Elite Networks and Courtly Culture in Medieval Denmark: Denmark in Europe, 1st to 14th Centuries
Corsi, Maria R. D.
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This dissertation advances the study of the cultural integration of Denmark with continental Europe in the Middle Ages. By approaching the question with a view to the longue durée, it argues that Danish aristocratic culture had been heavily influenced by trends on the Continent since at least the Roman Iron Age, so that when Denmark adopted European courtly culture, it did so simultaneously to its development in the rest of Europe. Because elite culture as it manifested itself in the Middle Ages was an amalgamation of that of Ancient Rome and the Germanic tribes, its origins in Denmark is sought in the interactions between the Danish territory and the Roman Empire. Elites in Denmark sought to emulate Roman culture as a marker of status, with pan-European elite networks facilitating the incorporation of Roman material items and social norms in Denmark, thus setting the pattern for later periods. These types of networks continued to play an important role in the interactions between Denmark and the successor kingdoms to the Roman Empire in the Early Middle Ages, leading to the development of an increasingly homogenized elite culture in Denmark and on the Continent. Danish elites drew on the material and ideological cultural models of their southern neighbors, using Frankish imports to signify status and power, much as Roman imports had been used earlier. The economic, diplomatic, and military ties that developed in the Early Middle Ages remained important conduits for the adoption of European aristocratic culture into the High Middle Ages, while the conversion to Christianity by the Danes enabled Danish elites to take part in the new educational networks associated with the rise of universities across Europe. All of these long-standing ties meant that the Danish aristocracy actively participated in the development of medieval courtly culture, including cavalry warfare and knighthood, courtly food consumption and feasting, and courtly dress and ornamentation, resulting in increased social differentiation between those who could take part in the new courtly culture and those who could not. Thus, Denmark was never outside of Europe, and when Danish elites adopted medieval chivalric and courtly culture, they did so contemporaneously with their counterparts in other parts of Europe.