School of Historical Studies

Carolingian Polyptyques

Carolingian Polyptyques


Polyptyques are inventories that list the human and physical resources of great landed estates, especially monasteries. About thirty survive from Carolingian Europe, many dating from the ninth century. They provide a unique insight into the social and economic worlds of the peasants whose lives were dependent on the lords who owned and managed these large estates. The detail provided by these documents is unparalleled, and provides an important and necessary balance to the sources that focus on the lives of the elite.

The Carolingian polyptyques have been studied intensively by scholars interested in the economic or agrarian history of medieval Europe, but they are much less well known to students whose main interests are in the political or cultural history of this period. For students of English medieval history, these documents provide important information about the development of the manorial economy, and comparative data to Domesday Book, that was compiled two centuries later (1086).

The purpose of this website is to encourage discussion and analysis of these Carolingian estate records by students of early medieval history, by translating into English (often for the first time) substantial sections from 10 polyptyques. These 10 have been selected to provide a geographical and chronological cross-section of the genre, enabling meaningful comparisons to be made from estates across the Carolingian realm, or within a monastery's holdings across the ninth century.

 

UPDATED:January 2008
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