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IMC 2015: Sessions

Session 401: Annual Early Medieval Europe Lecture: Carolingian Cultures of Dialogue and Debate

Monday 6 July 2015, 19.00-20.00

Sponsor:Early Medieval Europe
Introduction:Sarah M. Hamilton, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Exeter
Speaker:Mayke de Jong, Departement Geschiedenis en Kunstgeschiedenis, Universiteit Utrecht

Was Christianity incompatible with public debate? There is a persistent and widespread idea that there was an 'end of dialogue' in Late Antiquity, because the church demanded obedience to authority, and did not encourage debate and criticism. Presumably, this also held true for the early Middle Ages. Mayke de Jong's research into the narratives concerning the rebellions of the 830s against Louis the Pious (814-840) taught us differently: these revolts triggered debates that went on for decades. The focus of the ensuing struggle for truth and legitimation after the event were the ruler and his court, but there was also a wider group of leading men who, by virtue of their public office carried a heavier moral burden than others. Their accountability to God and the ruler defined the extent of the Carolingian public domain.

Since the publication of The Penitential State in 2009 there has been a wealth of new and inspiring research, all of which has dispelled the hoary old notion that Late Antique and early medieval dialogue and debate only existed as a dutiful didactic and literary genre, far removed from the rough and tumble of the political arena. This lecture will review some of this recent work, much of which has been presented at the Leeds IMC, and then will concentrate on one particularly vicious letter ascribed to Pope Gregory IV, supposedly written in June 833 on the Field of Lies. Was this letter a typical product of a Frankish public debate? And if so, what was 'public' about such debates?

The journal Early Medieval Europe (published by Wiley) is very pleased to sponsor what is intended to become the Annual Early Medieval Europe Lecture at the International Medieval Congress. By contributing a major scholarly lecture to the Congress programme the journal aims to highlight the importance of the Congress to scholars working in early medieval European history and to support further research in this field. Early Medieval Europe is an interdisciplinary journal encouraging the discussion of archaeology, numismatics, palaeography, diplomatic, literature, onomastics, art history, linguistics and epigraphy, as well as more traditional historical approaches. It covers Europe in its entirety, including material on Iceland, Ireland, the British Isles, Scandinavia and Continental Europe (both west and east). Further information about the journal and details on how to submit material to it are available at (the full url is All those attending are warmly invited to join members of the editorial board after the lecture for a glass of wine.

Please note that admission to this event will be on a first-come, first-served basis as there will be no tickets for the event. Please ensure that you arrive as early as possible to avoid disapointment.