Week 9 lecture notes


I have left questions (in Italics) for YOU to answer as you listen to lecture--you need to develop a meth0d of taking notes for yourself, since not all professors will give you notes!


Last points from wk 8:

Break up of Carolingian Empire


What weakened Charlemagne’s empire?


By rule of Louis the Pious (r. 814-848) sprawling empire, too few counts to govern whole territory= problem of under-government. 


Little new expansion meant little “loot” to distribute to vassals as gifts. Louis found it difficult to disciple the aristocracy.  Growing infighting among counts.


Also, resurgence of Islamic Spain, threat of Normans (Vikings) in North. 


Why did the empire break up?


At Louis’ death, the empire was in disarray.  His 3 sons divided up the empire (843 Treaty of Verdun):  Lothair ruled northern Italy (the Middle Kingdom); Charles the Bald ruled France; Louis the German ruled Germany.  When Lothair died (856), the other 2 went to war against one another.


Collapse of trade routes through Abbasid Caliphate cut off supply of silver for coins; at same time, Viking raids intensified.


917 CE, the last Carolingian descendant died and the empire disintegrated.



The Early Medieval Social Order and Economy


Were cities as important in the early medieval period as they had been in the Roman period?


Cities were the center of economic and cultural life and state administration in the Caliphate and Byzantium, but less so in the Merovingian and Carolingian Empires.  The main importance of towns in the west in the 700s-800s in the west was as the site of cathedrals.


How was rural society organized?


Most of the population in all of Europe was rural, but the West was especially rural. 


Aristocrats, called Lords, controlled large landed areas (often gifts to them as vassals) that were called manors.  Some of the land on the manor was the farm of the Lord (worked by peasants)—that land was called the demesne.  Some of the land was apportioned to the peasants, who as tenants paid rent in kind, in labor, or in money.


What was vassalage?


Rulers of territories gave gifts of land and power over the population to the aristocrats in return for service as soldiers (and as administrators).  This was a central aspect of the system of mutual obligations among elites called vassalage, which existed in various forms in all the former roman territories.


All three of the societies that we are discussion were very hierarchical, and the vassalage  system was hierarchical.  The vassals of the king were superior to the vassals of a count, who were superior to the vassals of the counts’ vassals (etc).


What else about society was hierarchical?


The clergy in all three societies had evolved strict hierarchies as well.


And the societies as a whole were hierarchical.  Aristocrats and clergy had higher status and more privilege than commoners.  Among commoners, townspeople had higher status and more privilege than free peasants.  Free peasants had higher status than dependant peasants (serfs).  And women were subordinate to men within their own caste/status group. 







Life in the High Middle Ages


Population growth in 1000-1200, from 30 to 55/60 million in Western and Central Europe.  Why did that happen?


Introduction of new technologies for sailing and farming.  What was new and why was that important?


Agriculture:  Improvement in yields, increased surplus, and more income generated from agriculture.  Why?  What changed?


Trade:  Transport of goods became quicker and cheaper and regional/international trade networks expanded.  Why?  What made that possible?


Urban life:  cities reemerged as centers of government, trade, and culture.  Why?  And what was the purpose of guilds?


Changing attitudes:  A growing concern about poverty and economic inequality, which became defined as moral problems.  Why, and what were some of the consequences?


The Weak State of the German Monarchy


What about the German part of the Frankish empire prevented the last Carolingian rulers hold on to a strong monarchy in Germany?


From the early 900s to the late 1200s, the ruling dukes of the five major German regions (duchies) elected dynastic kings/emperors for Germany.  (Saxon kings in 900s, Salian kings in 1000s, Swabian kings in 1100s.)  But there was periodic fighting between the duchies, and the dukes actually were more powerful than the kings.  Why?


Even “strong” kings like Fredrick Barbarossa, who ruled in the 1100s (and was the first German king to call himself the “Holy Roman Emperor), in reality had little power to control “their” dukes and were also frustrated in their attempts to control the Papacy.


The Investiture Controversy


In the years 1076-1122, the German Emperor and the Papacy clashed over the issue of investiture.  What was “investiture” and why did it matter?


Why did the investiture controversy spin off into a rebellion of dukes against the emperor?


What was agreed to on in the Concordat of Worms, which ended the investiture conflict, and why was that important?



 Government in Italy:  Communes, Papal rule, and Chaos


In northern Italy, elites in Florence, Venice, Genoa and several other cities formed self-governing assemblies and declared their cities to be communes independent of the rule of the Pope and the Emperor.  Who ran these communes and what made these cities powerful?


The guilds were strong in the Italian communes.  What were guilds and why would someone want to join a guild?


The Pope ruled much of central Italy.  How was papal government organized?


In this whole period, conditions in southern Italy were chaotic.  Why?


The Creation of a unified monarchy in France under the Capatians (987-1314)


After the death of the last Carolingian king in the western Frankish kingdom in the early 900s, France turned into a patchwork of warring feudal duchies.  How did Hugh Capet (r. 987-996) and his dynasty turn this into a unified kingdom?


What role did warfare play in the expansion of the French kingdom?


How did the Capatians weaken the dukes and centralize rule around the king?




England and its distinctive path in the middle ages


In the late 800s, Alfred the Great drove the Vikings out of England and established a new dynastic monarchy.  How did his dynasty manage to hold power in a country that had been long divided into warring regions?


One of the most famous battles in History, the 1066 Battle of Hastings, resulted in the Norman conquest of Britain.  What events led to the Norman conquest, and did Norman rule mean that England was governed the same way that France was governed?


The history of liberty in the United States is tied to the history of law and legal institutions in England.  What developments in the Norman period were important to the emerging system of common law ?


Legal disputes brought the English monarchy into conflict with the Catholic Church in the late 1100s and again in the early 1200s.  How was a dispute with the Pope linked to the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, and what made that document important?


So, what was most distinctive development in English history in this period and why?