CAMBRIDGE MEDIEVAL HISTORY
THE WESTERN EMPIRE
C. W. Previté Orton
Austin Lane Poole
Austin Lane Poole
Edwin H Holthouse
Austin Lane Poole
Caroline M. Ryley
William John Corbett
William John Corbett
Montague Rhodes James
Montague Rhodes James
The first words in this volume must, of right and of piety, be about the late Editor, Henry Melvill Gwatkin. He had been one of the Editors from the first: he had brought to the help of the undertaking not only his own unrivalled mastery of the earlier period but also a singularly wide and accurate knowledge of history at large. This meant a great deal, and was generally known. But a constant colleague, in work which often called for large decisions and always for care in details, can speak, like no one else, of the time and trouble he freely spent even when he might sometimes have spared himself. Nobody else can know or judge of these things, and it is fitting therefore that I, who can, should pay the tribute of justice which memory demands. He had read with his usual care and judgment most of the chapters in this volume, and he was looking forward to their publication. But this he was not to see, although this volume owes him much. It will be difficult to fill his place in future volumes, for literary skill such as his is not so often added to an almost universal knowledge as it was with him. To me, after so many hours spent with him over the Medieval History, fellowship in our common work had grown into friendship, and during it I had learnt many things from him on many sides. All who knew him, and all who have read his own masterly chapters, will well understand the sadness which I feel as we give to the public part of a work in which he had shared and which owes him so much.
The volume was nearly ready when the War began (WW1), and, after delaying it to begin with, necessitated large changes in its plan and execution. Since the War ended other causes have, to the great regret of the Publishers and Editors, delayed it further, and for this long delay an apology is due to our readers. The fact that some chapters have, for these reasons, been long in type, has hampered both writers and editors and made it peculiarly difficult to make the volume uniform in scale and execution. To all our contributors, foreign and English, the Editors have been much indebted, and must here express to them most grateful thanks.
In a history which ranges over many lands but is written mainly for English readers there are, naturally and always, difficulties about names, whether of persons or places. In our special period these difficulties are unusually great. Personal names vary from land to land, and the same name appears in different forms: chroniclers and modern writers are a law to themselves, even if any law is to be found. Uniformity has been sought, but it is too much to hope that it has been reached. Certain rules have been followed so far as possible. Modern forms have been generally used where they exist, and earlier forms have been indicated. Names which are etymologically the same take different forms in Germany, France, Burgundy, Italy, and Slavonic lands. It has been thought proper in such cases to keep the local form, except for names which have a common English form. Thus the French Raoul is conveniently distinguished from the German Rudolf and the Jurane-Burgundian Rodolph. Familiar English names of continental towns are used where they are to be found: in other cases the correct national and official names are used. Geographical names have special difficulties in this period, where boundaries and territories largely varied and were in course of growth. Accuracy, and, where needed, explanation, have been attempted.
Dr J. R. Tanner and Mr C. W. Previte-Orton have been appointed Editors for Volume IV onwards. To them many thanks are due for services readily and plentifully given in this volume, although with no editorial responsibility. To Mr Previte-Orton especially it owes much, indeed almost everything. Without the care and skill brought by him to its aid, errors and omissions would have been much more numerous. Any merits which the work possesses should be ascribed largely to him, although defects must still remain. Professor J. B. Bury has always been ready to give us valuable suggestions and criticisms, although he also is in no way responsible for the work. In the Bibliographies Miss A. D. Greenwood, who has also prepared the Maps, has given the greatest help. And it should be said that the Maps had been printed before the long period of delay began. For the Index thanks are due to Mrs A. Kingston Quiggin and Mr T. F. T. Plucknett.
To some of our contributors special thanks are due for special kindness. Professor L. Halphen has been throughout a most courteous friend, and laid us under many obligations. Mr Austin L. Poole has been peculiarly ready to help us at need, and his father, Dr R. L. Poole, has often given us advice, naturally of the greatest value. Prof. A. A. Bevan and Dr E. H. Minns have given us expert guidance as to the proper forms of Oriental and Slavonic names. Many other historians, apart from the contributors, to whom we owe so much, have been of great service in various ways. And it is needless to say that to the staff of the University Press, working under peculiar difficulties caused by the war, we owe much for constant and unfailing help.
A general historical sketch has been added as an Introduction. It is in no way meant, however, as an outline of the history or as a summary of the particular chapters, but only as a general view of the period in its special characteristics and in relation to the ages which follow. It will also be seen that notes, short and significant, have been added as before where necessary: they are possibly more numerous than in preceding volumes, and two or three genealogical tables have also been given.
J. P. W. July, 1921.
J. P. WHITNEY
THE volume before this brought us to the death of Charlemagne, with whom in many senses a new age began. He, like no one either before or after, summed up the imperishable memories of Roman rule and the new force of the new races which were soon to form states of their own. Although we are compelled to divide history into periods, in the truest sense history never begins, just as it never ends. The Frankish Kingdom, like the Carolingian Empire, is a testimony of this truth. It cannot be rightly understood without a knowledge of the Roman past, with its law, its unity, its civilization, and its religion. But neither can it be understood without a knowledge of the new conceptions and the new elements of a new society, which the barbarian invaders of the Roman West had brought with them. It was upon the many-sided foundation of the Carolingian Empire that the new world of Europe was now to grow up. Yet even in that new world we are continually confronted with the massive relics and undying traces of the old. The statesman and warrior Charles, the great English scholar Alcuin, typify some parts of that great inheritance. But how much the Empire owed to the personal force and character of Charlemagne himself was soon to be seen under his weaker successors, even if their weakness has often been exaggerated. Such is one side of the story with which this volume begins.
We of today, perhaps, are too much inclined to forget the molding force of institutions, of kingship, of law, of traditions of learning, and of ideas handed down from the past. When we see the work of Charlemagne seeming to crumble away as his strong hand fell powerless in death, we are too apt to look only at the lawlessness, the confusion, and the strife left behind. In face of such a picture it is needful to seek out the great centers of unity, which were still left, and around which the forms of politics and society were to crystallize slowly. Imperial traditions, exemplified, for instance, in the legal forms of diplomas, and finding expression as much in personal loyalty to rulers of Carolingian descent as in political institutions, gave one such centre. The Christian Church, with its civilizing force, had even a local centre in Rome, to which St Boniface, the Apostle of Germany, had looked for guidance and control. Other ancient cities, too, in which Roman civilization and Christianity had remained, shaken but still strong, did much to keep up that continuity with the past upon which the life of the future depended. But beneath the general unity of its belief and its organization, the Church was always in close touch with local life, and therefore had its local differences between place and place. It had still much to do in the more settled territories which were growing up into France, Germany and England. On the borders of the Empire it had further fresh ground to break and new races to mould. Even within the Empire it was before long to receive new invaders to educate and train: Normans and Danes were to bear witness, before our period ends, to the spirit and the strength in which it wrought. As is always the case when two powers are attempting the same task in different ways and by different means, there was inevitable rivalry and strife between Empire and Church as they grew together within one common society. But such generalizations give, after all, an imperfect picture. Beneath them the details of ecclesiastical life, in Papacy, diocese, parish and monastery, are also part of the common history, and have received the notice which they can therefore claim.
But if political history and ecclesiastical history present us with two centers of unity in a tangled field, thought, literature, and art were no less distinctly, though in other ways, guardians of unity and fosterers of future life. They too brought down from the past seeds for the new world to tend. So their story also, with its records of inheritance, plainer to read, especially in its Byzantine influences, than those of politics or ecclesiastical matters, is an essential part of our task. Politics, Religion, and Thought in all its many-sided fields, summed up for the future Western world all the remnants of the past which were most essential and fruitful for generations to come. They were the three great forces that made for unity and, with unity, for civilization.
Taking all this for granted, then, we pass to the separate history of the individual countries just growing into states. For a time, they grow within the common mould of the Empire, and Carolingian traditions bind them to the past. Dimly to begin with, but with growing plainness, the realms of France, Germany, Italy, Lorraine, and Burgundy are seen taking their later territorial and constitutional shapes. England lay somewhat apart, insular, and therefore separated from the Empire, but by this very insularity everywhere exposed to Northmen and Danes. Here, too, as on the continent, statesman-like kings and far-sighted ecclesiastics worked together. The growth of territorial unity is easiest of all to trace, for it can be made plain in maps. But the growth of unity of thought and interests, of constitutions and social forms, is harder to see and to express; it is easier to estimate the work of Egbert, Edward the Elder, and Aethelstan than the more many-sided achievements of Alfred and Dunstan, or the more pervasive influence of the great Northern school which gave us Bede and Alcuin. But the peculiarity of England's position and history is most significant for constitutional growths, and it is, therefore, in connection with English affairs that the origins of Feudalism are best investigated and discussed. Scientific history begins with the observation of resemblances and with classification by likeness. Then it passes on to detect differences, and to note their significance. Nowhere is there more need to remember these twin methods than in the study of Feudalism, where the Cambridge scholar Maitland was our daring and yet cautious guide. Processes and details which we notice in English history have their parallels elsewhere. If the centuries we traverse here have a large common inheritance, they also have at the same time, in spite of differences in place and character, something of a common history. What is said, therefore, as to the origins of English Feudalism also applies, with due allowance for great local differences, to Germany, France, and Italy; even indeed to Spain, although there the presence and the conquests of the Muslims impressed a peculiar stamp upon its institutions.
The period with which we have to deal is more than most periods what is sometimes called transitional; but this only means that it is more difficult than other periods to treat by itself. History is always changing and transitional, but keeps its own continuity even when we find it hard to discern. Breaches of continuity are rare, although in this period we have two of them: one, the establishment of the Moors in Spain, and the other, more widely diffused and less restricted locally, the inroads of the Northmen ending in the establishment of the Normans, whose conquest of England, as the beginning of a new era, is kept for a later volume. In many other periods some histories of states or institutions cease to be significant or else come to an end. Of this particular age we can say that it is specially and peculiarly one of beginnings, one in which older institutions and older forms of thought are gradually passing into later stages, which sometimes seem to be altogether new. The true significance, therefore, of the age can only be seen when we look ahead, and bear in mind the outlines of what in coming volumes must be traced in detail. This is especially true of the Feudalism which was everywhere gradually growing up, and, therefore, to understand its growth it is well to look ahead and picture for ourselves the system which forms the background for later history, although even here it is in process of growth and its economic and military causes are at work.
The dissolution of the Carolingian Empire ends its first stage with the Treaty of Verdun, following the Oath of Strasbourg. The oath is in itself a monument of the division between Romance and Teutonic languages, a linguistic difference which soon joined itself to other differences of race and circumstance. At Verdun Louis the German took most of the imperial lands in which a Teutonic tongue was spoken: Charles took mainly lands in which Romance prevailed. This difference was to grow, to become more acute and to pass into rivalry as years went by, and the rivalry was to make the old Austrasia into a debatable land; so that, for the later France and Germany, the year 843 may be taken as a convenient beginning in historic record of their separate national lives. Henceforth we have to follow separate histories, although the process of definite separation is gradual and slow.
At Tribur in 887 rebels deposed Charles the Fat, and next year the Eastern Kingdom proclaimed Arnulf; when his son Louis the Child died in 911, election and recognition by Frankish, Saxon, Alemannian (or Swabian), and Bavarian leaders made Conrad the first of German kings. In this process, unity, expressed by kingship, and disunion, expressed by the great tribal duchies which shared in later elections, were combined. And through many reigns, certainly throughout our period, the existence of these tribal duchies is the pivot upon which German history turns. To the king his subjects looked for defence against outside enemies: the Empire had accepted this task, and Charlemagne had well achieved it. But his weaker successors had neglected it, and as they made default, local rulers, and in Germany, the tribal dukes, above all, took the vacant place. But the appearance on all hands of local rulers, which is so often taken as a mere sign of disunion, as a mere process of decay, is, beneath this superficial appearance, a sign of local life, a drawing together of scattered elements of strength, under the pressure of local needs, and, above all, for local defence. If on a wider field of disorder the appearance of great kings and emperors made for strength and happiness, precisely the same was afterwards the case in the smaller fields. Here too the emergence of local dynasties also made for strength and happiness. Local rulers, then, to begin with, accepted the leadership in common local life. And they did so somewhat in the spirit with which Gregory the Great, deserted by Imperial rulers, had in his day boldly taken upon himself the care and defence of Rome against barbarians. So, for Germany, as for France, the national history is concerned as much with the story of the smaller dynasties as with that of the central government.
But a distinction is to be noted between the course of this mingled central and local history in Germany and France. In France the growth of local order was older than it was in Germany; towns with Roman traditions were more abundant and life generally was more settled. In Germany a greater burden was, therefore, thrown upon the kings and, as was so generally the case with men in those days, they rose to their responsibilities. Accordingly the kingship grew in strength, and Otto the First was so firmly seated at home as to be able to intervene with success abroad. His Marches, as later history was to show, served adequately their purpose of defence, and German suzerainty over the neighboring lands became more real. The basis of his power was Saxony, less feudalized than the other duchies and peopled mainly by freemen well able to fight for their ruler. Otto understood, moreover, how necessary for strength and order was close fellowship in work between State and Church. Throughout his land the Bishops, alike by duty and tradition, were apostles of civilization, and, on the outskirts of the kingdom above all, the spread of Christianity meant the growth of German influence, much as it had done under Charlemagne himself. To the Bishops, already overburdened with their spiritual charge, were now entrusted administrative duties. In England individual Bishops were counselors of the king: in France Bishops, although later to be controlled by neighboring nobles, had been a more coherent body than elsewhere, and the legislative authority of synods had been so great that the Episcopate had even striven to become the leading power in the realm. But it was characteristic of Germany to make the Bishops, with large territories and richly endowed, a part, and a great part, of the administration in its local control, working for the Crown and trusted by it, but with the independent power of Counts or even more: thus there grew up in Germany the great Prince-Bishoprics, as marked a feature of the political life as the tribal Duchies but destined to endure still longer. And furthermore, because of this close alliance between German Crown and German Episcopate, the later struggle between Church and King, which arose out of forces already at work, was to shake with deeper movement the edifice of royal power. Because of this special feature of German polity, the eleventh century strife between Pope and German King meant more for Germany than it did for other lands. And this was something quite apart from the revival of the Western Roman Empire.
Otto's political revival, with its lasting influence on history, was in the first place a bringing to life again of the Carolingian Empire. Like the earlier Empire it arose out of the needs of the Church at Rome: Otto the Great, like Charlemagne and his forerunners, had come into Italy, and Rome with the Papacy was the centre, indeed the storm-point, of Italian politics and strife. But Otto, unlike Charlemagne, was more a protector than a ruler of the Church, and here too, as on the political side of the Empire, he set out from a distinctively German rather than from a general standpoint. His first care was rather with the German Church, needed as an ally for his internal government, than with the Papacy representing a general conception of wide importance. The new series of Emperors are concerned with the Papacy more as it affected Germany and Italy than under its aspect of a world-wide power built on a compact theory. The future history of the Empire in its relations to the Papacy turns, then, mainly upon the fortunes of the Church first in Germany and then in Italy: conflict arises, when it does arise, out of actual working conditions and not out of large conceptions and controversies. This is certainly true of our present period and of the Imperial system under Otto. Upon the Papal side things were very different. From it large statements and claims came forth: Nicholas I presented to the world a compact and far-reaching doctrine which only needed to be brought into action in later days; although, as a matter of fact, even with the Papacy, actual jurisdiction preceded theory. Ecclesiastics were naturally, more than laymen, concerned with principles (embodied in the Canon Law), of which they were the special guardians, and they remained so until Roman Law regained in later centuries its old preeminence as a great system based on thought and embodied in practice. Its triumph was to be under Frederick Barbarossa and not under Otto the Great, although its study, quickened through practical difficulties, began both in France and Lombardy during the eleventh century. To begin with, churchmen led in the realm of thought, and, when clash and controversy came, were first in the field. Laymen, from kings to officials, were, on the other hand, slowly forging, under pressure of actual need, a system that was strong, coherent, and destined to grow because it was framed in practice more than in thought. But for the moment we are concerned with the Empire and not with the Feudal system, to which we shall return.
The exact extent of St Augustine's influence upon medieval thought has been much discussed: to write of it here would be to anticipate what must be said later on. But it came to reinforce, if not to suggest, the medieval view of society, already held, though not expressed in the detail of Aquinas or Dante. Life has fewer contradictions than has thought, and in the work of daily life men reconcile oppositions which, if merely thought over, might seem insuperable. To the man of practice in those days, as to the student of St Augustine's City of God, Christian society was one great whole, within which there were many needs, many ends to reach, and many varied things to do. But the society itself was one, and Pope or Monarch, churchman or layman, had to meet its needs and do its work as best he could. This was something quite unlike the modern theories of Church and State, and it is only by remembering this medieval conception, which the late Dr Figgis so well expounded to us, that the course of medieval history can be rightly understood. Under such a conception, with a scheme arrived at by life rather than by thought, Pope or Bishop, Abbot or Priest, did secular things with no thought of passing into an alien domain. Emperor or King, Count or Sheriff, did not hesitate to undertake, apart, of course, from sanctuary or worship, what would seem to us specially the churchman’s task. Here there were possibilities of concord and fellowship in work, which the great rulers of our period, whether clerical or lay, tried to realize. But there were also possibilities of strife, to be all the sharper because it was a conflict within one society and not a clash of two.
Only the preparation for this conflict, however, falls within our scope. But this preparation is so often slurred over that its proper presentation is essential. The medieval king, like Stuart sovereigns in England, was faced by a tremendous and expensive task, and had scanty means for meeting it. The royal demesne was constantly impoverished by frequent grants: to keep up order as demanded by local needs, and to provide defence as demanded by the realm at large, called not only for administrative care but also for money which was not forthcoming. It was easy to use the machinery of the Church to help towards order: it was easy to raise something of an income and to provide for defence by laying a hand upon church revenues and by making ecclesiastical vassals furnish soldiers. Most of all, horse-soldiers were needed, although to be used with economy and care, like the artillery of later days: their utility had been learnt from the ravages of the Danes, able to cover quickly large areas because of the horses they seized and used. Kings were quick to learn the lesson; knight-service grew up and is recorded first for ecclesiastical lands in England.
It is therefore first in the estates of the Church that the elements of feudalism are noted in the double union of jurisdiction and knight-service with ownership of lands. Thus, beginning with the equally urgent needs of the crown and of localities, the elements of the Feudal system appeared and gradually grew until they became the coherent whole of later days. But its practical formation preceded its expression in theory. Its formation brought many hardships and opened the way to many abuses. An individual often finds his greatest temptations linked closely to his special capabilities and powers, and in the same way, out of this attempt to give the world order and peace, made by able rulers who were also men of devoted piety, sprang the abuses which called forth the general movement of the eleventh century for church reform. This was partly due to a revival within the Church itself, a reform both in diocesan and monastic life, beginning in Lorraine and Burgundy, and seen significantly in the rapid Western growth of Canon Law. But it was complicated and conditioned by politics, especially by those of Italy and Germany, imperfectly linked together by the Empire. Its history in the earlier stages is indicated in this volume but must be discussed more fully along with the church policy of the great Emperor Henry III. Because its history under him is so closely joined to that of the wider period, reaching from the Synod of Sutri to the Concordat of Worms, it is left over for a later volume, although the purely political side of his reign is treated here.
To the German kingship, ruling the great German duchies, inevitably entangled in Italian affairs and in touch with warlike neighbors as yet heathen and uncivilized, fell the traditions of the Empire, so far as territorial sway and protectorship of the Papacy was involved. But to the growing kingdom of France there came naturally the guardianship of Carolingian civilization. Mayence, Salzburg, Ratisbon, and Cologne to begin with, Hamburg and Bamberg at a later date, might be the great missionary sees of the West, but Rheims and the kingdom to which it belonged, together with the debatable and Austrasian land of Lorraine, inherited more distinctly the traditions of thought and learning. Paris, the cradle of later France, had a preeminence in France greater than had any city in its Eastern neighbor land. So France with its older and more settled life from Roman and Merovingian days had, although with some drawbacks, a unity and coherence almost unique, just as it had a history more continuous. Yet even so it had its great fiefs, with their peculiarities of temperament and race, so that much of French history lies in their gradual incorporation in the kingdom of which Paris was the birthplace and the capital. And at Paris the varied story of Scholasticism, that is, of medieval thought, may be said to begin.
Thus the lines upon which later histories were to run were already being laid for France, Germany, and England, and for Italy something the same may be said. There to the mixture of races and rule, already great, was added now the Norman element, to be at first a further cause of discord, and then, as in France and England, a centre of stability and strength. The grasp of the Byzantine Emperors on Italy was becoming nominal and weak: the Lombards, with scanty aspirations after unity, were by this time settled. In Sicily, and for a time in the South, Saracens had made a home for themselves, and, as in Spain, were causing locally the terror which, in a form vaster and more undefined, was to form, later on, a dark background for the history of Europe as a whole. Rome, for all the West outside Italy a place of reverence and the seat of Papal jurisdiction, sinking lower but never powerless, was itself the playground of city factions and lawless nobles reveling in old traditions of civic pride. But above all the distinction between Northern and Southern Italy was becoming more pronounced. In the North, still subject to the Emperor, growing feudalism ran, although with local variations, a normal but short-lived course. The South, on the other hand, had drawn off into a separate system of small principalities, where inchoate feudalism was to be suddenly developed and made singularly durable by the Normans. But in the North and, as yet, in the South thickly strewn cities were the ruling factor in political life and social progress. For Italy, as for the other great lands, the period was one of beginnings, of formations as yet incomplete. Events on the surface were making national unity hopeless: forces beneath the surface were slowly producing the civic independence which was to be the special glory of later medieval Italy.
The fortunes of the Papacy in these centuries were strangely variable. It is a vast descent from Nicholas I (858-867), who could speak as if “lord of all the earth”, to Formosus (891-896), dug up from his grave, sentenced by a synod, and flung into the Tiber. But the repeated recoveries of the Papacy would be hard to explain if we did not recall its advantages in the traditions of administration, and in the handling of large affairs in a temper mellowed by experience. Roman synods, as a rule, acted with discretion, and long traditions, both administrative and diplomatic, enhanced the influence of the Western Apostolic See; Gregory VII could rightly speak of the gravitas Romana. The Empire of Charlemagne opened up new channels for its power, and the weakness of his successors gave it much opportunity.
On the side of learning, as on that of Imperial rule, Rome had, however, ceased to be the capital. Not even the singular learning of Gerbert, furthered by his experiences in many lands, could do more for Rome than create a memory for future guidance. Before Gerbert’s accession, however, the Papacy had undergone one almost prophetic change, which looked forward to Leo IX, while recalling Nicholas I. For a time under Gregory V (996-999), cousin and chaplain to the Emperor, the first German Pope, it had ceased to be purely Roman, in interests as in ruler. It took up once again its old missionary enterprise and care for distant lands. St Adalbert of Prague, who both as missionary and bishop typified the unrest of his day, wavering between adventurous activity and monastic meditation, had come to Rome and was spending some time in a monastery. He was a Bohemian by birth and had become the second bishop of Prague (983): besides working there he had taken part in the conversion of Hungary, and is said to have baptized its great king St Stephen. Commands from the Pope and Willigis of Mayence sent him back to his see, but renewed wanderings brought him a martyr's death in Prussia. He had also visited Poland and there, at Gnesen, he was buried. Such a career reminds us of St Boniface, but there is a distinction between the two to be noted. Boniface had always worked with the Frankish rulers, and had depended greatly upon their help. Adalbert, on the other hand, looked far more to Rome. Pope, German rulers, and even German bishops like Pilgrim of Passau, had independent or even contradictory plans of large organization. In Bohemia, Hungary, and Poland, the tenth century saw the beginning of national churches, looking to the Papacy rather than to German kings. Thus were brought about later complications in politics, Imperial and national, which were to be important both for general history and for the growth of Papal power. But although Gregory was thus able to leave his mark on distant lands, and to legislate for the churches of Germany and France, he could not maintain himself in Rome itself: he was driven from the city (996), faced by an anti-Pope John XVI (who has caused confusion in the Papal lists), and was only restored by the Emperor for one short year of life and rule before Gerbert succeeded him. The Strength of the Papacy lay in its great traditions and its distant control: its weakness came from factions at Rome.
Gerbert, born in Auvergne, a monk at Aurillac, a scholar in Spain, at Rheims added philosophy to his great skill in mathematics. As Abbot of Bobbio he had unhappy experiences. For a time, through the favor of Hugh Capet, he held the Archbishopric of Rheims, where he learnt the strong local feeling of the French episcopate, in which his great predecessor Hincmar had shared. Otto the Great admired his abilities: Otto II sent him to Bobbio: Otto III, his devoted pupil, made him Archbishop of Ravenna (998) and, a year later, Pope. Molded in many lands, illustrating uniquely the unity of Western Christendom, the foremost thinker of the day, yet on the Papacy he left no mark answering to his great personality.
Not even insignificant Popes and civic strife lessened Papal power as might have been supposed. Benedict VIII (1012-1024) came to the throne after a struggle with the Crescentii: his father, Count Gregory, of the Tusculan family, had been praefectus navalis under Otto III, and had done much for the fortification of the city against the Saracens who had once so greatly harassed John VIII (872-882). Benedict himself was dependent upon the Emperor for help against Byzantines, Saracens and factions in Rome itself. He could not be called a Pope of spiritual influence, but he was an astute politician, and under him Papacy not only exercised without question its official power but also moved a little in the direction of church reform. As a ruler with activity and energy in days of darkness and degradation, he regained for the Papacy something of the old international position.
This administrative tradition in papal Rome is often hidden beneath the personal energy of the greater Popes and the growing strength gradually gained by the conception of the Papacy as a whole. Already we can see the effect of the union with the Empire; and of the entanglement with political, and especially with Imperial, interests, upon which so much of later history was to turn. Already we can see the growing influence of Canon Law, beginning, it must be remembered, in outlying fields, and then slowly centering in Rome itself. The letters of Hincmar, for instance, show great knowledge of the older law, a constant reference to it and a grasp of its principles. The rapid spread of the False Decretals, in themselves an expression of existing tendencies rather than an impulse producing them, show us the system in process of growth. Their rapid circulation would have been impossible had they not fitted in with the needs and aspirations of the age. They embodied the idea of the Church's independence, and indeed of its moral sovereignty, two conceptions which, when the ecclesiastical and civil powers worked in alliance, helped to mould the Christian West into a coherent society, firmly settled in its older seats and also conquering newer lands. But when in a later day the two powers came to clash, the same conceptions made the strife more acute and carried it from the sphere of action into the region of political literature.
One significant feature of this age of preparation demands special notice. St Boniface, when he laid the foundation of Church organization in the Teutonic lands, had built up a coherent and united Episcopate. Joined to older elements of ecclesiastical life, it became, under the weaker Carolingians, strong enough to attempt control of the crown itself. Before the Papacy could establish its own dominion, it had to subjugate the Bishops: before it could reform the Church and mould the world after its own conceptions, it had further to reform an Episcopate, which, if still powerful, had grown corrupt. Constantine had sought the alliance of the Church for the welfare of the Empire because it was strong and united, and both its strength and unity were based upon the Episcopate. The Teutonic Emperors did the same for the same reasons, and now this Episcopate had to reconcile for itself conflicting relations with Empire and Papacy. And in establishing its complete control of the Bishops the Papacy touched and shook not only the kingly power but the lower and more local parts of a complicated political system.
Those results, however, belong to a later volume. For the present we are in the period of formation, watching processes mostly beneath the surface and sometimes tending towards, if not actually in, opposition among themselves. Thus, the Imperial protection of the Church, working superficially for its strength, tended, as a secondary result, to weaken and secularize it, and therefore in the end, to produce a reaction. And, when it came, that reaction was caused as much by the inner history of the leading nations as by the central power of Rome and the Papacy itself. It was one side of the complicated processes which, in the period dealt with here, molded the Age of Feudalism.
It is well to recall the words of Maitland about Feudalism. "If we use the term in this wide sense, then (the barbarian conquests being given us as an unalterable fact) feudalism means civilization, the separation of employments, the division of labor, the possibility of national defence, the possibility of art, science, literature and learned leisure; the cathedral, the scriptorium, the library, are as truly the work of feudalism as is the baronial castle. When therefore, we speak, as we shall have to speak, of forces which make for the subjection of peasantry to seignorial justice and which substitute the manor with its villeins for the free village, we shall—so at least it seems to us—be speaking not of abnormal forces, not of retrogression, not of disease, but in the main of normal and healthy growth. Far from us indeed is the cheerful optimism which refuses to see that the process of civilization is often a cruel process; but the England of the eleventh century is nearer to the England of the nineteenth than is the England of the seventh, nearer by just four hundred years." And again he says: "Now, no doubt, from one point of view, namely that of universal history, we do see confusion and retrogression. Ideal possessions which have been won for mankind by the thought of Roman lawyers are lost for a long while and must be recovered painfully." And "it must be admitted that somehow or another a retrogression takes place, that the best legal ideas of the ninth and tenth centuries are not so good, so modern, as those of the third and fourth." Historians, he points out, often begin at the wrong end and start with the earlier centuries, and yet “if they began with the eleventh century and thence turned to the earlier time, they might come to another opinion, to the opinion that in the beginning all was very vague, and that such clearness and precision as legal thought has attained in the days of the Norman Conquest has been very gradually attained and is chiefly due to the influence which the old heathen world working through the Roman church has exercised upon the new. The process that is started when barbarism is brought into contact with civilization is not simple”.
Here the great historian is speaking mainly of legal ideas and legal history which he taught us to understand. In a wider than a legal sense, it is the same process which this volume tries to trace and sketch. The steps and details of the process are to be read in the chapter on Feudalism and in the chapters on England. But once again it is here the preparatory stages with which we deal: the full process in English history, for instance, belongs to a later volume where William the Conqueror and his Domesday Book give us firmer ground for a new starting-point. But if it is more difficult, it is as essential, to study the stages of the more elusive preparation. It is the meeting-ground of old and new: the history in which the new, with toil and effort, with discipline and suffering, grows stronger and richer as it masters the old and is mastered by it.
In these centuries, even more than in others, it is chiefly of kings, of battles and great events, or of purely technical things like legal grants or taxes, of which alone we can speak, because it is of them we are mostly told. We know but little of the general life of the multitude on its social and economic side. For that we must argue back from later conditions, checked by the scanty facts we have. Large local variations were more acute: economic differences between the great trading cities of the Rhineland and the neighboring agricultural lands around Mayence, or again the differences between the east and west of the German realm, had greater political significance than they would have today. Contrasts always quicken the flow of commerce and the tide of thought: travel brought with it greater awakening then than now. Hence thought moved most quickly along the lines of trade, which were, for the most part, those of Roman rather than of later medieval days. We know something of the depopulation due to wars, and of the misery due to unchecked local tyranny, which drove men to welcome any fixity of rule and to respect any precedent even if severe and rough. The same causes made it easier for moral and religious laws to hold a stricter sway, even if they were often disregarded by passion or caprice. Under the working of all these forces a more settled life was slowly growing up, although with many drawbacks and frequent retrogressions.
Under such conditions men were little ready to question anything that made for fixity and peace. The reign of law, the control of principles, were welcome, because they gave relief from the tumultuous barbarism and violence that reigned around. The past had its legend of peace: therefore men turned to memories of Roman law and of a rule supposed to be stable: thus, too, we may explain the eager study of old ecclesiastical legislation and the ready acceptance of Papal jurisdiction, even when it was in conflict with local freedom. The future, on the other hand, seemed full of dread, so men preferred precedent to revolution. In a world abounding in contrasts and fearful of surprise, strong men trained in a hard school were able to shape their own path and to lead others with them. So dynasties, like precedents, had peculiar value. And moreover from simple fear and pressing need, men were driven closer together into towns and little villages capable of some defence. In England some towns appear first, and others grow larger, under the influence of the Danes: in France it is the time of the villes neuves; Italy was thickly sown with castelli, around which houses clustered; in Germany, Nuremberg and Weissenburg, Rothenburg on the Taube with other towns are mentioned for the first time now: it was a period of civic growth in its beginnings. Socially too men were drawn into associations with common interests and fellowship of various kinds, beginning another great chapter of economic history. Thus in these centuries men were beginning to realize, first in tendency and afterwards in process, the power and attraction of the corporate life. This was to be, in later centuries, one great feature of medieval society. The old tie of kinship, with its resulting blood-feuds, was already weakening under the two solvents of Christianity and of more settled local seats. The attempt to combine in one society conflicting personal laws, Roman or barbarian at the choice of individuals (expressed, for instance, in the Constitutio Romana of Lothar in 824) was causing chaos. Hence, in our centuries, society was seeking for a more stable foundation, and out of disorder comparative order arose. Dynasties, precedents, traditions, and fellowships for protection and mutual help had already begun to shape the medieval world as we shall see it later in active work.
This general view gives significance to the constitutional and ecclesiastical side of the history, but it gives it perhaps even more to the history of education, of learning and of art. The new races brought new strength, and were to make great histories of their own. But we see in our period how nearly all that brought high interests and ideals, nearly all that made for beauty and for richness of life, came from the old, although it was grasped with new strength and slowly worked out into a many-sided life beneath the pressure of new conditions. We have moved in a time of preparation, guided by the past but nevertheless working out a great and orderly life of its own.