Final Public Oral Exam: Jan Van Doren

Final Public Oral Examination
Event date: 
March 15, 2021 - 10:00am to 12:00pm
Seminar Series: 
Final Public Oral Exam

Cupiditate Ducti: Corruption in The Carolingian World


Helmut Reimitz, Adviser
John Haldon
William C. Jordan
Steffen Patzold, Universität Tübingen


The maintenance of justice was one of the mainstays of public power exercised by Carolingian rulers and their subordinates. It was an important responsibility, which, when upheld by a just emperor and his righteous helpers [adiutores], would ensure the equity and well-being of the Carolingian empire and its inhabitants. Conversely, the corruption of public officials threatened to undermine the justice and public order of the realm, and thus its well-being in both a practical and a spiritual sense. As a result, the causes, practices, and implications of corruption were frequently discussed throughout the reigns of Charlemagne and Louis the Pious.

These deliberations not only helped shape the ambitions and limitations of Christian public governance in the eighth and ninth centuries, but also inspired far-reaching attempts by the imperial court to surveil, correct, and discipline the men supposedly in its service. It is with these initiatives to circumscribe and address corruption, as represented in the capitularies, charters, and admonitory documents issuing forth from the court, its collocutors, and its purported public servants that this dissertation is concerned. It argues that we must take the Carolingian courts’ multiple reforms to fight corruption seriously, even if they appear unsuccessful, half-hearted, or hypocritical to our modern eyes. To that end, this study investigates the strictures from Carolingian admonitory sources in concert with their enactment in predominantly royal charters: it is there that the Carolingian court and its representatives and subjects in the empire’s localities met. At the intersection between court and countryside, expectations of justice were communicated, and instances of corruption discovered, deliberated, and, ideally, addressed. At this junction where private and public interests met, a complex world of shared convictions but competing interests is revealed, in which the evolving category of corruption played a defining role.

A copy of the dissertation will be available for review two weeks before the exam. Contact Lee Horinko for the dissertation and the Zoom meeting link and password.

All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Area of Interest: 
Cultural History
Legal History
Political History
Late Antiquity
6th through 14th Centuries