Here are some basic questions on him
- Political, social, and economic conditions PRIOR to the leader’s gaining power:
- Significant actions and events during term of power:
- Ideology, motivation, goals:
- Short-term effects:
- Long-term effects:
- What most impressed/interested you about leader:
Socially, before Charlemagne took power, Germanic tribes, indeed all European groups, were tightly bound in the unification afforded by the early stages of feudalism, which began as an arrangement of benefit for all involved. The development and growth of feudalism up through Charlemagne's time was spurred on by the threat of Arabs against the tribes of Europe.
What's interesting about post #7 is that although Charlemagne was indeed the ruler over what later became France and Germany, it was the division of his empire that began the centuries-old Franco-Prussian conflicts. Being crowned by the Pope on Christmas Day in the year 800, he was considered to be the ruler of the "Roman" empire. Because Gaul (Later to become France) was under Roman rule for centuries, and concurrently, most of Germany remained free from Rome, huge governmental and administrative and cultural differences existed. If Charlemagne's three grandsons, instead of fighting over their respective portions, had managed to keep his kingdom unified, maybe over several centuries Germany and France would have become more like one people, but that ancient division caused the familiar conflicts, even into relatively recent times. In fact, Charlemagne's son, Louis, may have been the inspiration for Shakespeare's King Lear!
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Charlemagne to me is not so much his record of accomplishment as a warrior as the record of cultural achievements associated with his reign. Warriors come and go, empires wax and wane, but Charlemagne, like many great rules, is remembered at least as much for the culture he helped foster as for the territories and peoples he subdued.
Charlemagne was the historical figure that got me interested in World History back when I was a kid. The French and German monarchies started with this King (which always seemed bizaare to me that two peoples so prone to war with each other later on actually had the same father). His rule was also more or less the first time that Western Europe was united under anyone, with the exception of course, of the Romans. He was a very interesting character, and fun to study.
I, too, am impressed by a man who could bring so many different groups together. I find it extraordinary to have a leadership which supported so many different people/groups and the affect which he had over them (as shown by their commitment to him). He would have been an amazing men to know and talk with.
The reign of Charlemagne can be seen at the culmination of the Carolingian renaissance. He extended the empire of the Franks and he continued to patron the arts and other areas of society. Just his educational push was great. Think of the Venerable Bede and Alcuin in the inner circle of Charlemagne. These two men were the greatest minds of Europe at that time. In addition, Charlemagne stood for and defended the Catholic church when there were increasing conflict with Muslim armies.
Yes, for me Charlemagne goes on my very long list of historical figures I would have loved to have met or spoken to. His achievements are incredible, and it makes me wonder what kind of person he must have been in real life to inspire his troops to such acts of heroism and loyalty and to control such a vast empire. It makes me wonder how he would have thought of himself: did he think he was chosen by God to create this empire?
For me, it's trying to imagine what it must have been like to be involved in bringing so many diverse groups together into one united entity. The diversity of the people and geographies and cultures that he brought together would be incredibly difficult to govern and draw into cooperation in today's world. What a military genius he must have been, but also a charismatic leader with a real concern for the people he ruled.
Charlemagne, of course, is really famous for having created an empire that was almost as big as the Roman Empire had been. But what really interests me about him more is a personal thing. This was a man who could read and speak 2 languages (Frankish and Latin) well and had a bit of Greek but yet could not write. It's weird to imagine a time when a person could get to that sort of level of power without knowing how to write.