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Forgery and Memory at the End of the First Millennium$
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Levi Roach

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780691181660

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691181660.001.0001

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Forgery and Memory in an Age of Iron

(p.1) Introduction
Forgery and Memory at the End of the First Millennium

Levi Roach

Princeton University Press

This introductory chapter provides an overview of medieval forgery. In the European Middle Ages, the most common form of forgery was the manufacture of false documents. Indeed, the period has, with some justification, been seen as a golden age of documentary forgery, a time before modern means of criticism, when the counterfeit was king. Well over half of the surviving diplomas in the names of the Merovingian Frankish rulers of mainland Europe are products of forgery; a third of the charters of the Lombard rulers of northern Italy are suspect; and over a third of the documents from pre-Conquest England have been tampered with in some way. The defining feature of these early fakes is a desire to use the past to cement current claims. It is no coincidence that most of them belong to religious houses. In ancient Egypt and the Middle East, as in medieval Europe, the religious classes were specialists in literacy, some of the few capable of presenting and recording complex claims in written form. They also possessed a strong sense of corporate identity (like the later medieval clergy), which encouraged the creation of such false narratives.

Keywords:   medieval forgery, Middle Ages, false documents, documentary forgery, diplomas, charters, religious houses, corporate identity, false narratives

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