Here's a brief bibliography of some interesting works on the subject.

Topics in Medieval History (1997-8)

The World of Gregory of Tours

Goals of the Course:

This will be unlike any history course you have taken to date. Students should enter into it with an adventurous spirit and a willingness to work and think hard.

The course focuses on a single book, the Histories of Gregory, bishop of Tours in France between 573 and his death in 594 (1502 years ago). Gregory's book, usually but incorrectly called The History of the Franks, is one of the most important documents produced in the Early Middle Ages. It is a detailed history of the author's own time, and provides us with an invaluable look at a country that had once been the Roman province of Gaul and was now becoming the medieval kingdom of France. It is first-hand observer's record of social, religious, and political life at a crucial point of that time of transition when Rome no longer existed in the West but could still be remembered.

Gregory's Histories are more detailed, more colorful, and more down to earth than most medieval histories. But his book is not a simple one to understand. Scholars have never agreed on how to take Gregory: is he a civilized man writing down the follies and cruelties of a barbaric age? Is he a barbaric and superstitious product of a backward society? Is he a careful and honest historian, or a disorganized, even disingenuous promoter of poorly-concealed agenda? Or did he have a consistent agenda?

Whatever one concludes about Gregory, it is impossible to get away from him if you are interested in the origins of France, the "barbarian" life and culture, the development of medieval Christianity, or any of a number of other topics. His work is unique, and for better or worse, provides a large part of what we know and, even more, what we imagine about the Early Middle Ages.

That is why I have chosen to focus on Gregory's Histories. Since Gregory is our most important witness to the early history of the Frankish kingdom, and one of the people who has provided us with our images of "barbarian" Europe, understanding him, his experience, his ideas, and his goals will give us a doorway into an long-past era. Instead of treating Gregory as merely a witness to facts that are more important than he is, we will treat Gregory himself as our chief historical fact. He was there, he saw a lot of life in the sixth century, and what he saw inspired him to record stories for posterity. We can know a great deal about how his mind worked. If we can come to grips with that, we will find out more about the time in which he lived than we can in any other way.


Steve Muhlberger
Office: P605 (portable outside A 133)
Office Hour: Tuesday 11:30-12:30
Office Phone: 474-3461 ext. 4458
Home Phone: 776-1247 (not after 9 p.m.)


Gregory of Tours, History of the Franks (Penguin)
Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints (University of Chicago Press)
Course reader (to be bought from the instructor)


1. Class participation--worth 15%

In the first term and the first half of the second, students will be reading and discussing Gregory of Tours' work and other primary and secondary materials. Students are expected to read all assigned materials and to be prepared to speak about them intelligently in class. Participation in the discussion of other students' research presentations (see 4 below) is also expected. Participation through an e-mail discussion list will count towards the participation mark.

2. Midterm examination (Dec. 2)--worth 30%

3. Research paper--worth 40%

The research paper should be between 20 and 30 pages. Topics to be assigned in September and October. An initial draft will be submitted in January, and returned with comments for revision. The final version will be submitted by the last day of class.

4. Seminar presentation of research topic--worth 15%

These will be presented during the second half of the second term.


Underneath each week's topic I have listed the assigned readings for that week. I have used the following abbreviations: HF = Gregory of Tours, The History of the Franks (usually cited by books and chapters, not by pages in the book--thus HF 5.1 is book 5, chapter 1). CS = Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints (cited by pages). GM = Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Martyrs (cited by chapters). GC = Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Confessors (cited by chapters). This list will be supplemented by weekly assignment sheets.

Note: This is not a complete list of readings.

Sept 9 Introduction to the Course

Sept. 16 Gaul in the Later Roman Empire according to Gregory & modern scholars
HF 1 (entire book); individual readings

Sept. 23 The Franks in Gaul according to Gregory & modern scholars
HF 2 (entire book); individual readings

Sept. 30 Gregory's background; Gregory as a working bishop
HF 5.18; 6.5, 10, 15; 7.21, 22; 8.1-7, 13, 40; 9.6, 26, 30

Oct. 7 Gregory's religion
GC 20, 45, 65, 93, 109; GM 5, 8, 10, 14, 19, 50, 83, 84, 85, 86, 104; HF 5.6, 20, 34, 50; 7.31; 8.5, 14; 10.13.

Oct 14. The Saints in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages
CS 1-22, 50-85.

Oct. 28 King Clovis and the origins and significance of Frankish kingship
HF 2.preface, 27-43; 5.pref. Supplementary readings

Nov. 4 A Bad King and a Good One
HF 4.22, 4.49, 50, 51; 5.18, 5.26, 5.28, 5.34, 5.44; 6.6, 17, 19, 22, 46.
HF 4.25, 50; 6.39; 7.16, 33, 40; 8.1-7, 12,13, 20, 22; 9.3, 11, 21

Nov. 11 Royal Fathers, Sons, Uncles and Nephews
HF 6.26, 8.42, 7.39; HF 5.2, 3, 14, 18, 20, 22, 34, 39, 50; 6.23; 6.24, 7.5, 6, 7, 8; 8.4, 8.9, 8.37; 7.10, 27, 32, 36, 38; 10.11, 10.28.

Nov. 18 Wives and Queens
HF 6.16, 9.13, 9.33; 5.32, 10.8; 6.12, 8.18; 8.32 ; 1.44, 1.47
HF 4.25, 26, 27, 287; 5.2, 39; 6.35, 6.37, 6.38, 5.17, 9.32, 38; 7.4, 5, 19; 6.45, 7.9, 9.34; 10.27

Nov. 25 Royal government and royal servants
HF 5.24, 25; 8.36, 42, 43, 44, 9.13; 4.2, 5.28, 6.45, 10.6, 7; 9.27

Dec. 2 Mid-term exam

Jan. 6 Tours in royal politics
HF 5.1, 2, 4, 14, 26, 47, 49; 6.13; 7.13, 21, 24, 28; 9.30

Jan. 13 Social classes in 6th c. Gaul
Bishops: HF 10.31; 5.5, 42, 45, 46; 6.7, 9, 11, 39; 8.22, 9.23.
Royal Servants: HF 5.3, 5.48, 7.25, 8.18.
Slaves: HF 3.15; 6.45; 7.1 (last par.), 44, 45; 9.26, 34, 38

Jan. 20 Radegund
Readings to be assigned.

Jan. 27 Nuns in Revolt
HF 9.39-43; 10.14, 16, 20, 21

Much of the second term will be devoted to student presentations. The exact schedule will depend on course enrollments.

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