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Prof. Dr. Matthias Becher

Principal Investigator


University of Bonn
Institute of History
Department of Medieval History
Konviktstraße 11
D-53113 Bonn
Phone: +49 228 73-5160





Current Position

Spokesperson for the Bonn Center of Medieval Studies; Spokesperson for the DFG Collaborative Research Center (SFB 1167) “Macht und Herrschaft. Vormoderne Konfigurationen in transkultureller Perspektive” [‘Macht‘ and 'Herrschaft‘. Premodern Configurations in a Transcultural Perspective)]


Matthias Becher focuses on the problem of loyalty in the Carolingian Empire (750-900). For the first time in European history, Charlemagne made use of the oath as an instrument of government. The objective of the oath was to create a strong personal bond between the subjects and the ruler. Thus, a relationship of obligation was formed in order to reduce the agency of the common people. Unfree persons were also obliged to give the oath. For them, however, the oath meant an improvement of their social status. This was a crucial element in the emergence of high and late medieval chivalry.

7 books, 3 edited volumes, 90 scientific papers and 80 reviews. 80 international lectures and presentations, 20 completed as well as 20 ongoing PhD theses as first and second supervisor, 80 Magister, exam and MA theses, 15 BA theses as supervisor/first reviewer


  • 1995                         Habilitation and Venia Legendi in Medieval History, University of Paderborn, Germany
  • 1990                         PhD in Medieval History, University of Constance, Germany
  • 1980–1986               M.A. in History and Political Sciences, University of Constance, Germany

Academic Positions

  • 2006                          Professor, University of Zurich, Switzerland
  • 1998–present            Professor of Medieval and Modern History, University of Bonn, Germany
  • 1989–1998                Research Associate, University of Paderborn, Germany


Participation in Centers, Scientific Associations, Collaborative Projects

Corresponding member of the Historical Commission for Westphalia (since 2003); Member of the DFG Priority Program (SPP 1173) "Disintegration and Integration of Medieval Cultures in Europe” (2005-2007); Member of the Medieval Studies Center Bonn University (since 2005, Spokesperson since 2008); Member of the Constance Working Group for Medieval History (since 2008); Member of the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences, Humanities and the Arts, Class for Humanities (since 2013); Member of the Central Directorate of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica (since 2013)

Additional Academic Activities

Co-editor of the "Bonner Historische Forschungen" (since 2001); Co-editor of the "Historische Studien" (editor-in-chief since 2009); Member of scientific advisory boards of numerous major exhibitions and project; Member of the DFG Expert Commission 102 “History" of the DFG (2008-2012); Expert for various research funding institutions, in particular for the DFG, the Austrian Ministry of Science and Research and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation; Comparative and external commissioner in approximately 15 medievalist appointment procedures at German and international universities (since 2006)


Dissertation prize from the Constance County Council for the promotion of young academics at the University of Constance 1990 (24.06.1991); Ignaz-Theodor-Liborius-Meyer-Prize for habilitation by the Association for History and Classical Studies of Westphalia, Paderborn Division (11-12-1995)

Third-Party Funding

DFG Collaborative Research Center (SFB 1167) 2016-2020 and 4 individual projects (since 2005) - a total of approx. 9 million euros.

Selected Publications

  1. Eid und Herrschaft. Untersuchungen zum Herrscherethos Karls des Großen [Oath and Domination. Investigating Charlemagne’s Ethos as a Ruler]. Sigmaringen 1993.
  2. Rex, Dux und Gens. Untersuchungen zur Entstehung des sächsischen Herzogtums im 9. und 10. Jahrhundert [Rex, Dux and Gens. Studies on the Emergence of the Saxon Duchy]. Paderborn 1994.
  3. Karl der Große [Charlemagne]. Munich 1999. Engl. Translation: New Haven/London 2003.
  4. Merowinger und Karolinger [The Merovingians and Carolingians]. Darmstadt 2009.
  5. Chlodwig I. Der Aufstieg der Merowinger und das Ende der antiken Welt [Clovis I. The Rise of the Merovingians and the End of the Ancient World]. Munich 2011.
  6. Otto der Große. Kaiser und Reich. Eine Biographie [Otto the Great. Emperor and Empire]. Munich 2012.
  7. Quellen zur Geschichte der Welfen und die Chronik Burchards von Ursberg [Sources on the History of the House of Welf and the Chronicles of Burchard von Ursberg]. Darmstadt 2007.
  8. With S. Dick: Völker, Reiche und Namen im frühen Mittelalter [Peoples, Empires and Names in the Early Middle Ages]. Munich 2010.
  9. With A. Plassmann: Streit am Hof im frühen Mittelalter [Disputes at Royal Courts Names in the Early Middle Ages]. Göttingen 2011.
  10. With S. Conermann: (Be-)Gründung von Herrschaft. Strategien zur Bewältigung von Kontingenzerfahrung [Formations and Justifications of Rule. Coping Strategies for Contingency Experiences], Das Mittelalter 20,1, 2015.
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