Walter A. Goffart

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Walter André Goffart (born February 22, 1934 in Berlin ) is an American Medievalist who currently teaches history at Yale University .

He is considered one of the most influential historians in the field of upheaval from the end of antiquity to the early Middle Ages .

life and work

Walter A. Goffart, whose father worked in the Belgian diplomatic service, spent his childhood in Belgrade . When the Second World War broke out , he and his mother were separated from their father and had to flee to the USA via Turkey , Palestine and Egypt . Walter Goffart studied history at Harvard University and received his doctorate in 1961. He has been teaching at the University of Toronto since 1960 . In 2000 he moved to Yale .

Goffart's specialty is the early Middle Ages including the transition period to late antiquity . Among other things, he dealt intensively with the settlement of the Teutons on the soil of the Roman Empire and their subsequent integration. Goffart advocates a number of provocative theses, such as that when the Goths settled in Aquitaine (418/19), it was not a third of the land but a third of the taxes that they were given. Furthermore, Goffart is of the opinion that the subsequent development, which ultimately led to the establishment of Germanic empires on the soil of the Western Roman Empire, was in some cases far less dramatic than often depicted ( Barbarians and Romans , 1980). At the same time, he also drew attention to the complexity of the circumstances that ultimately led to the fall of the Roman Empire .

Goffart also dealt critically and influentially with early medieval historiography, for example with Jordanes , Fredegar , Paulus Deaconus and Gregory of Tours . His most important work in this field is The Narrators of Barbarian History (1988), for which he was awarded the Haskins Medal of the Medieval Academy of America (1991).

He is married to the linguist and mediaevalist Roberta Frank .

Fonts (selection)

  • Caput and Colonate. Towards a History of Late Roman Taxation (= Phoenix Supplementary Volumes 12, ISSN  0079-1784 ). University of Toronto Press, Toronto et al. 1974.
  • Barbarians and Romans, AD 418-584. The Techniques of Accommodation. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 1980, ISBN 0-691-05303-0 .
  • The Narrators of Barbarian History (AD 550-800). Jordanes, Gregory of Tours, Bede, and Paul the Deacon. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 1988, ISBN 0-691-05514-9 .
  • Rome's Fall and After. Hambledon Press, London et al. 1989, ISBN 1-85285-001-9 .
  • Barbarian Tides. The Migration Age and the Later Roman Empire. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia PA 2006, ISBN 0-8122-3939-3 .
  • Barbarians, Maps, and Historiography. Studies on the Early Medieval West (= Variorum Collected Studies Series. Vol. 916). Ashgate, Farnham et al. 2009, ISBN 978-0-7546-5984-6 .


  • Alexander C. Murray (Ed.): After Rome's Fall. Narrators and Sources of Early Medieval History. Essays presented to Walter Goffart. University of Toronto Press, Toronto et al. 1998, ISBN 0-8020-0779-1 , pp. 3ff. (With bibliography of Goffart's works up to 1997 and a short essay on his life).

Web links


  1. ^ Roberta Frank : A Scandal in Toronto. The Dating of 'Beowulf' a Quarter Century On , in: Speculum 82,4 (2007) 843-864, here p. 844, doi : 10.1017 / S0038713400011313 .