Book Review: “Before France and Germany: The Creation & Transformation of the Merovingian World” by Patrick J. Geary

before france and germany book cover

In anticipation of a trip to France, I’ve been on a mission to read as many of the books in my library as I can related to French history. Starting with the earliest in the timeline is this book on the Merovingian era of France. My personal knowledge of this time period is spotty so I was very interested in what this book had to say.

I was not disappointed. Geary starts by outlining some basic information on the Roman Empire and how it affected France and western Germany. He talks about the many “barbarian tribes” and their movements within the empire and just outside it. Caesar conquers Gaul and begins to incorporate the Roman style of government. Then various tribes settle in the same area. Geary explains how some tribes maintained the Roman way of governing and some didn’t.

Eventually a confederation of tribes commingled and become the Franks. The Franks have their own style of governing along with adopting some elements of Roman government. This is the birth of Merovingian Empire. He then recounts the reigns of some of the Merovingian kings such as Clovis, Chlothar II and Dagobert I. In addition to the kings and their government, Geary relates the history of the church in France which is most fascinating. The beginnings of Christianity started with the missions of Irish and Anglo-Saxon monks. The Merovingian kings and other nobles started the building of monasteries in France, the most recognizable being Saint-Denis where the French kings are buried.

This book details the fifth to the eighth centuries and recounts the start of the Merovingian government down through its demise, giving the reasons for its fall and the final chapter summarizes the legacy of Merovingian Europe. I found this book to be very revealing about this era and enjoyed it very much. I recommend it.

One thought on “Book Review: “Before France and Germany: The Creation & Transformation of the Merovingian World” by Patrick J. Geary

  1. Gallo-Roman records of the 5th century provide insights into the conditions that led to the fall of the Western Roman empire and the rise of the Franks.

    In the early 400s, Britons led by Ivomadus drove out the presumably German forces of Odo from Blois, near Paris.

    Sidonius Apollinaris and Gregory of Tours record the defeat, due to treachery, around the year 470 of an army of 12,000 Britons by the learned but fratricidal Visigothic King Euric at Deols in central Gaul. Count Paul, who had planned to join forces with the Britons then drove Euric off, but the damage had been done. The consequent power vacuum in northern Gaul opened the way for conquest by the Franks.

    Had Euric not been forewarned by Arvandus, a high Roman official in Gaul, then Paul and the Britons may have won the day and kept Roman hopes alive. Instead of French, the people of Gaul might now be speaking Romano-British.

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