A social Scientific Approach to the Making of the Modern World

General Links: The Making of Eastern Europe

The Byzantines

On the Byzantine Empire see

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/byzantium/ and http://www.ou.edu/class/ahi4263/byzantine.html

On Byzantine architecture see http://www.thais.it/architettura/Bizantina/indici/INDICE1.htm and /contents.html

On Byzantine church architecture and form see http://www.zorbas.de/maniguide/churcharch.html

For Byzantine icons see

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/byzantium/images.html#ex1

http://www.rollins.edu/Foreign_Lang/Russian/byzant.html

Kievan Rus

On Kievan Rus see:

su.edu/emuseum/history/russia/kievanrus.html

Khazars

On the Khazars see:

/

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/khazars1.html

Viewings and Listenings: The Making of Eastern Europe

Byzantium

Engineering an Empire: The Byzantines

/watch?v=IVgWyrre5wo

/watch?v=P0H6AaUpgLU

/watch?v=IU1HBlMtvos

/watch?v=PSGa1CU-_fI

/watch?v=cM3rWC0tpY8

History Channel

Hagia Sophia

/watch?v=hfIrNbxl2tM

Hagia Sophia Reconstruction

/watch?v=EtGr5w4KNso

Byzantine Music

/watch?v=1P5FZkqWBuU

/watch?v=5Z8qfKoUBKY

/watch?v=VcK26_mYD4Q

/watch?v=WokZnpD3DOg

/watch?v=KR3CX5pNgzQ

Russia

Engineering an Empire: Russia

/watch?v=W76fB0V6lVk

/watch?v=gFK41lV1iEc

History Channel

The Most Evil Men in History: Ivan the Terrible

/watch?v=56f6V7L9B18

/watch?v=jO3_q_kQnCE

/watch?v=Anx4Lbdt4ic

/watch?v=djAHK_JGd_I

/watch?v=LSSG_L8ujb0

Discovery

Representations

Ivan the Terrible, excerpts

/watch?v=xnBIs5cxMG8

Yesenstein, 1944

The Mongols

Barbarians: The Mongols, History Channel

/watch?v=E9AKc4iLabg

/watch?v=olxjglNdtIo

/watch?v=RpsviH27t0E

/watch?v=PBAp3D-msJw

/watch?v=JV55U_FOjKs

Chapter Three:

The Making of the Western Europe

The Late Middle Ages: The West, Eleventh through Fifteenth Centuries

After the death of Charlemagne the emperor’s kingdom was divided between his sons. By 1000 the kingdoms of Sweden, Norway, Poland, Germany, Italy, Leon, Castille, France, Burgandy, Hungary, Scotland the Anglo-Saxons, the County of Barcelona, the Patrimony of St. Peter, the territories of the Croats, Serbs, Bulgars, and Irish, and the Muslim Caliphate of Cordoba were flourishing throughout Europe. There were some, particularly in the Catholic community, however, who still dreamed of a unified Christian Empire despite this fragmentation. This dream, by the way, never died for some and there were several attempts across Europe’s history—Napoleon’s attempt to unite Europe, Hitler’s plan for a European union, and the current European Union structure—to bring it to pass. The EU seems to be finally making the dream a reality, and largely without resorting to violence.

Despite the fragmentation of Europe there were some common traits found across many parts of the Continent. The Mediaeval Period was an age of feudalism, of monarchicalism, of independent and powerful towns, of holy crusades against Muslim and Jewish “infidels”, of agricultural change—there was an agricultural revolution which saw increases in production after 1000—and of environmental degradation—much of Europe’s forests disappeared during the era. It was an age of economic achievement and technological innovation. It was an age of population growth and population decline. It was an age in which mediaeval men and women were monks, nuns, saints, knights, dukes, marquises, monarchs, peasants, city dwellers, merchants, artists, and sometimes marginal.

Feudalism

Perhaps more than anything else it is feudalism that most people think of when they think of the Middle Ages. Feudalism appears for the first time around the year 1000 in Mediaeval Europe though Charlemagne had earlier urged his vassals to make those dependent on them into their vassals. Middle Age feudalism, however, varied by region and by intensity across the continent. It was strongest in France and Germany, never fully achieved in Italy, even further from being complete in Spain, lacking almost entirely in Scandinavia, imported into England and Norman Sicily, existent, in singular ways, in the Slav lands since it melded with local traditions in that region.

Feudalism, in its ideal type form, involved a network of personal ties which between them united members of the Mediaeval ruling classes into a hierarchy, a hierarchy full of sometimes tenuous and tense relations. These ties were supported by the benefice, a gift of land by lord to vassal for services rendered-military and otherwise—in return for an oath of fealty or loyalty. Vassals, particularly those on the lower ends of the scale, looked for their lords to feed, clothe, house, and arm them. Vassals at the upper ends of the scale looked to their lords to provide them with still more fiefs so they could further enrich themselves. Over time lords would conspicuously display their wealth in the form of the chateaux or castles to which contemporary tourists make pilgrimages these days.

These lords and large landholders dominated life throughout much of the Mediaeval period. Culturally Europe’s lord landholders shared much in common. They built chateaux or castles to display their wealth and power. They gathered large retinues of courtiers and armed men around them. They shared a love of hunting, recreation, and military like competitions. Eventually, as the epic poem Beowulf indicates, a militaristic culture became prominent among these lord landowners—the war season began in May. Over time primogeniture, the inheritance of the lands of the lord by the eldest son came to dominate European elite life. For family members who were not the eldest the roles of knight, priest, bishop, and monk were open to them and provided them with a degree of power and prestige.

Serfs—peasants who pledged loyalty to lords in return for protection and sustenance over the years—were at the very low end of the social scales. Lords saw them largely as sources of revenue. They worked the fields and had to provide their lords with substantial parts of the fruits of their labours and by the 11th century were living in serf villages on the fiefs of their lords. Over time serfs became seen as hereditary rights of the lords whose lands they ploughed, planted, and harvested. By the way, it is worth remembering again that not all of Europe saw the rise of a serf class and status group. In Italy, for instance, independent landowning peasants never died out. By the 12th century thanks to rising aristocratic debt, the increasing number of autonomous towns, and the expansion of farmland serfs actually gained greater control over their plots of land—they could now sell them or band together to buy their liberty.

In the strict sense feudalism meant homage and fief. Lord and vassal were tied to each other by a contract: The vassal gave homage to the lord and owed his lord consilium or counsel. He was obligated to take part in gatherings summoned by the lord and to render justice in the lord’s name. He was obligated to give auxilium or aid—this was defined in military terms early on and in financial terms later on—to the lord. And he was obligated to contribute to seigniorial (seigneurs possessed a fief) justice and warfare. The lord, in turn granted his vassal protection. The fief or rural land was the key to the feudal system. Lords granted fiefs to vassals usually after an oath of fealty to him. Feudal land, by the way, did not carry a notion of property with it. There was no capitalist conception of private property in the Mediaeval era.

The fact that a vassal could and usually did have many different and often overlapping loyalties complicated European feudalism. Vassals could give fealty to the highest bidder and in this way could manipulate the system to his own advantage (at least in theory). More powerful lords, in an attempt to counteract this situation of overlapping loyalties, attempted, often unsuccessfully, to force a vassal to give pre-eminent homage to them. Kings would, in their struggles for dominance, come to claim this right from all of their vassals.

The European feudal monarchical system was one of these complicating overlapping loyalties. By and large Europe’s monarchies were weak during the Middle Ages. England was the first country with at least the image of being a centralized monarchy beginning in the 12th century. The English monarch was, however, forced to recognize limitations on his power in the Magna Carta of 1215. The French monarchs extended their power and control during the 12th and 13th centuries generally and in particular through the Parlement, a court of justice founded by Philip the Fair in 1303 which allowed appeals to the king and which allowed the king to issue legal judgements. The Swedish and Danish monarchies ebbed and flowed in power and authority throughout the Middle Ages. Italy and Germany failed to achieve centralized monarchies at all in this period. In places where the monarchy did take hold monarchical institutions began to arise. England saw the rise of royal financial institutions—the Court of Exchequer—royal administrators of justice—justiciars and sheriffs, and other functionaries, all of whom were subordinated to the throne.

Another of the complicating overlapping loyalties involved the papacy. Over the years a complicated relationship between monarch and pope evolved and on occasion the result was tension between the two. The pope played a role in the affairs of a kingdom through his appointment of bishops, his control of church funds, and his role in codifying church canon law. In many ways the pope was a kind of supranational monarch. In a period where land was the ultimate source of wealth and power the church became one of the largest landowners throughout Europe.

The Culture of Feudalism

Feudalism was not only a structure of relationships it was also a culture or perhaps better several sometimes overlapping cultures. Two of these overlapping cultures were courtly love or romance and chilvary.

Courtly love or romance and chivalry were founded on the love songs sung by troubadours which became prominent in the era at court. These songs appear to have originated in France and spread later to the Italian lands, England, and the German lands. There were several types of songs. There were songs of heroic deeds, songs of war, songs of aristocratic codes of behaviour, songs recalling the heroic era of Charlemagne, and romances, which became prominent in the 12th and 13th centuries. These songs explored such themes as the relationships between men and women, sexual conquest, the equality between lovers, love as a virtue, the power of women, triumphs in battle, and aristocratic behaviour.

Courtly love, as the name suggests, developed among those who resided at court. Courtiers were supposed to embody beauty, virtue, and wit. Chivalry—from the French term for horse—developed among the knights at court and reached its zenith in the 15th century. Knights were, according to the code, supposed to be courteous, brave, fair, and pious. Chivalric orders like the Order of the Golden Fleece and the Order of the Golden Buckle sponsored knightly tournaments and feasts.

One of the central themes of courtly love culture was that expressed in the Arthurian romances of Chrétien de Troyes (1150-1190), the theme that beautiful married woman—in the Arthurian epics Genviere/Guinevere—are unobtainable by the more lowly knight, Lancelot in the Arthurian romances. Others explore tragic love (Gottfried von Strassburg’s Tristan and Isolt, Shakespeare’s variant on this, Romeo and Juliet; Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde) and the search of the pious for the Holy Grail, the cup from which Jesus supposedly drank during the “Last Supper” (Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, le Conte du Graal; Wagner’s Parsifal all give the cup a prominent place in their tales). Needless to say, these ideals were more imaginery than real at the time. Mediaeval’s, of course, rarely lived up the courtly and chivalric ideal save in fictional song and romance.

For the code of chivalry see http://www.astro.umd.edu/~marshall/chivalry.html.

Despite the fact that they were more imaginary than real Mediaeval romances have had an immense influence on Western life, ideology, and culture ever since. I have already mentioned their influence on Shakespeare and Wagner. Their influence did not die with the nineteenth or even twentieth centuries as recent successful film versions of Tristan and Isolde and Romeo and Juliet and almost every other Hollywood film and rock and roll song show, not to mention recent film versions of Lancelot and Perceval by French auteur film makers Robert Bresson and Eric Rohmer and the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Most of us today still live our lives in mental worlds inscribed with variants of the ideologies of romance that became prominent in the Mediaeval period.

For the influence of hero romances on one contemporary American TV programme see David Fritts; “Warrior Heroes: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Beowulf” at /essays/slayage17/Fritts.htm

Monarchs and Developing Nationalisms

One thing the late Middle Ages saw was the growth and emergence of the states we recognize today as making up Europe. Monarchical consolidation and extension of power occurred in various places at various times. Before the 11th century monarchs, as I mentioned, jockeyed for power with powerful lords. In what is today Italy large landowners dominated the rural areas around Italian speaking cities. In the German speaking lands the decline of Carolingian power resulted in the rise of several kingdoms and principalities each dominated by a military leader. One of them, Henry I of Saxony, would be named king in 919 (r. 919-936) after he brought the Magyar threat to the German speaking lands under control by paying tribute to them. The kings of Germany would appoint supporters to rule the German speaking duchies and appointed bishops to bishoprics in the German speaking lands. In France the power of the kings waned leaving them eventually in control only of an area around Paris, Ile de France. The rest of France was controlled by counts and dukes. England, as it was so often, was the anomaly. In ninth century England the Anglo-Saxon Alfred (“the Great”) created an administrative apparatus which used the vernacular instead of Latin and issued an English law code. He divided England into shires in each of which he appointed a sheriff to oversee in his name. He also made appointments to the Roman Church in England.

In the 11th century, however, the power of the monarch was on the rise in some parts of Europe. 1066 saw the Duke of Normandy, Guillaume, William (“the Conqueror”), conquer England. Almost immediately he ordered an inventory to be taken of his newly conquered territory. The famous, say many scholars, “Doomesday Book” of 1086

(http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/domesday.asp) was the result. This document contains an inventory of land and landowners in England and includes a census of people and livestock in William’s new kingdom along with the amount of taxes they paid. William kept 20% of the land for himself and divided the the rest among family members, barons, and ecclesiastical elite. In return he expected loyalty, dues, and service from them. In what is today Spain the Muslim al-Andalus Empire began to disintegrate. Christian elites like Alfonso took advantage of this. In 1085 when he took Toledo from the Muslims with papal backing—a European holy crusade—he claimed that he was king of what is today Spain. In France the king, Louis the Fat (r. 1108-1137), consolidated his power in the Ile de France near Paris. There he collected taxes, collected revenue, made vassals, and raised a military.

Expansion of monarchical power did not end conflicts between monarchs, lords, and ecclesiastical figures in the 12th century, however. In England a civil war erupted between 1135-1154 between the lords and the monarchs. It ended with Henry II (r.154-1189) destroying or confiscating the castles of many of England’s lords. After his victory Henry extended royal power via the extension of royal justice, the expansion, systematization, and regularization of royal law courts, and by the extension of common law to the knight class and those above this rank. The fines collected from the breaking of royal law enriched the monarchy.

While Henry stifled aristocratic resistance he was unable to break ecclesiastical resistance. Church officials opposed to submitting church courts to monarchical power resulted in conflict between Rome and the English Court. The Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas a Becket (1118-1170) refused to submit church court to crown law and was ordered murdered by Henry in 1170.

In France Philip II (r. 1180-1223) ascended to the throne and managed to increase his power and authority by playing France’s regions off against each other. He inherited most of northeastern France but managed to expand his rule when he conquered Normandie, Grijou, Maine, Touraine, and Poitou from the English crown. As his kingdom grew Philip integrated it by getting Norman aristocrats to pledge fealty to him rather than the Norman king of England. Additionally Philip, like Henry in England, integrated his kingdom by instituting royal administration—loyal knights administered the kingdom for Philip—and royal decree throughout the kingdom. As Philip’s kingdom expanded so did his treasury. Tax collectors and fines for the violation of royal decrees filled Philip’s coffers. As Philip’s coffers increased so did the king’s ability to raise an army.

In the German speaking lands Frederick of Barbarossa (r. 1152-1190) ascended to the throne after a civil war. Among Frederick’s first acts was his recognition of the right of the princes. In return he got promises from them that they would attend him at court and provide him with military men. Like his fellow monarchs in England and France Frederick regularized and professionalized his administration, required litigation to be heard largely by royal courts, regularized commercial privileges, set up a system of royal taxation, and began minting gold coins.

Frederick had not managed to stifle all conflict in his kingdom, however. Frederick’s rule would be characterized by tensions between him and the pope in Rome. This conflict would, in turn, lead to further conflict between the lords and Frederick in the German speaking lands. Eventually Frederick would be forced to allow the lords to turn their territories into independent states. The German speaking lands, of course, would remain in such a state until 1871 when modern Germany came into existence.

As for the Italian speaking lands, France, Germany, and the various powers in the Italian lands competed for control of the region. In 1167 Frederick used his newfound wealth and the threat of this army to demand royal prerogatives from a number of communes in what is today Northern Italy. In response the Italian speakers in the north allied with the pope to form the Lombard League—more about the outcome shortly. What these conflicts did was to gave the region space to develop into one dominated by a number of city-states. Genoa, Venice, and Florence were among the most prominent of these powerful city-states.

These city-states were often Republican in that a significant portion of the male population of them played important roles in city-state governance. Venice, for instance, was governed by an elected Great Council. The number of members of this Council would vary over the years and in its late years was limited to scions of Venice’s prominent families. They were oligarchic in that most of them were dominated by prominent families who ruled in almost autocratic fashion. The doge of Venice, for instance, held his office for life. They were economic giants in that commerce, state controlled commerce, particularly sea commerce—the state set the prices of goods—was the life blood of these city-states. Commerce brought the Italian city-states wealth and, since the wealth was not equally distributed it also brought unequal conspicuous consumption, unequal luxury, and unequal patronage of “high art” to these city-states. Genoa and Venice, of course, became major world powers in the late Mediaeval period thanks to their navies.

The rise of autonomous towns would, it turns out, be one of the most important developments in Mediaeval Europe. Towns, recall, had declined after the fall of the urbanized Roman Empire. They managed to grow again, however, as a result of trade and the expansion of agricultural production after the 10th century. Many Mediaeval towns turned themselves into their own lordships during this period by forming themselves into communes. While communes differed across Mediaeval Europe at the heart of each was a network of allegiances for mutual defense.

Autonomous towns had existed in Mediaeval prior to the 12th century. One of the earliest of these self-governing towns or communes was Forlì in present day Italy—it probably was independent as early 889. Communes don’t become widespread until the 10th century, however. Increasing numbers had come into existence in 11th century particularly in northern Italy which also happened to have the most urbanized population in Western Europe at the time. They spread to France, Germany, Spain, and elsewhere in the early 12th century. They were never particularly strong in England although there were several rural communes in that “green isle”. Mediaeval towns were populated by noblemen and women, the clergy, both of whom were active in the public life of the town, and common folk, and became important market centres and religious centres in Mediaeval Europe. Christian merchants began to appear as the strictures against usury began to fall away in these new towns.

Europe’s Mediaeval towns were incubators of new ideas, for some they were the incubators of modern capitalism. They engaged in extensive local, regional, and international trade. Trade with Africa and China, for instance, was common in the era. Jews and Italians played particularly prominent roles in this trade. Many who lived within the walls of the city-states lived in their own privately owned homes. These cities were, in general, characterized by a specialised division of labour. There were craftsmen, merchants, traders, financiers, artisans, innkeepers, guildmen, cartwrights, and blacksmiths in the new commercial cities and towns. It was in these towns that guilds were formed in the early 13th century. Guilds drew up codes which determined dues, working hours, wages, and standards for materials and products. There were guilds for, among others, bakers, cobblers, stone masons, carpenters, even judges and notaries. Guilds were also hierarchical—at the top were the masters, in the middle were the journeymen and journeywoman, at the bottom were the apprentices who worked for room and board in order to learn a trade.

A number of towns in Italy in particularly would become particularly politically, economically, and culturally prominent, Venice, Genoa, Pisa, Milano/Milan, Siena, and Florence, to name a few. Orson Welles’s, to some extent, sums up the achievements of these authoritarian Italian cities in the film The Third Man. “In Italy”, he says in the film, “for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love. They had five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock”.

Speaking of Switzerland, Switzerland is perhaps the most noted of these communes. Switzerland was the creation of a group linguistically and economically diverse rural and urban communes who banded together to mutually aid one another if attacked by the Holy Roman Empire. Swizerland had been carved out of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1500 these Alpine communes created loose state where power lay in the hands of urban and rural commune male members. It also created a military to protect itself from aggression. While nobles played an important role in the Swiss state in the early years of its existence over time the nobles as a class disappeared from Switzerland.

A number of changes made the local, regional, and international trade possible and profitable. Among them were new organizational forms like the commenda in Italy, partnerships. Additionally the compagna, again in Italy, allowed families to pool resources. It is hence no accident that wealthy families became prominent power players in so many of Italy’s cities. This pooling of resources, of course, made large scale productive enterprises, be these shipping companies, cloth industries, or mining companies. Profit potential and industrial growth, by the way, as is usually the case, stimulated technological innovations in industry, particularly the iron industry. Another innovation that helped the cities grow and prosper was the coinage of money by the city-states themselves and the development of prominent banking enterprises in these cities.

The thirteenth and fourteenth centuries saw Mongol “invasions” from the East. Under the leadership of Chingiz or Genghis Khan (1167-1227) the Mongols established an empire that stretched some 4000 miles from Europe to China and included much of Russia, Mesopotamia, Persia, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Mongolia, Sibera, some of China, and Korea. The Mongol impact on Russia was particularly important. It would not be until the 15th century that Russia would finally “free” itself from the “Mongol Horde”.

Though many in Europe would see the Mongols as the latest in a long line of “barbarians” to “invade” the region, the Mongols, through a kind of pax monglia, fostered trade between Europe and Asia keeping the trade of the famous Silk Road. The Silk Road carried trade in silk as well as spices, ceramics, and copper along it. Mongol dominance made it safe to travel. The ethnic and cultural diversity it brought promoted religious tolerance at a time when inquisition and pogroms against the Jews were common in some parts of Christian Europe.

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