In the art of historiography as practised in Germany in the Middle Ages as well as in the diplomatic language used by the royal chancery there, it proved well nigh impossible for a precise definition of the German polity to be established. This is partly to be explained by the fact that the diverse provinces of which medieval Germany was made up were at first incorporated into the much larger empire of the Franks, a process virtually completed during the reign of Charlemagne (768–814), except for the Slavic regions assimilated later on. This empire took the name of ‘Roman’ soon after 800. When it was finally divided into three kingdoms by Charlmagne’s grandsons in 842 and 843, the German part was quite naturally designated the ‘kingdom of the eastern Franks’ and the label endured as late as the twelfth century.1 In the tenth century this East Frankish kingdom, united since 961 with the Lombard kingdom consisting of northern Italy and Tuscany and combined with the Slav conquests made by the Saxons since the 920s, was consigned to a new West Roman Empire symbolised by the Saxon ruler Otto the Great’s imperial coronation in Rome in February 962. The kingdom of Burgundy, mostly French- or Provençal-speaking, was added by inheritance and military force between 1032 and 1034.
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