Ethnogenesis: a contested model of early Medieval Europe

Andrew Gillett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Recent research in late antique and early medieval history has paid much attention to ‘Ethnogenesis’. The historical model associated with this term explains the change from the classical world to medieval conditions as the effect of ethnic identification supplanting Hellenistic forms of public discourse. Culturally specific dynamics of ethnicity, arising from proto-historical northern Europe, are seen as the engines of change. Recent critiques of the approach, however, see both its methodology and historiographic assumptions as problematic. This article seeks to clarify the current debate, to set out the questions of evidence and interpretation for interested Medievalists, and to draw the attention of non-Medievalists to this historiographic debate over interpretative models for one of the major revolutions in western history.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-260
Number of pages20
JournalHistory compass
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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