Part 9 out of 15

other cities of western Asia, North Africa, and Spain shared in its
advantages. The bazaar, or merchants' quarter, was found in every Moslem


The trade of the Arabs, their wide conquests, and their religious
pilgrimages to Mecca vastly increased their knowledge of the world. They
were the best geographers of the Middle Ages. An Abbasid caliph, the son
of Harun-al-Rashid, had the Greek _Geography_ of Ptolemy [25] translated
into Arabic and enriched the work with illuminated maps. Arab scholars
compiled encyclopedias describing foreign countries and peoples,
constructed celestial spheres, and measured closely the arc of the
meridian in order to calculate the size of the earth. There is some reason
to believe that the mariner's compass was first introduced into Europe by
the Arabs. The geographical knowledge of Christian peoples during the
Middle Ages owed much, indeed, to their Moslem forerunners.


Schools and universities flourished in Moslem lands when Christian Europe
was still in the "Dark Ages." The largest institution of learning was at
Cairo, where the lectures of the professors were attended by thousands of
students. Famous universities also existed in Bagdad and Cordova. Moslem
scholars especially delighted in the study of philosophy. Arabic
translations of Aristotle's [26] writings made the ideas of that great
thinker familiar to the students of western Europe, where the knowledge of
Greek had all but died out. The Arabs also formed extensive libraries of
many thousands of manuscripts, all carefully arranged and catalogued.
Their libraries and universities, especially in Spain, were visited by
many Christians, who thus became acquainted with Moslem learning and
helped to introduce it into Europe.


The Arabs have been considered to be the founders of modern experimental
science. They were relatively skillful chemists, for they discovered a
number of new compounds (such as alcohol, aqua regia, nitric acid, and
corrosive sublimate) and understood the preparation of mercury and of
various oxides of metals. In medicine the Arabs based their investigations
on those of the Greeks, [27] but made many additional contributions to the
art of healing. They studied physiology and hygiene, dissected the human
body, performed difficult surgical operations, used anaesthetics, and
wrote treatises on such diseases as measles and smallpox. Arab medicine
and surgery were studied by the Christian peoples of Europe throughout the
later period of the Middle Ages.

The great mosque of Cordova, begun in the eighth century, was gradually
enlarged during the following centuries to its present dimensions, 570 by
425 feet. The building, one of the largest in the world, has now been
turned into a cathedral. The most striking feature of the interior is the
forest of porphyry, jasper, and marble pillars supporting open Moorish
arches. Originally there were 1200 of these pillars, but many have been


The Arabs had a strong taste for mathematics. Here again they carried
further the old Greek investigations. In arithmetic they used the so-
called "Arabic" figures, which were probably borrowed from India. The
Arabic numerals gradually supplanted in western Europe the awkward Roman
numerals. In geometry the Arabs added little to Euclid, but algebra is
practically their creation. An Arabic treatise on algebra long formed the
textbook of the subject in the universities of Christian Europe. Spherical
trigonometry and conic sections are Arabic inventions. This mathematical
knowledge enabled the Arabs to make considerable progress in astronomy.
Observatories at Bagdad and Damascus were erected as early as the ninth
century. Some of the astronomical instruments which they constructed,
including the sextant and the gnomon, are still in use. [28]


In prose and verse there are two Moslem productions which have attained
wide popularity in European lands. The first work is the _Thousand and One
Nights_, a collection of tales written in Arabic and describing life and
manners at the court of the Abbasids. The book, as we now have it, seems
to have been composed as late as the fifteenth century, but it borrows
much from earlier Arabic sources. Many of the tales are of Indian or
Persian origin, but all have a thoroughly Moslem coloring. The second work
is the _Rubaiyat_ of the astronomer-poet of Persia, Omar Khayyam, who
wrote about the beginning of the twelfth century. His _Rubaiyat_ is a
little volume of quatrains, about five hundred in all, distinguished for
wit, satirical power, and a vein of melancholy, sometimes pensive,
sometimes passionate. These characteristics of Omar's poetry have made it
widely known in the western world. [29]


Painting and sculpture owe little to the Arabs, but their architecture,
based in part on Byzantine and Persian models, reached a high level of
excellence. Swelling domes, vaulted roofs, arched porches, tall and
graceful minarets, and the exquisite decorative patterns known as
"arabesques" make many Arab buildings miracles of beauty. Glazed tiles,
mosaics, and jeweled glass were extensively used for ornamentation. From
the first the Arab builders adopted the pointed arch; they introduced it
into western Europe; and it became a characteristic feature of Gothic
cathedrals. [30] Among the best-known of Arab buildings are the so-called
"Mosque of Omar" at Jerusalem, [31] the Great Mosque of Cordova, and that
architectural gem, the Alhambra at Granada. Many features of Moorish art
were taken over by the Spaniards, who reproduced them in the cathedrals
and missions of Mexico and California.

One of Mohammed's laws forbidding the use of idols was subsequently
expanded by religious teachers into a prohibition of all imitations of
human or animal forms in art. Sculptors who observed this prohibition
relied for ornamentation on intricate geometrical designs known as
arabesques. These were carved in stone or molded in plaster.]



The division of the Arabian Empire into rival caliphates did not check the
spread of Islam. The Turks and Mongols during the Middle Ages carried it
to the uttermost regions of Asia and throughout southeastern Europe. Some
parts of the territory thus gained by it have since been lost. Spain and
the Balkan peninsula are once more Christian lands. In other parts of the
world, and notably in Africa and India, the religion of Mohammed is
spreading faster than any other creed. Islam to-day claims about two
hundred million adherents.

The most remarkable feature of the Alhambra is the Court of the Lions. It
measures 116 feet in length by 66 feet in breadth. A gallery supported on
marble columns surrounds the court. In the center is the Fountain of
Lions, an alabaster basin resting on the backs of 12 marble lions.]


The growth of Islam is evidence that it meets the needs of Asiatic and
African peoples. Its simple creed--the unity of God, man's immortal soul,
and material rewards and penalties in a future life--adapt it to the
understanding of half-civilized peoples. As a religion it is immeasurably
superior to the rude nature worship and idolatry which it has supplanted.
The same is true of Islam as a system of morality. The practice of the
virtues recommended by the Koran and the avoidance of the vices which that
book condemns tend to raise its adherents in the moral scale.


From the moral standpoint one of the least satisfactory features of Islam
is its attitude toward women. The ancient Arabs, like many other peoples,
seem to have set no limit to the number of wives a man might possess.
Women were regarded by them as mere chattels, and female infants were
frequently put to death. Mohammed recognized polygamy, but limited the
number of legitimate wives to four. At the same time Mohammed sought to
improve the condition of women by forbidding female infanticide, by
restricting the facilities for divorce, and by insisting on kind treatment
of wives by their husbands. "The best of you," he said, "is he who behaves
best to his wives." According to eastern custom Moslem women are secluded
in a separate part of the house, called the _harem_. [32] They never
appear in public, except when closely veiled from the eyes of strangers.
Their education is also much neglected.


Slavery, like polygamy, was a custom which Mohammed found fully
established among the Arabs. He disliked slavery and tried in several ways
to lessen its evils. He declared that the emancipation of Moslem slaves
was an act of special merit, and ordered that in a war between Moslems the
prisoners were not to be enslaved. Mohammed also insisted on kind
treatment of slaves by their masters. "Feed your slaves," he directed,
"with food of that which you eat and clothe them with such clothing as you
wear, and command them not to do that which they are unable to do." The
condition of Moslem slaves does not appear to be intolerable, though the
slave traffic which still exists in some parts of Africa is a disgrace to


1. On an outline map indicate the Arabian Empire at its widest extent.
Locate the more important cities, including Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem,
Damascus, Bagdad, Cairo, Alexandria, Granada, Cordova, and Seville.

2. Define the following: Kaaba; Islam; Koran; and caliph.

3. How did the geographical situation of Arabia preserve it from being
conquered by Persians, Macedonians, or Romans?

4. Why had the Arabs, until the time of Mohammed, played so inconspicuous
a part in the history of the world?

5. Mohammed "began as a mule driver and ended as both a pope and a king."
Explain this statement.

6. How does Mohammed's career in Mecca illustrate the saying that "a
prophet is not without honor save in his own country"?

7. What resemblances may be traced between Islam on the one side and
Judaism and Christianity on the other side?

8. Did religion have anything to do with the migrations of the Germans?
How was it with the Arabs?

9. Contrast the methods of propagating Christianity in Europe with those
of spreading Islam in Asia.

10. Why is the defeat of the Moslems before Constantinople regarded as
more significant than their defeat at the battle of Tours?

11. Compare the eastern limits of the Arabian Empire with those of
Alexander's empire (maps facing pages 124, 376).

12. Show that the Arabian Empire, because of its geographical position,
was less easily defended than the Roman Empire.

13. Locate on the map facing page 376 the following commercial cities in
the Arabian Empire: Samarkand; Cabul; Bokhara; Mosul; Kairwan; Fez;
Seville; and Toledo.

14. Can you suggest any reason why the Arabs did little in painting and

15. What are some of the best-known stories in the _Thousand and One

16. Discuss the justice of this statement: "If our ideas and our arts go
back to antiquity, all the inventions which make life easy and agreeable
come to us from the Arabs."

17. "From the eighth to the twelfth century the world knew but two
civilizations, that of Byzantium and that of the Arabs." Comment on this

18. Show that Islam was an heir to the Graeco-Oriental civilization.

19. Can you suggest any reasons why Islam to-day spreads among the African
negroes more rapidly than Christianity?

20. How does Islam, by sanctioning polygamy and slavery, hinder the rise
of women and of the working classes?


[1] Webster, _Readings in Medieval and Modern History_, chapter vi, "The
Teachings of Mohammed."

[2] The earlier spelling was Mahomet.

[3] See page 352.
[4] From the Arabic _muslim_, "one who surrenders himself" (to God's
will). During the Middle Ages the Moslems to their Christian enemies were
commonly known as Saracens, a term which is still in use.

[5] The year 622 A.D., in which the Hegira occurred, marks the beginning
of the Mohammedan era. The Christian year 1917 A.D. nearly corresponds to
the Mohammedan year 1336 A.H. (_Anno Hegirae_).

[6] Feasting during the nights of this month is allowable.

[7] See page 333.

[8] See page 219, 332.

[9] See page 54, note 1.

[10] See page 330.

[11] See page 245.

[12] Morocco, Algeria, and Tunis belong to France; Tripoli, to Italy.

[13] Gibraltar = _Gibal al Tarik_, "the mountain of Tarik."

[14] See pages 244-245.

[15] See page 306.

[16] For Charlemagne's Spanish conquests, see page 309.

[17] So called from a leading family of Mecca, to which Moawiya belonged.

[18] So called from Abbas, an uncle of Mohammed.

[19] This was at first known as the emirate of Cordova, but in 929 A.D. it
became the caliphate of Cordova. See the map facing page 308.

[20] See page 333.

[21] See page 485. Descendants of the Abbasids subsequently took up their
abode in Egypt. Through them the claim to the caliphate passed in 1538
A.D. to the Ottoman Turks. The Sultan at Constantinople still calls
himself caliph of the Moslem world. However, in 1916 A.D. the Grand Sherif
of Mecca, a descendant of Mohammed, led a revolt against the Turks,
captured Mecca and Medina, and proclaimed Arab independence. Should the
European war end in favor of the Allies, the caliphate will undoubtedly go
back to the Arabs.

[22] Popularly called the _Arabian Nights_.

[23] See page 126.

[24] The European names of some common articles reveal the Arabic sources
from which they were first derived. Thus, _damask_ comes from Damascus,
_muslin_ from Mosul, _gauze_ from Gaza, _cordovan_ (a kind of leather)
from Cordova, and _morocco_ leather from North Africa.

[25] See page 133.

[26] See page 275.

[27] See page 131.

[28] Many words in European languages beginning with the prefix _al_ (the
definite article in Arabic) show how indebted was Europe to the Arabs for
scientific knowledge. In English these words include _alchemy_ (whence
_chemistry_), _alcohol_, _alembic_, _algebra_, _alkali_, _almanac_,
_Aldebaran_ (the star), etc.

[29] The translation of the _Rubaiyat_ by Edward Fitzgerald is almost an
English classic.

[30] See page 564.

[31] See the illustration, page 471.

[32] The Athenians had a similar practice. See page 257.





From the East we return once more to the West, from Asia to Europe, from
Arabia to Scandinavia. We have now to deal with the raids and settlements
of the Norsemen or Northmen. Like the Arabs the Northmen quitted a sterile
peninsula and went forth to find better homes in distant lands. Their
invasions, beginning toward the close of the eighth century, lasted about
three hundred years.


The Northmen belonged to the Teutonic family of peoples. They were kinsmen
of the Germans, the Anglo-Saxons, and the Dutch. Their migrations may be
regarded, therefore, as the last wave of that great Teutonic movement
which in earlier times had inundated western Europe and overwhelmed the
Roman Empire.


The Northmen lived, as their descendants still live, in Denmark, Sweden,
and Norway. The name Scandinavia is sometimes applied to all three
countries, but more commonly it is restricted to the peninsula comprising
Sweden and Norway.

Shows a man plowing.]


Sweden, with the exception of the northern highlands, is mostly a level
region, watered by copious streams, dotted with many lakes, and sinking
down gradually to the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia. The fact that
Sweden faces these inland waters determined the course of her development
as a nation. She never has had any aspirations to become a great oceanic
power. Her whole historic life has centered about the Baltic.

[Illustration: A RUNIC STONE
A stone, twelve feet high and six feet wide, in the churchyard of Rok,
Ostergotland, Sweden. The runic inscription, which contains more than 760
letters, is the longest known.]


Norway, in contrast to Sweden, faces the Atlantic. The country is little
more than a strip of rugged seacoast reaching northward to well within the
Arctic Circle. Were it not for the influence of the "Gulf Stream drift,"
much of Norway would be a frozen waste for the greater part of the year.
Vast forests of fir, pine, and birch still cover the greater part of the
country, and the land which can be used for farming and grazing does not
exceed eleven per cent of the entire area. But Norway, like Greece, [2]
has an extent of shore-line out of all proportion to its superficial area.
So numerous are the fiords, or inlets of the sea, that the total length of
the coast approximates twelve thousand miles. Slight wonder that the
Vikings, [3] as they called themselves, should feel the lure of the ocean
and should put forth their frail barks upon the "pathway of the swans" in
search of booty and adventure.


The Swedes and Norwegians, together with their kinsmen, the Danes,
probably settled in Scandinavia long before the beginning of the Christian
era. During the earlier part of the prehistoric period the inhabitants
were still in the Stone Age, but the use of bronze, and then of iron, was
gradually introduced. Excavations in ancient grave mounds have revealed
implements of the finest polished stone, beautiful bronze swords, and
coats of iron ring mail, besides gold and silver ornaments which may have
been imported from southern Europe. The ancient Scandinavians have left to
us curious records of the past in their picture writing chiseled on the
flat surface of rocks. The objects represented include boats with as many
as thirty men in them, horses drawing two-wheeled carts, spans of oxen,
farmers engaged in ploughing, and warriors on horseback. By the close of
the prehistoric period the northern peoples were also familiar with a form
of the Greek alphabet (the "runes" [4]) and with the art of writing.



The Viking Age, with which historic times begin in northern Europe,
extends from about 800 A.D. to the introduction of Christianity in the
tenth and eleventh centuries. This was the period when the Northmen, or
Vikings, realizing that the sea offered the quickest road to wealth and
conquest, began to make long voyages to foreign lands. In part they went
as traders and exchanged the furs, wool, and fish of Scandinavia for the
clothing, ornaments, and other articles of luxury found in neighboring
countries. But it was no far cry from merchant to freebooter, and, in
fact, expeditions for the sake of plunder seem to have been even more
popular with the Northmen than peaceful commerce.


Whether the Northmen engaged in trade or in warfare, good ships and good
seamanship were indispensable to them. They became the boldest sailors of
the early Middle Ages. No longer hugging the coast, as timid mariners had
always done before them, the Northmen pushed out into the uncharted main
and steered their course only by observation of the sun and stars. In this
way the Northmen were led to make those remarkable explorations in the
Atlantic Ocean and the polar seas which added so greatly to geographical


It was not uncommon for a Viking chieftain, after his days of sea-roving
had ended, to be buried in his ship, over which a grave chamber, covered
with earth, would be erected. The discovery of several of these burial
ships enables us to form a good idea of Viking vessels. The largest of
them might reach a length of seventy feet and hold as many as one hundred
and twenty men. A fleet of the Northmen, carrying several thousand
warriors, mail-clad and armed with spears, swords, and battle-axes, was
indeed formidable. During this period the Northmen were the masters of the
sea, as far as western Europe was concerned. This fact largely explains
their successful campaigns.

[Illustration: A VIKING SHIP
The Gokstad vessel is of oak, twenty-eight feet long and sixteen feet
broad in the center. It has seats for sixteen pairs of rowers, a mast for
a single sail, and a rudder on the right or starboard side. The gunwale
was decorated with a series of shields, painted alternately black and
gold. This ship, which probably dates from about 900 A.D., was found on
the shore of Christiania Fiord. A still larger ship, of about the same
date, was taken in 1904 A.D. from the grave of a Norwegian queen at
Oseberg. With the queen had been buried a four-wheeled wagon, three
sleighs, three beds, two chests, a chair, a large loom, and various
kitchen utensils, in fact everything needed for her comfort in the other


A very important source of information for the Viking Age consists of the
writings called sagas. [5] These narratives are in prose, but they were
based, in many instances, on the songs which the minstrels (_skalds_) sang
to appreciative audiences assembled at the banqueting board of a Viking
chieftain. It was not until the twelfth and thirteenth centuries that the
sagas were committed to writing. This was done chiefly in Iceland, and so
it happens that we must look to that distant island for the beginnings of
Scandinavian literature.


The sagas belong to different classes. The oldest of them relate the deeds
of Viking heroes and their families. Others deal with the lives of
Norwegian kings. Some of the most important sagas describe the
explorations and settlements of the Northmen and hence possess
considerable value as historical records.


The sagas throw much light on the character of the Northmen. Love of
adventure and contempt for the quiet joys of home comes out in the
description of Viking chiefs, who "never sought refuge under a roof nor
emptied their drinking-horns by a hearth." An immense love of fighting
breathes in the accounts of Viking warriors, "who are glad when they have
hopes of a battle; they will leap up in hot haste and ply the oars,
snapping the oar-thongs and cracking the tholes." The undaunted spirit of
Viking sailors, braving the storms of the northern ocean, expresses itself
in their sea songs: "The force of the tempest assists the arms of our
oarsmen; the hurricane is our servant, it drives us whithersoever we wish
to go." The sagas also reveal other characteristics of the Northmen: a
cruelty and faithlessness which made them a terror to their foes; an
almost barbaric love of gay clothing and ornament; a strong sense of
public order, giving rise to an elaborate legal system; and even a feeling
for the romantic beauty of their northern home, with its snow-clad
mountains, dark forests of pine, sparkling waterfalls, and deep, blue


It is to the Viking Age also that we owe the composition of the poems
going by the name of the _Elder Edda_. These poems, as well as the prose
sagas, were collected and arranged in Iceland during the later Middle
Ages. The _Elder Edda_ is a storehouse of old Norse mythology. It forms
our chief source of knowledge concerning Scandinavian heathenism before
the introduction of Christianity.



The religion of the Northmen bore a close resemblance to that of the other
Teutonic peoples. The leading deity was Odin (German _Woden_), whose
exploits are celebrated in many of the songs of the _Elder Edda_. Odin was
represented as a tall, gray-bearded chieftain, carrying a shield and a
spear which never missed its mark. Though a god of battle, Odin was also a
lover of wisdom. He discovered the runes which gave him secret knowledge
of all things. Legend told how Odin killed a mighty giant, whose body was
cut into pieces to form the world: the earth was his flesh, the water his
blood, the rocks his bones, and the heavens his skull. Having created the
world and peopled it with human beings, Odin retired to the sacred city of
Asgard, where he reigned in company with his children.


Enthroned beside Odin sat his oldest son, Thor (German _Thunor_), god of
thunder and lightning. His weapon, the thunderbolt, was imagined as a
hammer, and was especially used by him to protect gods and men against the
giants. The hammer, when thrown, returned to his hand of its own accord.
Thor also possessed a belt of strength, which, when girded about him,
doubled his power.


Many stories were told of Thor's adventures, when visiting Joetunheim, the
abode of the giants. In a drinking-match he tried to drain a horn of
liquor, not knowing that one end of the horn reached the sea, which was
appreciably lowered by the god's huge draughts. He sought to lift from the
ground a large, gray cat, but struggle as he might, could raise only one
of the animal's feet. What Thor took for a cat, however, was really the
Midgard serpent, which, with its tail in its mouth, encircled the earth.
In the last trial of strength Thor wrestled with an old woman, and after a
violent contest was thrown down upon one knee. But the hag was in truth
relentless old age, who sooner or later lays low all men.


Most beautiful and best beloved of the Scandinavian divinities was Odin's
son, Balder. He was represented as a gentle deity of innocence and
righteousness. As long as he lived, evil could gain no real control in the
world and the power of the gods would remain unshaken. To preserve Balder
from all danger his mother Frigga required everything on earth to swear
never to harm her son. Only a single plant, the mistletoe, did not take
the oath. Then the traitor Loki gathered the mistletoe and came to an
assembly where the gods were hurling all kinds of missiles at Balder, to
show that nothing could hurt him. Loki asked the blind Hoeder to throw the
plant at Balder. Hoeder did so, and Balder fell dead. The gods tried to
recover him from Hel, the gloomy underworld, but Hel demanded as his
ransom a tear from every living creature. Gods, men, and even things
inanimate wept for Balder, except one cruel giantess--Loki in disguise--
who would not give a single tear. She said, "Neither living nor dead was
Balder of any use to me. Let Hel keep what it has."


Disasters followed Balder's death. An immense fire burned up the world and
the human race. The giants invaded Asgard and slaughtered its inhabitants.
Odin fell a victim to the mighty wolf Fenris. Thor, having killed the
Midgard serpent, was suffocated with the venom which the dying monster
cast over him. The end of all things arrived. This was the catastrophe
which had been predicted of old--the "Twilight of the Gods."


Besides the conception of Hel, the Northmen also framed the idea of
Valhalla, [6] the abode to which Odin received the souls of those who had
died, not ingloriously in their beds, but on the field of battle. A troop
of divine maidens, the Valkyries, [7] rode through the air on Odin's
service to determine the issue of battles and to select brave warriors for
Valhalla. There on the broad plains they fought with one another by day,
but at evening the slayer and the slain returned to Odin's hall to feast
mightily on boar's flesh and drink deep draughts of mead.


As with most heathen religions that of the Northmen was full of terrors.
Their lively imagination peopled the world with many strange figures.
Fiends and monsters inhabited the marshes, giants lived in the dark
forest, evil spirits haunted all solitary places, and ghosts stalked over
the land by night. The use of charms and spells to guard against such
creatures passed over into Christian times. Their memory also survives in
folk tales, which are full of allusions to giants, dwarfs, goblins, and
other supernatural beings.


Christianity first gained a foothold in Denmark through the work of Roman
Catholic missionaries sent out by Charlemagne's son, Louis the Pious. [8]
Two centuries elapsed before the Danes were completely converted. From
Denmark the new faith spread to Sweden. Norway owed its conversion largely
to the crusading work of King Olaf (1016-1029 A.D.), whose zeal for
Christianity won him the title of Olaf the Saint. The Norwegians carried
Christianity to Iceland, where it supplanted the old heathenism in the
year 1000 A.D. With the general adoption of the Christian religion in
Scandinavian lands, the Viking Age drew to an end.

[Illustration: NORSE METAL WORK (Museum, Copenhagen)
A door from a church in Iceland; date, tenth or eleventh century. The iron
knob is inlaid with silver. The slaying of a dragon is represented above
and below is shown the Midgard serpent.]



The Northmen were still heathen when they set forth on their expeditions
of plunder and conquest. Doubtless the principal cause of this Viking
movement is to be sought in the same hunger for land which prompted the
Germanic invasions and, in fact, has led to colonial expansion in all
ages. By the ninth century Scandinavia could no longer support its rapidly
growing population, and enforced emigration was the natural consequence.
The political condition of Scandinavia at this time also helps to explain
the Viking expansion. Denmark and Norway had now become strong kingdoms,
whose rulers forced all who would not submit to their sway to leave the
country. Thus it resulted that the numbers of the emigrants were swelled
by exiles, outlaws, and other adventurers who turned to the sea in hope of


The Northmen started out as pirates and fell on the coasts of England,
France, and Germany. In their shallow boats they also found it easy to
ascend the rivers and reach places lying far inland. The Northmen directed
their attacks especially against the churches and monasteries, which were
full of treasure and less easily defended than fortified towns. Their
raids inspired such great terror that a special prayer was inserted in the
church services: "From the fury of the Northmen, good Lord, deliver us."


At first the incursions of the Northmen took place only in summer, but
before long they began to winter in the lands which they visited. Year by
year their fleets became larger, and their attacks changed from mere
forays of pirates to well-organized expeditions of conquest and
colonization. Early in the ninth century we find them making permanent
settlements in Ireland, and for a time bringing a considerable part of
that country under their control. The first cities on Irish soil,
including Dublin and Limerick, were founded by the Northmen. Almost
simultaneously with the attacks on Ireland came those on the western coast
of Scotland. In the course of their westward expeditions the Northmen had
already discovered the Faroe Islands, the Orkneys, the Shetlands and the
Hebrides. These barren and inhospitable islands received large numbers of
Norse immigrants and long remained under Scandinavian control.



The Northmen soon discovered Iceland, where Irish monks had previously
settled. Colonization began in 874 A.D. [9] One of the most valuable of
the sagas--the "Book of the Land-taking"--describes the emigration to the
island and enumerates the Viking chiefs who took part in the movement.
Iceland soon became almost a second Norway in language, literature, and
customs. It remains to-day an outpost of Scandinavian civilization.


The first settlement of Greenland was the work of an Icelander, Eric the
Red, who reached the island toward the end of the tenth century. He called
the country Greenland, not because it was green, but because, as he said,
"there is nothing like a good name to attract settlers." Intercourse
between Greenland and Iceland was often dangerous, and at times was
entirely interrupted by ice. Leif Ericsson, the son of Eric the Red,
established a new route of commerce and travel by sailing from Greenland
to Norway by way of the Hebrides. This was the first voyage made directly
across the Atlantic. Norway and Greenland continued to enjoy a flourishing
trade for several centuries. After the connection with Norway had been
severed, the Greenlanders joined the Eskimos and mingled with that
primitive people.


Two of the sagas give accounts of a voyage which Leif Ericsson about 1000
A.D. made to regions lying southward from Greenland. In the sagas they are
called Helluland (stone-land), Markland (wood-land), and Vinland. Just
what part of the coast of North America these countries occupied is an
unsolved problem. Leif Ericsson and the Greenlanders who followed him seem
to have reached at least the shores of Labrador, Newfoundland, and Nova
Scotia. They may have gone even farther southward, for the sagas describe
regions where the climate was mild enough for wild vines and wild wheat to
grow. The Northmen, however, did not follow up their explorations by
lasting settlements. Before long all memory of the far western lands faded
from the minds of men. The curtain fell on the New World, not again to
rise until the time of Columbus and Cabot.



In the Viking movement westward across the Atlantic the Norwegians took
the leading part. They also sailed far northward, rounding the North Cape
and reaching the mouth of the Dwina River in the White Sea. Viking
sailors, therefore, have the credit for undertaking the first voyages of
exploration into the Arctic.


The Swedes, on account of their geographical position, were naturally the
most active in expeditions to eastern lands. At a very early date they
crossed the Gulf of Bothnia and paid frequent visits to Finland. Its rude
inhabitants, the Finns, were related in language, and doubtless in blood
also, to the Huns, Magyars, and other Asiatic peoples. Sweden ruled
Finland throughout the Middle Ages. Russia obtained control of the country
during the eighteenth century, but Swedish influence has made it largely
Scandinavian in civilization.


The activities of the Swedes also led them to establish settlements on the
southern shore of the Baltic and far inland along the waterways leading
into Russia. An old Russian chronicler declares that in 862 A.D. the Slavs
sent an embassy to the Swedes, whom they called "Rus," saying, "Our
country is large and rich, but there is no order in it; come and rule over
us." The Swedes were not slow to accept the invitation. Their leader,
Ruric, established a dynasty which reigned in Russia for more than seven
hundred years. [10]


The first Russian state centered in the city of Novgorod, near Lake Ilmen,
where Ruric built a strong fortress. [11] Novgorod during the Middle Ages
was an important station on the trade route between Constantinople and the
Baltic. Some of Ruric's followers, passing southward along the Dnieper
River, took possession of the small town of Kiev. It subsequently became
the capital of the Scandinavian possessions in Russia.


The Northmen in Russia maintained close intercourse with their mother
country for about two centuries. During this period they did much to open
up northeastern Europe to the forces of civilization and progress.
Colonies were founded, cities were built, commerce was fostered, and a
stable government was established. Russia under the sway of the Northmen
became for the first time a truly European state.


Having penetrated the wilds of Russia, it was comparatively easy for the
Northmen to sail down the Russian rivers to the Black Sea and thence to
Constantinople. Some of them went as raiders and several times devastated
the neighborhood of Constantinople, until bought off by the payment of
tribute. [12] Many Northmen also joined the bodyguard of the eastern
emperor and saw service under his standard in different parts of the


During the reign of Vladimir, a descendant of Ruric, the Christian
religion gained its first foothold in Russia. We are told that Vladimir,
having made up his mind to embrace a new faith, sent commissioners to Rome
and Constantinople, and also to the adherents of Islam and Judaism. His
envoys reported in favor of the Greek Church, for their barbarian
imagination had been so impressed by the majesty of the ceremonies
performed in Sancta Sophia that "they did not know whether they were on
earth or in heaven." Vladimir accepted their report, ordered the idols of
Kiev to be thrown into the Dnieper, and had himself and his people
baptized according to the rites of the Greek Church. At the same time he
married a sister of the reigning emperor at Constantinople.


Vladimir's decision to adopt the Greek form of Christianity is justly
regarded as one of the formative influences in Russian history. It meant
that the Slavs were to come under the religious influence of
Constantinople, instead of under that of Rome. Furthermore, it meant that
Byzantine civilization, then incomparably superior to the rude culture of
the western peoples, would henceforth gain an entrance into Russia. The
country profited by this rich civilization and during the early part of
the Middle Ages took a foremost place in Europe.


No part of western Europe suffered more severely from the Northmen than
France. They first appeared on the French coast toward the end of
Charlemagne's reign. A well-known legend relates that the emperor, from
window of his palace once saw the dark sails of the Vikings and wept at
the thought of the misery which these daring pirates would some day
inflict upon his realm.


After Charlemagne's death the wars of his grandsons left the empire
defenseless, and the Northmen in consequence redoubled their attacks. They
sailed far up the Seine, the Loire, and the Garonne to plunder and murder.
Paris, then a small but important city, lay in the path of the invaders
and more than once suffered at their hands. The destruction by the
Northmen of many monasteries was a loss to civilization, for the monastic
establishments at this time were the chief centers of learning and
culture. [13]


The heavy hand of the Northmen also descended on Germany. The rivers
Scheldt, Meuse, Rhine, and Elbe enabled them to proceed at will into the
heart of the country. Liege, Cologne, Strassburg, Hamburg, and other great
Frankish cities fell before them. Viking raiders even plundered Aachen and
stabled their horses in the church which Charlemagne had built there. [14]
Thus the ancient homeland of the Franks was laid completely waste.


The history of the Northmen in France began in 911 A.D., when the
Carolingian king granted to a Viking chieftain, Rollo, dominion over the
region about the lower Seine. Rollo on his part agreed to accept
Christianity and to acknowledge the French ruler as his lord. It is said,
however, that he would not kneel and kiss the king's foot as a mark of
homage, and that the follower who performed the unwelcome duty did it so
awkwardly as to overturn the king, to the great amusement of the assembled
Northmen. The story illustrates the Viking sense of independence.


The district ceded to Rollo developed into what in later times was known
as the duchy of Normandy. Its Scandinavian settlers, henceforth called
Normans, [15] soon became French in language and culture. It was amazing
to see how quickly the descendants of wild sea-rovers put off their
heathen ways and made their new home a Christian land, noted for its
churches, monasteries, and schools. Normandy remained practically
independent till the beginning of the thirteenth century, when a French
king added it to his possessions. [16]


The Normans helped to found the medieval French monarchy. During the tenth
century the old Carolingian line of rulers, which had already died out in
Germany and Italy, [17] came also to an end in France. A new dynasty was
then founded by a nobleman named Hugh Capet, who secured the aid of the
powerful Norman dukes in his efforts to gain the throne. The accession of
Hugh Capet took place in 987 A.D. His descendants reigned over France for
almost exactly eight hundred years. [18]

* * * * *



Even before Egbert of Wessex succeeded in uniting all the Anglo-Saxon
kingdoms, [19] bands of Vikings, chiefly from Denmark, had made occasional
forays on the English coast. Egbert kept the Danes at bay, but he died in
839 A.D., and from that time the real invasion of England began. The Danes
came over in large numbers, made permanent settlements, and soon
controlled all England north of the Thames.

[Illustration: ALFRED THE GREAT
A lofty bronze statue by H. Thorneycraft set up at Winchester Alfred's
ancient capital. It was dedicated in 1901 A.D. on the thousandth
anniversary of his death. The inscription reads:

"Alfred found learning dead,
And he restored it,
Education neglected
And he revived it,
The laws powerless
And he gave them force,
The Church debased,
And he raised it,
The land ravaged by a fearful enemy
From which he delivered it."]


Wessex before long experienced the full force of the Danish attack. The
country at this time was ruled by Alfred, the grandson of Egbert. Alfred
came to the throne in 871 A.D., when he was only about twenty-three years
old. In spite of his youth, he showed himself the right sort of leader for
the hard-pressed West Saxons. For several years fortune favored the Danes.
Then the tide turned. Issuing from the marshes of Somersetshire, where he
had rallied his dispirited troops, Alfred suddenly fell on the enemy and
gained a signal success. The beaten Danes agreed to make peace and to
accept the religion of their conquerors.


Alfred's victory did not end the war. Indeed, almost to the end of his
reign, the heroic king had to face the Vikings, but he always drove them
off and even recovered some of the territory north of the Thames. The
English and Danes finally agreed to a treaty dividing the country between
them. The eastern part of England, where the invaders were firmly
established, came to be called the Danelaw, because here the Danish, and
not the Anglo-Saxon, law prevailed. In the Danelaw the Danes have left
memorials of themselves in local names [20] and in the bold, adventurous
character of the inhabitants.



It was a well-nigh ruined country which Alfred had now to rule over and
build up again. His work of restoration invites comparison with that of
Charlemagne. Alfred's first care was to organize a fighting force always
ready at his call to repel invasion. He also created an efficient fleet,
which patrolled the coast and engaged the Vikings on their own element. He
had the laws of the Anglo-Saxons collected and reduced to writing, taking
pains at the same time to see that justice was done between man and man.
He did much to rebuild the ruined churches and monasteries. Alfred labored
with especial diligence to revive education among the English folk. His
court at Winchester became a literary center where learned men wrote and
taught. The king himself mastered Latin, in order that he might translate
Latin books into the English tongue. So great were Alfred's services in
this direction that he has been called "the father of English prose."

[Illustration: ALFRED'S JEWEL (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)
A jewel of blue enamel inclosed in a setting of gold, with the words
around it "Alfred had me wrought." Found at Athelney in the seventeenth


Alfred alone of English rulers bears the title of "the Great." He well
deserves it, not only for what he did but for what he was. Through the
mists of ten centuries his figure still looms large. It is the figure of a
brave, patient, and modest man, who wore himself out in the service of his
people. The oft-quoted words which he added to one of his translations
form a fitting epitaph to this noble king: "My wish was to live worthily
as long as I lived, and after my life to leave to them that should come
after, my memory in good works." His wish has been fulfilled.


About seventy-five years after Alfred's death the Danes renewed their
invasions. It then became necessary to buy them off with an annual tribute
called the Danegeld. Early in the eleventh century Canute, the son of a
Danish king, succeeded in establishing himself on the English throne
(1016-1035 A.D.). His dynasty did not last long, however, and at length
the old West-Saxon line was restored in the person of Edward the Confessor
(or "the Saint"). Edward had spent most of his early life in Normandy, and
on coming to England brought with him a large following of Normans, whom
he placed in high positions. During his reign (1042-1066 A.D.) Norman
nobles and churchmen gained a foothold in England, thus preparing the way
for the Norman conquest of the country.



Edward the Confessor having left no direct heirs, the choice of his
successor fell lawfully upon the Witenagemot, [21] as the national
assembly of noblemen and higher clergy was called. This body chose as
king, Harold, earl of Wessex, the leading man in England. Harold's right
to the succession was disputed by William, duke of Normandy, who declared
that the crown had been promised to him by his cousin, the Confessor.
William also asserted that Harold had once sworn a solemn oath, over a
chest of sacred relics, to support his claim to the throne on Edward's
death. When word came of Harold's election, William wrathfully denounced
him as a usurper and began to prepare a fleet and an army for the invasion
of England.


Normandy under Duke William had become a powerful, well-organized state.
Norman knights, attracted by promises of wide lands and rich booty, if
they should conquer, formed the core of William's forces. Adventurers from
every part of France, and even from Spain and Italy, also entered his
service. The pope blessed the enterprise and sent to William a ring
containing a hair from St. Peter's head and a consecrated banner. When all
was ready in the late fall of 1066 A.D., a large fleet, bearing five or
six thousand archers, foot soldiers, and horsemen, crossed the Channel and
landed in England.

[Illustration: A SCENE FROM THE BAYEUX TAPESTRY (Museum of Bayeux,

The Bayeux Tapestry, which almost certainly belongs to the time of the
Norman Conquest, is a strip of coarse linen cloth, about 230 feet long by
20 inches wide, embroidered in worsted thread of eight different colors.
There are seventy-two scenes picturing various events in the history of
the Norman Conquest. The illustration given above represents an attack of
Norman cavalry on the English shield wall at the battle of Hastings.]


William at first met no resistance. Harold was far away in the north
fighting against the Norwegians, who had seized the opportunity to make
another descent on the English coast. Harold defeated them decisively and
then hurried southward to face his new foe. The two armies met near
Hastings on the road to London. All day they fought. The stout English
infantry, behind their wall of shields, threw back one charge after
another of the Norman knights. Again and again the duke rallied his men
and led them where the foe was thickest. A cry arose that he was slain. "I
live," shouted William, tearing off his helmet that all might see his
face, "and by God's help will conquer yet." At last, with the approach of
evening, Harold was killed by an arrow; his household guard died about
him; and the rest of the English took to flight. William pitched his camp
on the field of victory, and "sat down to eat and drink among the dead."



The battle of Hastings settled the fate of England. Following up his
victory with relentless energy, William pressed on to London. That city,
now practically the capital of the country, opened its gates to him. The
Witenagemot, meeting in London offered the throne to William. On Christmas
Day, 1066 A.D., in Westminster Abbey the duke of Normandy was crowned king
of England.


What manner of man was William the Conqueror? Tall of stature, endowed
with tremendous strength, and brave even to desperation, he seemed an
embodiment of the old viking spirit. "No knight under heaven," men said
truly, "was William's peer." A savage temper and a harsh, forbidding
countenance made him a terror even to his closest followers. "So stern and
wrathful was he," wrote an English chronicler, "that none durst do
anything against his will." Though William never shrank from force or
fraud, from bloodshed or oppression, to carry out his ends, he yet showed
himself throughout his reign a patron of learning, a sincere supporter of
the Church, and a statesman of remarkable insight. He has left a lasting
impress on English history.



The coming of the Normans to England formed the third and last installment
of the Teutonic invasion. Norman merchants and artisans followed Norman
soldiers and settled particularly in the southern and eastern parts of the
island. They seem to have emigrated in considerable numbers and doubtless
added an important element to the English population. The Normans thus
completed the work of the Anglo-Saxons and Danes in making England a
Teutonic country.


It must be remembered, however, that the Normans in Normandy had received
a considerable intermixture of French blood and had learned to speak a
form of the French language (Norman-French). In England Norman-French
naturally was used by the upper and ruling classes--by the court, the
nobility, and the clergy. The English held fast to their own homely
language, but could not fail to pick up many French expressions, as they
mingled with their conquerors in churches, markets, and other places of
public resort. It took about three hundred years for French words and
phrases to soak thoroughly into their speech. The result was a very large
addition to the vocabulary of English. [22]


Until the Norman Conquest England, because of its insular position, had
remained out of touch with Continental Europe. William the Conqueror and
his immediate successors were, however, not only rulers of England, but
also dukes of Normandy and subjects of the French kings. Hence, the union
of England with Normandy brought it at once into the full current of
European affairs. The country became for a time almost a part of France
and profited by the more advanced civilization which had arisen on French
soil. The nobility, the higher clergy, and the officers of government were
Normans. The architects of the castles and churches, the lawyers, and the
men of letters came from Normandy. Even the commercial and industrial
classes were largely recruited from across the Channel.


The Norman Conquest much increased the pope's authority over England. The
English Church, as has been shown, [23] was the child of Rome, but during
the Anglo-Saxon period it had become more independent of the Papacy than
the churches on the Continent. William the Conqueror, whose invasion of
England took place with the pope's approval, repaid his obligation by
bringing the country into closer dependence on the Roman pontiff.


Although the Normans settled in England as conquerors, yet after all they
were near kinsmen of the English and did not long keep separate from them.
In Normandy a century and a half had been enough to turn the Northmen into
Frenchmen. So in England, at the end of a like period, the Normans became
Englishmen. Some of the qualities that have helped to make the modern
English a great people--their love of the sea and fondness for adventure,
their vigor, self-reliance, and unconquerable spirit--are doubtless
derived in good part from the Normans.



The conquest of England, judged by its results, proved to be the most
important undertaking of the Normans. But during this same eleventh
century they found another field in which to display their energy and
daring. They turned southward to the Mediterranean and created a Norman
state in Italy and Sicily.


The unsettled condition of Italy [24] gave the Normans an opportunity for
interference in the affairs of the country. The founding of Norman power
there was largely the work of a noble named Robert Guiscard ("the
Crafty"), a man almost as celebrated as William the Conqueror. He had set
out from his home in Normandy with only a single follower, but his valor
and shrewdness soon brought him to the front. Robert united the scattered
bands of Normans in Italy, who were fighting for pay or plunder, and
wrested from the Roman Empire in the East its last territories in the
peninsula. Before his death (1085 A.D.) most of southern Italy had passed
under Norman rule.


Robert's brother, Roger, crossed the strait of Messina and began the
subjugation of Sicily, then a Moslem possession. Its recovery from the
hands of "infidels" was considered by the Normans a work both pleasing to
God and profitable to themselves. By the close of the eleventh century
they had finally established their rule in the island.


The conquests of the Normans in southern Italy and Sicily were united into
a single state, which came to be known as the kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
The Normans governed it for only about one hundred and fifty years, but
under other rulers it lasted until the middle of the nineteenth century,
when the present kingdom of Italy came into existence.


The kingdom of the Two Sicilies was well-governed, rich, and strong. Art
and learning flourished in the cities of Naples, Salerno, and Palermo.
Southern Italy and Sicily under the Normans became a meeting-point of
Byzantine and Arabic civilization. The Norman kingdom formed an important
channel through which the wisdom of the East flowed to the North and to
the West.



The conquests of the Normans in England, Italy, and Sicily were effected
after they had become a Christian and a French-speaking people. In these
lands they were the armed missionaries of a civilization not their own.
The Normans, indeed, invented little and borrowed much. But, like the
Arabs, they were more than simple imitators. In language, literature, art,
religion, and law what they took from others they improved and then spread
abroad throughout their settlements.


It seems at first sight remarkable that a people who occupied so much of
western Europe should have passed away. Normans as Normans no longer
exist. They lost themselves in the kingdoms which they founded and among
the peoples whom they subdued. Their rapid assimilation was chiefly the
consequence of their small numbers: outside of Normandy they were too few
long to maintain their identity.


If the Normans themselves soon disappeared, their influence was more
lasting. Their mission, it has been well said, was to be leaders and
energizers of society--"the little leaven that leaveneth the whole lump."
The peoples of medieval Europe owed much to the courage and martial
spirit, the genius for government, and the reverence for law, of the
Normans. In one of the most significant movements of the Middle Ages--the
crusades--they took a prominent part. Hence we shall meet them again.


1. What events are associated with the following dates: 988 A.D.; 862
A.D.; 1066 A.D.; 1000 A.D.; and 987 A.D.?

2. What was the origin of the geographical names Russia, Greenland,
Finland, and Normandy?

3. Mention some of the striking physical contrasts between the Arabian and
Scandinavian peninsulas.

4. Why has the Baltic Sea been called a "secondary Mediterranean"?

5. How does it happen that the gulf of Finland is often frozen over in
winter, while even the northernmost of the Norse fiords remain open?

6. Why is an acquaintance with Scandinavian mythology, literature, and
history especially desirable for English-speaking peoples?

7. What is meant by the "berserker's rage"?

8. What names of our weekdays are derived from the names of Scandinavian

9. Compare the Arab and Scandinavian conceptions of the future state of
departed warriors.

10. What is meant by "sea-power"? What people possessed it during the
ninth and tenth centuries?

11. Compare the invasions of the Northmen with those of the Germans as to
(a) causes, (b) area covered, and (c) results.

12. What was the significance of the fact that the Northmen were not
Christians at the time when they began their expeditions?

13. Show how the voyages of the Northmen vastly increased geographical

14. Show that the Russian people have received from Constantinople their
writing, religion, and art.

15. Mention three conquests of England by foreign peoples before 1066 A.D.
Give for each conquest the results and the approximate date.

16. On the map, page 405, trace the boundary line between Alfred's
possessions and those of the Danes.

17. Compare Alfred and Charlemagne as civilizing kings.

18. Compare Alfred's cession of the Danelaw with the cession of Normandy
to Rollo.

19. Why is Hastings included among "decisive" battles?

20. "We English are not ourselves but somebody else." Comment on this

21. What is meant by the "Norman graft upon the sturdy Saxon tree"?

22. What settlements of the Northmen most influenced European history?

23. Compare the Norman faculty of adaptation with that of the Arabs.


[1] Webster, _Readings in Medieval and Modern History_, chapter vii, "The
Saga of a Viking"; chapter viii, "Alfred the Great"; chapter ix, "William
the Conqueror and the Normans in England."

[2] See page 67.

[3] The word perhaps comes from the old Norse _vik_, a bay, and means "one
who dwells by a bay or fiord." Another meaning assigned to Viking is

[4] See the illustration, page 240.

[5] The word is derived from old Norse _segya_, "to say"; compare German

[6] "Hall of the slain."

[7] "Choosers of the slain."

[8] See page 312.

[9] The Icelanders in 1874 A.D. celebrated the thousandth anniversary of
the Scandinavian settlement of their island.

[10] Russia in 1862 A.D. celebrated the millenary of her foundation by

[11] The Norse word for "fort" is preserved in the gorod of Novgorod.

[12] See page 335.

[13] See page 358.

[14] See the illustration, page 310.

[15] "Norman" is a softened form of "Northman."

[16] In 1911 A.D. Normandy celebrated in the ancient capital of Rouen the
thousandth anniversary of its existence.

[17] See pages 315, 317.

[18] The abolition of the French monarchy dates from 1792 A.D., when Louis
XVI was deposed from the throne.

[19] See page 320.

[20] The east of England contains more than six hundred names of towns
ending in _by_ (Danish "town"), compare _by-law_, originally a law for a
special town.

[21] "Meeting of wise men." The word _gemot_ or _moot_ was used for any
kind of formal meeting.

[22] See page 556.

[23] See page 325.

[24] See page 317.





The ninth century in western Europe was, as we have learned, [1] a period
of violence, disorder, and even anarchy. Charlemagne for a time had
arrested the disintegration of society which resulted from the invasions
of the Germans, and had united their warring tribes under something like a
centralized government. But his work, it has been well said, was only a
desperate rally in the midst of confusion. After his death the Carolingian
Empire, attacked by the Northmen and other invaders and weakened by civil
conflicts, broke up into separate kingdoms.


Charlemagne's successors in France, Germany, and Italy enjoyed little real
authority. They reigned, but did not rule. Under the conditions of the
age, it was impossible for a king to govern with a strong hand. The
absence of good roads or of other easy means of communication made it
difficult for him to move troops quickly from one district to another, in
order to quell revolts. Even had good roads existed, the lack of ready
money would have prevented him from maintaining a strong army devoted to
his interests. Moreover, the king's subjects, as yet not welded into a
nation, felt toward him no sentiments of loyalty and affection. They cared
far less for their king, of whom they knew little, than for their own
local lords who dwelt near them.


The decline of the royal authority, from the ninth century onward, meant
that the chief functions of government would be more and more performed by
the nobles, who were the great landowners of the kingdom. Under
Charlemagne these men had been the king's officials, appointed by him and
holding office at his pleasure. Under his successors they tended to become
almost independent princes. In proportion as this change was accomplished
during the Middle Ages, European society entered upon the stage of
feudalism. [2]


Feudalism in medieval Europe was not a unique development. Parallels to it
may be found in other parts of the world. Whenever the state becomes
incapable of protecting life and property, powerful men in each locality
will themselves undertake this duty; they will assume the burden of their
own defense and of those weaker men who seek their aid. Such was the
situation in ancient Egypt for several hundred years, in medieval Persia,
and in modern Japan until about two generations ago.


European feudalism arose and flourished in the three countries which had
formed the Carolingian Empire, that is, in France, Germany, and northern
Italy. It also spread to Bohemia, Hungary, and the Christian states of
Spain. Toward the close of the eleventh century the Normans transplanted
it into England, southern Italy, and Sicily. During the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries the crusaders introduced it into the kingdoms which
they founded in the East. [3] Still later, in the fourteenth century, the
Scandinavian countries became acquainted with feudalism. Throughout this
wide area the institution, though varying endlessly in details, presented
certain common features.



The basis of feudal society was usually the landed estate. Here lived the
feudal noble, surrounded by dependents over whom he exercised the rights
of a petty sovereign. He could tax them; he could require them to give him
military assistance; he could try them in his courts. A great noble, the
possessor of many estates, even enjoyed the privilege of declaring war,
making treaties, and coining money. How, it will be asked, did these
rights and privileges arise?


Owing to the decay of commerce and industry, land had become practically
the only form of wealth in the early Middle Ages. The king, who in theory
was absolute owner of the soil, would pay his officials for their services
by giving them the use of a certain amount of land. In the same way one
who had received large estates would parcel them out among his followers,
in return for their support. Sometimes an unscrupulous noble might seize
the lands of his neighbors and compel them to become his tenants.
Sometimes, too, those who owned land in their own right might surrender
the title to it in favor of a noble, who then became their protector.


An estate in land which a person held of a superior lord, on condition of
performing some "honorable" service, was called a fief. At first the
tenant received the fief only for a specified term of years or for his
lifetime; but in the end it became inheritable. On the death of the tenant
his eldest son succeeded him in possession. This right of the first-born
son to the whole of the father's estate was known as primogeniture. [4] If
a man had no legal heir, the fief went back to its lord.


The tie which bound the tenant who accepted a fief to the lord who granted
it was called vassalage. Every holder of land was the vassal of some lord.
At the apex of the feudal pyramid stood the king, the supreme landlord,
who was supposed to hold his land from God; below the king stood the
greater lords (dukes, marquises, counts, and barons), with large estates;
and below them stood the lesser lords, or knights, whose possessions were
too small for further subdivision.


The vassal, first of all, owed various services to the lord. In time of
war he did garrison duty at the lord's castle and joined him in military
expeditions. In time of peace the vassal attended the lord on ceremonial
occasions, gave him the benefit of his advice, when required, and helped
him as a judge in trying cases.


Under certain circumstances the vassal was also compelled to make money
payments. When a new heir succeeded to the fief, the lord received from
him a sum usually money equivalent to one year's revenue of the estate.
This payment was called a "relief." Again, if a man sold his fief, the
lord demanded another large sum from the purchaser, before giving his
consent to the transaction. Vassals were also expected to raise money for
the lord's ransom, in case he was made prisoner of war, to meet the
expenses connected with the knighting of his eldest son, and to provide a
dowry for his eldest daughter. Such exceptional payments went by the name
of "aids."


The vassal, in return for his services and payments, looked to the lord
for the protection of life and property. The lord agreed to secure him in
the enjoyment of his fief, to guard him against his enemies, and to see
that in all matters he received just treatment. This was no slight


The ceremony of homage [5] symbolized the whole feudal relationship. One
who proposed to become a vassal and hold a fief came into the lord's
presence, bareheaded and unarmed, knelt down, placed his hands between
those of the lord, and promised henceforth to become his "man." The lord
then kissed him and raised him to his feet. After the ceremony the vassal
placed his hand upon the Bible or upon sacred relics and swore to remain
faithful to his lord. This was the oath of "fealty." The lord then gave
the vassal some object--a stick, a clod of earth, a lance, or a glove--in
token of the fief with the possession of which he was now "invested."


It is clear that the feudal method of land tenure, coupled with the custom
of vassalage, made in some degree for security and order. Each noble was
attached to the lord above him by the bond of personal service and the
oath of fidelity. To his vassals beneath him he was at once protector,
benefactor, and friend. Unfortunately, feudal obligations were far less
strictly observed in practice than in theory. Both lords and vassals often
broke their engagements, when it seemed profitable to do so. Hence they
had many quarrels and indulged in constant warfare. But feudalism, despite
its defects, was better than anarchy. The feudal lords drove back the
pirates and hanged the brigands and enforced the laws, as no feeble king
could do. They provided a rude form of local government for a rude



Feudalism was not only a system of local government; it was also a system
of local justice. Knights, barons, counts, and dukes had their separate
courts, and the king had his court above all. Cases arising on the lord's
estate were tried before him and the vassals whom he called to his
assistance in giving justice. Since most wrongs could be atoned for by the
payment of a fine, the conduct of justice on a large fief produced a
considerable income. The nobles, accordingly, regarded their judicial
rights as a valuable property, which they were loath to surrender to the


The law followed in a feudal court was largely based on old Germanic
customs. The court did not act in the public interest, as with us, but
waited until the plaintiff requested service. Moreover, until the case had
been decided, the accuser and the accused received the same treatment.
Both were imprisoned; and the plaintiff who lost his case suffered the
same penalty which the defendant, had he been found guilty, would have


Unlike a modern court, again, the feudal court did not require the accuser
to prove his case by calling witnesses and having them give testimony. The
burden of proof lay on the accused, who had to clear himself of the
charge, if he could do so. In one form of trial it was enough for him to
declare his innocence under oath, and then to bring in several "oath-
helpers," sometimes relatives, but more often neighbors, who swore that
they believed him to be telling the truth. The number of these "oath-
helpers" varied according to the seriousness of the crime and the rank of
the accused. This method was hardly as unsatisfactory as it seems to be,
for a person of evil reputation might not be able to secure the required
number of friends who would commit perjury on his behalf. To take an oath
was a very solemn proceeding; it was an appeal to God, by which a man
called down on himself divine punishment if he swore falsely.


The consequences of a false oath were not apparent at once. Ordeals,
however, formed a method of appealing to God, the results of which could
be immediately observed. A common form of ordeal was by fire. The accused
walked barefoot over live brands, or stuck his hand into a flame, or
carried a piece of red-hot iron for a certain distance. In the ordeal by
hot water he plunged his arm into boiling water. A man established his
innocence through one of these tests, if the wound healed properly after
three days. The ordeal by cold water rested on the belief that pure water
would reject the criminal. Hence the accused was thrown bound into a
stream: if he floated he was guilty; if he sank he was innocent and had to
be rescued. Though a crude method of securing justice, ordeals were
doubtless useful in many instances. The real culprit would often prefer to
confess, rather than incur the anger of God by submitting to the test.


A form of trial which especially appealed to the warlike nobles was the
judicial duel. [6] The accuser and the accused fought with each other; and
the conqueror won the case. God, it was believed, would give victory to
the innocent party, because he had right on his side. When one of the
adversaries could not fight, he secured a champion to take his place.
Though the judicial duel finally went out of use in the law courts, it
still continued to be employed privately, as a means of settling disputes
which involved a man's honor. The practice of dueling is only now dying
out in civilized communities.

[Illustration: TRIAL BY COMBAT
From a manuscript of the fifteenth century.]


Oaths, ordeals, and duels formed an inheritance from Germanic antiquity.
[7] They offered a sharp contrast to Roman law, which acted in the public
interest, balanced evidence, and sought only to get at the truth. After
the middle of the twelfth century the revival of the study of Roman law,
as embodied in Justinian's code, [8] led gradually to the abandonment of
most forms of appeal to the judgment of God. At the same time the kings
grew powerful enough to take into their own hands the administration of



Feudalism, once more, was a system of local defense. The knight must guard
his small estate, the baron his barony, the count his county, the duke his
duchy. At the lord's bidding the vassal had to follow him to war, either
alone or with a certain number of men, according to the size of the fief.
But this assistance was limited. A vassal served only for a definite
period (varying from one month to three in the year), and then only within
a reasonable distance from the lands for which he did homage. These
restrictions made it difficult to conduct a lengthy campaign, or one far
removed from the vassal's fief, unless mercenary soldiers were employed.


The feudal army, as a rule, consisted entirely of cavalry. Such swiftly
moving assailants as the Northmen and the Magyars could best be dealt with
by mounted men who could bring them to bay, compel them to fight, and
overwhelm them by the shock of the charge. In this way the foot soldiers
of Charlemagne's time came to be replaced by the mailed horsemen who for
four centuries or more dominated European battlefields.

[Illustration: MOUNTED KNIGHT
Seal of Robert Fitzwalter, showing a mounted knight in complete mail
armor; date about 1265 A.D.]


The armor used in the Middle Ages was gradually perfected, until at length
the knight became a living fortress. [9] In the early feudal period he
wore a cloth or leather tunic covered with iron rings or scales, and an
iron cap with a nose guard. About the beginning of the twelfth century he
adopted chain mail, with a hood of the same material for the head. During
the fourteenth century the knight began to wear heavy plate armor,
weighing fifty pounds or more, and a helmet with a visor which could be
raised or lowered. Thus completely incased in metal, provided with shield,
lance, straight sword or battle-ax, and mounted on a powerful horse, the
knight could ride down almost any number of poorly armed peasants. Not
till the development of missile weapons--the longbow, and later the
musket--did the foot soldier resume his importance in warfare. The feudal
age by this time was drawing to a close.


The nobles regarded the right of waging war on one another as their most
cherished privilege. Fighting became almost a form of business enterprise,
which enriched the lords and their retainers through the sack of castles,
the plunder of villages, and the ransom of prisoners. Every hill became a
stronghold and every plain a battlefield. Such neighborhood warfare,
though rarely very bloody, spread terrible havoc throughout the land.


The Church, to its great honor, lifted a protesting voice against this
evil. It proclaimed a "Peace of God" and forbade attacks on all
defenseless people, including priests, monks, pilgrims, merchants,
peasants, and women. But it was found impossible to prevent the feudal
lords from warring with each other, even though they were threatened with
the eternal torments of Hell; and so the Church tried to restrict what it
could not altogether abolish. A "Truce of God" was established. All men
were to cease fighting from Wednesday evening to Monday morning of each
week, during Lent, and on various holy days. The truce would have given
Christendom peace for about two hundred and forty days each year; but it
seems never to have been strictly observed except in limited areas.


As the power of the kings increased in western Europe, they naturally
sought to put an end to the constant fighting between their subjects. The
Norman rulers of Normandy, England, and Sicily restrained their turbulent
nobles with a strong hand. Peace came later in most parts of the
Continent; in Germany, "fist right" (the rule of the strongest) prevailed
until the end of the fifteenth century. The abolition of private war was
the first step in Europe toward universal peace. The second step--the
abolition of public war between nations--is yet to be taken.



The outward mark of feudalism was the castle, [10] where the lord resided
and from which he ruled his fief. In its earliest form the castle was
simply a wooden blockhouse placed on a mound and surrounded by a stockade.
About the beginning of the twelfth century the nobles began to build in
stone, which would better resist fire and the assaults of besiegers. A
stone castle consisted at first of a single tower, square or round, with
thick walls, few windows, and often with only one room to each story. [11]
As engineering skill increased, several towers were built and were then
connected by outer and inner walls. The castle thus became a group of
fortifications, which might cover a wide area.

The plan is intended to represent that of a typical castle, as the plan of
Kirkstall Abbey represents that of a typical monastery.]

[Illustration: PIERREFONDS
A castle near Paris built about 1400 A.D. by a brother of the king of
France. It was dismantled in 1632 A.D., but was carefully restored in the
nineteenth century by order of Napoleon III. The exterior faithfully
reproduces the appearance of a medieval fortress.]


Defense formed the primary purpose of the castle. Until the introduction
of gunpowder and cannon, the only siege engines employed were those known
in ancient times. They included machines for hurling heavy stones and iron
bolts, battering rams, and movable towers, from which the besiegers
crossed over to the walls. Such engines could best be used on firm, level
ground. Consequently, a castle would often be erected on a high cliff or
hill, or on an island, or in the center of a swamp. A castle without such
natural defenses would be surrounded by a deep ditch (the "moat"), usually
filled with water. If the besiegers could not batter down or undermine the
massive walls, they adopted the slower method of a blockade and tried to
starve the garrison into surrendering. But ordinarily a well-built, well-
provisioned castle was impregnable. Behind its frowning battlements even a
petty lord could defy a royal army.

The finest of all medieval castles. Located on a high hill overlooking the
Seine about twenty miles from Rouen. Built by Richard the Lion hearted
within a twelvemonth (1197-1198 AD) and by him called Saucy Castle. It was
captured a few years later by the French king Philip Augustus and was
dismantled early in the seventeenth century. The castle consisted of three
distinct series of fortifications, besides the keep which in this case was
merely a strong tower.]


A visitor to a medieval castle crossed the drawbridge over the moat and
approached the narrow doorway, which was protected by a tower on each
side. If he was admitted, the iron grating ("portcullis") rose slowly on
its creaking pulleys, the heavy, wooden doors swung open, and he found
himself in the courtyard commanded by the great central tower ("keep"),
where the lord and his family lived, especially in time of war. At the
summit of the keep rose a platform whence the sentinel surveyed the
country far and wide; below, two stories underground, lay the prison,
dark, damp, and dirty. As the visitor walked about the court-yard, he came
upon the hall, used as the lord's residence in time of peace, the armory,
the chapel, the kitchens, and the stables. A spacious castle might
contain, in fact, all the buildings necessary for the support of the
lord's servants and soldiers.

[Illustration: KING AND JESTER
From a manuscript of the early fifteenth century.]


The medieval castle formed a good fortress, but a poor home. Its small
rooms, lighted only by narrow windows, heated only by fireplaces, badly
ventilated, and provided with little furniture, must have been indeed
cheerless. Toward the close of the feudal period, when life became more
luxurious, the castle began to look less like a dungeon. Windows were
widened and provided with panes of painted glass, walls were hung with
costly tapestries, and floors were covered with thick Oriental rugs. The
nobles became attached to their castle homes and often took their names
from those of their estates.


Life within the castle was very dull. There were some games, especially
chess, which the nobles learned from the Moslems. Banqueting, however,
formed the chief indoor amusement. The lord and his retainers sat down to
a gluttonous feast and, as they ate and drank, watched the pranks of a
professional jester or listened to the songs and music of ministrels or,
it may be, heard with wonder the tales of far-off countries brought by
some returning traveler. Outside castle walls a common sport was hunting
in the forests and game preserves attached to every estate. Deer, bears,
and wild boars were hunted with hounds; for smaller animals trained hawks,
or falcons, were employed. But the nobles, as we have just seen, found in
fighting their chief outdoor occupation and pastime. "To play a great
game" was their description of a battle.

[Illustration: FALCONRY
From a manuscript of the thirteenth century in the Bibliotheque Nationale,



The prevalence of warfare in feudal times made the use of arms a
profession requiring special training. A nobleman's son served for a
number of years, first as a page, then as a squire, in his father's castle
or in that of some other lord. He learned to manage a horse, to climb a
scaling ladder, to wield sword, battle-ax, and lance. He also waited on
the lord's table, assisted him at his toilet, followed him in the chase,
and attended him in battle. This apprenticeship usually lasted from five
to seven years.


When the young noble became of age, he might be made a knight, if he
deserved the honor and could afford the expense. The ceremony of
conferring knighthood was often most elaborate. The candidate fasted, took
a bath--the symbol of purification--and passed the eve of his admission in
prayer. Next morning he confessed his sins, went to Mass, and listened to
a sermon on the duties of knighthood. This ended, his father, or the noble
who had brought him up, girded him with a sword and gave him the
"accolade," that is, a blow on the neck or shoulder, at the same time
saying, "Be thou a good knight." Then the youth, clad in shining armor and
wearing golden spurs, mounted his horse and exhibited his skill in warlike
exercises. If a squire for valorous conduct received knighthood on the
battlefield, the accolade by stroke of the sword formed the only ceremony.


In course of time, as manners softened and Christian teachings began to
affect feudal society, knighthood developed into chivalry. The Church,
which opposed the warlike excesses of feudalism, took the knight under her
wing and bade him be always a true soldier of Christ. To the rude virtues
of fidelity to one's lord and bravery in battle, the Church added others.
The "good knight" was he who respected his sworn word, who never took an
unfair advantage of another, who defended women, widows, and orphans
against their oppressors, and who sought to make justice and right prevail
in the world. Chivalry thus marked the union of pagan and Christian
virtues, of Christianity and the profession of arms.


Needless to say, the "good knight" appears rather in romance than in sober
history. Such a one was Sir Lancelot, in the stories of King Arthur and
the Round Table. [12] As Sir Lancelot lies in death, a former companion
addresses him in words which sum up the best in the chivalric code: "'Thou
wert the courtliest knight that ever bare shield; and thou wert the truest
friend to thy lover that ever bestrode horse; and thou wert the truest
lover among sinful men that ever loved woman; and thou wert the kindest
man that ever struck with sword; and thou wert the goodliest person that
ever came among press of knights; and thou wert the meekest man, and the
gentlest, that ever ate in hall among ladies; and thou wert the sternest
knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest.'" [13]


The all-absorbing passion for fighting led to the invention of mimic
warfare in the shape of jousts and tournaments. [14] These exercises
formed the medieval equivalent of the Greek athletic games and the Roman
gladiatorial shows. The joust was a contest between two knights; the
tournament, between two bands of knights. The contests took place in a
railed-off space, called the "lists," about which the spectators gathered.
Each knight wore upon his helmet the scarf or color of his lady and fought
with her eyes upon him. Victory went to the one who unhorsed his opponent
or broke in the proper manner the greatest number of lances. The beaten
knight forfeited horse and armor and had to pay a ransom to the conqueror.
Sometimes he lost his life, especially when the participants fought with
real weapons and not with blunted lances and pointless swords. The Church
now and then tried to stop these performances, but they remained
universally popular until the close of the Middle Ages.


Chivalry arose with feudalism, formed, in fact, the religion of feudalism,
and passed away only when the changed conditions of society made feudalism
an anachronism. [15] While chivalry lasted, it produced some improvement
in manners, particularly by insisting on the notion of personal honor and
by fostering greater regard for women (though only for those of the upper
class). Our modern notion of the conduct befitting a "gentleman" goes back
to the old chivalric code. Chivalry expressed, however, simply the
sentiments of the warlike nobles. It was an aristocratic ideal. The knight
despised and did his best to keep in subjection the toiling peasantry,
upon whose backs rested the real burden of feudal society.



Under the Roman Empire western Europe had been filled with flourishing
cities. [16] The Germanic invasions led to a gradual decay of trade and
manufacturing, and hence of the cities in which these activities centered.
As urban life declined, the mass of the population came to live more and
more in isolated rural communities. This was the great economic feature of
the early Middle Ages.


The introduction of feudalism fostered the movement from town to country,
for feudalism, as has been shown, rested on the soil as its basis. The
lord, his family, his servants, and his retainers were supported by the
income from landed property. The country estate of a lord was known as a


A manor naturally varied in size, according to the wealth of its lord. In
England perhaps six hundred acres represented the extent of an average
estate. Every noble had at least one manor; great nobles might have
several manors, usually scattered throughout the country; and even the
king depended on his many manors for the food supply of the court.
England, during the period following the Norman Conquest, contained more
than nine thousand of these manorial estates. [17]


Of the arable land of the manor the lord reserved as much as needful for
his own use. The lord's land was called his "demesne," or domain. The rest
of the land he allotted to the peasants who were his tenants, They
cultivated their holdings in common. A farmer, instead of having his land
in one compact mass, had it split up into a large number of small strips
(usually about half an acre each) scattered over the manor, and separated,
not by fences or hedges, but by banks of unplowed turf. The appearance of
a manor, when under cultivation, has been likened to a vast checkerboard
or a patchwork quilt. [18] The reason for the intermixture of strips seems
to have been to make sure that each farmer had a portion both of the good
land and of the bad. It is obvious that this arrangement compelled all the
peasants to labor according to a common plan. A man had to sow the same
kinds of crops as his neighbors, and to till and reap them at the same
time. Agriculture, under such circumstances, could not fail to be

Plowing, Harrowing, Cutting Weeds, Reaping.]


In other ways, too, agriculture was very backward. Farmers did not know
how to enrich the soil by the use of fertilizers or how to provide for a
proper rotation of crops. Hence each year they cultivated only two-thirds
of the land, letting the other third lie "fallow" (uncultivated), that it
might recover its fertility. It is said that eight or nine bushels of
grain represented the average yield of an acre. Farm animals were small,
for scientific breeding had not yet begun. A full-grown ox reached a size
scarcely larger than a calf of to-day, and the fleece of a sheep often
weighed less than two ounces. Farm implements were few and clumsy. The
wooden ploughs only scratched the ground. Harrowing was done with a hand
implement little better than a large rake. Grain was cut with a sickle,
and grass was mown with a scythe. It took five men a day to reap and bind
the harvest of two acres.


Besides his holding of farm land, which in England averaged about thirty
acres, each peasant had certain rights over the non-arable land of the
manor. He could cut a limited amount of hay from the meadow. He could turn
so many farm animals--cattle, geese, swine--on the waste. He also enjoyed
the privilege of taking so much wood from the forest for fuel and building
purposes. A peasant's holding, which also included a house in the village,
thus formed a complete outfit.



The peasants on a manor lived close together in one or more villages.
Their small, thatch-roofed, and one-roomed houses would be grouped about
an open space (the "green"), or on both sides of a single, narrow street.
The only important buildings were the parish church, the parsonage, a
mill, if a stream ran through the manor, and possibly a blacksmith's shop.
The population of one of these villages often did not exceed one hundred


Perhaps the most striking feature of a medieval village was its self-
sufficiency. The inhabitants tried to produce at home everything they
required, in order to avoid the uncertainty and expense of trade. The land
gave them their food; the forest provided them with wood for houses and
furniture. They made their own clothes of flax, wool, and leather. Their
meal and flour were ground at the village mill, and at the village smithy
their farm implements were manufactured. The chief articles which needed
to be brought from some distant market were salt, used to salt down farm
animals killed in autumn, iron for various tools, and millstones. Cattle,
horses, and surplus grain also formed common objects of exchange between


Life in a medieval village was rude and rough. The peasants labored from
sunrise to sunset, ate coarse fare, lived in huts, and suffered from
frequent pestilences. They were often the helpless prey of the feudal
nobles. If their lord happened to be a quarrelsome man, given to fighting
with his neighbors, they might see their lands ravaged, their cattle
driven off, their village burned, and might themselves be slain. Even
under peaceful conditions the narrow, shut-in life of the manor could not
be otherwise than degrading.


Yet there is another side to the picture. If the peasants had a just and
generous lord, they probably led a fairly comfortable existence. Except
when crops failed, they had an abundance of food, and possibly wine or
cider drink. They shared a common life in the work of the fields, in the
sports of the village green, and in the services of the parish church.
They enjoyed many holidays; it has been estimated that, besides Sundays,
about eight weeks in every year were free from work. Festivities at
Christmas, Easter, and May Day, at the end of ploughing and the completion
of harvest, relieved the monotony of the daily round of labor. [19]
Perhaps these medieval peasants were not much worse off than the
agricultural laborers in most countries of modern Europe.

Lord's demesne, diagonal lines. Meadow and pasture lands, dotted areas.
Normal holding of a peasant, black strips.]



A medieval village usually contained several classes of laborers. There
might be a number of freemen, who paid a fixed rent, either in money or
produce, for the use of their land. Then there might also be a few slaves
in the lord's household or at work on his domain. By this time, however,
slavery had about died out in western Europe. Most of the peasants were


Serfdom represented a stage between slavery and freedom. A slave belonged
to his master; he was bought and sold like other chattels. A serf had a
higher position, for he could not be sold apart from the land nor could
his holding be taken from him. He was fixed to the soil. On the other hand
a serf ranked lower than a freeman, because he could not change his abode,
nor marry outside the manor, nor bequeath his goods, without the
permission of his lord.


The serf did not receive his land as a free gift; for the use of it he
owed certain duties to his master. These took chiefly the form of personal
services. He must labor on the lord's domain for two or three days each
week, and at specially busy seasons, such as ploughing and harvesting, he
must do extra work. At least half his time was usually demanded by the
lord. The serf had also to make certain payments, either in money or more
often in grain, honey, eggs, or other produce. When he ground the wheat or
pressed the grapes which grew on his land, he must use the lord's mill,
the lord's wine-press, and pay the customary charge. In theory the lord
could tax his serfs as heavily and make them work as hard as he pleased,
but the fear of losing his tenants doubtless in most cases prevented him
from imposing too great burdens on them.


Serfdom developed during the later centuries of the Roman Empire and in
the early Middle Ages. It was well established by the time of Charlemagne.
Most serfs seem to have been the descendants, or at least the successors,
of Roman slaves, whose condition had gradually improved. The serf class
was also recruited from the ranks of freemen, who by conquest or because
of the desire to gain the protection of a lord, became subject to him.
Serfdom, however, was destined to be merely a transitory condition. By the
close of medieval times, the serfs in most parts of western Europe had
secured their freedom. [20]




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