Carolingians and Abbasids of Bagdad
Wolfram Drews provides an analysis of the historical and political circumstances of two political rule changes. In the middle of the 8th century, the ruling dynasties of the Frankish kingdom and the Islamic caliphate were both overthrown by coups: Merovingians and Umayyads were replaced by their Carolingian and Abbasid successors. This near- simultaneous occurrence was a mere coincidence, but from the perspective of comparative and global history a number of questions can be asked that shed light on the historical circumstances determining the success of the usurpers. More precisely, the monograph provides an analysis of the political, social, religious and cultural conditions in the Latin West and in the Muslim-ruled Middle East. Depending on these preconditions, the usurpers used different arguments to legitimize their rule. Both dynasties were eager to project the image of sacral rule. The Abbasids claimed to be related to the prophet Muhammad, and therefore to have inherited a particular charisma for themselves; the Carolingians, on the other hand, established a close alliance with the Roman papacy, which resulted in the formulation and propagation of a new concept of institutionalized charisma, based on rituals such as royal anointment and practices such as spiritual kinship. However, the scope of action was quite different: Islam was still in its formative phase, political and religious institutions were still in the process of being established, and society was marked by a remarkable degree of dynamic change in almost every field. By contrast, religious and political institutions in the Latin West had achieved some degree of stability, limiting the freedom of manoeuvre of political actors. The comparison of the two cases of political change offers new insights into religious, cultural and social conditions underlying and shaping the conditions of political action in the Islamic and Christian worlds of the Early Middle Ages.
Literature: Drews, Wolfram: Die Karolinger und die Abbasiden von Bagdad. Legitimationsstrategien frühmittelalterlicher Herrscherdynastien im transkulturellen Vergleich (Europa im Mittelalter, Abhandlungen und Beiträge zur historischen Komparatistik, vol. 12), Berlin: Akademie Verlag 2009.