Ch 03 Feudal England

Ch.3-Feudal England

Hits: 2004

CHAPTER III: FEUDAL ENGLAND

SECTION 4: FOREIGN RELATIONS

 

AFTER THE CONQUEST, THE KINGS OF ENGLAND CONTINUED TO BE NORMAN DUKES WHO HELD ESTATES ON BOTH SIDES OF THE CHANNEL. SO, FOR AT LEAST 150 YEARS, THE RULING CLASS IN ENGLAND WAS A FOREIGN RULING CLASS.

THEY SPENT HALF THEIR SUMMERS IN FRANCE, CAMPAIGNING TO EXTEND THEIR LANDS USING ENGLISH MEN AND TREASURES TO FUND THESE ADVENTURES, WHICH IN THE MAIN CAME TO LITTLE CONSEQUENCE.

TRADE CAME FROM EUROPE. TRADERS BROUGHT THEIR SKILLS TO LONDON FROM THE MOUTH OF THE RHINE, WHICH WAS THEN THE MAIN HIGHWAY FOR GOODS FROM THE MEDITERRANEAN AND SCANDINAVIA.

THE INFLUX OF NORMANS AND FLEMINGS BROUGHT IRON, SALT AND CLOTH FROM FLANDERS AND THE BALTIC TO THE SMALLER PORTS OF LYNN, BOSTON AND IPSWICH.

LITTLE IRON WAS SMELTED IN ENGLAND AT THE TIME, AND WROUGHT IRON COST £14 A TON, WHICH WAS WHY HARROWS AND MANY AGRICULTURAL TOOLS WERE MADE MAINLY FROM WOOD.

FINE WOOL AND CLOTH GARMENTS WERE ALSO EXPENSIVE, AND GARMENTS WERE HANDED DOWN AS LIFELONG POSSESSIONS.

ONLY THE ROUGHEST KIND OF HOMESPUN WAS MADE IN ENGLAND AND WORN BY THE PEASANTS.

HOWEVER, WINE FROM GASCONY, SPICES FROM THE EAST AND SURPRISINGLY LARGE QUANTIES OF BUILDING STONE FROM CAEN WERE IMPORTED, WHILE WOOL, TIN AND CATTLE WERE THE MAIN EXPORTS.

THE NORMANS WERE SKILLED BUILDERS, THE FLEMISH SKILLED WEAVERS, AND WHEN THESE AND OTHER ARTISANS ENTERED ENGLAND, SOME WERE FORCED TO SETTLE IN SOUTH WALES.

IT SEEMS THE BEGINNING OF A CLASS STRUGGLE BEGAN DURING THE REIGN OF HENRY I, AS THE GUILDS OF MERCHANTS THAT GREW IN STRENGTH IN THE 12TH CENTURY OFTEN MADE REGULATIONS TO PREVENT THE WEAVERS FROM SECURING RIGHTS OF BURGESSES.

AS TRADE GREW, THE CENTRES OF TRADE CHANGED TO ENGLAND.

THE NORMAN’S ENGLISH ESTATES BECAME MORE LIKE HOME TO THEM.

THE FEUDAL ARMY, MADE UP OF THE ENGLISH, WAS ONLY BOUND TO SERVE FOR 40 DAYS IN ANY ONE YEAR, AND THIS MADE IT DIFFICULT TO CAMPAIGN ABROAD.

TO OVERCOME THIS, HENRY II ALLOWED THE LANDED BARONS TO MAKE PAYMENTS CALLED SCUTAGE IN EXCHANGE FOR PROVIDING LABOUR, AND THE PROCEEDS WERE USED TO HIRE TROOPS FOR THE DURATION OF A CAMPAIGN ABROAD.

SCUTAGE WAS AN IMPORTANT STEP TOWARDS THE GROWTH OF MONEY POWER AND WAS EXTENDED TO MAKE UP THE SERF’S PAY RATHER THAN THE CUSTOMARY LABOUR DUES.

SIMILAR DEVELOPMENTS WERE LINKED TO THE CRUSADES BEGINNING IN 1096. THESE DEVELOPED WITH THE NORTHMEN IN SEARCH OF PLUNDER AND LANDS AND EXTENDED TO FRANCE AND ITALY.

AT THE SAME TIME, THE CRUSADES WERE A COUNTER AGAINST THE NEW INVASIONS OF MOSLEMS WHO THREATENED TO CUT TRADE ROUTES TO THE EAST AND EVEN MENACED CONSTANTINOPLE.

HOLY PLACES AT JERUSALEM BECAME OBJECTS OF INTEREST, AND PALESTINE, AS IT WAS THEN, BECAME THE KEY TO THE LEVANT.

MOSLEMS WERE PREVENTING PILGRIMAGES TO JERUSALEM, AND THIS WAS A HIGHLY ORGANISED BUSINESS TO BE DEFENDED. THE PAPACY TOOK THE LEAD IN ORGANSING THE CRUSADES AS A METHOD FOR INCREASING ITS POLITICAL POWER.

ENGLAND TOOK LITTLE INTEREST IN EARLY CRUSADES, BUT, BY THE THIRD CRUSADE, THE ENGLISH BARONS REALISED THE PROFIT TO BE GAINED. PHILIP OF FRANCE AND RICHARD I OF ENGLAND FIRST TOOK ENGLISH SHIPS TO THE MEDITERRANEAN, AND ST GEORGE AND THE CROSS WAS ADOPTED AT GENOA.

THE CRUSADE WAS A FAILURE, COSTING MANY LIVES AND TREASURE. RICHARD LOST ONE FORTUNE PREPARING THE EXPEDITION AND ANOTHER TO PAY A RANSOM TO THE EMPORER OF GERMANY WHO CAPTURED HIM ON HIS RETURN.

NEVERTHELESS, TRADE WITH ITALY FLOURISHED AND PERMANENT CONNECTIONS WERE MADE.

IN ENGLAND, THE RESULT OF THE FIRST CRUSADE WAS A POGROM DIRECTED AT THE JEWS, WHO HAD COME TO ENGLAND SOON AFTER THE CONQUEST AND WERE REGARDED AS SPECIAL PROPERTY OF THE KING.

BARRED FROM ORDINARY TRADE, THE JEWS AS MONEYLENDERS WERE USED BY THE CROWN AS A KIND OF SPONGE TO GATHER WEALTH AND THEN BE SQUEEZED BY THE ROYAL TREASURY.

THIS WAY, EXTRACTIONS BY THE CROWN WERE CONCEALED, BUT ANGER WAS DIRECTED TOWARDS THE JEWS.

WHENEVER PROTECTION FROM THE CROWN WAS RELAXED, AS IN 1189, THEY WERE EXPOSED TO MASSACRE AND PILLAGE.

LARGE SUMS OF MONEY WERE NEEDED TO FUND RICHARD’S ADVENTURES, AND THESE WERE OBTAINED BY THE SALE OF CHARTERS

TOWNS WERE STILL MOSTLY OVERGROWN VILLAGES, BUT, AS THEY GREW, THE INHABITANTS OFTEN MADE A YEARLY BARGAIN WITH THEIR LORDS CALLED A ‘FARM’ TO RID THEM OF THE OBLIGATION TO PERFORM LABOUR SERVICES.

THIS INVOLVED THE GRANTING OF A CHARTER AND THE CREATION OF A CORPORATE BODY, COLLECTIVELY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PAYMENT OF THE ‘FARM’. AS THE GUILDS GREW, THEY TENDED TO BECOME THE TOWN CORPORATION, THE TWO SOON BEING INDISTINGUISHABLE.

ONCE AGAIN, WE CAN OBSERVE THE GROWTH OF A MONEY ECONOMY WITHIN A FEUDAL FRAMEWORK. THE RISE OF CORPORATE TOWNS, ‘COMMUNES’ FREED FROM THE SYSTEM OF PERSONAL RELATIONS AND SERVICES, LED TO THE FORMATION OF NEW CLASSES READY TO ENTER THE POLITICAL FIELD.

RICHARD’S SHORT REIGN WAS SIGNIFICANT, AND IT WAS A TIME WHEN BUREAUCRATIC MACHINERY WAS TESTED IN THE ABSENCE OF A KING, WHEN JOHN’S CLAIMS AND REVOLT WERE CRUSHED.

IT WAS THE FIRST AND LAST TIME IN ENGLISH HISTORY THAT A FEUDAL MAGNATE ATTEMPTED TO ESTABLISH AN AUTHORITY OPPOSED TO AND INDEPENDENT FROM THE STATE.

We use cookies to improve our website and your experience when using it. Cookies used for the essential operation of the site have already been set. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our Privacy Policy.

I accept cookies from this site