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  • Print publication year: 1999
  • Online publication date: July 2009



… it is well to remember that the unity of our civilisation does not rest entirely on the secular culture and the material progress of the last four centuries. There are deeper traditions in Europe than these, and we must go back behind Humanism and behind the superficial triumphs of modern civilisation, if we wish to discover the fundamental social and spiritual forces that have gone to the making of Europe.

(Christopher Dawson, The Making of Europe: An Introduction to the History of European Unity 400-1000 A.D. (London, 1932))

Asked to identify the fundamental forces which made Europe in the centuries between 900 and 1300 most historians would mention population expansion and urban growth; the dominance of French aristocratic culture and the chivalric code it spawned; the renewal of religious fervour which found expression in the rise of papal power, the spread of new religious orders, and the crusading movement; the appearance of new institutions such as universities and representative assemblies; and an increased sense of national identity among some of Europe's peoples. Britain and Ireland constitute a particularly interesting region in which to examine these developments, since here was to be found a remarkable variety of reactions to European change.