XIII

GENERAL SURVEY OF EUROPE

1 FRENCH DIVERSITY: THE SOUTH-WEST AND NORMANDY

IT has been France’s lot, since the Middle Ages, to bind together by evercloser ties of national unity—like the Rhône receiving the Durance, as Mistral finely says—a cluster of societies originally separated by strong contrasts. Everyone knows or is instinctively aware of this; yet no study has been more neglected than that of this social geography. It is therefore only possible here to offer a little guidance to students.

Let us take first the Aquitanian south—the Toulouse region, Gascony, Guienne. In these regions, whose social structure was in every respect very distinctive and which had been influenced only slightly by Frankish institutions, the spread of protective relationships seems to have encountered many obstacles. The allods—small peasant holdings as well as manorial lordships—remained very numerous to the end. Though the concept of the fief was introduced in spite of obstacles, its outlines soon became blurred. As early as the twelfth century, ‘fief was the term applied, in the neighbourhood of Bordeaux or Toulouse, to all sorts of tenements, including those charged with humble rents in kind or agricultural labour services. A similar development occurred in the case of the term ‘honour’, which had become in the north (as a result of a semantic process ‘which will be described later) almost synonymous with ‘fief’. Undoubtedly the two names, when first adopted, had been used in their normal, highly specialized sense. The deviation in meaning, which did not occur at all in the thoroughly feudalized countries, took place subsequently. The truth is that the legal concepts themselves had been imperfectly understood by a regional society familiar with quite different practices.

On the other hand, the Scandinavian followers of Rollo, accustomed to a system of companionage akin to the primitive usages of the Franks, found at the time of their settlement in Neustria nothing in their native traditions which resembled the institutions of the fief and vassalage, as they were already developed in Gaul. Their chiefs nevertheless adapted themselves to these practices with remarkable flexibility. Nowhere better than on this conquered soil were the princes able to use the network of feudal relationships in the interest of their authority. Nevertheless, at the lower levels of society, certain imported characteristics continued in evi-

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