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By H. W. C. Davis
Text in [square brackets] was added especially for this online publication by Ellopos
VIII - THE EXPANSION OF [THE WESTERN] EUROPE - THE CRUSADES
The lay feudatory, born into a hereditary caste of soldiers, regards war as the highest vocation for a man of honour, is impatient of priestly arrogance, and believes in his heart that the Church ought not to meddle with politics. It would be a mistake to think of the two privileged classes as always at strife with one another and their social inferiors. But the great wars of Pope and Emperor, the fourteenth-century revolts of French and English peasants, are not events which come suddenly and unexpectedly; each such outbreak is like the eruption of a volcano, a symptom of subterranean forces continually in conflict.
The state of peace in medieval society was a state of tension; equilibrium meant the unstable balance of centralising and centrifugal forces. And this was one reason why wars, condemned in the abstract by the Church, were frequently regarded with favour by sober statesmen and by idealists. In more ways than one a successful war might serve to heal or salve the feuds of rival classes. It offered an outlet for the restless and anarchic energies of feudalism; sometimes it ended in conquests with which the landless could be permanently endowed. It might offer new markets to the merchant, a field of emigration to the peasant, a new sphere of influence to the national clergy. Better still, it might evoke common sentiments of patriotism or religion, and create in all classes the consciousness of obligations superior to merely selfish interests.
Cf. Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Ancient Rome * Ancient Greece * The Making of Europe
Davis' Medieval Europe in Print or for Amazon Kindle