In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section France

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Textbooks
  • Journals
  • Bibliographies
  • Archaeology

Medieval Studies France
Robert F. Berkhofer
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 December 2010
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 December 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0055


The subject category of “medieval France” bespeaks an Anglo-American approach to periods of French history, rather than a French one. The enduring importance of the French Revolution in France places makes the ancien régime (the entire period before 1789) the dominant division for French scholarship, publishing, and even archival structures. Even so, the prominence of medievalists as public intellectuals in France has assured that the moyen âge (variously dated from the 5th to the 15th century) is a large category in any French bookstore. In consequence, French textbooks, journals, bibliographies, and reference works often emphasize periods different from those written in English. Another important issue is whether an entity called “France” meaningfully existed in the Middle Ages. Although most scholars assert medieval origins for the kingdom of France, their opinions about when it came to be vary depending upon the answer to a fundamental question: what is medieval France? Traditional scholarship stressed the importance of monarchy (especially the Capetian dynasty, 987–1328) as a unifying force among diverse principalities, although the kingdom’s borders did not resemble the modern ones until after 1500. In consequence, the importance of Merovingian “Francia,” and even of the Carolingian realm, for the formation of any later kingdom of France was deemphasized by both 19th-century scholars infused by post-Revolution nationalism (as set against royalism), as well as by 20th-century scholars seeking a distinctive French national identity (to contrast with a German one, in light of the two world wars). More recent French scholarship is frequently divided by geography—either roughly by linguistic zones between the north and south, or by medieval lordships. These divisions have resulted from a tradition of regional studies, inspired by the Annales school, the leading historical approach in postwar France, which had an enormous influence over historical training at universities (see the bibliography Regions of Medieval France). At the same time, English-language scholarship about medieval France stressed different subjects, such as the aristocratic family, women, and the crusades and heresy, which highlighted different approaches, chronologies, and even geographies than did French scholarship. These streams of historiography began to merge in the later 1990s, and in the 21st century there has been increasing mutual influence. This bibliography highlights English-language scholarship and seeks to provide points of entry to French scholarship, in translation if possible.

General Overviews

Since French historians tend to subordinate the medieval period to the longer ancien régime, French overviews tend to be sweeping. However, the tradition of soliciting major scholars to write them as a series assures quality of treatment and, often, incisive interpretations. One such series is the Nouvelle histoire de la France médiévale, of which the most relevant volumes are Theis 1990, Barthélemy 1990, and Bourin-Derruau 1990. The volumes of the New Cambridge Medieval History offer more concise narratives (see McKitterick 1995, Reuter 2000, Luscombe 2004, Abulafia 1999, and Jones 2000). For particular periods, or for greater detail, see the entries under Textbooks.

  • Abulafia, David, ed. The New Cambridge Medieval History. Vol. 5. c. 1198–c. 1300. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

    See chapter 11, “The Capetians from the Death of Philip II to Philip IV,” by William Chester Jordan. Also includes separate treatments of Burgundy and Flanders.

  • Barthélemy, Dominique. Nouvelle histoire de la France médiévale. Vol. 3, L’ordre seigneurial: XIe–XIIe siècle. Paris: Seuil, 1990.

    Emphasizes lordship, knighthood, and relations with the crown; less revisionist than author’s subsequent work.

  • Bourin-Derruau, Monique. Nouvelle histoire de la France médiévale. Vol. 4, Temps d’équilibres, temps de ruptures: XIIIe siècle. Paris: Seuil, 1990.

    Strong on society and economy and treats both north and south.

  • Jones, Michael, ed. The New Cambridge Medieval History. Vol. 6, c. 1300–c. 1415. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

    A chronological narrative is provided in the chapter titled “France,” by Michael Jones and Françoise Autrand. This is the only volume of the series that acknowledges the existence of medieval France without qualification.

  • Luscombe, David, ed. The New Cambridge Medieval History. Vol. 4, c. 1024–c. 1198 (Part 2). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

    Chronological narratives are provided in the chapters “The Kingdom of the Franks to 1108” (Constance Bouchard), and “The Kingdom of the Franks from Louis VI to Philip II” (John Baldwin and Michel Bur).

  • McKitterick, Rosamund, ed. The New Cambridge Medieval History. Vol. 2, c. 700–c. 900. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

    Chronological narratives are provided in the chapters “Frankish Gaul to 814” (Paul Fouracre) and “The Frankish Kingdoms, 814–898: The West” (Janet L. Nelson).

  • Reuter, Timothy, ed. The New Cambridge Medieval History. Vol. 3, c. 900–c. 1024. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

    Resists the notion that there is a “France.” Chronological narratives of various regions include: “Lotharingia” (Michel Parisse); “Burgundy and Provence, 879–1032” (Constance Brittain Bouchard); “West Francia: The Kingdom” (Jean Dunbabin); “West Francia: The Northern Principalities,” (David Bates); and “West Francia: The Southern Principalities” (Michel Zimmermann).

  • Theis, Laurent. L’héritage des Charles: De la mort de Charlemagne aux environs de l’an mil. Paris: Seuil, 1990.

    Strongest on the transition from last Carolingians to Capetians.

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