On Barbarian Identity: Critical Approaches to Ethnicity in the Early Middle Ages

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Ethnicity has been central to medieval studies since the Goths, Franks, Alamanni and other barbarian settlers of the Roman empire were first seen as part of Germanic antiquity. Today, two paradigms dominate interpretation of barbarian Europe. In history, theories of how tribes formed ('ethnogenesis') assert the continuity of Germanic identities from prehistory through the Middle Ages, and see cultural rather than biological factors as the means of preserving these identities. In archaeology, the 'culture history' approach has long claimed to be able to trace movements of peoples not attested in the historical record, by identifying ethnically-specific material goods. The papers in this volume challenge the concepts and methodologies of these two models. The authors explore new ways to understand barbarians in the early Middle Ages, and to analyse the images of the period constructed by modern scholarship. Two responses, one by a leading exponent of the 'ethnogenesis' approach, the other by a leading critic, continue this important debate.

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User Review  - Tombali - LibraryThing

Interesting ideas, especially about interpretation of archaeological data. Gillett's analysis of royal titulature is very useful. Unfortunately, some authors have gone too far in their criticism, crossing the border between scholar disagreement and personal animosity. Read full review


Section I
Does the Distant Past Impinge on the Invasion Age Germans?
Reinhard Wenskus on Ethnogenesis

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