Resources for Historical Research

Below are great ways to find out more about this pivotal period in history. Kim relied on these resources to help her reconstruct the world of her novels. Any factual errors in Kim’s novels are hers and hers alone.

Primary Sources
These accounts are the freshest, written close to the time of the event and tell almost as much about the writer as the subject. They show you how the members of the society saw themselves and their adversaries.

A disclaimer: Historians and authors wrote their accounts with a definite point of view. The idea of objectivity and including all the facts, even the ones that didn’t make you look good, would have been foreign to them.

Three very good primary sources (in translation):

  • Einhard’s The Life of Charlemagne
  • Carolingian Chronicles, which includes the Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard’s Histories
  • P.D. King’s Charlemagne: Translated Sources, a collection of annals, letters, capitularies, and more

Daily Life Books
Daily life books fill in details such as clothing, lighting, and all sorts of things history textbooks don’t cover. Two examples:

  • Daily Life in the World of Charlemagne by Pierre Riche
  • Daily Life in Medieval Times (three books in one) by Frances and Joseph Gies

Scholarly Research
Scholars are truly underappreciated for all the research they do. Here is just a sampling:

  • Charlemagne by Roger Collins–The emperor’s life and times reconstructed mainly from primary sources.
  • The Continental Saxons From the Migration Period to the Tenth Century: An Ethonographic Perspective–A collection of articles that sheds light on this little known group from a variety of academic disciplines. The challenge with the Continental Saxons is that they did not write down their own history before Charlemagne’s wars with them.
  • Articles by Janet L. Nelson, including “Women in Charlemagne’s Court: A Case of Monstrous Regiment.”
  • Charlemagne: Empire and Society–Another collection of excellent scholarly articles.
  • Living in the Shadow of Death by Sheila M. Rothman–This isn’t about the Carolingians at all. However, if you want to know it was like to live with tuberculosis before the age of antibiotics, read this book.

Poems, folktales, and art open a window to culture and beliefs. The Anglo-Saxon poem “Beowulf” and the Germanic folktales collected by the Grimm brothers are good examples. However, the anonymous French epic “The Song of Roland” was written centuries after the events it depicts and is not historically accurate. (Note to the squeamish: All of these examples have graphic violence.)