SEMINAR VIII: Henry I and the Magyar Invasions (Lent, Week 5)

Though the process was more torturous than it first appears, a division of the Carolingian Empire into western and eastern kingdoms began to crystallise in the late ninth century, and thereafter the development of these two halves of the kingdom followed divergent paths. In this seminar we look at the development of kingship and society in the eastern half. The rulers of this half would eventually control all of the lands which made up eastern and middle kingdoms as defined by the Treaty of Verdun (843). But before that was achieved (c.960), this half of the Frankish world underwent a dramatic rebirth amid the catastrophe of the Magyar invasions of the early tenth century. This crisis brought a new royal dynasty to the fore – the Liudolfings or, as they are also known, the Ottonians. This family had previously been the dukes of Saxony, and they held the throne from 919 to 1024. The subject of this week's seminar is the nature of the Magyar crisis and the military strategies which the Liudolfings, led by their king Henry I, used to overcome it.

Mandatory Preparation

Students are asked to read the following extracts from Widukind of Corvey, Liudprand of Cremona and Flodoard of Reims:

  1. Widukind, Deeds of the Saxons, i.32 – the early reforms of Henry I.
  2. Widukind, Deeds of the Saxons, i.35 – Henry's expeditions against the Transelban Slavs.
  3. Widukind, Deeds of the Saxons, i.36 – the Battle of Lenzen.
  4. Widukind, Deeds of the Saxons, i.38 – the Campaign of 933.
  5. Liudprand, Antapodosis, ii.31 – the Battle of Riade (15 March 933).
  6. Flodoard, Annals, § 15 – the Magyar Campaigns of 933.
  7. Widukind, Deeds of the Saxons, ii.14 – the Hungarian invasion of 938.
  8. Widukind, Deeds of the Saxons, ii.34 – the Bavarians defeat the Hungarians at Wels.
  9. Widukind, Deeds of the Saxons, ii.39 – the Merseburg Legion.

And to come prepared with answers to the following discussion questions:

  1. What were the strengths and weaknesses of the Hungarian forces?
  2. In what ways were the Saxons and eastern Franks vulnerable to Magyar attack before the reforms of the 920s?
  3. In what ways did Henry I reorganise the military resources of the Saxons and Thuringians?
  4. What strategies and tactics did the restructured army employ to defeat their opponents?
  5. How serious was the threat to the eastern Frankish kingdom represented by the Magyars? Was this threat more or less serious than that posed by the Vikings?
  6. To what extent can the defeat of the Magyars be credited to Henry I and the Liudolfings?
  7. In what ways and to what extent did the Magyar crisis transform the eastern Frankish kingdom?

The extracts may be downloaded from the Hist213 LUVLE site.

Strongly Recommended Reading for All Students

  1. Bowlus, C. R., The Battle of Lechfeld and its Aftermath, August 955: The End of the Age of Migrations in the Latin West (Aldershot, 2006), esp. chp. 3, 'The Reforms of Henry I in Saxony'. MHBE.M.*
  2. Bachrach, B. S., and D. Bachrach, 'Saxon Military Revolution, 912-973?: Myth and Reality', Early Medieval Europe, 15 (2007), 186-222. Available online from Academic Search Premier.
  3. Reuter, T., Germany in the Early Middle Ages, 800-1056 (London, 1991). MHB.*

Other Reading

  • Althoff, G., 'Saxony and the Elbe Slavs in the Tenth Century', in T. Reuter (ed.), The New Cambridge Medieval History, vol. 3, c. 900–c. 1024 (Cambridge, 2000), pp. 267-92. MB.*
  • Arnold, B., Medieval Germany: A Political Interpretation (Basingstoke, 1997). MHB.J.
  • Fleckenstein, J., Early Medieval Germany, trs. B. S. Smith (Amsterdam and New York, 1974). MHB.*
  • Goldberg, E. J., Struggle for Empire: Kingship and Conflict Under Louis the German, 817-876 (Ithaca, NY, 2006). Useful background. MHBC.
  • Heer, F., The Holy Roman Empire, trs. J. Sondheimer (London, 1968). Merely an introduction. MGR.
  • Hill, B. H., The Rise of the First Reich: Germany in the Tenth Century (New York, 1969). Sources in translation. MHBD.
  • Hill, B. H., Medieval Monarchy in Action: The German Empire from Henry I to Henry IV (London, 1972). Sources in translation. MHBD.
  • Leyser, K., 'Henry I and the Beginnings of the Saxon Empire', English Historical Review, 83 (1968), 1-32. Journals L6. JSTOR. Rpt. in Leyser, Medieval Germany and its Neighbours (900-1250) (London, 1982), pp. 11-42. MBK.*
  • Leyser, K., Rule and Conflict in an Early Medieval Society, Ottonian Saxony (London, 1979). MHBD.* More important for next week but has some relevant material.

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