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Central Authority and Local Strenght in Early Middle Ages: Comparing social complexity in Northern Iberia and Central Italy (8th – 10th centuries)

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CALOSEMA (Central Authority and Local Strenght in Early Middle Ages: Comparing social complexity in Northern Iberia and Central Italy (8th – 10th centuries))

Reporting period: 2017-09-25 to 2019-09-24

The main objective of CALOSEMA grant agreement n. 748161 project is the analysis of social complexity in Early Medieval Southern Europe deepening our knowledge of weak-states as the political space in which local societies were structured, privileging a study of the types of political and social relationships between local elites (both lay and ecclesiastical) and different central authorities, which took place from the 8th to the 10th centuries with the intention of
(a) to investigate social, economic and political complexities on a continental scale, with the main intention of interpreting social and political inequality in Northern Spain and Northern Italy from 8th to 10th centuries
(b) to deepen the concepts of central authority and local agency in the historical evolution of societies and powers which must be always considered as processes in progress and, finally,
(c) to create social theory which would allow the insertion of those two early medieval examples in the existing historiographical debates from sociology to anthropology.
The regions studied have been carefully selected (Castile and Lombardy). In fact, in the past few decades, new critical approaches to their written sources and archaeological excavations has shed new light on the social and political complexities of both territories. Their comparative study is important for our society because it consent the interpretation of the ways in which social complexity was articulated within political formations that can be described as weak-states (the Carolingian Empire, in the case of Lombardy, and the kingdom of León, for the Castilian lands). The understanding and explanation of the processes and systems of governance in Southern Early Medieval Europe and their social complexity, from a comparative perspective, has permited to create theoretical proposals useful to the current debates on social and political complexity in Human History and to challenge the abuses of the past and its manipulation by nowadays political agendas.
The theoretical analysis of social complexity from History and Archaeology has been supported, to the case of Lombardy, by the analyse of the complete set of Lombard manuscripts dated from the 8th to the 10th centuries (royal/imperial diplomas, court proceedings, donations, leasings etc) preserved both in single sheet of parchment or cartularies in different italian and other european archives. All their data has been entered into a database (see fig 1). In the case of Castilian documents (almost all preserved into cartularies), the work has been done with the database implemented in Madrid by Dr Julio Escalona (CSIC researcher), specialist in Early Medieval Castile. Moreover, the study of weak-state and social complexity both in Castile and Lombardy has been done taking into account the material data offer by archaeological research, particulary the excavations done by the Gipypac group of the Universtity of the Basque Country both in Álava and Castile. On the contrary, the Lombard case has been studied taking into account the results of archaeological studies published in different editorial sites.
The work performed within the CALOSEMA project, i.e. the study of Castilian and Lombard early medieval charters and excavations and the creation of a DB with the Lombard written sources, has allowed to achieved differen results and its dissemination through the participation in 5 seminars (Universities of Trento and Milán and the Universities of Santiago de Compostela and Salamanca), 6 papers delivered in international congresses (University of the Basque Country, Université de Lille, University of Tübingen, Università di Bergamo and the International Medieval Congress in Leeds); four public speeches (three in Spain and one in Italy); the organization of a Final International Workshop in the University of the Basque Country: Social Complexity and the State: The Forms of Governance in Western Europe Between the 8th and the 11th centuries. Moreover I have published two Open Access articles in peer reviewed journals in Archivio Storico Italiano (Florence) and Studia Histórica. Historia Medieval (Salamanca). I have seven more publications forthcoming, six book chapters and one paper in an italian peer reviewed journal (Società e Storia). I am also editing a book on the governance of Early Medieval Lombardy 774-924 (publication expected Fall 2020) and the proceedings of the International Workshop (publication expected Fall 2020).
The main contribution of CALOSEMA beyond the state of the art has been the creation, for the first time, of a complete corpus of Lombard documentation between the years 774-924 and its implementation in a database which content every single item related to social and political complexity – i.e. aristocratic residences, spaces for assemblies, judicial proceedings, monasteries and churches, political territories, the name of aristocracies (both lay and ecclesiastic), local officials and local priests etc. –, which allows us strenghten our knowledge about the documentary collection from early medieval Lombardy, completing the first attempt, which was done at the end of the 19th century. The database created by the CALOSEMA project allows, for the first time, to study all the Lombard early mediedal written sources, consenting, at the same time, the most coherent study of political power and social articulation of the northern Italian Kingdom of Italy in the Early Middle Ages (for it I've benefited for a short visit within the IGIER institut of the Università Bocconi, in Milan).
The comparative approach of CALOSEMA has permited other innovative aspects of the research. In fact, for decades, the study of the Early Middle Ages was undertaken by different scientific communities that did not necessarily interact with each other. Even nowadays some research agendas around the Early Medieval World are marked by strong national historiographical tendencies, such as the process of “Reconquista” in Christian Spain, the emergence of a strong central power in England and the end of the Carolingian world in Central Europe, among others. Equally revealing is the quite limited interaction between historians and archaeologists. CALOSEMA has been able to do a broad-base study throughout the combined use of a comparative method and a critical study of a wide body of information (written sources and material record) to understand the political complexity of two Southern European areas, developing a social theory which would overcome traditional interpretations, based on the (separate) reading of the written and archaeological sources, and on hypotheses built from a single case study, very often limited to the narrow margins of national states from Italy and Spain
Workshop's poster