XXXI

TOWARDS THE RECONSTRUCTION OF STATES: NATIONAL DEVELOPMENTS

1 REASONS FOR THE RECONCENTRATION OF AUTHORITY

IN the course of the second feudal age political authority, which up to that time was much subdivided, began everywhere to be concentrated in larger organisms. (These were not new, of course, but their effective powers were genuinely revived.) The apparent exceptions, like Germany, disappear as soon as one ceases to envisage the State exclusively in terms of kingship. So general a phenomenon could only have been the result of causes common to the entire West; and a list of these causes could almost be compiled by taking the opposites of those which earlier had led to disintegration.

The cessation of the invasions had relieved the royal and princely powers of a task which exhausted their strength. At the same time it made possible the enormous growth of population to which, from the eleventh century onwards, the progress of land clearance bore witness. The increased density of population not only facilitated the maintenance of order, but also favoured the revival of towns, of the artisan class, and of trade. As a result of a more active and abundant circulation of money taxation reappeared, and with it salaried officials; and the payment of troops began to be substituted for the inefficient system of hereditary contractual services. True, the small or medial lord also profited by the transformations of the economy; he had, as we have seen, his ‘tallages’. But the king or the prince almost always possessed more lands and more vassals than anyone else. Moreover, the very nature of his authority provided him with many opportunities to levy taxes, particularly on the churches and the towns. The daily revenue of Philip Augustus at the time of his death was equal in amount to about half the annual revenue returned, a little later, by a monastic lordship which, while not accounted one of the richest, nevertheless owned very extensive properties in a particularly prosperous province.1

1 The daily revenue of the French crown at the death of Philip Augustus, according to the testimony of Conon of Lausanne, was 1,200 livres parisis (M.G.H., SS., XXIV, p. 782). The annual revenue of the abbey of Sainte-Geneviève in Paris, according to an assessment for the ‘tenths’ in 1246, was 1,810 livres parisis (Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviéve, MS. 356, p. 271). The first figure is probably too high, the second too low. But to restore the correct relation between the figures it should be added that there was apparently a rise in prices between the two dates. In any case, the contrast is striking.

-421-

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