High and low: ties of dependence in the Frankish kingdoms

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Our understanding of ties of loyalty and dependence formed at the level of the Carolingian political elite has been much improved by a great deal of excellent recent research. As mutually beneficial relationships freely entered into, they tend to be sharply distinguished from ties of dependence involving members from the lower echelons of society: the latter ties, on the contrary, are usually seen as the result of coercion, and they were long seen as emblematic of the increasingly oppressive control of local lords. Commendation for these less powerful members of society is thus often seen as tantamount to forfeiting free status. Because oppression, for legitimate reasons, has been so strongly emphasised in historical treatments of this type of relationship, paradoxically little attention has been given to what influence the lower-status party may have had on the proceedings, the extent of their negotiating ability or the range of duties and benefits involved in such agreements. But not all lower-status people made the same deals: the Frankish formularies, an important source of evidence regarding such arrangements, show a complicated situation, indicating that ties formed at this lower level need to be treated with as much nuance as higher-status relationships.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43 - 68
Number of pages26
JournalTransactions of the Royal Historical Society
Issue numberser. 6, vol. 18
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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