Session Title

Localism, Regionalism, and Centralism in Early Medieval Iberia

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Special Session

Organizer Name

Molly Lester

Organizer Affiliation

Princeton Univ.

Presider Name

Scott de Brestian

Presider Affiliation

Central Michigan Univ.

Paper Title 1

Monasteries and the Exploitation of Territory in Late Antique Iberia

Presenter 1 Name

Jamie Wood

Presenter 1 Affiliation

Univ. of Lincoln

Paper Title 2

Competing Networks and Alliances and the Emergence of Episcopal Authority in the Early Suevic Kingdom

Presenter 2 Name

Rebecca Devlin

Presenter 2 Affiliation

Univ. of Louisville

Paper Title 3

Diversity Statements: Local Liturgies and Religious Reform in Early Medieval Iberia

Presenter 3 Name

Molly Lester

Paper Title 4

Embedded Law: State Administration and Landholding in the Visigothic Kingdom of Toledo

Presenter 4 Name

Damián Fernández

Presenter 4 Affiliation

Northern Illinois Univ.

Start Date

11-5-2017 10:00 AM

Session Location

Schneider 1345

Description

The idea of a constant tension between local, regional, and central institutions characterizes early medieval Iberian historiography – and, in particular, the historiography of the Visigothic kingdom. On the one hand, numerous scholars have emphasized the centralizing activities of the Visigothic state, describing it as a polity whose legal, ecclesiastical, and political structures created uniformity throughout the Peninsula. On the other hand, a different thread of scholarship argues that the kingdom of the Visigoths was an illusory varnish that gave an appearance of unity to a highly diversified society with relatively independent local elites and cultural traditions. These debates over the local, regional, and central dimensions of Visigothic society and culture are, to a certain extent, still embedded in a broader and older controversy over the “Roman” or “feudal” nature of early medieval Iberia.

This session aims at revisiting the question of regionalism in late antique and early medieval Iberia. Between the withdrawal of the Roman administration and the early Islamic period, the Iberian Peninsula witnessed extensive local and regional diversity, but the interaction between regional traditions and centralizing forces needs to be understood in a less modernizing perspective. Rather than weakening the Visigothic kingdom, regionalism, particularism, and diversity may be understood instead as constructive social building blocks and intrinsic structural features of any pre-modern state. In other words, local and regional institutions, practices, and social organizations may have been powerful instruments to build central power and supra-regional practices rather than undermine them.

Molly Lester

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May 11th, 10:00 AM

Localism, Regionalism, and Centralism in Early Medieval Iberia

Schneider 1345

The idea of a constant tension between local, regional, and central institutions characterizes early medieval Iberian historiography – and, in particular, the historiography of the Visigothic kingdom. On the one hand, numerous scholars have emphasized the centralizing activities of the Visigothic state, describing it as a polity whose legal, ecclesiastical, and political structures created uniformity throughout the Peninsula. On the other hand, a different thread of scholarship argues that the kingdom of the Visigoths was an illusory varnish that gave an appearance of unity to a highly diversified society with relatively independent local elites and cultural traditions. These debates over the local, regional, and central dimensions of Visigothic society and culture are, to a certain extent, still embedded in a broader and older controversy over the “Roman” or “feudal” nature of early medieval Iberia.

This session aims at revisiting the question of regionalism in late antique and early medieval Iberia. Between the withdrawal of the Roman administration and the early Islamic period, the Iberian Peninsula witnessed extensive local and regional diversity, but the interaction between regional traditions and centralizing forces needs to be understood in a less modernizing perspective. Rather than weakening the Visigothic kingdom, regionalism, particularism, and diversity may be understood instead as constructive social building blocks and intrinsic structural features of any pre-modern state. In other words, local and regional institutions, practices, and social organizations may have been powerful instruments to build central power and supra-regional practices rather than undermine them.

Molly Lester