Early Medieval Europe 300-1050

David Rollason  
Total pages
May 2012

Product detail

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Early Medieval Europe 300-1050 is a broad-brush survey of Western Europe from the period of the late Roman Empire (4th-5th centuries) through the period of the dissolution of that empire, the emergence of the barbarian kingdoms which succeeded it, and their consolidation under the Carolingian and Ottonian rulers on the Continent and the West Saxon and Danish kings in England, to the early 11th century, with the nascent kingdoms of France, Germany, and England.

The book focuses on the big historical questions which the period raises, the sources for it and the ways in which historians have worked with them, and the competing approaches to the questions and interpretations which historians have developed.


  • Supports learning with numerous timelines, maps and illustrations.

  • Offers foundational training in historical skills with up-front discussion of the nature and limitations of the available sources and the backstory to various historical interpretations over time.

  • Supported by a companion website, providing extra primary source material, both documentary and visual,  maps and suggestions for essay topics, discussion points and revision questions as well as useful seminar suggestions for lecturers.

Table of Contents


Part I: Introduction

1.    Why study this period?

Part II: The End of the Roman Empire in the West

2.    From Roman Empire to Barbarian Kingdoms: Cataclysm or Transition?

3.    The Making of Peoples: Invasions or Identity-Change?

Part III: The Rise of European Kingship

4.    The Rise of European States

5.    The Barbarian Roots of Kingship

6.    Kings and Emperors

7.    The Christian Shaping of Kingship

8.    The Mechanisms of Power

Part IV: The Economic Foundation

9.    The Nature of Exchange: Trade, Plunder and Gift Giving

10. Cultivating the Land: The Basis of European Society

11. The Origins of European Towns and Town Life

Part V: Christianity and the Role of the Church

12. The Processes of Conversion to Christianity

13. Popes and Bishops: The Most Powerful Men in Europe

14. Monks and Monastries: Power in this Life or after it?

Part VI: Conclusion

15. The Birth of Western Society?



Back Cover

An extraordinary achievement. This book sets a new standard for introductory texts in history.  Students are shown not what to think but how to think about the formative centuries of European history, and about history itself.  This is the best introduction I have seen not just to the early medieval ages, but to any period of history. 

R. I. Moore, Emeritus Professor of History, Newcastle University

David Rollason has written a model pedagogic study of the early medieval period of European history. This is described as a textbook for students, but it is much more: a guide for teachers and a gripping introduction to this formative period of modern European culture for the general interested reader.

Barbara Crawford, University of St Andrews

The centuries following the collapse of the Roman Empire saw extraordinary change across Western Europe – in institutions, social structure, rural and urban life, religion, learning, scholarship and art.  This innovative textbook provides students coming to the study of Early Medieval Europe for the first time with the conceptual and methodological tools to investigate the period for themselves.   It identifies major research questions and historiographical debates and offers guidance on how to engage with and evaluate the major documentary sources and the evidence of art history and archaeology.

Ideally structured to support courses and classes in Medieval European history, the book’s features include:

  • Over 50 carefully selected maps and illustrations accompanied by explanatory commentary

  • Detailed guidance on further reading with research questions to aid understanding

  • Timelines and maps to orientate the reader in each chapter

  • An extensive companion website providing practical study guidance, reference materials and access to further primary sources

Offering a road map to the rich written and non-written sources for this period, and the exciting recent scholarship, this book is an essential guide for any student wishing to gain a deeper level of understanding and greater confidence in creative and independent historical thought.

David Rollasonhas been successively Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, and Professor in Medieval History at Durham University since 1977. His research has included the cult of saints in Anglo-Saxon England, twelfth-century historical writing, the Kingdom of Northumbria, the enormous medieval  list of names known as the Durham Liber Vitae, and – currently – the power of place in medieval kingship.



David Rollason is Professor of Medieval History at Durham University and the author of many books and articles on the early medieval period.

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