Noah Blan

  • Fellowship year:2017-2018
  • University: Univeristy of Michigan
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Medieval Europe
  • Dissertation Title: Sovereignty and the Enviroment in Charlemagne's Empire
  • "Sovereignty and the Environment in Charlemagne's Empire" examines the intersection of ecologies and authority in the pan-European Carolingian empire. Drawing on texts, paleoclimatology, and bioarchaeological data, ita argues that Carolingian environmental imaginings and aspirations helped establish Frankish sovereignty over vast territories during the eighth and ninth centuries, and that Charlemagne's authority was predicted on ecological mastery. This thesis shows how theologians and clerics at Charlemagne's court fashioned an ideology of ecological domination and control designed to hold together the fissile peripheries of the empire, reflecting struggles between the centralizing aims of the ruler and the local power of regional elites. New ideas of ecological sovereignty were rooted in Carolingian notions of correctio- the correct recovery, reading, and practice of Christian religion as defined by Carolingian ecclesiastics. The pursuit of correctio convinced these clerics and theologians that control and redemption of the natural world were crucial demonstrations of Carolingian sovereignty.
    By examining Carolingian biblical exegesis, this thesis first shows that such texts both commented on contemporary politics and shaped real political and theological practice. It then analyzes the Carolingian ruler's role as maker of good environmental conditions conducive to his subjects' well-being, especially in terms of weather and climate. Next, the thesis investigates real ecological transformations around 800 CE, seen in the conquest and domination of land- and waterscapes in northern Europe and the transplantation of "exotic" organisms from the "Roman" Mediterranean to the north; these innovations are connected to the emergent ideologies at Charlemagne's court. The study concludes by reconstructing Carolingian ecological sovereignty as it shaped the memory of Charlemagne, and the politics and religious controversies of the later ninth century.