You Gotta Know These Peoples of the Early Middle Ages

During the early medieval period (c. 350 – c. 1100), Europe was transformed by political, religious, and cultural change. The Roman empire gave way to a multitude of quarrelling post-Roman states; pagan peoples were converted by Christian missionary bishops; and the Mediterranean heritage of the ancient world combined with the different traditions of northern European peoples to set the foundations for the western European kingdoms of the high middle ages and Renaissance.

In German, this period is sometimes known as the Völkerwanderung, the “age of migrating peoples.” Maps that show giant arrows sweeping south from the Baltic into the heart of the Roman empire give a false impression of the stability and coherence of early medieval political units. The summaries below focus on those peoples who established lasting kingdoms in the early medieval west; keep in mind that all such units began as loosely affiliated tribal confederations.

This article was contributed by NAQT member Jeff Hoppes.

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