Land and Landscape: The Transition from Agilolfing to Carolingian Bavaria, 700-900
This dissertation examines the transformation of the political, social, cultural and physical landscape of eighth-century Bavaria as the region was absorbed into the expanding Frankish kingdom, following the deposition of its quasi-regal duke, Tassilo, in 788. It argues that changes made during this period to the organization of agricultural land and ecclesiastical jurisdictions — both the physical use of land resources, and their mental demarcations — changed perceptions of identity and supported changes in rulership. The dissertation focuses on the rhetoric of landscape in the creation and representation of power relations in a contested area, to elucidate the wider process by which the Carolingian dynasty united most of Western Europe under its control in the course of a few decades.
The unique geographical and political position of Bavaria suggests a fertile testing ground for a study of the representation of land and space in its political context. The transformation of the ducatus Baiuvariorum involved the alteration of existing views on the relative legitimacy of Carolingian and Agilolfing rule. This was a transformation in both a physical sense, and through the manipulation of various representational forms that make up the “ landscape ” of authority. Both the Frankish king and the Bavarian duke employed a conceptual and linguistic construction of space and control in establishing their leadership. This study shows how the “ mapping ” involved in constructing a network of meaningful places in a given region was a legitimating discourse. By articulating how various disparate factors should be perceived as a unity, and presenting a rhetoric of control over the land, a ruler made that control acceptable and defined the identity and roles of his followers.
The dissertation contributes to an understanding of how a particular cultural construct, Bavaria, was shaped and transformed by ducal leadership, and illuminates how the Carolingians transformed areas formerly outside their control and brought them together under a hegemonic ideal. It demonstrates the dynamic of intersecting and sometimes competing systems of organization and representation, which Charlemagne was challenged to bring together, employing the concept of empire.