III

SOME CONSEQUENCES AND SOME LESSONS OF THE INVASIONS

1 DISORDER

FROM the turmoil of the last invasions, the West emerged covered with countless scars. The towns themselves had not been spared—at least not by the Scandinavians—and if many of them, after pillage or evacuation, rose again from their ruins, this break in the regular course of their life left them for long years enfeebled. Others were even less fortunate: the two principal ports of the Carolingian empire on the northern seas, Duurstede on the Rhine delta, Quentovic at the mouth of the Canche, sank once and for all to the status, respectively, of a modest hamlet and a fishing village. Along the river routes the trading centres had lost all security: in 861, the merchants of Paris, escaping in their boats, were overtaken by the ships of the Northmen and carried off into captivity.

Above all, the cultivated land suffered disastrously, often being reduced to desert. In the Toulon region, after the expulsion of the bandits of Le Freinet, the land had to be cleared anew, because the former boundaries of the properties had ceased to be recognizable, so that each man—in the words of one charter—‘took possession of the land according to his power’.1 In Touraine, so often overrun by the Vikings, a document of 14th September 900 throws a spotlight on a little manor at Vontes, in the valley of the Indre, and on an entire village at Martigny, on the Loire. At Vontes, five men of servile status ‘could have holdings if we were at peace’. At Martigny the dues are carefully enumerated; but this is a thing of the past; for, though seventeen units of tenure, or mansi, are still listed, they no longer have any meaning. Only sixteen heads of families live on this impoverished soil; one less than the number of mansi, in fact, whereas normally some of the latter would each have been occupied by two or three households. Several of the men ‘have neither wives nor children’. And the same tragic refrain is heard: ‘these people could have holdings if we were at peace’.2 Not all the devastation, however, was the work of the invaders. For, in order to reduce the enemy to submission, it was often necessary to starve him out. In 894, a band of Vikings having been compelled

1Cartulaire de l’abbaye de Saint-Victor-de-Marseille, ed. Guérard, no. LXXVII.

2 Bibl. Nat. Baluze 76, fol. 99 (900, 14th September).

-39-

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