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Unit 3

Terms in this set (57)

Feudalism began between the Loire and Rhine rivers and later spread throughout Europe
and even into Palestine with the crusaders. It flowered between 1000 and 1350, before the Black
Death and Hundred Years War changed Europe forever. Feudalism is the political organization
system designed to provide physical security in the dangerous world that had grown up following
the collapse of Roman authority in the west. Manorialism is the economic system characteristic
of the same period. Technically, they are discreet from one another, but in fact the two are
bound up so closely that we shall talk about them both at this time. Feudalism occurred in what
we call the High Middle Ages before the rise of nation states with centralized bureaucracies.

Protection from Roman nobles -Feudalism developed slowly as people sought protection from aristocrats in return for
certain obligations. In the barbarian invasions following the disintegration of Charlemagne's
empire, many small farmers were driven from their land or escaped to the relative safety of a
lord's estate where they could be protected by groups of armed men. In return for physical
security, they gave up some of their rights they had enjoyed as freemen; some no doubt saw this
as a serious loss, but with their very survival at stake, those rights might have seemed a luxury
they could do without. These freemen had become serfs who agreed to certain obligations in
return for the protection the lord would provide. Generally, serfs agreed to farm the lord's lands
for free, to do other chores for the lord as he requested, and to give the lord a portion of what his
own land produced in payment. The bond between the lord and serf, as it would be between the
lord and his vassals, was personal, however: this was not an oath of allegiance to a state but to
the warrior aristocrat. Aristocratic land holdings grew as some farmers sold out. Debt later
bound many other farmers to the soil, unable to move until the debt owed the lord was paid off.
Sometimes great landowners just snapped up land cheaply from terrified civilians.

Fief or Feud- In return for an act of homage where the vassal pledged under oath to carry out his obligations to
the lord, the vassal received from the lord the symbols of control, not ownership, of the fief or
feud. In theory, the lord still owned the land and was merely "loaning" it to he vassal for
services rendered. But in time, as one family lived on the same
land for decades, they came to see the property as hereditary
instead of the gift of the king. The subinfeuded lords came to
see the land as theirs.

Debt-The bond between the lord and serf, as it would be between the
lord and his vassals, was personal, however: this was not an oath of allegiance to a state but to
the warrior aristocrat. Aristocratic land holdings grew as some farmers sold out. Debt later
bound many other farmers to the soil, unable to move until the debt owed the lord was paid off.
Sometimes great landowners just snapped up land cheaply from terrified civilians.

Personal bond-A personal bond cemented by an oath was supposed to
hold the system together; vassals would honor their
commitments as Christians having sworn before God to do so. In
fact, what really held the system together was it force. If one
vassal rebelled, the king had to call on his other vassals to put
down that rebellion, and it was in the vested interest of any
vassal not to completely crush another. If the king could destroy
one vassal, your turn might be next. Generally vassal lords
honored their commitments as long as the king was nearby, but
when he traveled to other parts of his realm, rebellions broke
out. When the king returned to put down one rebellion, the
place where he had just been frequently rose up, obliging him to
return there.

Demand for mounted knights-Feudalism was an attempt to find a way to
raise an army if the need arose. A vassal would take
an oath to a more powerful lord, promising him to
appear with a certain number of knights ready for
battle if called upon. In return the vassal got the fief
or feud (hence the word feudalism), that is a portion
of land. The most valuable defense the manors had
were mounted knights. Only a mounted knight
would be capable of driving off the Vikings who did
not bring horses with them. Thus, the demand for
mounted knights grew, so much so that fiefs were
made hereditary rather than a gift of the lord for
services rendered. So vital did the efficient use of
horses become that, in the 8th century, warriors
invented the stirrup, which allowed a mounted
cavalryman to deliver a deathblow from atop his
horse without falling off. To the left, compare the
picture of Marcus Aurelius from the second century
to a knight from the 12th below. Notice the latter

Immunity from laws-In the disintegration of Charlemagne's empire
and the invasions that followed, fief-owning
landlords were either granted immunity from certain
laws or simply took immunity. Kings could not
make their will felt throughout their kingdoms
without adequate transportation, and so were obliged
to accept this diminution of their powers. In the
dangerous world of the early Middle Ages, there was
strength only in numbers. The Europeans enjoyed no
technological superiority over their opponents, and
little organizational superiority either. To make up
the manpower needed to repel invasions, the feudal
hierarchy was born

Strength in numbers- In the
dangerous world of the early Middle Ages, there was
strength only in numbers. The Europeans enjoyed no
technological superiority over their opponents, and
little organizational superiority either. To make up
the manpower needed to repel invasions, the feudal
hierarchy was born
comes from the French cheval, meaning horse, for to be involved in chivalry required one
to be noble and thus own a horse. Early chivalry of the 11th century was rough and
masculine, stressing combat abilities. Indeed, as late as the 11th century, knights could not take
the sacraments if in armor since the church regarded them as killers. Special war wagons were
built to carry off booty from the defeated after battle. But later chivalry was designed to do
something with the increasingly unemployed warriors as peace broke out in Europe following
the end of the Viking invasions.
Now the former warrior was to spend his time wooing the lady of the house. This form of
chivalry influenced attitudes towards women who were now to be honored and protected; the
church, by contrast, had always identified women with the temptress Eve and blamed them for
the fall. In fact, the church responded to chivalry by stressing the cult of Mary that came into its
own in the 12th century. Chivalry also influenced the sports of nobles, who engaged in jousts and
tournaments to keep up their fighting skills while showing off. Jousts were combats between
two men only, riding against one another with lances out ( see below). Tournaments by contrast,
were mini-wars where two sides charged one another, hacking away until a horn blew to stop the
fighting. The side with
the most dead lost.
These noble chivalric
games, however, led to
loss of life and so would
be outlawed by nation
states because they
encouraged bloodshed
and divisiveness. King
Henry II of France, for
example, held a
tournament to celebrate
the marriage of his
daughter Elizabeth to
the king of Spain, and
even though an old
man, Henry insisted on
taking part in a joust.
Unfortunately, he held
his lance incorrectly,
with the result that the
opponent's lance slid up
his shield and entered
the visor—braining him

on the spot.
The most brilliant chivalric court was that of Eleanor of Aquitaine, wife to Henry II of
England. Here is where Chrétien de Troyes wrote the story of King Arthur, portraying him as a
chivalric hero when in fact he was most likely a rather grubby 6th century king. But the story of
Guinevere and Lancelot demonstrated the perils of exchanging chivalric love for the lady from
afar for carnal love up close. Eleanor's court saw medieval troubadours write poetry to her, and
she even engaged in "love courts" to "try" chivalric knights for failure to live up to the code.
Some noblemen adapted to the new chivalric code, but most did not. King Richard I of
England, also known as the Lion-Hearted, could apparently write poetry in the morning and fight
a battle that afternoon, both equally well. The average knight, however, had little aptitude for
poetry and was trained only in the art of battle. Chafing under the restraints of chivalry, these
young men were the first to sign up for the crusades that promised travel and excitement in a
world of men
increased population- Major
physical changes
occurred. The first is an
increase in population,
made possible by the
cessation of foreign
invasions. Feudal armies
continued their destruction,
of course, but feudal wars
were rarely pitched battles;

Malaria, Leprosy- The two diseases widespread at the time were leprosy and malaria. Leprosy appeared
early in the Middle Ages. It was caused by a virus and was not very contagious, although
Europeans did not know that and so feared lepers. Their gangrenous sores and horrible smell
produced disgust. Lepers were segregated in hospitals outside towns, hospitals that would later
be used for plague victims when leprosy mysteriously disappeared in the 15th century. Malaria
was spread by mosquitoes in swampy areas, producing alternating chills and fever that left the
victim weak. Malaria ceased to be a problem when the swamps throughout Europe were
drained, mostly because the population grew in the Middle Ages and needed more farm land.
Important in this clearing of land was the Cistercian order who became the great pioneers of the
12th century.

Mild weather- ave labor.
Mild weather caused by the slow and
steady retreat of the polar ice cap, milder even
than the early part of the 20th century, produced
mild winters and dry summers that allowed
agriculture to flourish. Major changes in
agriculture increased food production, permitting
the larger population to survive. The
development of the heavy plow allowed the wet
and heavy northern European soil to be turned
over easily, thus aerating it and improving crop
yields. The Roman scratch plow had been
suitable for the lighter, sandier soils of southern
Europe, but such plows broke frequently when
used in the north. The heavy plow invented now
and tandem not only turned over existing farmland to

Inventions- The most important invention was surely the waterwheel that substituted another source for
human energy. 250 mills using the waterwheel supplied one million horsepower equal to the
labor of three million slaves. The waterwheel took advantage of the many streams and rivers in
Europe that may have been unnavigable. Although they could not serve as avenues of
commerce, once dammed, their water fell onto
the spokes of the waterwheel producing power to
run mills for grinding wheat. With the
waterwheel, the stirrup and the improved
harness, we can see that the Middle Ages was a
time of important, laborsaving inventions that the
Roman empire, in spite of its size and glory,
never dreamed of because of their heavy reliance
on slave labor.
Heavy plow- Mild weather caused by the slow and
steady retreat of the polar ice cap, milder even
than the early part of the 20th century, produced
mild winters and dry summers that allowed
agriculture to flourish. Major changes in
agriculture increased food production, permitting
the larger population to survive. The
development of the heavy plow allowed the wet
and heavy northern European soil to be turned
over easily, thus aerating it and improving crop
yields. The Roman scratch plow had been
suitable for the lighter, sandier soils of southern
Europe, but such plows broke frequently when
used in the north. The heavy plow invented now
not only turned over existing farmland to
improve its yield, but it also allowed more land
to be put to the plow, increasing the acreage available to grow food to feed an expanding
population. The new plow also created deep furrows that allowed rainwater to drain quickly to
avoid drowning the roots, again improving crop yield. A new system of field rotation left only
one-third of the land fallow, as opposed to the 50% left fallow by the Romans. The use of the
horse or ox as a draft animal to pull the heavy plow was made possible by a new harness design
in the 9th century. (The Roman harness had had straps that went around the animal's throat,
strangling it when it pulled with all its force.) The Middle Ages also saw the use of the tandem
harness, allowing two animals to be yoked together for even more power. And the invention of
horseshoes gave animals better traction to pull the heavier plows. All these developments in
agriculture were vitally important: people lived longer because they ate more food, not because
of better health care that remained primitive.

Three field system- A new system of field rotation left only
one-third of the land fallow, as opposed to the 50% left fallow by the Romans. The use of the
horse or ox as a draft animal to pull the heavy plow was made possible by a new harness design
in the 9th century. (The Roman harness had had straps that went around the animal's throat,
strangling it when it pulled with all its force.) The Middle Ages also saw the use of the tandem
harness, allowing two animals to be yoked together for even more power. And the invention of
horseshoes gave animals better traction to pull the heavier plows. All these developments in
agriculture were vitally important: people lived longer because they ate more food, not because
of better health care that remained primitive.

Harness-

Horseshoes-
Church-People of the period suffered from eye troubles because fireplaces were located in the
center of the room and produced a great deal of smoke, only some of which was exhausted
through the roof. Low personal hygiene resulted in lice and fleas, helping to explain the loss of
life to the Plague later on. Open wounds were recognized as possibly leading to gangrene, so
wounds were cleansed with honey and water. Sometimes heroin and wine were given to patients
during amputations. Sick people were frequently given to the church or local abbey that would
then tend to them. There, at the local abbey, one could rest and get enough food, allowing one's
own body to throw off the infection. But when the Black Death hit at the end of the 14th
century, people continued to carry their sick to churches; those churches which did as they were
supposed to do, namely take in the sick, found their numbers reduced when churchmen caught
the disease and died, while those churchmen who refused to take in the sick survived to lower the
moral tone of the Renaissance Catholic Church.

Eye trouble-

Lice- unique in having the nuclear family as the norm, with the average size 5.79 persons in the
medieval period. Many siblings lived together. There was, of course, a high rate of infant
mortality due to natural causes and as well infanticide, when parents unable or unwilling to care
for their children chose death for them. Medieval tales of abandonment live on in stories of
Hansel and Gretal, for example, that date from this period. Children were generally swaddled for
the convenience of parents to keep the young ones out of trouble while parents worked, but the
practice led to body rashes, lice and increased chance of disease. Noble parents had absolute
authority to decide which son went to the church and which inherited. While it was the norm
that the first son inherited the land, it was not required by law, and some fathers played off their
sons against one another to secure his favor and his wealth. One such father was Henry II of
England whose sons, furious over their father's treatment, hounded him to his death in France.

Heroin-

Dressing wounds-
Thus a new revival of fervor occurred with the
Cistercians in the 12th century who devoted
them-selves to a severe code of morality. They
refused all gifts and lived only in uninhabited
areas where they would be free of corrupting
worldly influences. No high or powerful laymen
were even allowed inside Modern Cluny their walls to preserve their
simplicity and
indepen-dence.
Because they
paid no taxes to
Rome, they
could utilize
less profitable
areas such as
the moors of
northern England
into which
they introduced
sheep grazing.
They developed
a new
breed of sheep
with superior
Poblet monastery in Spain, a Cistercian order wool. This
high quality wool fetched four times what average wool did, and thus many locals began to
the same kind of sheep the Cistercians did.
The Cistercians were also quick to employ technological advances such as water mills, like
the modern one pictured below. The monks themselves spent so much time at their devotions
that conversi, those who had not taken full vows as yet, actually did a great deal of the work.
Like others in the Middle Ages, therefore, the Cistercians sought to increase productivity by finding ways to use labor more effectively—hence the waterwheel (see below).
As a result, the Cistercians became the great
pioneers of the 12th and 13th centuries, engaging
in massive land reclamation. They brought under
cultivation areas of the Black Forest in Germany
and low-lying swamps in eastern England--and in
the process died in droves. On the other hand,
they created some of the most fertile and well kept
agricultural lands in Europe, and in time became
the victims of their own success as worldly people
eyed their land holdings greedily.
The chief bone of contention became lay
investiture. In 1075, Gregory prohibited lay
investiture, the practice whereby secular
authorities chose their own bishops. Gregory
threatened to excommunicate any lay person who
did it or any churchman who submitted to it. Had
lay investiture been abolished, kings would have
been hard pressed to rule their lands, given there
were very few educated people who could read
and write, and most of them were churchmen.
Kings wanted to insure that these churchmen
would be loyal to them, and, not surprisingly,
kings wanted to name their own bishops. With
equal fervor, Gregory maintained that the church
should be free of secular influence, and that only
the church should name its bishops based not on
loyalty to the kings but rather upon deep
religiosity and proven accomplishment

Henry returned to the Holy Roman Empire—and continued
to name his own prelates in violation of Gregory's ban on lay investiture. So in 1080, Henry was
excommunicated again. This time, however, Henry invaded Italy and dragged the pope off to
die in exile. The problem of lay investiture continued in France and England all along, something
Gregory could not do anything about since he was so engaged with the Holy Roman Empire on
his border.
Theoretically, the problem was solved at the Council of Worms in 1122, when bishops
would be chosen by the clergy in the presence of the king, giving the latter a kind of veto power,
but in spite of the compromise, civil war raged in the empire for many years and occupied
Germany with Italy and the pope rather than the process of nation building. German lords,
claiming devotion to the pope, built castles as signs of independence and the emperor could do
nothing about it. Thus, the Investiture Controversy was in part responsible for the long delay in
German unification that would not occur until 1871
Papacy to strengthen position of leadership-The papacy was locked in a bitter struggle with the Holy Roman Emperor over the
investiture controversy, and if the church could raise an international army loyal to the church,
in which nationalistic identities would be submerged, it would strengthen the papacy's claim to
leadership of Europe. In 1095, the very year he had preached the crusade, Pope Urban had been
obliged to flee Rome for the safety of France; Urban may have claimed enormous powers as
God's vicar on earth, but his earthly security would be enhanced with an international army
raised loyal to him alone. Secular rulers went along with the idea of crusades, because they got
rid of troublemakers. Unruly knights who had never adjusted to the demands of chivalry, land
hungry second sons eager to find a fortune, and serfs eager for escape from the dullness of
everyday manor life could be dispatched. Moreover, for the duration of the crusades, those
engaged would be exempt from taxes, and debts would be temporarily canceled. True religious
zeal played a part, of course, since the Holy Land was in infidel hands, and many crusaders were
promised time off of purgatory for their participation, something done without Urban's consent.


Troublemakers-

True religious zeal-

Exempt from taxes-

First crusade successful-The first crusade was successful in freeing Jerusalem in spite of the Europeans' ignorance about the area and the tremendous
incompetence of the crusade's leaders.
They could never agree upon a single
leader and the Europeans had no real lines
of communication or supply. Their success
was mainly due to Arab disunity and the
Muslims' falling back before these strange,
savage westerners who caught them by
surprise. The Arabs, a horse people, refused
to stand and fight the one pitched battle
Europeans were used to, and instead simply
waited for the Crusaders to die of disease,
wounds or boredom

Pitched battle-
New states were founded in the Holy
Land along feudal lines (See map to the
left), and new religious orders were set up.
The most important of these were the
Knights Templar, so called because they
were originally housed in the remains of
Crusaders charge Arabs during the first crusade the Old Temple in Jerusalem. The
Templars were originally a group of about
600 knights who could field up to 2000
people if necessary, and they were much
feared for their military prowess.
Eventually, they learned about moneylending
and banking from the Muslims and
brought the concept of banks back into
Europe with them, helping to pave the way
for the economic revival of the 12th New states were founded in the Holy
Land along feudal lines (See map to the
left), and new religious orders were set up.
The most important of these were the
Knights Templar, so called because they
were originally housed in the remains of
Crusaders charge Arabs during the first crusade the Old Temple in Jerusalem. The
Templars were originally a group of about
600 knights who could field up to 2000
people if necessary, and they were much
feared for their military prowess.
Eventually, they learned about moneylending
and banking from the Muslims and
brought the concept of banks back into
Europe with them, helping to pave the way
for the economic revival of the 12th New states were founded in the Holy
Land along feudal lines (See map to the
left), and new religious orders were set up.
The most important of these were the
Knights Templar, so called because they
were originally housed in the remains of
Crusaders charge Arabs during the first crusade the Old Temple in Jerusalem. The
Templars were originally a group of about
600 knights who could field up to 2000
people if necessary, and they were much
feared for their military prowess.
Eventually, they learned about moneylending
and banking from the Muslims and
brought the concept of banks back into
Europe with them, helping to pave the way
for the economic revival of the 12th Templars became the targets of kings who coveted their money. Their main fortress in Paris, for
example, after the order was disbanded, became a prison called the Temple, that would
eventually house Marie Antoinette and her family.

The Teutonic Knights were an exclusively German order. Their main task was to conquer
Eastern Europe for Catholicism. They took as their sign not the Latin cross seen above on the
robes of a
Knight
Templar, but
rather the
eastern cross
they

to care for the sick, and learned from
the Muslims their advanced arts of
medicine, especially how to combat the
fevers which took more lives among the
Europeans than battle ever did. (See
picture to the left.) Formally called the
Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, these
knights opened hospitals in the Holy
Land, and then in Rhodes when they
were obliged to evacuate. On Rhodes
they continued to practice what they had
learned from the Muslims, including
quarantining the contagious. The
picture below shows the great hall of
their hospital in Rhodes. To the left are
small rooms for the contagious, better
seen in the photo beneath it. The
Hospitalers too, however, like the
Knights Templar, were also prepared to
fight, and they held off the Muslim
attacks on Rhodes until the 15th century
Heresy-ndalous behavior.
The most infamous of the crusades was the one against the Albigensians between 1208 and
1226. Innocent III called the crusade against the culturally advanced French region around
Toulouse in southeastern France to wipe out the Cathar or Albigensian heresy. Albigensians
thought of the world as battleground between good and evil and so condemned many activities of
the church, including marriage, which simply propagated more humans and thus more suffering.
They believed in dualism, that the pure soul was encased in evil flesh that had to be mortified.
Their denial of the luxury of the Catholic Church and its lack of spiritualism found a responsive
chord in many Frenchmen angry over church taxes. The crusade resulted in horrible slaughter
and a free for all to acquire the wealth of the area. It destroyed the flourishing culture of
southern France, but the heresy was simply driven underground, perhaps helping to explain the fact that later Protestantism grew up in the same place. One of the most famous kings of France,
Henry IV, came from Navarre where much of the slaughter occurred, and he took the throne of
France as a Protestant.

Toulouse-

Culture of area-

Effect on french king and papacy-

Dominicans-ce as a Protestant.
The Albigensian crusade made France a Mediterranean power since her borders now
extended to that sea, but it weakened the authority of the pope further since he was seen to be
merely a creature of the French king.
This was especially true when the
crusaders, having gobbled up the
land, stopped any prosecution of the
heresy, clearly tipping their hands that
land and wealth had been their prime
motivation, not religion. In fact, it
was the Dominicans who actually
wiped out the heresy, or better yet
drove it into hiding, when they
instituted an Inquisition.

Land grab-
Source of cash- Sometimes
kings gave towns their self liberties: at other times, the towns bought their rights from needy
noblemen in debt for the Eastern luxuries they could not really afford. Towns were most
important because they provided a source of steady income for the king, as opposed to the serf's
labor, and because towns also provided administrators for the growing royal bureaucracy;
townsmen had to know how to read and write to keep the accounts which made their businesses
profitable. Instead of relying of churchmen with divided loyalties, between king and pope, the
kings of the emerging nation states preferred working with townsmen who would be loyal to the
secular authorities alone.

Trained administrators-

Town liberties-Towns were
important for many
reasons. They
pioneered town
liberties, especially self
government, as they
learned how to govern
themselves through
town courts, selecting a
mayor, learning how to
tax, etc. All these
skills would be put to
use later by kings eager
to take advantage of
townsmen's ability to
set taxes and collect
them without proving riots

Weakened feudalism-By the 12th century, however, a revival was underway, and one sees the emergence of a
money economy. This period is called the High Middle Ages, because the economic revival
caused the Middle Ages to reach its full flower in the age of crusades and cathedrals. But the
economic revival also caused the disintegration of feudalism and prepared the way for the
Renaissance; the debt-ridden nobility was
weakened and the kings who used taxes to create
mercenary armies and end their dependence on the
warrior lords were strengthened.

CAtholicism-ular authorities alone.
Towns fit no place in the old feudal system and like tree roots growing into a slab of
concrete, towns eventually cracked the feudal hierarchy and brought the system down. Peasants
were there to produce, the clergy to pray and the nobles to protect, but no place was any mention
made of towns to exchange; when towns became vitally important, feudalism could not cope.
Finally, townsmen who made money in trade were a challenge to the Catholic Church, for which
the charging of interest and making of money was suspect; the Church preferred instead the
voluntary poverty of the monks and nuns. The same townsmen also represented a threat to the
old nobles whose chivalric ideas contrasted markedly with the goals of the new businessmen,
and who frequently fell into debt to the town dwellers.
Royal justice-Henry sent out royal justices annually to
dispense royal justice in circuit courts and
thus weaken his barons. The royal justices
gave out more uniform justice than the feudal
courts did, and they were cheap to run. The
judges traveled about in circuits, meaning one
judge could do for a rather large area, and
these judges built up a body of decisions that
would serve as precedent in later cases, a
system known as common law. Henry also
developed the jury system to solve problems
of land disputes, but these juries were used in
civil cases only. People accused of criminal
offenses were not tried by jury but rather by
ordeal. Henry thought this latter system
irrational, but only gradually did the jury
system begin to be seen in criminal trials.
Henry believed in one justice, and
nowhere was this more clearly shown than in
his battle to control the English church.
Thomas Beckett had been named Archbishop
of Canterbury by Henry; they had been close
friends and carousers, so Henry thought
Becket would do his bidding. But once made
Archbishop of Canterbury, Beckett became
even more solicitous of church prerogative
than had his predecessor. The two men soon
fell to feuding because Beckett demanded that
churchmen be tried in church courts only and
not be subject to royal justice. Since Henry
had been at great pains to decrease the number
and influence of the many feudal courts, a
separate system of ecclesiastical courts would
defeat his purpose of bringing uniform justice
to England. Moreover, the punishments in
royal courts were more severe than in church
ones; in royal courts the condemned could be
mutilated by having arms or feet cut off, while
the most severe punishment in church courts
was a pilgrimage. Henry wanted the right to
name his own bishops, a request Beckett firmly
refused

Jury system-

Trial by ordeal-

Thomas beckett-

Richard-Henry had four sons, one of whom died. He
played the three adult men off against one another,
promising first one and then another that he would
inherit the crown of England or the Aquitaine; in
time all three aggrieved brothers ganged up on their
father and eventually hunted him down in France.
Henry's son, Richard the Lion Hearted, had him
killed. Richard took the throne but looked on
England merely as source of revenue for his military
exploits elsewhere. Although Richard ruled from
1189-98, he was in England for less than six months. He is even buried in Normandy. Henry's
bureaucracy was so well developed that it could keep the country going even in the king's
prolonged absence.
Henry II's grandson, Edward, continued the tradition of evolving law by creating
Parliament. The word comes
from the French parler,
meaning "to speak" in Norman
French (reminding us that the
court continued to speak
primarily French). Edward
summoned the representatives
of the shires and towns to meet
with the Great Council of
barons, thus recognizing the
growing wealth and influence
of the middle class following
the economic revival we have
already spoken of. These
groups were called the
commons, not because they
were common in any sense we
would recognize it—serfs,
peasants and women were not
represented at all--but because
they were simply not noble. In
the 14th century, these
commons began to meet
separately from the lords
spiritual and temporal. The Parliament could withhold financial support from the king, although they rarely did so, but they did establish a precedent of requiring the king to redress certain
grievances before the money would be allocated. As the name Parliament, or speaking house,
suggests, the main function of the body at first was to have the king justify his requests for
money. The king would persuade the Parliament to go along, frequently putting on a aweinspiring
show to ice the deal.
The formation of Parliament in England was similar to developments elsewhere in Europe.
Representative assemblies were started in France (the Estates General), in Spain (the Cortes) and
in Russia (the Duma). But only in England, and only after a long time, did Parliament become
really independent.
Unlike the tradition in England of creative tension
between the monarchy and nobles as exemplified by the Magna
Carta, in France the French kings pursued an unremitting
policy of absolutism, trying to crush nobles instead of working
with them. St. Louis (Louis IX) believed in divine right of
kings, that is, that he was responsible to God alone. Thus he
issued edicts without consulting the council of nobles, a far cry
from the requirement in England contained in the Magna Carta
that the king must consult with his barons. St. Louis outlawed
trial by battle and private wars, thus further reducing the
power of the nobles. He instituted a system of royal courts to
which any decision of a feudal court run by his nobles could be
appealed, thus helping to ensure more uniform decisions and
justice throughout the realm. Following his death, St. Louis was
quickly made a saint, again demonstrating the special relationship
between the French king and the pope. In France, the king became a
saint: in England, the king's enemy, Beckett, became a saint. Moreover,
all French kings were now literally descended from an
acknowledged saint, something no other noble in France could claim

France was really a series of independent provinces, rather than a united country, and the
entire area was characterized by disunity. France had many different local rulers with different
laws and customs, different coinages, and even different languages. The Languedoc spoken in
the south would have been incomprehensible to a Parisian. Worse, before the 10th century, there
were more than 30 great feudal princes, supposedly vassals to the French king, but in fact almost
independent from the monarchy. Castles originally built in France to defend against the Vikings
were almost always used to defend vassals against the king. The French king really only had
control over a small piece of France, the area around Paris and St. Denis. Called even today the
Ile de France (French island), the name reminds us that what we know as France was merely one
isolated island in a sea of competing warlords. The kings of England who actually owned more
land in what is now France than the French king did, sneeringly referred to the latter as "le roi de
St. Denis"(the king of St. Denis), rather than the king of France. Rebellious nobles resented the
power of the French king and worked to thwart it, but in the long run, the kings with the aid of
the town based bourgeoisie helped curb the power of the warrior lords to create the French
monarchy and modern France.
The first important tsar for the unification of
Russia was Ivan the Great (Ivan III) a contemporary of
the Tudors in Europe. He greatly extended the size of
Russia by placing the northern states under his control.
Of these, the most important was Novgorod which had
been associated with the Hanseatic League. The
Novgorodian merchants were allied to Catholic
Lithuania and preferred to stay with them, but the
population of the city was Orthodox Russian and so
welcomed Ivan as a liberator. Ivan took 80% of
Novgorodian land, keeping most of it for himself, but
handing out the rest to a new class of people, the
service nobility.
The land the new service nobility got was theirs
only on the explicit condition that they serve in the
tsar's army and bureaucracy. The old aristocracy of
Russia, the boyars, had served only if they wanted to.
And they rarely wanted to; the boyars saw the tsar as
merely one among them, a noble prince, of course, but
then so were they. They served the tsar only when it
benefited them to do so. The new service nobility,
however, received noble status only through their
service to the tsar. Instead of making allies of the
Ivan the Great (1440-1505) townspeople, as the English and French had done so
well, to contain the power of the warrior lords, the Russian state simply increased the number of
warrior lords. Over time, this new breed of service nobility demanded the same prerogatives as
the old boyars enjoyed. As a result, the Russian state was rich in nobles, no country had more
nobles relative to the population, but the state received almost no service from them. As a result,
Russia either never delivered services to the population, like schools, or it taxed the peasants
extravagantly. While the Spanish state of Ferdinand and Isabella wiped out their middle class of
Jews and Muslims in the interests of religious conformity, the Russian state never bothered to
court the merchants at all, leaving the country increasingly backward in relation to Europe
The other important tsar was Ivan the Terrible
(Ivan IV) (1533-84). He came to the throne at the age
of three and as a result of the regency, the boyars
regained some control, especially after they poisoned
his mother when Ivan was eight. After years of being
insulted and abused by his rebellious nobles, Ivan had
The Russian imperial emblem himself crowned in an awe-inspiring ceremony when
he was 16, taking the title tsar. According to legend, his servants poured baskets of gold coins
over his shoulders until he was literally buried up to the
head in gold. Unlike Ivan the Great who had turned north
to Novgorod, Ivan the Terrible turned south, declaring war
on the remnants of Mongol power there and added vast
new territories in the south and east to his realm.
Ivan fought unsuccessfully to push Russia to the
Baltic, but was stopped by the Poles and Hanseatic
League. Ironically, when the Poles invaded Russia, the
tsar received help from Queen Elizabeth of England, a
forerunner of the British-Russian alliance of both World
Wars I and II, help that came the same way, by water
through the White Sea.
Ivan decided to get rid of the boyars who had caused
him so much grief as a child and whom he believed had
poisoned his wife, Anastasia Romanov. He thus created a
praetorian guard called the oprichniki, a vigilante group
made up of commoners. They operated in Old Russia, not
the newly conquered lands to the east and south, and were
designed to eliminate the power of the boyars by fair
means or foul. Oprichniki means literally "a world apart,"
and that it was, operating outside the law and steeped in
violence. So-called enemies were murdered without trial
and without remorse. When its work was done, the
oprichniki itself was destroyed, and the mere mentioning
of its name was made a criminal act. While Ivan did try to
increase the power of the royal courts to bring uniformity
of justice to Russia, and tried to bring that justice under the
Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584) control of the monarch rather than the nobles, he is most remembered for his rampage against the aristocracy outside the law. Many boyars were killed en
masse, including women and children. Whole families were wiped out, including their servants
and even their pets. In his delirium, Ivan ordered the destruction of the entire city of Novgorod
on the mere suspicion of treason. He even
killed his own son in a rage.
While the Black Death haunted Europe for a century, so did the on again, off again
Hundred Years War (1337-1453). The English kings wanted to regain their large holdings in
France which they had had in the days of Henry II but which they had lost under King John. The
French by contrast wanted to retain what they had acquired and drive the English out of France
altogether. (See the map below.) There were also problems in the wool trade. Wool from
England was made into cloth in Flanders (modern day Belgium). When the French attempted to
control Flanders, the wool trade was disrupted, causing a problem for the English king whose
revenues came to a large degree from a tax on wool going to Flanders. Both the English and
French wanted glory on the battlefield as chivalry demanded. And neither England nor France
had been able to solve its internal social, economic or political problems; wars would divert
attention from difficulties at home.
The immediate cause was a dispute over the French throne when the last Capetian king died without heirs. The closest to
the throne was in fact the king of
England, Edward III, but the
French quickly passed the Salonic
law saying the throne of France
could not descend through the
female line, thus voiding the
English king's claim and giving
the throne to a Frenchman, the first
Valois, Philip VI. Feeling
cheated, the English attacked.
The war was fought almost
completely on French soil, a
strategy that devastated French
agriculture. The armies in this war
were commanded by the princes of
the blood themselves, such as
Edward the Black Prince, who got
his nickname because of the black
armor he wore in battle. A huge
number of people fought on both
sides, some 10% or so of English
English holdings in France. population and maybe even more
in France. Given these numbers, the wars strained the
finances of both England and France to the breaking point.
At first, France raised money by depreciating her currency
and borrowing from Italian bankers, but the inability of the
French crown to make good on their debts would cause a
financial panic by mid century.
One of the most curious
developments of the Gothic style are the
gargoyles at the roofline. The ones to the
left are from Notre Dame in Paris and
clearly serve as water spouts. Water
puddling on flat stone runs through the
sculptures and pours out their mouths in a
rainstorm. But many gargoyles, such as
the ones pictures below, have no
architectural function.
No one knows for sure why
gargoyles were added to Gothic
cathedrals. The usual interpretation is
that these mythical, nasty looking
creatures were designed to ward off evil
spirits that might try to infest the church.
Others argue that by breaking larger
spaces up into odd smaller ones, the
gargoyles reduce wind speeds at the top
of the church—and the howling wind
sound the congregation might be
subjected to if that did not happen. It is
important to remember that even in
Christian Europe, in the Middle Ages
witches, wizards and evil spirits
inhabited the universe. Even the Catholic
Church accepted the existence of strange
beings like these. It is perhaps understandable that even on cathedrals the beasts like gargoyles could find a home.
But the gargoyles bring us to a final problem shared by all these old monuments. Over
800 years old, cathedrals were built in a world with no automobiles, acid rain, or thundering
underground subway systems. The pollution of major cities like Paris first soiled the creamy
limestone Notre Dame was constructed with, and then it began eating away at the statues on
11
it. An elaborate cleaning of the building in the 1970s revealed the creamy color once again—
only to have the church becomes a grimy black in less than a decade. Cleaning is very
You can just make out on the map from 1300 above to the
far left, a small church symbol. That was Westminster where the Westminster cathedral
stands today, and where the king's Westminster Palace once stood. The only bridge
across the river was London Bridge that connected to Southwark where bear baiting and
theater venues would thrive. (This was where Shakespeare's Globe theater would later
stand and where the National Theater complex stands today.) London Bridge was the first
stone bridge across the Thames; built between 1176 and 1209, it illustrates London's
growing sense of safety since the city was willing to risk enemies using the bridge to
attack over the river with ease.
It is almost impossible to imagine how London looked in the Middle Ages.
Almost all buildings would have been built of wood that was plentiful in the area and
much easier to work with that stone. Only a church steeple would have been more than three stories high. Although from a slightly later date, the map above gives one an idea.
London bridge is in the center, the large church to the left is the Gothic St. Paul's
cathedral that later burned, and the Tower is the white enclosure to the far right. London
was effectively flat, huddled behind walls for protection, with green spaces outside.
Staying within the safety of the walls was sufficiently important that almost every square
inch was taken up with buildings, even London Bridge. In the picture above you can see
buildings on it, and in the drawing below from the 13th century, you see what the bridge
must have looked like to someone approaching upriver.