Helmut Reimitz studies the history of the early Middle Ages, a formative period for the history of the Christian West after the end of the Western Roman empire.
Between the fifth century and the end of the tenth century, the former Northwestern provinces of the Roman empire saw the formation of a distinct Western Christian culture within a society increasingly known as “Europe.” In studying the religious, social, and political transformation of the late Roman world to the medieval world, Professor Reimitz focuses on the formation of a number of distinctive features of Western civilization such as the creation of a specific conception of ethnicity, the politics of identity and their relation to the definition of social stratification, the history of historical thinking in late Antiquity and the medieval West, and uses of literacy and forms of communication.
Before coming to Princeton in 2008, Professor Reimitz was the head of the Early Medieval Department at the Institute for Medieval Research of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, one of the European Centers for Early Medieval Studies. He has been a member of a range of international networks, including the European Science Foundation Project on the “Transformation of the Roman World” and the Spezialforschungsbereich of the University of Vienna on Visions of Community. He is an active partner in several international projects, such as a comparative study of ‘Governance and Governmentality’ with Stefan Esders, Freie Universität Berlin, a project on ‘Materiale Textkulturen’ with the Historische Seminar at the University of Heidelberg, and research on ‘Social cohesion, identity and religion (400-1200 CE)’ with the Institute for Medieval Research at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. He is also a member of a research network of scholars from the US and France on Political Communication in the Carolingian World 8th to 10th cent. CE) and organizes together with John Haldon and Jack Tannous, he also organizes an annual graduate exchange program between the universities of Princeton, Oxford, and Vienna for students of late Antique, early medieval, and Byzantine history.
Professor Reimitz’s current book project, History, Frankish identity and the Framing of Western Ethnicity, 550-850 (Cambridge University Press, summer 2015), explores the history of Frankish identity in late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages as a window into the formation of a distinctively Western conception of ethnicity. Focusing on the turbulent and varied history of Frankish identity in Merovingian and Carolingian historiography, it offers a new basis for comparing the history of collective and ethnic identity in the Christian West with other contexts, especially the Islamic and Byzantine worlds. Reimitz is the editor of eight volumes, among them Cultures in Motion (with Dan Rodgers and Bhavani Raman, Princeton 2013), Vergangenheit und Vergegenwärtigung. Frühes Mittelalter und Europäische Erinnerungskultur (Vienna 2009), and Staat im frühen Mittelalter (Vienna 2006).
Professor Reimitz teaches lecture courses on early medieval history (HIS 343, The Civilization of the Early Middle Ages), and on the history of the Middle Ages until the 15th century (The World of the Middle Ages). He has taught undergraduate seminars on a range of topics in the cultural and political history of the early Middle Ages, such as time and society, cultural brokerage, and space and scale. He will also be offering courses on ethnicity, frontiers and middle grounds, the history of law in the Latin West, and the history of the book in the early Middle Ages both at the undergraduate and graduate level.