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The Birth of Territory$
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Stuart Elden

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226202563

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226041285.001.0001

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The Fracturing of the West

The Fracturing of the West

Chapter:
(p.99) Chapter Three The Fracturing of the West
Source:
The Birth of Territory
Author(s):

Stuart Elden

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226041285.003.0004

This chapter discusses the early Middle Ages. It begins with a reading of Saint Augustine’s two cities, and reads him, along with Jerome and Paulus Orosius, in the context of the barbarian invasions. It moves to an analysis of the work of Boethius and Isidore of Seville and their attempts to preserve the classical heritage. The political context of the time is the fracturing of the West following the collapse of the Roman Empire. Yet this time is unfairly characterised as the ‘dark ages’. Christianity was in the ascendant, and there was a flowering of national histories of various Germanic tribes including Gregory of Tours on the Franks; Bede on the English; Isidore on the Goths; and Saxo Grammaticus on the Danes. These texts are not merely accounts of these people, but actively shape their sense of identity and consequent political practice. The chapter also provides an analysis of the land politics inherent in the Beowulf poem, both in terms of the economics of exchange, gifting and inheritance, but also a more ’geopolitical’ sense of conflict over land.

Keywords:   Middle Ages, Roman Empire, Saint Augustine, Boethius, Isidore of Seville, Gregory of Tours, Beowulf

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