The very personal history of Nithard: family and honour in the Carolingian world


  • * Research for this article was supported by the Wheaton College (Norton, MA) Office of the Provost and History Department, the Wheaton Research Partnership, and a Mellon Faculty/Student Research Grant. The authors wish to thank these sponsors as well as the Dartmouth College Medieval Studies Seminar and its organizers and participants, especially Jane Carroll, M. Cecilia Gaposchkin and Walter Simons, for their helpful feedback on an early draft. Additionally, Patrick J. Geary, Michael D.C. Drout, Jolanta Komornicka, Alex Trayford, Martin Fromm and Elena Malkov provided excellent suggestions on a near-final draft. The final version of this article benefitted tremendously from careful readings by, and excellent suggestions from, EME's anonymous reviewers.


Nithard's Histories of the civil wars fought between Louis the Pious's sons reveal much about mid-ninth-century nobility, political values, and the author's changing social position. This article considers how Nithard's immediate familial history affected the text's composition. We argue that his incorporation of authorial voice and detail, crafting of the royal lineage, and emphasis on fraternitas suggest that Nithard employed the text to fight for legitimacy and honour, both familial and individual. We propose that the Histories should be read as a social commemoration of Nithard's familial memories, thus complicating the assumption that family histories were the purview of women.