History of Germany: People and State through a Thousand Years

History of Germany: People and State through a Thousand Years

History of Germany: People and State through a Thousand Years

History of Germany: People and State through a Thousand Years


The family group of the Franks had been dissolved: the sons had grown up and struck out their own paths. But each took with him an heirloom from the home of their common childhood. Germany owed to Franconia the principle of unity in nation and government: the German tribes were caught up into the current of the ideas promulgated by Church and Empire, which now embraced the whole world. Thus they came to envisage the path of their further development: to the Germans, as to other peoples, was given the task of forming themselves into a nation.

But as soon as the German kings had taken the first steps in this direction, they adopted, as their own personal task, the idea of dominion over the West, reshaping it as they did so upon a new basis. This dual aim lies at the root of the richness and the glory, and also of the shortcoming and the fatality, of our national history.

At that time Germany, even more than the other parts of the former Carolingian Empire, was an exclusively agricultural country. There were indeed other industries, and other important sources of revenue gradually made their appearance under the Saxon emperors, but in the beginning their profit was negligible.

At an even later period than the Saxon, a learned man divided the population into priests, farmers, and soldiers. There were no townsmen. It is difficult for us in these days to imagine how exclusively the manner of life and thought, social position and political influence were determined by the ownership or cultivation of the soil.

In later capitalist times, the effort to attain a sheltered life and worldly honour took a thousand different forms. At that time in small and great alike it was expressed in the desire for 'more land!'

Arable land was almost entirely in the hands of private owners: but there was still a sufficiency of woodland, capable of being converted into arable, within the boundary of the community, and in the virgin forest. Existing fields were enlarged by cultivation, and new farm buildings erected, sometimes beside the village green, sometimes . . .

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