Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Abigail Firey


This thesis argues that conceptions of commerce in the Carolingian era were intertwined with the discourse of ethics, and that concepts of the Carolingian ‘economy’ may be profitably illuminated by consideration of pre-modern ethical and social categories. I explore a pre-modern pattern of personhood that framed persons in terms of political rôles, and exchange in terms of the interactions of those rôles. In moral letters addressed to counts and kings, ethical counsel about greed for each lay rôle was grounded in particular geographic spaces and historical moments, creating a rich valence of specific meanings for greed and charity. I examine letters in which Paulinus of Aquileia, Alcuin of York, Jonas of Orléans, and Dhuoda of Uzés treated the greed of counts, and those in which Smaragdus of St. Mihiel, Sedulius Scottus, and Hincmar of Rheims treated that of kings. In each letter’s definition of greed are found interactions with specific elements exchanged, and correlative meanings of greed far from limited to the ‘love of silver’, but also not wholly vague and spiritualized. Greed and largesse constituted the language in which Carolingian writers discussed economic exploitation, tyranny, plunder, investment, credit, and noblesse oblige.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)