For contemporaries, the story of Carolingian expansion was largely a tale of conquest. From the reign of Charles Martel on, chroniclers trained a steady eye on the Carolingians' relentless subjugation of the territories beyond the Frankish heartlands of Neustria and Austrasia. To Carolingian military pressure succumbed Alemannia (730, 742–6), Aquitaine (731–6, 760–8), Bavaria (725, 728, 743, 749, 788), Brittany (786, 799), Burgundy and Provence (732–6), Frisia (734) and Saxony (720–4, 738, 747, 753, 758, 772–804). Modern treatments of the period, taking their cue from the chronicles, also have made military success central to the story of Carolingian expansion. Because these conquests often left in their wake a residue of documents drawn up to defend rights and claims, the territories beset by the Carolingians have presented the points of departure for a range of insightful studies which have illuminated the processes by which the Carolingians absorbed conquered territories.
Alsace, a territory brought under Carolingian control peacefully, allows us to view Carolingian expansion from another angle, from the perspective of the family's affective, rather than military, power. In contrast to the many regions where high-handed conquest left triumphant Carolingians in a dominant position to impose peace, in Alsace Carolingian power – itself generated and sustained by an impressive network of family monasteries – flowed easily into the channels of power etched out by local monasteries and kin-groups.