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By H. W. C. Davis
Text in [square brackets] was added especially for this online publication by Ellopos
VII - THE [WESTERN] MEDIEVAL STATE
The feudal host was hard to mobilise, harder still to keep in the field, and at the best an unmanageable weapon; a standing army of mercenary soldiers would have called for taxation heavier and more regular than any ruler dared to demand, or any people could afford to pay. The wars of the Middle Ages have therefore, with few exceptions, a stamp of futility and pettiness. Ambitious enterprises were foredoomed to failure, and powers apparently annihilated by an invading host recovered strength as soon as it had rolled away. In short, on the European and on the national stage alike, medieval politics meant the eternal recurrence of the same problems and disputes, the eternal repetition of the same palliatives and the same plan of campaign.
It is true that political science made more progress than the art of war. But substantial reforms of institutions were effected only in a few exceptional communities - in Sicily under the Normans and Frederic II, in England under Henry II and Edward I, in France under Philip Augustus and his successors. Even in these cases the progress usually consists in elaborating some primitive expedient, in developing some accepted principal to the logical conclusion. The more audacious innovators, a Montfort, an Artevelde, a Frederic II, were tripped up and overthrown as soon as they stepped beyond the circle of conventional ideas. It will therefore suffice for our present purpose to state in the barest outline the leading events of international politics, and the chief advances in the theory of government, which signalised the Middle Ages.
Cf. Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Ancient Rome * Ancient Greece * The Making of Europe
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