Bibliography on Gregory of Tours and Sixth-century Gaul

Compiled by Steve Muhlberger, Department of History, Nipissing University

Last updated: May 12, 1997

I am assembling this bibliography primarily for the use of students in HIST 4505, Topics in Medieval History, for the academic year 1997-8.

In 1997-8, HIST 4505 will be devoted to Gregory of Tours and his History, usually but incorrectly called The History of the Franks. Gregory was bishop of Tours in what is now western France during the sixth century A.D. In the 590s he wrote, perhaps for the instruction of his clergy or his fellow-townsmen, a history of his own times.

This big, colorful, sometimes bizarre history, gives a glimpse into a period when the Roman Empire had ceased to exist (at least in Gregory's neighborhood), but when the medieval culture of later times had not yet been created. For instance, the country that Gregory lived in was not yet "France," despite the presence of the Franks; it was still "Gaul." In fact this whole period is now often called "Late Antiquity."

Because so much of Gregory's world is unfamiliar, I have assembled here some background reading for students who may want an advance look. I have only included books available in the Nipissing University library.

Course Outline for HIST 4505

Quick background to the Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages in Gaul

Edward James, The Origins of France: From Clovis to the Capetians, 500-1000 (London, 1982).

The first half discusses the basic institutions of Gaul in Gregory's time.

J.M. Wallace-Hadrill, The Barbarian West 2nd ed. (London, 1964).

A very brief introduction to western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire, focusing on the influence of the "barbarian" rulers.

Peter Brown, The World of Late Antiquity (London, 1971).

Brown focuses on the Roman background to this era. A well illustrated introduction to culture and religion, but not the best source for basic names-and-dates.

Steve Muhlberger, Overview of Late Antiquity.

This is my own electronically-published introduction to the period of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages.

Franks and Frankish rulers

J.M. Wallace-Hadrill, The Long-Haired Kings (Oxford, 1962).
Several studies of the "barbarian" Franks in Gaul and especially their laws and rulers.

Ian Wood, The Merovingian Kingdoms 450-751 (Harlow, Essex, 1994).

An up-to-date history of the early Frankish kingdoms.

Religion in Gregory's time

Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints: Its rise and function in Latin Christianity (Chicago, 1981).

Essential reading. In fact, it's a required text for the course!

Peter Brown, "Late Antiquity." In A History of Private Life: Volume 1, From Pagan Rome to Byzantium, ed. Paul Veyne, tr. Arthur Goldhammer (Cambridge, Mass., 1987), pp. 235-311.

More from Peter Brown; discusses religion in the late Roman world in a wider social context.

R.A. Markus, The End of Ancient Christianity (Cambridge, 1990).

A well-written discussion of how Christianity changed in late ancient and early medieval times.

Works on Gregory

Walter Goffart, The Narrators of Barbarian History (A.D. 550-800): Jordanes, Gregory of Tours, Bede, and Paul the Deacon (Princeton, 1988).

Section III of this book is a detailed discussion of Gregory as a historian, moralist and satirist.

J.M. Wallace-Hadrill, "The Work of Gregory of Tours in the Light of Modern Research," in The Long-Haired Kings (see listing above), pp. 49-70.

A much different view of Gregory.

Gregory's own works in translation

Gregory of Tours, The History of the Franks, tr. Lewis Thorp (Harmondsworth, 1974)

Gregory's history in translation. A required text for the course.

Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Martyrs,, tr. R. Van Dam (Liverpool, 1988)

Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Confessors, tr. R. Van Dam (Liverpool,1988)

Two collections of miracles -- a subject in which Gregory was very interested.

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