Article

France

Robert F. Berkhofer

in Medieval Studies

ISBN: 9780195396584
Published online December 2010 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0055
France

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)
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  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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The subject category of “medieval France” bespeaks an Anglo-American approach to periods of French history, rather than a French one. The enduring importance of the French Revolution in France places makes the ancien régime (the entire period before 1789) the dominant division for French scholarship, publishing, and even archival structures. Even so, the prominence of medievalists as public intellectuals in France has assured that the moyen âge (variously dated from the 5th to the 15th century) is a large category in any French bookstore. In consequence, French textbooks, journals, bibliographies, and reference works often emphasize periods different from those written in English. Another important issue is whether an entity called “France” meaningfully existed in the Middle Ages. Although most scholars assert medieval origins for the kingdom of France, their opinions about when it came to be vary depending upon the answer to a fundamental question: what is medieval France? Traditional scholarship stressed the importance of monarchy (especially the Capetian dynasty, 987–1328) as a unifying force among diverse principalities, although the kingdom’s borders did not resemble the modern ones until after 1500. In consequence, the importance of Merovingian “Francia,” and even of the Carolingian realm, for the formation of any later kingdom of France was deemphasized by both 19th-century scholars infused by post-Revolution nationalism (as set against royalism), as well as by 20th-century scholars seeking a distinctive French national identity (to contrast with a German one, in light of the two world wars). More recent French scholarship is frequently divided by geography—either roughly by linguistic zones between the north and south, or by medieval lordships. These divisions have resulted from a tradition of regional studies, inspired by the Annales school, the leading historical approach in postwar France, which had an enormous influence over historical training at universities (see the bibliography Regions of Medieval France). At the same time, English-language scholarship about medieval France stressed different subjects, such as the aristocratic family, women, and the crusades and heresy, which highlighted different approaches, chronologies, and even geographies than did French scholarship. These streams of historiography began to merge in the later 1990s, and in the 21st century there has been increasing mutual influence. This bibliography highlights English-language scholarship and seeks to provide points of entry to French scholarship, in translation if possible.

Article.  9180 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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