Early Medieval Europe

James E. Fraser

in The Oxford Handbook of Genocide Studies

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780199232116
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 Early Medieval Europe

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  • History
  • Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing
  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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This article examines the concept of genocide in early Medieval Europe, looking at Britain and Ireland. Scholars have good reason to baulk at the application of a term like genocide, with all its twentieth-century moral and legal baggage, to early medieval episodes of violence, depopulation, and displacement which would otherwise seem to meet the criteria for genocide enumerated in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Preamble ‘that at all periods of history, genocide has inflicted great losses on humanity’. This article suggests that Britain and Ireland are not excluded from such an assertion in that period. The evidence shows that concepts of ethnic obliteration, and what constituted it, were variable, depending upon class and social standing, and extended well beyond the comparatively narrow confines of actual physical slaughter.

Keywords: Britain; genocide; Ireland; dehumanization; depopulation; ethnic obliteration

Article.  9457 words. 

Subjects: History ; Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing ; Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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