Gregory of Tours and the Merovingian letter

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Merovingian letter-writing is traditionally studied by calling on a
dozen or so high prolife letter collections. This article turns to a
different source: Gregory of Tours’ Histories, the foremost work of
history-writing to survive from sixth-century Gaul. By studying
Gregory’s narrative descriptions of letters this article seeks to
shed new light on three aspects of Merovingian epistolary culture
that have proved difficult to approach solely through the
epistolary evidence: first, the typological variety of letters used in
Merovingian Gaul, which extended far beyond the literary
compositions dominating the letter collections; second, the
complex practices surrounding letter delivery, such as the use of
messengers, oral performance and strategies of secret
communication; and finally, the repurposing of letters after their
initial moment of delivery, which includes recirculation of old
letters as sources of evidence and persuasion, but also covers the
way Gregory himself came to employ letters as a narrative device.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-144
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Medieval History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Gregory of Tours
  • Letters
  • Merovingian kingdoms
  • couriers and messengers
  • letter delivery
  • secret communication


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