of European history to present the Merovingian period (ca. 400-750) as an integral part of Late Antiquity. Drawing on current scholarship in archaeology, cultural history, historical ethnography, and other fields, the author formulates an original interpretation not only of Merovingian history but of the Romano-barbarian world from which it arose. Mapping the complex interactions of a volatile era, he carefully traces the Romanization of barbarians and the barbarization of Romans that ultimately made these populations indistinguishable. (BARNES & NOBLE).

User reviews

LibraryThing member annbury
The period between the fall of Rome and the emergence of medieval Europe gets short shrift in the popularly available literature. This book fills that gap, and in doing so show just how overdrawn is the "fall of Rome" view of European history. Geary shows convincingly that late Roman ways and
Show More
relationships persisted for centuries, gradually evolving into what we recognize as early medieval culture. Or at least they did in the place that is very much the author's focus: Merovingian France. (The title may be somewhat misleading: this book is almost entirely about what went on to the west of the Rhine). In France, a Gallo-Roman provincial aristocracy persisted and remained powerful after the Franks established control over much of what is now France and the Low Countries, and late Roman culture persisted along with that. Moreover, the Franks themselves had been heavily Romanized, serving in Roman armies and becoming subject to Roman law. The Merovingian kings worked with the Gallo Roman power structure rather than attempting to supplant it. Given just how few Franks there may have been (Geary cites a "guess" of 150-200,000 spread out in a Gallo-Roman population of 6-7,000,000) they probably had little choice. The author ends with a chapter summing up the importance of the Merovingians, and argues convincingly that much of their poor reputation (les rois faineants) may be due to Carolingian propaganda.

All in all, this is an illuminating and enjoyable read. There is one section on the later Merovingian kings where the number of unpronounceable names becomes a real stumbling block, and the genealogical chart in the Kindle edition is not much help -- it appears to have been divided in two. But I learned a lot, and enjoyed doing so.
Show Less


Physical description

272 p.; 7.8 inches


0195044584 / 9780195044584
Page: 0.3408 seconds