History of the Ancient and Medieval World - Vol. 9

By Henk Dijkstra | Go to book overview

Fresco of Alfonso I,
founder of the kingdom
of Asturias.
Alfonso was responsible
for initiating the
Reconquista.


The Recon- quista
The Recovery
of the West

As early as the tenth century, there were signs that Latin Christianity would transcend its crises, that it would be able to achieve internal reform and to withstand external attack. The trend would gain momentum in the eleventh century as widespread political anarchy gradually gave way to stability.

At the Battle of Lechfield in the Eastern Frankish Empire in 955, Otto of Germany ended the threat of Magyar invasion to Europe. Seven years later, he was crowned Holy Roman emperor by Pope John XII. Although the two subsequently initiated a conflict between the papacy and the emperorship that would last a century, Otto managed to take control of both Italy and Germany. His dynasty established a relatively stable regime with the help of the state bishops.

In the Western Frankish Empire in the tenth century, royal authority still counted for little, but the incessant rivalry characteristic of the feudal era began to subside as regional leaders increasingly took control of their own territories. Most notable among these were the counts of Anjou and Flanders and the dukes of Normandy and Aquitaine.

As political stability improved with the turn of the century, so did the economic sector. Agriculture, virtually the only economic activity in the early Middle Ages, expanded rapidly. Vacant swampland was drained and dammed for cultivation. Forests were cut down to make fields. A wider application of the three-field system (one field each for early and late harvests; the third lying fallow to regenerate) made much larger harvests possible. The implementation of new agricultural techniques, especially the introduction of the heavy plow, improved crop yield. Fewer people were necessary to farm, yet more food was produced.

An increasing number of people, re-

-1231-

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