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Le Monde franc et les Vikings, VIIIe-Xe siècle (review)

From: Scandinavian Studies
Volume 84, Number 1, Spring 2012
pp. 101-106 | 10.1353/scd.2012.0000

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by
Pierre Bauduin. Le Monde franc et les Vikings, VIIIe-Xe siècle. Albin Michel. L'évolution de l'humanité. Paris: 2009. Pp. 460.

(The preceding review by Grégory Cattaneo represents the fully edited version of this review. See Scandinavian Studies 83.3: 440-5.)

Over the last fifteen years, Pierre Bauduin has published important research on various topics related to Scandinavian and French medieval history, such as the ethno-genesis and the territorial boundaries of early Normandy, the Scandinavian establishments in western Europe, the integration of the Vikings in the Frankish kingdom, and questions of ethnic identities. This work has made him a respected and influential specialist on the Vikings in France, and many may see in his work a notable continuation of that of the late Lucien Musset, who is certainly well-known to many readers. Le Monde franc et les Vikings, VIIIe-Xe siècle represents both a culmination of Bauduin's previous research and a major revitalization of the study of the relation between the Frankish and the Scandinavian worlds from the eighth to the tenth centuries. Indeed, writing in a post-war context, Lucien Musset and Louis Halphen addressed the "invasions" in terms of a capitulation to the enemy in a climate of defeatism. The concept of accommodation, however, guides Bauduin's reflection and yields a new approach to the Viking impact in the regnum Francorum. Accommodation is defined by the author as "un processus plus général de régulation des relations entre nouveaux venus et communautés établies ou aux stratégies de coexistence entre ces groupes" (36) [a more general process of regulating relations between newcomers and established communities or the strategies of coexistence between these groups] and is used in order to point out "les mécanismes qui ont pu jouer, ou non, en faveur de l'intégration des Vikings dans les sociétés autochtones" (25) [the mechanisms that may or may not have worked to the advantage of the Vikings' integration into indigenous societies]. Accommodation has also been presented "comme un concept permettant d'aborder les phénomènes de compromis et d'adapation, dans des contextes différents, d'une société confrontée à une population dont elle a envisagé, à un moment de son histoire, l'installation sur son territoire" [End Page 101] (343) [as a concept allowing an approach to the phenomena of compromise and adaptation, in various contexts, of a society confronted by a population that it imagined, at a moment of its history, to be colonizing its territory].

In chapters 2 and 3, Bauduin discusses the framework of these negotiations in a detailed study of the terminology of the written sources. Even if most of the transactions are not specifically mentioned there, they might be inferred. Many types of agreements were made in the absence of formal treaties such as pax and the relation of amicitia. Stories of miracles concerning the Vikings are related by the author as examples: in the early 870s, Saint Malo saves the villagers of Cherrueix from the Vikings after they had given him four deniers as a donation. According to Bauduin's analysis, the donation might have hidden a tribute given to the Vikings. Many contemporary stories are distorted by ideological factors, and it is probably the author's most notable accomplishment to have renewed the reading and use of well-known sources. As will be discovered in the examples selected from throughout the book, Bauduin denounces what he calls an apologetic vision of history, a mental construct opposing the subjectivity of the medieval writers to the historical truth: "L'un des effets fut d'alimenter la controverse sur la portée des invasions vikings et la rudesse d'un choc que d'aucuns ne furent pas loin de considérer comme une construction mentale alimentée par une vision apologétique de l'Histoire" (222) [One of its effects was to fuel the controversy concerning the impact of the Viking invasions and the brutality of the shock that some considered a mental construct fueled by an apologetic view of History]. According to Bauduin, this debate hides one element: the circumstances under which...