Portrait of Dr Edward Roberts

Dr Edward Roberts

Lecturer in Early Medieval History
Director of Graduate Studies

About

Dr Edward Roberts was born in Cumbria and raised in Denver, Colorado. He returned to the UK to study history, receiving a BA and MA from the University of Manchester and a PhD (2014) from the University of St Andrews. He then held research positions at King's College London and the Universidad del País Vasco (Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain), followed by a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship at the University of Liverpool. In January 2018 he joined the School of History as Lecturer in Early Medieval History.  

Research interests

Edward is primarily interested in political, social and cultural change in Western Europe between c.850 and c.1050. This was a dynamic period of European history, during which the mighty empire of Charlemagne and his family (the Carolingians) gave way to nascent French and German polities, while a unified English kingdom came into being for the first time. Edward studies the period’s new institutional outlook and changing cultures of writing, focusing especially on historical writing, legal documents (charters) and church law-books (canon law).

His first book, Flodoard of Rheims and the Writing of History in the Tenth Century, was published with Cambridge University Press in 2019. He is also co-editing (with Robert Gallagher and Francesca Tinti) a book on The Languages of Early Medieval Charters (forthcoming with Brill, 2020). 

Edward is currently researching episcopal office in the Latin West between the Carolingian and Gregorian reforms (ninth to eleventh centuries).  

Teaching

Edward teaches modules on late antiquity and the earlier Middle Ages (300-1100).

Supervision

Edward would be pleased to hear from prospective MA and PhD students who want to work on topics related to Carolingian, Ottonian or Anglo-Saxon history.

Professional

Edward is a convenor of the Earlier Middle Ages Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.  

Publications

Article

  • Roberts, E. (2019). Flodoard of Rheims and the Historiography of the Tenth-Century West. History Compass [Online]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/hic3.12601.
    Flodoard of Rheims is one of the most important authors of tenth-century Europe, and the only contemporary historian to document the momentous struggles between kings and nobles in Francia in the wake of the demise of the Carolingian Empire. Flodoard’s era stands at the center of major historiographical debates concerning the nature of political and social change and the origins of European institutions. Yet, despite his singularity, his substantial histories have received little attention from scholars examining the profound transformations of the period. Exploring this discrepancy, this article offers an overview of Flodoard’s career and reviews how his histories have been invoked in some of the great scholarly debates about tenth-century Europe. It further proposes to recontextualize Flodoard and to reread his histories from the bottom up in order to gain a subtler understanding of how one contemporary perceived and represented the dramatic events and changes taking place around him.
  • Roberts, E. (2019). Bishops on the Move: Rather of Verona, Pseudo-Isidore, and Episcopal Translation. The Medieval Low Countries [Online] 6:117-138. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1484/J.MLC.5.118365.
    In 953, the Lotharingian monk Rather was appointed bishop of Liège. Eighteen months later, he was banished from the see, accused of illegally transferring from one bishopric to another. Canon law prohibited the translation of a bishop, and Rather had previously held the see of Verona. This article looks at the episode afresh, examining how Rather sought to justify his appointment to Liège, and focusing particularly on his use of the Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries. Rather’s abortive transfer provides a rare opportunity to study the dissemination of Pseudo-Isidore and the application of its norms in matters of episcopal autonomy. This analysis suggests that the affair was a key moment in the diffusion of Pseudo-Isidorian ideas about episcopal translation, paving the way for the revolutionary attitudes to episcopal mobility that prevailed in the late tenth and eleventh centuries. In view of these later developments, the article also asks why Rather’s career floundered despite having the backing of Otto I and his bishops.
  • Roberts, E. (2018). Boundary clauses and the use of the vernacular in eastern Frankish charters, c.750-c.900. Historical Research [Online] 91:580-604. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-2281.12245.
    Of the thousands of surviving charters from eastern Carolingian Francia, remarkably few contain boundary clauses, even though ceremonial perambulations were a prominent aspect of property transactions. This article examines these boundary clauses asking when and why perambulations were written down in charters, and why, in an overwhelmingly Latin charter tradition, this was often done with vernacular language. The analysis suggests that boundary clauses were intended as rhetorical statements of elite identification and authority, usually signalling the involvement of powerful patrons and significant properties. The article contributes to debates concerning ritual, rhetoric and the interaction between orality and literacy in medieval charters.
  • Roberts, E. (2018). Construire une hiérarchie épiscopale: Flodoard de Reims et la correspondance de l’archevêque Foulques (vers 850-vers 950). Cahiers de civilisation médiévale [Online] 61:11-26. Available at: https://cescm.hypotheses.org/category/revue-des-cahiers-de-civilisation-medievale/page/2.
  • Roberts, E. (2016). Hegemony, rebellion and history: Flodoard’s Historia Remensis ecclesiae in Ottonian perspective. Journal of Medieval History [Online] 42:155-176. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/03044181.2016.1141311.
    This article considers the growth of Ottonian hegemony through a close examination of Flodoard's Historia Remensis ecclesiae. Specifically, it scrutinises Flodoard's laconic account of a property dispute between the church of Rheims and Conrad the Red, Otto the Great's powerful duke of Lotharingia. Reading Flodoard's testimony alongside diplomatic evidence and Ottonian narratives, this study argues that the controversy was a factor in Conrad's rebellion against Otto in 953. Both the central role of Rheims' property in an Ottonian political conflict and Flodoard's silence on numerous aspects of the affair reveal that the church was deeply enmeshed in Ottonian politics. The Historia therefore offers an unrecognised angle on the expansion of Ottonian power, while further investigation of its content suggests that this emergent hegemony may indeed have been welcomed by Flodoard and his superiors at Rheims.
  • Roberts, E. (2014). Flodoard, the will of St Remigius and the see of Rheims in the tenth century. Early Medieval Europe [Online] 22:201-230. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/emed.12053.
    The ‘longer’ will of St Remigius of Rheims, as preserved in the mid-tenth-century Historia Remensis ecclesiae of Flodoard of Rheims, is widely agreed to be a forgery. But despite the fact that it is known almost exclusively from Flodoard’s work, historians have never suggested that this document was produced in his day. This article contends that the longer will was indeed an original component of the Historia. Read in this context, the will can throw new light on the Historia itself, the career of Flodoard and the tumultuous history of the church of Rheims in the first half of the tenth century.

Book

  • Roberts, E. (2019). Flodoard of Rheims and the Writing of History in the Tenth Century. [Online]. Cambridge University Press. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108226851.
    Flodoard of Rheims (893/4–966) is one of the tenth century's most intriguing but neglected historians. His works are essential sources for the emergence of the West Frankish and Ottonian kingdoms in the tumultuous decades following the collapse of the Carolingian empire in 888. Yet although Flodoard is a crucial narrative voice from this period, his works have seldom been considered in the context of the evolving circumstances of his turbulent career or his literary aims. This important new study is the first to analyse and synthesise Flodoard's entire output, suggesting that his writings about Rheims, contemporary politics and the Christian past have until now been taken at face value without regard for his own intentions or priorities, and therefore have been misunderstood. Edward Roberts' re-evaluation of the relationship between political participation, historical understanding and authorial individuality casts important new light on the political and cultural history of tenth-century Europe.

Book section

  • Roberts, E. (2019). Remembering Troubled Pasts: Episcopal Deposition and Succession in Flodoard’s History of the Church of Rheims. In: Greer, S., Hicklin, A. and Esders, S. eds. Using and Not Using the Past After the Carolingian Empire, C. 900-c.1050. Routledge.
    When Flodoard came to write his great History of the Church of Rheims around 950, he was faced with some challenging episodes from his church's past. Bishop Egidius, for instance, had been deposed in 590 after being found guilty of treason against King Childebert. Bishop Rigobert had been banished from the city in 717 by Charles Martel and replaced with Milo, a notorious pseudo-cleric who apparently ruled the bishoprics of Rheims and Trier in union for forty years. There was also Archbishop Ebbo, infamously compelled to resign the see in 835 for his leading role in the rebellion against Emperor Louis the Pious. And, as Flodoard experienced firsthand, Archbishop Hugh had very recently been excommunicated following a long-running dispute over the archdiocese. In a work dedicated to the greatness of the church of Rheims, how did Flodoard deal with such plainly disreputable episodes? This paper examines how episcopal memories were received and reshaped in tenth-century Rheims. Although one of Flodoard's main purposes was to enunciate a principle of apostolic succession - to trace an unbroken line of prelates from his own day back to Sixtus, the city's first bishop - he could not simply ignore controversial figures and infamous episodes. Recent events prompted Flodoard to reinterpret some of these controversial episodes, to search for merit in his church's more notorious prelates and thus to idealise Rheims' past. At the same time, Flodoard's narrative was shaped by an uncommonly attentive scrutiny of and faithfulness to the sources he had before him. In the History, we thus see Flodoard juggling the competing demands of his task as an historian and of his mission to memorialise his church's illustrious past.
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