NO aspect of early medieval civilization has received so little attention from social and economic historians as town life. This is chiefly due to the prevailing theory that the Roman dries had entirely perished at the time of the migrations, and that even after the migrations the Germans hesitated to settle in towns,1 On the basis of recent archaeological investigations, I have, earlier in this book, demonstrated in detail the fallacies of this theory. We saw that at an early date the Germans settled in the old Roman dries themselves. Proof of this is found in particular in the cemeteries of the early German period, and in the continuity evinced by inscriptions on tombstones, e.g. in Mainz,2 Worms,3 and elsewhere.
There remains to be answered the objection raised by Sombart to the theory of a continuous development. It is, he says, "thoughtless" to speak of a close connection between Roman and early medieval town life, since even where an external continuity seems apparent no sort of internal continuity of development is perceptible.4 This is indeed a surprising statement from a scholar who has so stoutly opposed the dependence of economic history on legal history, and has stated that the former should aim at describing conditions as they actually were.5 Research work in this field, however, has been grossly inadequate.
The methodological error, from which the dogma of the continual decline of the Roman urban system in the Frankish kingdom has suffered, has aptly been pointed out in the following passage: "Scholars again and again have confined their study to the one or two Roman dries in Germany and have naturally found no proofs there of a continuance of Roman methods; we, in Germany, have never gone on to examine the much richer material of the West, but have tried to conceal the uncertainty of our position by proclaiming it to be the natural and scientific one. Instead of proofs, the names of those holding identical views have been invoked."6
The development of research has been most significant in France. There, while earlier scholars were almost all united in their belief in the continuity of Roman urban types, others declared that in the absence of reliable sources for the early development of towns in the Middle Ages nothing could be certain; a number of modern scholars have now challenged this theory.7
The old Roman municipal constitution was not maintained in its original form. Changes no doubt took place, but these had already started in late Roman times. Certainly there was no room for the Roman constitution in the founding of the new German kingdoms. Royal authority brought the dries, too, into____________________