This article examines genocide in the Central and late Medieval Europe. The existence of peoples in Europe in the central and later Middle Ages reflected the facts of power: for contemporaries, ethnic communities were axiomatically political ones. Where the interactions of different peoples were most intensive, stress-laden, and ideologically and politically charged, acts of ethnic destruction were anticipated, and in some quarters sought most keenly. Outright ethnic destruction was most likely to occur where political subjugation was reinforced by fundamental religious difference. Pagans, Muslims, and Jews, but also, in an age of sharpened conceptions of religious orthodoxy, adherents of false forms of Christianity, were singled out for extreme solutions. For the rest, the history of this long period is partly one of how, through more intensive and precisely defined interactions, different imagined ethnic groups evolved forms of coexistence and mutual accommodation.
James E. Fraser
This article examines the concept of genocide in early Medieval Europe, looking at Britain and Ireland. Scholars have good reason to baulk at the application of a term like genocide, with all its twentieth-century moral and legal baggage, to early medieval episodes of violence, depopulation, and displacement which would otherwise seem to meet the criteria for genocide enumerated in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Preamble ‘that at all periods of history, genocide has inflicted great losses on humanity’. This article suggests that Britain and Ireland are not excluded from such an assertion in that period. The evidence shows that concepts of ethnic obliteration, and what constituted it, were variable, depending upon class and social standing, and extended well beyond the comparatively narrow confines of actual physical slaughter.