Valerie Garver

Position title: Solmsen Fellow (2008-2009)

History, Northern Illinois University

Portrait image of Valerie Garver

Textiles in the Carolingian World, c.715-c.915

At the IHR, Garver is working on “Textiles in the Carolingian World, c.715-c.915,” a book-length study of the meanings and functions of cloth and dress in the Carolingian lands. Early medieval people used clothing and decorative textiles to make political and spiritual statements. Churchmen’s views of female textile fabrication were ambivalent: though these men relied upon and valued the women’s products, textile workers’ lack of male supervision aroused suspicion. Yet other sources present textile labor as a female virtue. Archeological and written evidence makes clear women’s pivotal contribution to the Carolingian economy and society through their fabrication of cloth. Studying textile production offers an opportunity to examine the Carolingian Empire within a global context. Garver will address how Carolingian cloth fabrication and trade fit into wider Eurasian patterns and explore the implications of textile exchange for diplomatic relations with the Byzantine Empire and the Abbasid Caliphate. Investigating textiles is therefore allowing her to re-assess the ninth-century transformation of western European society while addressing questions of gender, status, power, and economy. By focusing on a single item she is able to cross both disciplinary boundaries and the traditional divides of social, cultural, religious, and economic history.

Valerie L. Garver is Assistant Professor of History at Northern Illinois University. Her research interests center upon the social, cultural, and religious history of the Carolingian Empire. Questions concerning women, gender, and family and the historical and interdisciplinary study of material culture lie at the heart of her work. She is the author of Women and Aristocratic Culture in the Carolingian World (Cornell University Press, forthcoming 2009), and her most recent article is “Learned Women? Liutberga and the Instruction of Carolingian Women,” in Lay Intellectuals in the Carolingian World, ed. Patrick Wormald and Janet L. Nelson (Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 121-38. Garver, who earned her PhD from the University of Virginia, has received support from the Fulbright Program, Northern Illinois University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Notre Dame.