In Charlemagne: Father of Europe, you will look back on Charlemagne’s rule and the way his dynasty and its influence would affect the world in the centuries that would follow. Join Professor Philip Daileader of William & Mary for this 12-lecture historical journey into the life, times, and complicated legacy of the ruler known as the pater Europae.
Charlemagne: Father of Europe
Examine the life and times of Charlemagne and consider how history has shaped his story to serve various causes and agendas. Who was this ruler many call the “Father of Europe”?
01: The Making of Emperor Charles the Great
Meet Charles the Great, the Carolingian king who would become Charlemagne. Why was Charlemagne’s rule so different than the kings who came before him? How did the political and religious climate of Western Europe shape his kingship and his imperial ambitions? Why is there so much controversy about his reputation? Start your search for answers here.
02: Charlemagne as Heir and King, 748–800
To get the full picture of Charlemagne as both man and king, Professor Daileader takes you back to the formative years of Charlemagne’s life before he ascended to the imperial throne. As you look back on this period, you will also discover the way historians are constantly discovering and reevaluating information to create a clearer picture of this time in European history.
03: Charlemagne as Emperor, 800–814
Charlemagne’s ascension to emperor at the age of 52 ushered in a new era in Europe. You will see how Charlemagne’s rule altered the European landscape and how this transformation shaped his reputation for generations to come. You will also see how hindsight can shape history in interesting—and not always terribly accurate—ways.
04: Charlemagne as Head of Family and Dynasty
Although he was “Father of Europe,” Charlemagne was also the father of at least 19 children. Charlemagne’s family life powerfully affected all aspects of his life, and it influenced how future generations regarded him, both as a leader and as a person. As you will see, the king’s relations with his wives and children had important and long-lasting political repercussions.
05: Charlemagne as War Leader
As king and then as emperor, Charlemagne united disparate kingdoms in Europe through warfare, and many of his early victories helped to shape his image well into the future. Why was Charlemagne so often at war? What kinds of tactics and strategies did he use to win? And how did medieval social structures affect his choices?
06: Charlemagne as Ruler: Justice and Salvation
Success in dynastic politics and war brought Charlemagne power. But what did Charlemagne do with this power? How did Charlemagne govern the territories under his control? First, consider the place of Charlemagne’s government in the broader sweep of European history. Then, see how Charlemagne governed in the pursuit of lofty goals, focused especially on secular justice and spiritual salvation.
07: Charlemagne’s World: Britain to Baghdad
Turn to Charlemagne’s relations with the rulers and peoples beyond his empire, stretching from Britain to Baghdad. Charlemagne’s reputation for greatness has often rested on his diplomacy as much as anything else. So, how did Charlemagne’s kingdom fit into the larger world? And how did his diplomatic relationships shape both his reputation and the political landscape of Europe and beyond?
08: Charlemagne as Patron of a Renaissance
Significant contributors to the notion of Charlemagne as “Father of Europe” are the scholarly and educational activities that he promoted. Charlemagne’s reign falls into the period many consider part of the “dark ages” in Europe—but were they truly as intellectually dark as some suggest? Here, examine Charlemagne’s contributions to what is called the Carolingian Renaissance.
09: Charlemagne as Religious Reformer
Turn now to Charlemagne’s religious faith, which was fervent in many respects, but relaxed in others. Explore Charlemagne’s relationships with religious authorities—especially the papacy—which had a particularly strong impact on his later reputation. Also, look closely at the religious reforms that Charlemagne sought to institute throughout his reign.
10: Charlemagne in Medieval Legend
Charlemagne mattered to later generations for many reasons: his complex and colorful family life; his military success; his aspirations in matters of government, education, and the Christian faith; and his international standing. However, to fully understand his significance, you will examine Charlemagne as others remembered him—or imagined him to have been.
11: Claims to Charlemagne across History
Memories of Charlemagne have influenced 12 centuries of subsequent history. Here, you will look at the broad spectrum of historical opinion on Charlemagne from both his most ardent fans and his greatest detractors. You’ll note that as times changed, the ways in which people used and understood Charlemagne also evolved.
12: The Enduring Fascination with Charlemagne
Now that you know more about Charlemagne himself and the role that his memory played in subsequent European history, consider more closely the question of whether, and to what extent, Charlemagne merits the title “Father of Europe.” And complete your picture of his life and his reign by reexamining how Charlemagne saw himself.