Becher, Matthias
Date published: 
March 2005

Charlemagne - ruler of the vast Frankish kingdom from 768 to his death in 814 and Holy Roman emperor from the year 800 - is considered the father of Europe. In this concise, insightful, and eminently readable biography, Matthias Becher provides a wealth of information about a remarkable man and his times.

Becher describes Charlemagne’s rise to emperor and traces his political and military manoeuvering against the Saxons, the Lombards, and others, as Charlemagne incorporated these lands into his own realm. Becher points out that under Charlemagne, jury courts were introduced, the laws of the Franks revised and written down, new coinage introduced, weights and measures reformed, and a Frankish grammar begun. Charlemagne tried to give his kingdom a spiritual basis by referring to antique traditions, says Becher, and he explores the tensions that existed in Charlemagne’s court between modern ideas and traditional thinking. He concludes by discussing Charlemagne’s kinship network, the evolving arrangements for his succession, the effects of his reign, and his posthumous fame.

Matthias Becher is professor of medieval history at the Universität Bonn, Germany.