XXX

DISORDER AND THE EFFORTS TO COMBAT IT

1 THE LIMITS OF STATE ACTION

WE are accustomed to speak of feudal states, and to the learned in medieval times the idea of the State was certainly not unfamiliar; the texts sometimes employ the old word respublica. In addition to obligations to the immediate master, political morality recognized those owed to thus higher authority. A knight, says Bonizo of Sutri, must ‘be prepared to die in defence of his lord and to fight to the death for the commonwealth’.1 But the idea thus evoked was very different from what it would be today; in particular, it was much less comprehensive.

A long list could be made of the activities which we consider inseparable from the idea of the State, but which the feudal states completely ignored. Education belonged to the Church, and the same was true of poor relief, which was identified with charity. Public works were left to the initiative of the users or of petty local authorities—a most palpable breach with Roman tradition and even with that of Charlemagne. Only in the twelfth century did the rulers begin once more to take an interest in such matters, and then less in the kingdoms than in certain precociously developed principalities such as the Anjou of Henry Plantagenet, who built the Loire levees, and Flanders, which owed some of its canals to its count, Philip of Alsace. It was not till the following century that kings and princes intervened, as the Carolingians had done, to fix prices and hesitantly outline an economic policy. Indeed from the second feudal age onwards the real champions of welfare legislation had been almost exclusively authorities of much more limited range, by nature completely alien to feudalism properly so called—namely the towns, which almost from the time when they became autonomous communities concerned themselves with schools, hospitals, and economic regulations.

For the king or the great baron there were virtually only three fundamental duties. He had to ensure the spiritual salvation of his people by pious foundations and by the protection of the true faith; to defend them from foreign foes (a tutelary function to which, when possible, was added

1 Bonizo, Liber de vita Christiana, ed. Perels, 1930 (Texte zur Geschichte des römischen und kanonischen Rechts, I), VII, 28, p. 248.

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