In a young American republic seeking to define itself in relation to European cultural and political models past and present, it was assumed that the history of Europe’s peoples could be tracked across time over the longue durée. From this perspective, even the barbarous long-haired kings of the distant Merovingian era helped to define the political and cultural identity of a France—and, indeed, a Europe—whose actions Americans recognized as relevant to their own republic. Americans saw medieval parallels not only in the actions of successive French regimes, but in contemporary transatlantic issues of anxiety, including the adjudication of claims of political legitimacy and the debate over the perpetuation of racial slavery. That early American writers located their own meanings in the history of Merovingian Francia is indicative of a less linear, and more diverse and transnational, historiography than previously recognized.
Part 1: Sources of Knowledge
Chapter 1: American Writers and Merovingian Historiography: Reception and Engagement
Chapter 2: Schoolbooks and the Teaching of Merovingian History
Part 2: Locating Meaning in Merovingian History
Chapter 3: National Character and Historical Parallelism in a Revolutionary Age
Chapter 4: Adjudicating Political Legitimacy in the Early American Republic (1790–1816)
Chapter 5: Early Medieval Unfreedom and the Debate over Slavery (1840–1860)