Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



This study focuses on Charlemagne’s conquest of Saxony in the late eighth and early ninth centuries and the policies of forced conversion he espoused in his attempts to bring the peoples of these territories to the Christian religion. Often remarked upon is the Carolingian king’s prescription of the death penalty for failure to be baptized, but this development was a logical consequence of contemporary ideology with regard to missionizing. I employ the letters of contemporaries, historical annals, and hagiographical sources to examine how the use of force in missionizing was viewed in this period, and I argue that with regard to Carolingian expansion and evangelization, forced conversion was not a major theological stumbling block. The letters of Alcuin of York are of special concern here because he appears at times to contradict this, yet as I demonstrate he, along with various popes and other prominent contemporary theologians, viewed Charlemagne’s armies as convenient and effective vehicles by which to spread the Christian faith. The efficiency of military might outweighed any negative considerations. These arguments are made against the backdrop of the Saxon Wars, a conflict lasting decades in which Charlemagne’s frustrations with the obstinacy of the Saxons further reduced the likelihood that peaceful means of evangelization would be considered.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Dietz, Maribel



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History Commons