The thirteenth century English chronicler Matthew Paris described France as the greatest of terrestrial kingdoms. The French kings saw themselves as the true descendants of Charlemagne, and their kingdom as the new Carolingian, indeed the new Roman, Empire. Some Frenchmen thought that their king would be Last World Emperor who would launch the Reign of Anti-Christ and the End of Time. The city of Paris attracted students and scholars from the whole of Europe – it was called the new Athens. The Crusades were so dominated by those of French origin that all Crusaders were called Franks. The rulers of the Crusader states, of Sicily and Southern Italy, and for 50 years, of the Eastern Empire at Constantinople, were almost invariably French, at least in origin. So, after 1066, were the rulers of England. The French church and French monasticism was a driving force in the Reconquest of Spain from the Moslems. In Germany, England and Spain, kings, princes and great churchmen demanded that their churches were built ‘in the French fashion’. Marriage alliances saw French princesses like Eleanor of Aquitaine, and foreign princesses like the Russian Anna of Kiev or the Spanish Blanche of Castile who became queens of France, acting as agents of cultural transmission – taking or bringing burial practices or exotic luxuries or courtly culture into or out of France. The great fairs of Champagne made France the market where the cloths, grains and furs of northern Europe were exchanged with the luxury silks, gold, ivories and spices from the south and the east – from Islamic Spain, from Cairo and north west Africa, from Constantinople and from the silk route as far away as India and Afghanistan. The French king Louis IX exchanged embassies and gifts with the Assassins of Syria, the Ayyubid Caliphs of Cairo, and with the great Khan of the Mongols. They were as fascinated by him, his kingdom and his culture, as he was by them and theirs. This course will explore the diplomatic, cultural and economic interactions between the kingdom of France and the known world in the high middle ages.

Term(s) offered: Autumn term module; 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Credit: 3.0
General Education: II B 1