“Early Carolingian Warfare: Prelude to Empire”


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Bernard S. Bachrach
432 pages, $55.00 cloth

Early Carolingian Warfare is the first book-length study of how the Frankish dynasty, beginning with Pippin II, established its power and cultivated its military expertise to revive the Roman empire in Western Europe under Charlemagne.

In this latest offering from Penn Presss distinguished and long-running Middle Ages Series, Bernard Bachrach, professor of history at the University of Minnesota, has examined contemporary sources to establish how the early Carolingians used their legacy of political and military techniques and strategies forged in imperial Rome to regain control in Western Europe.

Pippin II and his successors were not diverted by opportunities for short-term enrichment through raids and campaigns outside of the regnum Francorum (an area roughly corresponding to modern France and western Germany); they focused on conquest, preferring diplomatic solutions to warfare.

But when they had to deploy their military forces, their operations were brutal and efficient.

To sustain their long-term strategy, the early Carolingians recruited soldiers as the Romans did, from among the militarized population who were required by law to serve outside their immediate communities. This gave the Carolingians the necessary power to lay siege to the old Roman fortress cities that dominated the military topography of the West.

Bachrach includes fresh accounts of Charles Martels defeat of the Muslims at Poitiers in 732, and Pippins successful siege of Bourges in 762, demonstrating that in the matter of warfare there never was a Western European Dark Age. The early Carolingians built upon surviving military institutions, adopted late-antique technology, and utilized their classical intellectual inheritance to prepare the way militarily for Charlemagnes empire.

University of Pennsylvania Press

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Originally published on March 1, 2001