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Father of a Continent

Alessandro Barbero (Author), Allan Cameron (Translator)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 440 pages
ISBN: 9780520297210
February 2018
$25.00, £20.00
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The most important study of Charlemagne in a generation, this biography by distinguished medievalist Alessandro Barbero illuminates both the man and the world in which he lived. Charles the Great—Charlemagne—reigned from a.d. 768 to a.d. 814. At the time if his death, his empire stretched across Europe to include Bavaria, Saxony, parts of Spain, and Italy. With a remarkable grasp of detail and a sweeping knowledge of Carolingian institutions and economy, Barbero not only brings Charlemagne to life with accounts of his physical appearance, tastes and habits, family life, and ideas and actions but also conveys what it meant to be king of the Franks and, later, emperor. He recounts how Charlemagne ruled his empire, kept justice, and waged wars. He vividly describes the nature of everyday life at that time, how the economy functioned, and how Christians perceived their religion. Barbero's absorbing analysis of how concepts of slavery and freedom were subtly altered as feudal relations began to grow underscores the dramatic changes that the emperor's wars brought to the political landscape. Engaging and informed by deep scholarship, this latest account provides a new and richer context for considering one of history's most fascinating personalities.
Introduction: Paderborn, Summer of 799

1. The Frankish Tradition
2. The War against the Lombards
3. Wars against the Pagans
4. The Rebirth of Empire
5. Charlemagne and Europe
6. The Man and His Family
7. Government of the Empire: The Institutions
8. Government of the Empire: The Resources
9. Government of the Empire: The Justice System
10. An Intellectual Project
11. The Frankish Military Machine
12. A New Economy
13. Patronage and Servitude
14. Old Age and Death

Alessandro Barbero is Professor of Medieval History at the University of Piemonte Orientale, Italy. In addition to writing about medieval society and culture, he is the author of the historical novel Bella vita e guerre altrui di Mr. Pyle, gentiluomo, which won the Strega Prize in 1996. Over a period of twelve years, Allan Cameron has translated some twenty books on history, philosophy, and other academic disciplines, including works by leading Italian philosopher Norberto Bobbio and President of the European Commission Romano Prodi.
“Cameron’s translation makes the book lively and readable, and he has captured Barbero’s wit, keen eye for detail, and sharp analysis of sources. . . . Accessible to a wide audience and educated non-specialists, and it would be an excellent addition to required texts in a survey class.”—Carey Fleiner - University of Delaware Canadian Journal Of History
“Judiciously avoids scholarly arcana and long-winded digressions into source-criticism and historiographical debates. Barbero nonetheless shows commendable familiarity with much of the traditional and recent scholarship on Charlemagne’s reign, and effectively communicates to a wider audience the essentials of these debates, both within the text and in the discursive bibliography, with elegance, wit, and attitude.”—H-France Review Of Books
“The author of this rich . . . accessible study provides an intimate portrait of the man—right down to his shirt and underpants—and a sensitive analysis of his government and times. "—Publishers Weekly
“Nuanced and ... fair to his subject.”—The Economist
“[Professor Barbero] ... has a lightness of touch indispensable in approaching a subject which has constipated generations of continental scholars. He is particularly good in following through the repercussions of war down the social scale to the peasants who made up at least 90 per cent of the population. . . . Barbero is also a historical novelist, and knows how to hold the attention with arresting details.”—The Spectator
"Barbero's lively and entertaining study provides a superb overview of the latest scholarship on the Carolingian age and constructs a compelling argument for Charlemagne's pivotal role as the father of Europe. We gain a sense of the look and feel of peasant villages, the dynamic interplay of monastic economies and long-distance trade, and the manipulation of justice by local notables. This is histoire totale at its best."—Sharon Farmer, author of Surviving Poverty in Medieval Paris

"This up-to-date account focuses on the man and his times while clearly and judiciously dealing with key historio-graphical issues. Barbero explores and explodes the myths that have grown up around the emperor."—Barbara H. Rosenwein, Loyola University

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