The Feudal Synthesis

Charlemagne and the missi dominici, detail from the 15th-century Grandes chroniques de France

Anderson's first book, published in 1973, Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism is a work of historical sociology that, employing a range of secondary sources, charts the transition from the slave mode of production that characterized antiquity to the feudal mode of production that was to structure the mediaeval world. Passages was developed as a prologue to Lineages of the Absolutist State (1974), which continues into the early modern period. "The two books are articulated directly into each other, and ultimately suggest a single argument," Anderson writes. "The argument of these interlinked studies is that in certain important respects this is the way in which the successive forms which are its concern should be considered...These attempt to situate the specificity of European experience as a whole within a wider international setting, in light of the analysis of both volumes." 

The excerpt below forms the conclusion to Part One of Passages.

The historical synthesis which finally occurred was, of course, feudalism. The precise term — Synthese — is Marx’s, along with that of other historians of his time.1 The catastrophic collision of two dissolving anterior modes of production — primitive and ancient — eventually produced the feudal order which spread throughout mediaeval Europe. That Western feudalism was the specific result of a fusion of Roman and Germanic legacies was already evident to thinkers of the Renaissance, when its genesis was first debated.2 Modern controversy over the question dates essentially from Montesquieu, who pronounced the origins of feudalism to be Germanic in the Enlightenment. Ever since, the problem of the exact "proportions" of the mixture of Romano-Germanic elements which eventually generated feudalism has aroused the passions of successive nationalist historians. Indeed, the very timbre of the end of Antiquity itself frequently altered according to the patriotism of the chronicler. For Dopsch, writing in Austria after the First World War, the collapse of the Roman Empire was merely the culmination of centuries of pacific absorption by the Germanic peoples: it was lived as a calm liberation by the inhabitants of the West. "The Roman world was gradually won from within by the Germans, who had penetrated it peacefully for centuries and assimilated its culture, indeed frequently taken over its administration, so that the removal of its political dominion was merely the final consequence of a lengthy process of change, like the rectification of the nomenclature of an enterprise whose old name has long since ceased to correspond to the real directors of the concern … The Germans were not enemies to destroy or wipe out Roman culture, on the contrary they preserved and developed it."3 For Lot, writing in France at about the same time, the end of Antiquity was an unimaginable disaster, the holocaust of civilization itself: Germanic law was responsible for the "perpetual, unbridled, frenzied violence" and "insecurity of property" of the succeeding epoch, whose "frightful corruption" made it "a truly accursed period of history."4 In England, where there was no confrontation, but merely a caesura, between the Roman and the Germanic orders, the controversy was shifted to the inverse invasion of the Norman Conquest, and Freeman and Round successively polemicized over the relative merits of the "Anglo-Saxon" or "Latin" contributions to the local feudalism.5 The embers of these disputes still glow today; Soviet historians traded sharp exchanges over them at a recent conference in Russia.6 In fact, of course, the precise admixture of once Roman or Germanic elements in the pure feudal mode of production as such is of much less importance than their respective distribution in the variant social formations which emerged in mediaeval Europe. In other words, as we shall see, a typology of European feudalism is necessary — rather than a mere pedigree.

The original derivation of specific feudal institutions often appears in any case inextricable, given the ambiguity of the sources and the parallelism of developments within the two antecedent social systems. Thus vassalage may have its main roots in either the German comitatus or the Gallo-Roman clientela: two forms of aristocratic retinue that existed on either side of the Rhine well before the end of the Empire, and both of which undoubtedly contributed to the ultimate emergence of the vassal system.7 The benefice, with which it eventually fused to form the fief, can equally be traced both to the late Roman ecclesiastical practices and to German tribal distributions of land.8 The manor, on the other hand, certainly derives from the Gallo-Roman fundus or villa, which had no barbarian counterpart: huge, self-contained estates tilled by dependent peasant coloni, delivering produce in kind to their magnate landowners, in an obvious adumbration of a domain economy.9 The communal enclaves of the mediaeval village, by contrast, were basically a Germanic inheritance, survival of the original rural systems of the forest after the general evolution of the barbarian peasantry through allodial to dependent tenures. Serfdom itself probably descends both from the classical statute of the colonus and from the slow degradation of free Germanic peasants by quasi-coercive "commendation" to clan warriors. The legal and constitutional system which developed in the Middle Ages was equally hybrid. Folk justice of a popular character and a tradition of formally reciprocal obligation between rulers and ruled within a common tribal community left a widespread mark on the juridical structures of feudalism, even where folk-courts proper did not survive, as in France. The estates system which later emerged within the feudal monarchies owed much to the latter, in particular. On the other hand, the Roman legacy of a codified and written law was also of central importance for the specific jural synthesis of the Middle Ages; while the conciliar heritage of the classical Christian Church was likewise doubtless critical for the development of the estates system.10 At the peak of the mediaeval polity, the institution of the feudal monarchy itself initially represented a mutable amalgam of the Germanic war leader, semi-elective and with rudimentary secular functions, and the Roman imperial ruler, sacred autocrat of unlimited powers and responsibilities.

The infrastructural and superstructural complex that was to make up the general structure of a feudal totality in Europe thus had a deep double derivation, after the collapse and confusion of the Dark Ages. One single institution, however, spanned the whole transition from Antiquity to the Middle Ages in essential continuity: the Christian Church. It was, indeed, the main, frail aqueduct across which the cultural reservoirs of the Classical World now passed to the new universe of feudal Europe, where literacy had become clerical. Strange historical object par excellence, whose peculiar temporality has never coincided with that of a simple sequence from one economy or polity to another, but has overlapped and outlived several in a rhythm of its own, the Church has never received theorization within historical materialism.11 No attempt can be made to remedy this lack here. But some brief comments are necessary on the significance of its role in the transition from Antiquity to feudalism, since this has been alternatively exaggerated or neglected in much historical discussion of the epoch. In late Antiquity, the Christian Church — as has been seen — indubitably contributed to the weakening of the powers of resistance of the Roman imperial system. It did so, not by demoralizing doctrines or extra-mundane values, as Enlightenment historians believed, but by its sheer worldly bulk. For the vast clerical apparatus which it spawned in the later Empire was one of the main reasons for the parasitic overweight which exhausted Roman economy and society. For a second, super-added bureaucracy was thus conjoined to the already oppressive onus of the secular State. By the 6th century, the bishops and clergy within the remaining empire were actually both much more numerous than the administrative officers and functionaries of the State, and received considerably higher salaries.12 The intolerable burden of this top-heavy edifice was a central determinant of the collapse of the Empire. Gibbon’s limpid thesis that Christianity was one of the two fundamental causes of the fall of the Roman Empire — expressive summation of Enlightenment idealism — thus permits a materialist reformulation today.

Yet the same Church was also the moving site of the first symptoms of liberation of technique and culture from the limits of a world built on slavery. The extraordinary achievements of Graeco-Roman civilization had been the property of a small ruling stratum, entirely divorced from production. Manual labour was identified with servitude, and was eo ipso degrading. Economically, the slave mode of production led to technical stagnation: there was no impulse to labour-saving improvements within it. Thus Alexandrine technology, as we have seen, on the whole persisted throughout the Roman Empire: few significant inventions were made, none was ever widely applied. On the other hand, culturally, slavery rendered possible the elusive harmony of man and the natural universe that marked the art and philosophy of much of classical Antiquity: unquestioned exemption from labour was one of the preconditions of its serene absence of tension with nature. The toil of material transformation or even its managerial supervision was a substratum substantially excluded from its sphere. Yet the grandeur of the intellectual and cultural heritage of the Roman Empire was not only accompanied by a technical immobility: it was by its very preconditions restricted to the thinnest layer of the metropolitan and provincial ruling classes. The most telling index of its vertical limitation was the fact that the great mass of the population in the pagan Empire knew no Latin. The language of government and letters itself was the monopoly of a small elite. It was the ascent of the Christian Church which first signalled a subversion and alteration of this pattern. For Christianity ruptured the union between man and nature, the spirit and the world of the flesh, potentially twisting the relationship between the two in opposite, tormented directions: asceticism and activism.13 Immediately, the Church’s victory in the later Empire did nothing to alter traditional attitudes to either technology or slavery. Ambrose of Milan expressed the new official opinion when he condemned even the purely theoretical sciences of astronomy and geometry as impious: "We do not know the secrets of the Emperor and yet we claim to know those of God."14 Likewise, Church Fathers from Paul to Jerome unanimously accepted slavery, merely advising slaves to be obedient to their masters and masters to be just to their slaves — true liberty after all was not to be found in this world anyway.15 In practice, the Church of these centuries was often a large institutional slave-owner, and its bishops could on occasion pursue their legal rights over runaway property with more than ordinary punitive zeal.16

However, on the margins of the ecclesiastical apparatus itself, the growth of monasticism pointed in a different possible direction. The Egyptian peasantry had a tradition of solitary desert hermitage or anachoresis, as a form of protest against tax-collection and other social evils; this was adapted by Anthony into an ascetic religious anchoritism in the late 3rd century A.D. It was then developed by Pachomius in the early 4th century into communal coenobitism in the cultivated areas near the Nile, where agricultural work and literacy were enjoined as well as prayer and fasting;17 and in the 370’s, Basil linked asceticism, manual labour and intellectual instruction into a coherent monastic rule, for the first time. However, although this evolution can retrospectively be seen as one of the first signs of a slow sea-change in social attitudes to labour, the growth of monasticism in the later Roman Empire itself probably merely aggravated the economic parasitism of the Church, by withdrawing further manpower from production. Nor did it thereafter play any specially tonic role in the Byzantine economy, where Eastern monasticism soon became at best merely contemplative and at worst otiose and obscurantist. On the other hand, transplanted to the West and reformulated by Benedict of Nursia during the somber depths of the 6th century, monastic principles proved organizationally efficacious and ideologically influential from the later Dark Ages onwards. For in the Western monastic orders, intellectual and manual labour were provisionally united in the service of God. Agrarian toil acquired the dignity of divine worship, and was performed by literate monks: laborare est orare. With this, one of the cultural barriers to technical invention and progression undoubtedly fell. It would be an error to attribute this change to any self-sufficient power within the Church 18 — the different course of events in East and West alone should be enough to make it clear that it was the total complex of social relations, not the religious institution itself, which ultimately allocated the economic and cultural roles of monasticism. Its productive career could only start once the disintegration of classical slavery had released the elements for another dynamic, to be achieved with the formation of feudalism. It is the ductility of the Church in this difficult passage that is striking, rather than any rigorism.

At the same time, however, the Church was without doubt more directly responsible for another formidable, silent transformation in the last centuries of the Empire. The very vulgarization and corruption of classical culture, which Gibbon was to denounce, was in fact part of a gigantic process of assimilation and adaptation of it to a wider population — which was both to ruin and rescue it amid the collapse of its traditional infrastructure. The most striking manifestation, once again, of this transmission was that of language. Up to the 3rd century, the peasants of Gaul or Spain had spoken their own Celtic tongues, impermeable to the culture of the classical ruling class: any Germanic conquest of these provinces at this date would have had incalculable consequences for later European history. With the Christianization of the Empire, however, the bishops and clergy of the Western provinces, by undertaking the conversion of the mass of the rural population, durably Latinized their speech in the course of the 4th and 5th centuries.19 The Romance languages were the outcome of this popularization, one of the essential social bonds of continuity between Antiquity and the Middle Ages. The consequences of a Germanic conquest of these Western provinces without their prior Latinization have only to be envisaged for the momentous importance of this achievement to be evident.

This central achievement of the early Church indicates its true place and function in the transition to feudalism. Its autonomous efficacy was not to be found in the realm of economic relations or social structures, where it has sometimes mistakenly been sought, but in the cultural sphere above them — in all its limitation and immensity. The civilization of classical Antiquity was defined by the development of superstructures of unexampled sophistication and complexity, over material infrastructures of comparatively invariant crudity and simplicity: there was always a dramatic disproportion in the Graeco-Roman world between the vaulting intellectual and political sky and the cramped economic earth beneath it. When its final collapse came, nothing was less obvious than that its superstructural heritage — now impossibly distant from immediate social realities — should survive it, in however compromised a form. A specific vessel was necessary for this, sufficiently apart from the classical institutions of Antiquity and yet moulded within them, and so capable of escaping the general wreckage to transmit the mysterious messages of the past to the less advanced future. The Church objectively performed this role. In certain key respects, the superstructural civilization of Antiquity remained superior to that of feudalism for a millennium — right down to the epoch that was consciously to call itself its Renaissance, to mark the intervening regression. The condition of its praetermitted power, through the chaotic and primitive centuries of the Dark Ages, was the endurance of the Church. No other dynamic transition from one mode of production to another reveals the same splay in superstructural development: equally, no other contains a comparable spanning institution.

The Church was thus the indispensable bridge between two epochs, in a "catastrophic," not "cumulative" passage between two modes of production (whose structure thus necessarily diverged in toto from the transition between feudalism and capitalism). Significantly, it was the official mentor of the first systematic attempt to "renovate" the Empire in the West, the Carolingian Monarchy. With the Carolingian State, the history of feudalism proper begins. For this massive ideological and administrative effort to "recreate" the Imperial System of the old world, in fact, by a typical inversion, contained and dissembled the involuntary laying of the foundations of the new. It was in the Carolingian era that the decisive steps in the formation of feudalism were taken.

The imposing expansion of the new Frankish dynasty gave little immediate hint, however, of its ultimate legacy to Europe. Its dominating overt theme was the political and military unification of the West. Charles Martel’s defeat of the Arabs at Poitiers in 733 halted the advance of Islam, which had just absorbed the Visigothic State in Spain. Thereafter, in thirty rapid years, Charlemagne annexed Lombard Italy, conquered Saxony and Friesland, and incorporated Catalonia. He thereby became the sole ruler of the Christian continent beyond the frontiers of Byzantium, with the exception of the inaccessible Asturian littoral. In 800, he assumed the long defunct title of Emperor of the West. Carolingian expansion was not merely territorial aggrandizement. Its imperial claims corresponded to a real administrative and cultural revival throughout the boundaries of the continental West. The coinage system was reformed and standardized, and central control of minting resumed. In close coordination with the Church, the Carolingian monarchy sponsored a renovation of literature, philosophy, art and education. Religious missions were dispatched to pagan lands beyond the Empire. The great new frontier-zone of Germany, enlarged by the subjugation of the Saxon tribes, was for the first time carefully tended and systematically converted — a programme facilitated by the shift of the Carolingian court eastwards to Aachen, mid-way between the Loire and the Elbe. Moreover, an elaborate and centralized administrative grid was laid down over the whole land-mass from Catalonia to Schleswig and Normandy to Styria. Its basic unit was the county, derived from the old Roman civitatis. Trusted nobles were appointed as counts with military and judicial powers to govern these regions in a clear and firm delegation of public authority, revocable by the Emperor. There were perhaps 250–350 of these officials throughout the Empire; they were paid no salaries but received a proportion of the local royal revenues and landed endowments in the county.20 Comital careers were not confined to any one district: a competent noble could successively be transferred to different regions, although in practice revocations or shifts of countship were infrequent. Intermarriage and migration of landed families from the various regions of the Empire created a certain social basis for a "supra-ethnic" aristocracy imbued with imperial ideology.21 At the same time, the regional system of counties was superimposed by a smaller central group of clerical and secular magnates, mainly recruited from Lorraine and Alsace, often closer to the personal entourage of the Emperor himself. These provided the missi dominici, a mobile reserve of direct imperial agents sent out as plenipotentiaries to deal with especially difficult or demanding problems in outlying provinces. The missi became a regular institution of Charlemagne’s rule from 802 onwards; typically dispatched in pairs, they were increasingly recruited from bishops and abbots, to insulate them from local pressures on their missions. It was they who in principle ensured the effective integration of the far-flung comital network. An increasing use was made of written documents, in efforts to improve the traditions of unadorned illiteracy inherited from the Merovingians.22 But in practice, there were many gaps and delays in this machinery, whose functioning was always extremely slow and cumbersome, in the absence of any serious palatine bureaucracy to provide an impersonal integration of the system. Nevertheless, given the conditions of the age, the scope and scale of Carolingian administrative ideals were a formidable achievement.

The real and germinal innovations of this epoch, however, lay elsewhere — in the gradual emergence of the fundamental institutions of feudalism below the apparatus of imperial government. Merovingian Gaul had known both the oath of personal fealty to the reigning monarch, and the grant of royal lands to noble servitors. But these were never combined into a single or significant system. The Merovingian rulers had usually distributed estates outright to loyal retainers, borrowing the ecclesiastical term "beneficium" for such gifts. Later, many of the estates allocated in this fashion had been confiscated from the Church by the Arnulfing lire, to raise additional troops for their armies;23 while the Church was compensated with the introduction of tithes by Peppin III, henceforward the only approximation to a general tax in the Frankish realm. But it was the epoch of Charlemagne himself which ushered in the critical synthesis between donations of land and bonds of service. In the course of the later 8th century, "vassalage" (personal homage) and "benefice" (grant of land) slowly fused, while in the course of the 9th century "benefice" in its turn became increasingly assimilated to "honour" (public office and jurisdiction).24 Grants of land by rulers thereby ceased to be gifts, to become conditional tenures, held in exchange for sworn services; and lower administrative positions tended to approximate legally to them. A class of vassi dominici, direct vassals of the Emperor, who held their benefices from Charlemagne himself, now developed in the countryside, forming a local landowning class interspersed among the comital authorities of the Empire. It was these royal vassi who provided the nucleus of the Carolingian army, called up year after year for service in Charlemagne’s constant foreign campaigns. But the system extended well beyond direct fealty to the Emperor. Other vassals were benefice-holders of princes who were themselves vassals of the supreme ruler. At the same time, legal "immunities" initially peculiar to the Church — juridical exemptions granted from inimical Germanic codes earlier in the Dark Ages — started to spread to secular warriors. Henceforward, those vassals equipped with such immunities were proof against comital interference in their properties. The eventual result of this convergent evolution was the emergence of the "fief," as a delegated grant of land, vested with juridical and political powers, in exchange for military service. The military development, at about the same time, of heavy armoured cavalry contributed to the consolidation of the new institutional nexus, although it was not responsible for its appearance. It took a century for the full fief system to become moulded and rooted in the West; but its first unmistakable nucleus was visible under Charlemagne.

Meanwhile, the constant wars of the reign increasingly tended to depress the bulk of the rural population. The preconditions of the free warrior peasantry of traditional Germanic society had been shifting cultivation, and warfare that was local and seasonal. Once agrarian settlement was stabilized, and military campaigns became longer-range and lengthier, the material basis for a social unity of fighting and tilling was inevitably broken. War became the distant prerogative of a mounted nobility, while a sedentary peasantry laboured at home to maintain a permanent rhythm of cultivation, disarmed and burdened with provision of supplies for the royal armies.25 The result was a general deterioration in the position of the mass of the agrarian population. Thus it was in this period too that the characteristic feudal unit of production, tilled by a dependent peasantry, took shape. The Carolingian Empire was in practice a largely landlocked area, with minimal foreign trade despite its Mediterranean and North Sea frontiers, and sluggish monetary circulation: its economic response to isolation was the development of a manorial system. The villa of Charlemagne’s reign already anticipated the structure of the manor of the early Middle Ages — a large autarchic estate composed of a demesne and a multitude of small peasant plots. The size of these noble or clerical domains was often very considerable — 2,000 to 4,000 acres in extent. Agrarian yields remained extremely low; even ratios of 1:1 were by no means unknown, so primitive were farming methods.26 The seigneurial reserve itself, the mansus indominicatus, might cover perhaps a quarter of the total area; the rest was typically cultivated by servi or mancipia settled on small "manses." These formed the great bulk of the dependent rural labour force; although their legal appellation was still that of the Roman word for "slave," their condition was in fact now nearer that of the future mediaeval "serf," a change registered by a semantic shift in the use of the term servus in the 8th century. The ergastulum had disappeared. The Carolingian mancipia were generally peasant families bound to the soil, owing dues in kind and labour services to their masters: exactions which were in fact probably larger than those of the old Gallo-Roman colonate. The large Carolingian estates could also contain free peasant tenants (on manses ingenuiles), owing dues and services, but without servile dependence; but these were much less common.27 More frequently, the mancipia would be supplemented for work on the demesne itself by hired labour and genuine chattel slaves, which had by no means yet disappeared. Given the ambiguous terminology of the time, it is impossible to fix with any precision the size of the real slave-labour force in Carolingian Europe: but it has been estimated at some 10–20 per cent of the rural population.28 The villa system did not, of course, mean that landed property had become exclusively aristocratic. Small allodial holdings owned and tilled by free peasants — pagenses or mediocres — still subsisted, between the great tracts of domainial estates. Their relative quantity has yet to be determined, although it is clear that in the early years of Charlemagne himself, a significant part of the peasant population remained above the condition of serfdom. But the basic rural relations of production of a new age were henceforward increasingly in place.

By the death of Charlemagne, the central institutions of feudalism were thus already present, beneath the canopy of a pseudo-Roman centralized Empire. In fact, it soon became clear that the rapid spread of benefices, and their increasing heritability, tended to undermine the whole unwieldy Carolingian State apparatus — whose ambitious expanse had never corresponded to its real capacities of administrative integration, given the extremely low level of the forces of production in the 8th and 9th centuries. The internal unity of the Empire soon foundered, amidst dynastic civil wars and growing regionalization of the magnate class that once held it together. A precarious tripartite division of the West succeeded. Savage and unexpected external attacks from all points of the compass, on sea and land, by Viking, Saracen and Magyar invaders then pulverized the whole para-imperial system of comital rule that remained. No permanent army or navy existed to resist these onslaughts; the Frankish cavalry was slow and clumsy to mobilize; the ideological flower of the Carolingian aristocracy had perished in the civil wars. The centralized political structure bequeathed by Charlemagne crumbled away. By 850, benefices were virtually everywhere inheritable; by 870 the last missi dominici had vanished; by the 880’s the vassi dominici were mediatized to local potentates; by the 890’s counts had effectively become hereditary regional lords.29 It was in the last decades of the 9th century, as Viking and Magyar bands ravaged the West European mainland, that the term feudum first started to come into use — the full mediaeval word for "fief." It was then too that the countryside of France, in particular, became criss-crossed with private castles and fortifications, erected by rural seigneurs without any imperial permission, to withstand the new barbarian attacks, and dig in their local power. The new castellar landscape was both a protection, and a prison, for the rural population. The peasantry, already falling into increasing subjection in the last deflationary, war-torn years of Charlemagne’s rule, were now finally thrust downwards to generalized serfdom. The entrenchment of local counts and landowners in the provinces, through the nascent fief system, and the consolidation of their manorial estates and lordships over the peasantry, proved to be the bedrock of the feudalism that slowly solidified across Europe in the next two centuries. 


1. In his major statement of historical method, Marx spoke of the results of the Germanic conquests as a process of "interaction" (Wechselwirkung) and "fusion" (Verschmelzung) which generated a new "mode of production" (Produktionsweise) that was a "synthesis" (Synthese) of its two predecessors: Grundrisse der Kritik der Politischen Okonomie (Einleitung), Berlin 1953, p. 18.

2. For the Renaissance debate, see D. R. Kelley, "De Origine Feudorum: The Beginnings of a Historical Problem," Speculum, XXXIX, April 1964, No. 2, pp. 207–28; Montesquieu’s discussion is in De L’Esprit des Lois, Books XXX and XXXI.

3. Alfons Dopsch, Wirtschaftliche und Soziale Grundlagen der europäischen Kulturentwicklung aus der Zeit von Caesar bis auf Karl den Grossen, Vienna 1920–1923, Vol. I, p. 413.

4. Ferdinand Lot, La Fin du Monde Antique et le Début du Moyen Age, Paris 1952 (reedition), pp. 462, 469 and 463. Lot finished his book in late 1921.

5. For Freeman; "the Norman conquest was the temporary overthrow of our national being. But it was only a temporary overthrow. To a superficial observer the English people might seem for a while to be wiped out of the roll-call of nations, or to exist only as the bondmen of foreign rulers in their own land. But in a few generations, we led captive our conquerors; England was England once again." Edward A. Freeman, The History of the Norman Conquest of England, Its Causes and Results, Oxford 1867, Vol. I, p. 2. Freeman’s panegyric of the Anglo-Saxon heritage was countered by Round’s scarcely less vehement exaltation of the Norman arrival. In 1066, "the long, long canker of peace had done its work. The land was ripe for the invader, and a Saviour of Society was at hand."; the Norman Conquest at last brought England "something better than the arid entries in our jejune native chronicle." J. H. Round, Feudal England, London 1964 (reedition), pp. 304–5, 247.

6. See the lengthy discussion in Srednie Veka, Fasc 31, 1968, of the report by A. D. Liublinskaya, "Tipologiya Rannevo Feodalizma v Zapadnoi Evrope i Problema Romano-Germanskovo Sinteza," pp. 17–44. Participants were O. L. Vainshtein, M. Ya. Siuziumov, Ya. L. Bessmertny, A. P. Kazhdan, M. D. Lordkipanidze, E. V. Gutnova, S. M. Stam, M. L. Abramson, T. I. Desnitskaya, M. M. Friedenberg and V. T. Sirotenko. Note in particular the tone of the interventions of Vainshtein and and Siuziumov, champions respectively of the Barbarian and Imperial contributions to feudalism, the latter — a Byzantine historian — unmistakably striking an anti-German national note. In general, Soviet Byzantinists appear occupationally prone to privilege the weight of Antiquity in the feudal synthesis. Liublinskaya’s reply to the discussion is serene and sensible.

7. Compare Dopsch, Wirtschaftliche und Soziale Grundlagen, II, pp. 300–2, with Bloch, Feudal Society, Vol. 1, 147–51. Intermediate forms were the Gallo-Roman bucellarii or bodyguards, and the Frankish antrustiones (palace guards) or leudes (military retainers). For the latter, see Carl Stephenson, Mediaeval Institutions, Ithaca 1954, pp. 225–7, who deems the leudes the direct ancestors of the Carolingian vassi.

8. Dopsch, Wirtschaftliche und Soziale Grundlagen, II, pp. 332–6.

9. Dopsch, Wirtschaftliche und Soziale Grundlagen, I, pp. 332–9. The etymology of the key terms of European feudalism may throw a shadowy light on their varied origin. "Fief" is derived from the Old German vieh, the word for herds. "Vassal" comes from the Celtic kwas, originally meaning a slave. On the other hand, "village" derives from the Roman villa, "serf" from servus, and "manor" from mansus.

10. Hintze emphasized this filiation in his essay "Weltgeschichtliche Bedingungen der Repräsentativverfassung’, in Otto Hintze, Gesammelte Abhandlungen, Vol. I, Leipzig 1945, pp. 134–5.

11. Issued from a post-tribal ethnic minority, triumphant in late Antiquity, dominant in feudalism, decadent and renascent under capitalism, the Roman Church has survived every other institution — cultural, political, juridical or linguistic — historically coeval with it. Engels reflected briefly on its long odyssey in Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of German Classical Philosophy (Marx-Engels, Selected Works, London 1968, pp. 628–31); but limited himself to registering the dependence of its mutations on those of the general history of modes of production. Its own regional autonomy and adaptability — extraordinary by any comparative standards — have yet to be seriously explored. Lukács believed it to lie in a relative permanence of man’s relation to nature, unseen substratum of the religious cosmos. But he never ventured more than asides on the question. See G. Lukács, History and Class Consciousness, London 1971, pp. 235–6.

12. Jones, The Later Roman Empire, Vol. II, pp. 933–4, 1046.

13. The rupture was not, of course, peculiar to the new religion, but extended into traditional paganism as well. Brown evokes it characteristically: "After generations of apparently satisfying public activity, it was as if a current that passed smoothly from man’s inner experience into the outside world had been cut. The warmth drained from the familiar environment … The classical mask no longer fitted over the looming and inscrutable core of the universe." The World of Late Antiquity, pp. 51–2. But as he shows, the most intense pagan response to it was Neo-Platonism, last doctrine of inner reconciliation between man and nature, first theory of sensuous beauty, rediscovered and appropriated in another epoch by the Renaissance.

14. E. A. Thompson, A Roman Reformer and Inventor, Oxford 1952, pp. 44–5.

15. Engels scornfully remarked that: "Christianity is perfectly innocent of this gradual dying out of slavery. It had partaken of the fruits of slavery in the Roman Empire for centuries, and later did nothing to prevent the slave-trade of Christians." Marx-Engels, Selected Works, p. 570. This judgment was a shade too peremptory, as can be seen from Bloch’s nuanced analysis of the Church’s attitude to slavery in "Comment et Pourquoi Finit l’Esclavage Antique?" (esp. pp. 37–40). But Bloch’s substantive conclusions do not diverge very much from those of Engels, despite the necessary qualifications he adds to them. For more recent and confirmatory discussions of early Christian attitudes towards slavery, see Westermann, The Slave Systems of Greek and Roman Antiquity, pp. 149–62; A. Hadjinicolaou-Marava, Recherches sur la Vie des Esclaves dans le Monde Byzantin, Athens 1950, pp. 13–18.

16. For example, see Thompson, The Goths in Spain, pp. 305–8.

17. D. J. Chitty, The Desert a City, Oxford 1966, pp. 20–1, 27. It is regrettable that what appears to be the only full-length recent study of early monasticism should be so single-mindedly devotional in approach. Jones’s comments on the mixed record of monasticism in the late Antiquity are sharp and pertinent: The Later Roman Empire, II, pp. 930–3.

18. This is the main defect of Lynn White’s essay, "What Accelerated Technological Progress in the Western Middle Ages?," in A. C. Crombie (ed.), Scientific Change, London 1963, pp. 272–91 — a bold exploration of the consequences of monasticism, in certain respects superior to his Mediaeval Technology and Social Change in that technique is not fetishized into a historical first cause, but at least linked to social institutions. White’s assertion of the importance of the ideological de-animization of nature by Christianity as a precondition of its subsequent technological transformation appears seductive, but overlooks the fact that Islam was responsible for an even more thorough Entzauberung der Welt shortly afterwards, with no noticeable impact on Muslim technology. The significance of monasticism as a premonitory solvent of the classical labour system should not be exaggerated.

19. Brown, The World of Late Antiquity, p. 130. This work is in some ways the most brilliant meditation for many years on the end of the classical epoch. One of its central themes is the vital creativity of the adulterated transmission of classical culture by Christianity, which produced the typical art of Late Antiquity, to lower orders and later ages. Social and intellectual debasement was the salutary ordeal which saved it. The similarity of this conception, much more powerfully expressed by Brown than by any other writer, to Gramsci’s typical notion of the relationship between the Renaissance and Reformation, is noticeable. Gramsci believed that the cultural splendour of the Renaissance, refinement of an aristocratic elite, had to be coarsened and dimmed in the obscurantism of the Reformation, to pass across to the masses and so ultimately reemerge on a wider and freer foundation. Il Materialismo Storico, Turin 1966, p. 85.

20. F. L. Ganshof, The Carolingians and the Frankish Monarchy, London 1971, p. 91.

21. H. Fichtenau, The Carolingian Empire, Oxford 1957, pp. 110–13.

22. Ganshof, The Carolingians and the Frankish Monarchy, pp. 125–35.

23. D. Bullough, The Age of Charlemagne, London 1965, pp. 35–6.

24. L. Halphen, Charlemagne et l’Empire Carolingien, Paris 1949, pp. 198–206, 486–93; Boutruche, Seigneurie et Féodalité, I, pp. 150–9.

25. See the perceptive remarks by Duby: Guerriers et Paysans, p. 55.

26. J. Boussard, The Civilization of Charlemagne, London 1968, pp. 57–60; Duby, Guerriers et Paysans, p. 38.

27. R.H. Bautier, The Economic Development of Mediaeval Europe, London 1971, pp. 44–5.

28. Boutruche, Seigneurie et Féodalité, I, pp. 130–1; see also Duby’s discussion, Guerriers et Paysans, pp. 100–3. There is a good analysis of the general shift in Carolingian France from slavery and serfdom as a legal status in C. Verlinden, L’Esclavage dans l’Europe Médiévale, I, pp. 733–47.

29. Boussard, The Civilization of Charlemagne, pp. 227–9; L. Musser, Les Invasions. Le Second Assaut contre l’Europe Chrétienne, Paris 1965, pp. 158–65.