Crime in Its Relations to Social Progress

By Arthur Cleveland Hall | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
ENGLAND UNDER NORMANS AND PLANTAGENETS. 1066-1307

THE whole Anglo-Saxon period of English history was marked, as we have seen, by a long struggle for national unity, unsuccessful because of the lack of a strong central government. The inveterate Teutonic tendency to split up into little warring, independent states, proved too strong for the increasing power of native kings and of the Christian Church, and required the strong arm of a foreign conqueror and a succession of despotic rulers, resolute to enforce law and order in their dominions, before the people of England could become a united nation. Such a government England obtained in her Norman kings, who succeeded, during the next century and a half, in building up, with the aid of the common people, a strong, united kingdom. Suddenly, in the reign of John, we find that the Normans had become Englishmen, the English had become united. This great work of nation building was accomplished mainly through the unification and enforcement of more equal law (mostly criminal), by the extension of the king's peace and royal justice over all the land. The problem, in the words of Henry II., was how to make "all men equal under one strong law." First the feudal nobility, then the king himself, then the Christian Church, had to be curbed and brought under this law: the mould in which a strong nation, a free people and a constitutional kingship were run. It was no easy problem this; and the great game required many moves and many curious combinations of attack and defence, before the king was checkmated and the people won. But not the

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