This blog is part of a Shaped monthly series providing teachers for Grades 6–12 with downloadable world history classroom resources and discussion topics.
Who was Charlemagne? To start, he was a medieval emperor, becoming king of the Franks in AD 771 and Roman Emperor in AD 800. During his reign, he aimed to unite the Germanic people—those living in present-day Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and western Germany—into a single kingdom. According to the HISTORY channel, he wanted to convert his subjects to Christianity and used his military power to achieve this feat.
As emperor, Charlemagne prioritized giving money and land to the Christian church. He also became widely known for his encouragement of learning. He surrounded himself with scholars, had libraries built, and developed a school at his palace. In addition, Charlemagne pushed forward with economic and religious reforms and encouraged the Carolingian Renaissance, the first of three medieval periods of dramatic cultural activity.
To teach students more about Charlemagne, have them look at the timeline below (with a supplemental enrichment activity available for download as a PDF) on the history of the Early Middle Ages. Then, distribute the accompanying resources: an excerpt from The Life of Charlemagne by the historian Einhard (primary source enrichment activity) and a related writing enrichment activity.