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Introduction to the Medieval World: Class 11

Class 11: New Political Beginnings and Cluny

Assigned Reading:

I.      Introduction

A.      Last four classes looked at the Christian, classical
        and Germanic origins of Europe.
        -Three main periods
        Post Roman chaos
        Carolingian Empire
        Second period of dissolution

B.      Charlemagne's Empire was clearly an attempt at fusing
        a Germanic state with Roman and Christian conceptions
        of universal empire.

        But it failed. The fusing of Germanic and Christian in
        fact occurred much more profoundly during the following
        centuries. Not in wide universalistic terms, but as the
        population of Europe became christianized.

        Eventually Roman concepts of law and state were to come
        to the fore again, but not (only. in empire wide terms,
        rather in conceptions of law and authority, public and
        private on a local level. These ideas were to come through
        the influence of the church.

C.      But before this could come about a more stable society
        was needed.
        The period we have been looking at in the past four
        classes - a long period in fact - saw all the main
        elements of later medieval civilization present,
        but any synthesis reached was temporary and short-lived
        in face of the tremendous pressures to dissolve.

D.      For the next five classes we are going to look at how in
        the 11th and 12th centuries Europe was reborn.
        This was a slow process involving
        -the establishment of a stable life style for the great
        majority of people - in agriculture and village life.
        -Stable political powers
        -developments in the Church

II.     The Year 1000

-Use to be thought significant - people waiting for the end,
 then getting on with life after it didn't arrive.
-Some people did go to Jerusalem for the end.
-But this is an example of us looking and finding something
 that wasn't there -  Millenarianism common in middle ages. but
 great changes not tied to a specific year.
-Still it points to a real sea change 950-1059

Period 1050-1350 - the High Middle Ages
Period of Crusades - Great Age of the Papacy
Gregory VII to Boniface VIII
Gothic Cathedrals - Scholasticism

III.    Political Stability

A.      Still mainly unstable
        Feudalism and lack of control leads to warfare

B.      The Reborn Empire - Ottonian Germany

        1.      The Five Duchies
                The Carolingian power fades quickly
                Median position in Germany compared to total
                dissolution in France, and Unity in England.

                Reaction to attacks by Magyars
                Large areas, but bigger than any in France

        2.      The Saxon Dynasty
                -Louis the Child dies 911 - last German Carolingian
                -919 Henry the Fowler, Duke of Saxony

        3.      936-973 Otto I
                -Interest in Italy and imperial title - it gave
                prestige over the other German dukes
                -962 crowned emperor - beginning of German HRE
                -Use of the Church to govern.

                Otto II 973-83 married a Byzantine princess

                Otto III 983-1002 had his friend Gerbert made
                Pope Sylvester II (like Constantine's Pope.

        4.      Salian Dynasty 1024-1125
                -Faced off against a powerful Church
                -Henry III 1039-1056 - most powerful monarch in

C.      Feudal Principalities
        Actually point the way to the future more than the HRE.
        The Ottonian HRE was important in stabilizing Germany
        and establishing a secure state.

        But the really strong monarchies of the middle ages
        were built on feudal foundations and became slowly
        national states. The HRE was always torn between
        its German and Roman identities.

D.      Castles provide means of territorial control
        Primitive castles
        -Motte (=mound. and Bailey (=outer wall.
        -A castle is a fortress and domestic establishment
        at the same time
        -Provide security against raids
        -Ability to control territory in a 25 mile radius
        -[Area = pr(2. = 22/7 X 625 = c. 1980 sq. miles]
        Induce a change in the nobility
        -take names from castles

E.      Greater Nobles build stable states

F.      England

        1.      Edward the Confessor
                Well governed and stable society/Norman Influence

        2.      William the Conqueror
                Applying feudal institutions in a pure state -
                all land belongs to the king.

                Also applied lessons learnt in Normandy to an
                entire country.

        3.      1066 an all that.

        4.      Domesday Book 1086

        5.      Henry I

G.      The Italian Situation

        -Towns survive - ones which can be defended.
        -Carolingians failed to establish control in Italy.
        Lost of competing families for power, therefore none
        grow strong.
        -Cities grow, at first under episcopal control.
        Genoa  Pisa, Venice - all develop trade.
        -Italy ends up as a land of city states - unlike any
        other in Europe.

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© Paul Halsall, 1996.

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© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 5 June 2023 [CV]