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The Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval Europe

Edited by George Holmes

Alexander Murray | Published in
  • The Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval Europe
    Edited by George Holmes - Oxford University Press, 1988 - xvi + 398pp

Why is England callei3 England, or France, France? The answer to these questions – and the same about Scotland and Wales, Brittany, Gascony and so on – must be sought in the period, roughly from 400 to 900, known as the Dark Ages. The period saw the foundation not only of the political map of Europe, as it settled into place after the Volkerwanderungen; but of its main languages – even romance languages like French, since (paradoxically, the Roman Empire having by then dissolved) the old populations of northern Gaul may only have begun to speak 'Roman' under the influence of Christianity in the fifth and sixth centuries. (This 'Roman' was a bastard Latin, destined to declare independence from the real thing and become a sort of French, when in the Carolingian Renaissance the written language was 'kicked upstairs' by perfectionist grammarians.) The same story of dark-age genesis is to be told in politics and religion; in politics, as the 'king' rises – gradually and usually violently – above the 'kin' from which his name originates, as mainstay of political order; in religion, as the diplomatic and missionary faces of Christianity, according to circumstance, transform and in some degree unite the religious consciousness of northern Europe.

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