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This introduction presents an overview of the concepts discussed in this book. The book presents a broad view of what mattered in the relationships between western and eastern Europe, and also between Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. It focuses on themes in economic, social governmental, ecclesiastical and cultural history, and discusses the government on a territorial or institutional basis. Governmentally, the period is broadly one of progress within western Europe in the sense that many lordships and kingdoms grew together in solidarity and developed a stronger sense of community. Royal government in France and England was immeasurably stronger at the end of the eleventh century, but in Germany, the position of the monarchy was more ambiguous and complex. The eleventh and twelfth centuries are the time when Romanesque art and architecture reached their zenith in all parts of western Europe; the twelfth is the century when the Gothic style began to flourish in the north.
This chapter presents Henri Pirenne's view of the economic changes of the eighth and ninth centuries. There was, as Pirenne thought, a transformation in the representation and self-presentation of kingship. In the eighth century, the Frankish empire, under Carolingian leadership, expanded to absorb neighbouring peoples. In the ninth century, the rulers of east and west competed in sending missions to convert the Slavs in central Europe. Byzantium had become an alien power. Latin legal texts that preserved, in the west, not just the style but something of the substance of Roman government began to be reread and reused by royal counsellors, rekindling ideas of restoration and renewal. In 793 Charlemagne rewarded non-defectors after a serious rebellion by giving out 'gold and silver and precious cloths'. The symbolic representation of the present, and the construction of the past, were ways in which kings attempted to involve contemporaries in shaping the future: as such they were essential elements in royal government.
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