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.