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The Story of Mankind by Hendrik van Loon

Part 3 out of 8

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continued to annoy them with his speeches they decided to kill him.
They regarded him as a lunatic and a public bore who deserved no mercy.
Mohammed heard of the plot and in the dark of night he fled to Medina
together with Abu Bekr, his trusted pupil. This happened
in the year 622. It is the most important date in Mohammedan
history and is known as the Hegira--the year of the Great Flight.

In Medina, Mohammed, who was a stranger, found it easier
to proclaim himself a prophet than in his home city, where
every one had known him as a simple camel-driver. Soon he
was surrounded by an increasing number of followers, or
Moslems, who accepted the Islam, ``the submission to the will
of God,'' which Mohammed praised as the highest of all virtues.
For seven years he preached to the people of Medina. Then
he believed himself strong enough to begin a campaign against
his former neighbours who had dared to sneer at him and his
Holy Mission in his old camel-driving days. At the head of
an army of Medinese he marched across the desert. His followers
took Mecca without great difficulty, and having slaughtered
a number of the inhabitants, they found it quite easy to
convince the others that Mohammed was really a great prophet.

From that time on until the year of his death, Mohammed
was fortunate in everything he undertook.

There are two reasons for the success of Islam. In the
first place, the creed which Mohammed taught to his followers
was very simple. The disciples were told that they must love
Allah, the Ruler of the World, the Merciful and Compassionate.
They must honour and obey their parents. They
were warned against dishonesty in dealing with their neighbours
and were admonished to be humble and charitable, to the
poor and to the sick. Finally they were ordered to abstain
from strong drink and to be very frugal in what they ate. That
was all. There were no priests, who acted as shepherds of
their flocks and asked that they be supported at the common
expense. The Mohammedan churches or mosques were merely
large stone halls without benches or pictures, where the faithful
could gather (if they felt so inclined) to read and discuss
chapters from the Koran, the Holy Book. But the average
Mohammedan carried his religion with him and never felt
himself hemmed in by the restrictions and regulations of an
established church. Five times a day he turned his face towards
Mecca, the Holy City, and said a simple prayer. For the
rest of the time he let Allah rule the world as he saw fit and
accepted whatever fate brought him with patient resignation.

Of course such an attitude towards life did not encourage
the Faithful to go forth and invent electrical machinery or
bother about railroads and steamship lines. But it gave every
Mohammedan a certain amount of contentment. It bade
him be at peace with himself and with the world in which he
lived and that was a very good thing.

The second reason which explains the success of the Moslems
in their warfare upon the Christians, had to do with the
conduct of those Mohammedan soldiers who went forth to do
battle for the true faith. The Prophet promised that those
who fell, facing the enemy, would go directly to Heaven.
This made sudden death in the field preferable to a long but
dreary existence upon this earth. It gave the Mohammedans
an enormous advantage over the Crusaders who were in constant
dread of a dark hereafter, and who stuck to the good
things of this world as long as they possibly could. Incidentally
it explains why even to-day Moslem soldiers will charge
into the fire of European machine guns quite indifferent to
the fate that awaits them and why they are such dangerous
and persistent enemies.

Having put his religious house in order, Mohammed now
began to enjoy his power as the undisputed ruler of a large
number of Arab tribes. But success has been the undoing of
a large number of men who were great in the days of adversity.
He tried to gain the good will of the rich people by a number
of regulations which could appeal to those of wealth.
He allowed the Faithful to have four wives. As one wife
was a costly investment in those olden days when brides were
bought directly from the parents, four wives became a positive
luxury except to those who possessed camels and dromedaries
and date orchards beyond the dreams of avarice. A religion
which at first had been meant for the hardy hunters of the
high skied desert was gradually transformed to suit the needs
of the smug merchants who lived in the bazaars of the cities.
It was a regrettable change from the original program and it
did very little good to the cause of Mohammedanism. As for
the prophet himself, he went on preaching the truth of Allah
and proclaiming new rules of conduct until he died, quite
suddenly, of a fever on June the seventh of the year 632.

His successor as Caliph (or leader) of the Moslems was
his father-in-law, Abu-Bekr, who had shared the early dangers
of the prophet's life. Two years later, Abu-Bekr died and
Omar ibn Al-Khattab followed him. In less than ten years
he conquered Egypt, Persia, Phoenicia, Syria and Palestine
and made Damascus the capital of the first Mohammedan world

Omar was succeeded by Ali, the husband of Mohammed's
daughter, Fatima, but a quarrel broke out upon a point of
Moslem doctrine and Ali was murdered. After his death,
the caliphate was made hereditary and the leaders of the faithful
who had begun their career as the spiritual head of a religious
sect became the rulers of a vast empire. They built
a new city on the shores of the Euphrates, near the ruins of
Babylon and called it Bagdad, and organising the Arab horsemen
into regiments of cavalry, they set forth to bring the
happiness of their Moslem faith to all unbelievers. In the
year 700 A.D. a Mohammedan general by the name of Tarik
crossed the old gates of Hercules and reached the high rock
on the European side which he called the Gibel-al-tarik, the
Hill of Tarik or Gibraltar.

Eleven years later in the battle of Xeres de la Frontera,
he defeated the king of the Visigoths and then the Moslem
army moved northward and following the route of Hannibal,
they crossed the passes of the Pyrenees. They defeated the
Duke of Aquitania, who tried to halt them near Bordeaux,
and marched upon Paris. But in the year 732 (one
hundred years after the death of the prophet,) they were
beaten in a battle between Tours and Poitiers. On that
day, Charles Martel (Charles with the Hammer) the Frankish
chieftain, saved Europe from a Mohammedan con-
quest. He drove the Moslems out of France, but they maintained
themselves in Spain where Abd-ar-Rahman founded the
Caliphate of Cordova, which became the greatest centre of
science and art of mediaeval Europe.

This Moorish kingdom, so-called because the people came
from Mauretania in Morocco, lasted seven centuries. It was
only after the capture of Granada, the last Moslem stronghold,
in the year 1492, that Columbus received the royal grant which
allowed him to go upon a voyage of discovery. The Mohammedans
soon regained their strength in the new conquests
which they made in Asia and Africa and to-day there are as
many followers of Mohammed as there are of Christ.



THE battle of Poitiers had saved Europe from the
Mohammedans. But the enemy within--the hopeless disorder
which had followed the disappearance of the Roman police
officer--that enemy remained. It is true that the new converts
of the Christian faith in Northern Europe felt a deep respect
for the mighty Bishop of Rome. But that poor bishop did
not feel any too safe when he looked toward the distant
mountains. Heaven knew what fresh hordes of barbarians were
ready to cross the Alps and begin a new attack on Rome. It
was necessary--very necessary--for the spiritual head of the
world to find an ally with a strong sword and a powerful
fist who was willing to defend His Holiness in case of danger.

And so the Popes, who were not only very holy but
also very practical, cast about for a friend, and presently
they made overtures to the most promising of the Germanic
tribes who had occupied north-western Europe after the fall
of Rome. They were called the Franks. One of their earliest
kings, called Merovech, had helped the Romans in the battle of
the Catalaunian fields in the year 451 when they defeated the
Huns. His descendants, the Merovingians, had continued to
take little bits of imperial territory until the year 486 when
king Clovis (the old French word for ``Louis'') felt himself
strong enough to beat the Romans in the open. But his
descendants were weak men who left the affairs of state to
their Prime minister, the ``Major Domus'' or Master of the

Pepin the Short, the son of the famous Charles Martel,
who succeeded his father as Master of the Palace, hardly
knew how to handle the situation. His royal master was a
devout theologian, without any interest in politics. Pepin
asked the Pope for advice. The Pope who was a practical
person answered that the ``power in the state belonged to him
who was actually possessed of it.'' Pepin took the hint. He
persuaded Childeric, the last of the Merovingians to become
a monk and then made himself king with the approval of the
other Germanic chieftains. But this did not satisfy the shrewd
Pepin. He wanted to be something more than a barbarian
chieftain. He staged an elaborate ceremony at which Boniface,
the great missionary of the European northwest, anointed
him and made him a ``King by the grace of God.'' It was
easy to slip those words, ``Del gratia,'' into the coronation
service. It took almost fifteen hundred years to get them out

Pepin was sincerely grateful for this kindness on the part
of the church. He made two expeditions to Italy to defend
the Pope against his enemies. He took Ravenna and several
other cities away from the Longobards and presented them
to His Holiness, who incorporated these new domains into
the so-called Papal State, which remained an independent
country until half a century ago.

After Pepin's death, the relations between Rome and Aix-
la-Chapelle or Nymwegen or Ingelheim, (the Frankish Kings
did not have one official residence, but travelled from place to
place with all their ministers and court officers,) became more
and more cordial. Finally the Pope and the King took a step
which was to influence the history of Europe in a most profound

Charles, commonly known as Carolus Magnus or Char-
lemagne, succeeded Pepin in the year 768. He had conquered
the land of the Saxons in eastern Germany and had
built towns and monasteries all over the greater part of northern
Europe. At the request of certain enemies of Abd-ar-
Rahman, he had invaded Spain to fight the Moors. But in
the Pyrenees he had been attacked by the wild Basques and
had been forced to retire. It was upon this occasion that Roland,
the great Margrave of Breton, showed what a Frankish
chieftain of those early days meant when he promised to be
faithful to his King, and gave his life and that of his trusted
followers to safeguard the retreat of the royal army.

During the last ten years of the eighth century, however,
Charles was obliged to devote himself exclusively to affairs of
the South. The Pope, Leo III, had been attacked by a band
of Roman rowdies and had been left for dead in the street.
Some kind people had bandaged his wounds and had helped
him to escape to the camp of Charles, where he asked for
help. An army of Franks soon restored quiet and carried Leo
back to the Lateran Palace which ever since the days of Constantine,
had been the home of the Pope. That was in December
of the year 799. On Christmas day of the next year,
Charlemagne, who was staying in Rome, attended the service
in the ancient church of St. Peter. When he arose from prayer,
the Pope placed a crown upon his head, called him Emperor of
the Romans and hailed him once more with the title of ``Augustus''
which had not been heard for hundreds of years.

Once more Northern Europe was part of a Roman Empire,
but the dignity was held by a German chieftain who could
read just a little and never learned to write. But he could
fight and for a short while there was order and even the rival
emperor in Constantinople sent a letter of approval to his
``dear Brother.''

Unfortunately this splendid old man died in the year 814.
His sons and his grandsons at once began to fight for the
largest share of the imperial inheritance. Twice the Carolingian
lands were divided, by the treaties of Verdun in the
year 843 and by the treaty of Mersen-on-the-Meuse in the
year 870. The latter treaty divided the entire Frankish Kingdom
into two parts. Charles the Bold received the western
half. It contained the old Roman province called Gaul where
the language of the people had become thoroughly romanized.
The Franks soon learned to speak this language and this
accounts for the strange fact that a purely Germanic land
like France should speak a Latin tongue.

The other grandson got the eastern part, the land which
the Romans had called Germania. Those inhospitable regions
had never been part of the old Empire. Augustus had
tried to conquer this ``far east,'' but his legions had been
annihilated in the Teutoburg Wood in the year 9 and the people had
never been influenced by the higher Roman civilisation. They
spoke the popular Germanic tongue. The Teuton word for
``people'' was ``thiot.'' The Christian missionaries therefore
called the German language the ``lingua theotisca'' or the
``lingua teutisca,'' the ``popular dialect'' and this word
``teutisca'' was changed into ``Deutsch'' which accounts for the name

As for the famous Imperial Crown, it very soon slipped
off the heads of the Carolingian successors and rolled back onto
the Italian plain, where it became a sort of plaything of a
number of little potentates who stole the crown from each other
amidst much bloodshed and wore it (with or without the permission
of the Pope) until it was the turn of some more ambitious
neighbour. The Pope, once more sorely beset by his
enemies, sent north for help. He did not appeal to the ruler
of the west-Frankish kingdom, this time. His messengers
crossed the Alps and addressed themselves to Otto, a Saxon
Prince who was recognised as the greatest chieftain of the
different Germanic tribes.

Otto, who shared his people's affection for the blue skies
and the gay and beautiful people of the Italian peninsula,
hastened to the rescue. In return for his services, the Pope,
Leo VIII, made Otto ``Emperor,'' and the eastern half of
Charles' old kingdom was henceforth known as the ``Holy
Roman Empire of the German Nation.''

This strange political creation managed to live to the ripe
old age of eight hundred and thirty-nine years. In the year
1801, (during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson,) it was
most unceremoniously relegated to the historical scrapheap.
The brutal fellow who destroyed the old Germanic Empire was
the son of a Corsican notary-public who had made a brilliant
career in the service of the French Republic. He was ruler
of Europe by the grace of his famous Guard Regiments, but
he desired to be something more. He sent to Rome for the
Pope and the Pope came and stood by while General Napoleon
placed the imperial crown upon his own head and proclaimed
himself heir to the tradition of Charlemagne. For history is
like life. The more things change, the more they remain
the same.



IN the third and fourth centuries, the Germanic tribes of
central Europe had broken through the defences of the Empire
that they might plunder Rome and live on the fat of the
land. In the eighth century it became the turn of the Germans
to be the ``plundered-ones.'' They did not like this at all, even
if their enemies were their first cousins, the Norsemen, who
lived in Denmark and Sweden and Norway.

What forced these hardy sailors to turn pirate we do not
know, but once they had discovered the advantages and pleasures
of a buccaneering career there was no one who could stop
them. They would suddenly descend upon a peaceful Frankish
or Frisian village, situated on the mouth of a river. They
would kill all the men and steal all the women. Then they
would sail away in their fast-sailing ships and when the soldiers
of the king or emperor arrived upon the scene, the robbers
were gone and nothing remained but a few smouldering

During the days of disorder which followed the death of
Charlemagne, the Northmen developed great activity. Their
fleets made raids upon every country and their sailors established
small independent kingdoms along the coast of Holland
and France and England and Germany, and they even found
their way into Italy. The Northmen were very intelligent
They soon learned to speak the language of their subjects and
gave up the uncivilised ways of the early Vikings (or Sea-
Kings who had been very picturesque but also very unwashed
and terribly cruel.

Early in the tenth century a Viking by the name of Rollo
had repeatedly attacked the coast of France. The king of
France, too weak to resist these northern robbers, tried to
bribe them into ``being good.'' He offered them the province
of Normandy, if they would promise to stop bothering the rest
of his domains. Rollo accepted this bargain and became ``Duke
of Normandy.''

But the passion of conquest was strong in the blood of his
children. Across the channel, only a few hours away from the
European mainland, they could see the white cliffs and the
green fields of England. Poor England had passed through
difficult days. For two hundred years it had been a Roman
colony. After the Romans left, it had been conquered by the
Angles and the Saxons, two German tribes from Schleswig.
Next the Danes had taken the greater part of the country
and had established the kingdom of Cnut. The Danes had
been driven away and now (it was early in the eleventh century)
another Saxon king, Edward the Confessor, was on the
throne. But Edward was not expected to live long and he
had no children. The circumstances favoured the ambitious
dukes of Normandy.

In 1066 Edward died. Immediately William of Normandy
crossed the channel, defeated and killed Harold of
Wessex (who had taken the crown) at the battle of Hastings,
and proclaimed himself king of England.

In another chapter I have told you how in the year 800 a
German chieftain had become a Roman Emperor. Now in
the year 1066 the grandson of a Norse pirate was recognised
as King of England.

Why should we ever read fairy stories, when the truth
of history is so much more interesting and entertaining?



THE following, then, is the state of Europe in the year one
thousand, when most people were so unhappy that they welcomed
the prophecy foretelling the approaching end of the
world and rushed to the monasteries, that the Day of Judgement
might find them engaged upon devout duties.

At an unknown date, the Germanic tribes had left their old
home in Asia and had moved westward into Europe. By
sheer pressure of numbers they had forced their way into the
Roman Empire. They had destroyed the great western empire,
but the eastern part, being off the main route of the
great migrations, had managed to survive and feebly continued
the traditions of Rome's ancient glory.

During the days of disorder which had followed, (the true
``dark ages'' of history, the sixth and seventh centuries of our
era,) the German tribes had been persuaded to accept the
Christian religion and had recognised the Bishop of Rome
as the Pope or spiritual head of the world. In the ninth century,
the organising genius of Charlemagne had revived the
Roman Empire and had united the greater part of western
Europe into a single state. During the tenth century this
empire had gone to pieces. The western part had become a
separate kingdom, France. The eastern half was known as the
Holy Roman Empire of the German nation, and the rulers of
this federation of states then pretended that they were the
direct heirs of Caesar and Augustus.

Unfortunately the power of the kings of France did not
stretch beyond the moat of their royal residence, while the
Holy Roman Emperor was openly defied by his powerful
subjects whenever it suited their fancy or their profit.

To increase the misery of the masses of the people, the
triangle of western Europe (look at page 128, please) was for ever
exposed to attacks from three sides. On the south lived the
ever dangerous Mohammedans. The western coast was ravaged
by the Northmen. The eastern frontier (defenceless except
for the short stretch of the Carpathian mountains) was at
the mercy of hordes of Huns, Hungarians, Slavs and Tartars.

The peace of Rome was a thing of the remote past, a dream
of the ``Good Old Days'' that were gone for ever. It was a
question of ``fight or die,'' and quite naturally people preferred
to fight. Forced by circumstances, Europe became an armed
camp and there was a demand for strong leadership. Both
King and Emperor were far away. The frontiersmen (and
most of Europe in the year 1000 was ``frontier'') must help
themselves. They willingly submitted to the representatives
of the king who were sent to administer the outlying districts,

Soon central Europe was dotted with small principalities,
each one ruled by a duke or a count or a baron or a bishop, as
the case might be, and organised as a fighting unit. These
dukes and counts and barons had sworn to be faithful to the
king who had given them their ``feudum'' (hence our word
``feudal,'') in return for their loyal services and a certain
amount of taxes. But travel in those days was slow and the
means of communication were exceedingly poor. The royal
or imperial administrators therefore enjoyed great independence,
and within the boundaries of their own province they
assumed most of the rights which in truth belonged to the king.

But you would make a mistake if you supposed that the
people of the eleventh century objected to this form of
government. They supported Feudalism because it was a very
practical and necessary institution. Their Lord and Master
usually lived in a big stone house erected on the top of a steep
rock or built between deep moats, but within sight of his
subjects. In case of danger the subjects found shelter behind
the walls of the baronial stronghold. That is why they tried
to live as near the castle as possible and it accounts for the
many European cities which began their career around a feudal

But the knight of the early middle ages was much more
than a professional soldier. He was the civil servant of that
day. He was the judge of his community and he was the
chief of police. He caught the highwaymen and protected
the wandering pedlars who were the merchants of the eleventh
century. He looked after the dikes so that the countryside
should not be flooded (just as the first noblemen had done
in the valley of the Nile four thousand years before). He
encouraged the Troubadours who wandered from place to place
telling the stories of the ancient heroes who had fought in the
great wars of the migrations. Besides, he protected the churches
and the monasteries within his territory, and although he could
neither read nor write, (it was considered unmanly to know
such things,) he employed a number of priests who kept his
accounts and who registered the marriages and the births and
the deaths which occurred within the baronial or ducal domains.

In the fifteenth century the kings once more became strong
enough to exercise those powers which belonged to them because
they were ``anointed of God.'' Then the feudal knights lost
their former independence. Reduced to the rank of country
squires, they no longer filled a need and soon they became a
nuisance. But Europe would have perished without the ``feudal
system'' of the dark ages. There were many bad knights
as there are many bad people to-day. But generally speaking,
the rough-fisted barons of the twelfth and thirteenth century
were hard-working administrators who rendered a most useful
service to the cause of progress. During that era the noble
torch of learning and art which had illuminated the world of
the Egyptians and the Greeks and the Romans was burning
very low. Without the knights and their good friends, the
monks, civilisation would have been extinguished entirely, and
the human race would have been forced to begin once more
where the cave-man had left off.



IT was quite natural that the professional fighting-men of
the Middle Ages should try to establish some sort of organisation
for their mutual benefit and protection. Out of this need
for close organisation, Knighthood or Chivalry was born.

We know very little about the origins of Knighthood. But
as the system developed, it gave the world something which it
needed very badly--a definite rule of conduct which softened
the barbarous customs of that day and made life more livable
than it had been during the five hundred years of the Dark
Ages. It was not an easy task to civilise the rough frontiersmen
who had spent most of their time fighting Mohammedans
and Huns and Norsemen. Often they were guilty of backsliding,
and having vowed all sorts of oaths about mercy and
charity in the morning, they would murder all their prisoners
before evening. But progress is ever the result of slow and
ceaseless labour, and finally the most unscrupulous of knights
was forced to obey the rules of his ``class'' or suffer the consequences.

These rules were different in the various parts of Europe,
but they all made much of ``service'' and ``loyalty to duty.'' The
Middle Ages regarded service as something very noble and
beautiful. It was no disgrace to be a servant, provided you
were a good servant and did not slacken on the job. As for
loyalty, at a time when life depended upon the faithful per-
formance of many unpleasant duties, it was the chief virtue
of the fighting man.

A young knight therefore was asked to swear that he would
be faithful as a servant to God and as a servant to his King.
Furthermore, he promised to be generous to those whose need
was greater than his own. He pledged his word that he would
be humble in his personal behaviour and would never boast of
his own accomplishments and that he would be a friend of all
those who suffered, (with the exception of the Mohammedans,
whom he was expected to kill on sight).

Around these vows, which were merely the Ten Commandments
expressed in terms which the people of the Middle Ages
could understand, there developed a complicated system of
manners and outward behaviour. The knights tried to model
their own lives after the example of those heroes of Arthur's
Round Table and Charlemagne's court of whom the Troubadours
had told them and of whom you may read in many delightful
books which are enumerated at the end of this volume.
They hoped that they might prove as brave as Lancelot and
as faithful as Roland. They carried themselves with dignity
and they spoke careful and gracious words that they might be
known as True Knights, however humble the cut of their coat
or the size of their purse.

In this way the order of Knighthood became a school of those
good manners which are the oil of the social machinery. Chivalry
came to mean courtesy and the feudal castle showed the
rest of the world what clothes to wear, how to eat, how to ask
a lady for a dance and the thousand and one little things of
every-day behaviour which help to make life interesting and

Like all human institutions, Knighthood was doomed to
perish as soon as it had outlived its usefulness.

The crusades, about which one of the next chapters tells,
were followed by a great revival of trade. Cities grew overnight.
The townspeople became rich, hired good school teachers
and soon were the equals of the knights. The invention
of gun-powder deprived the heavily armed ``Chevalier'' of his
former advantage and the use of mercenaries made it impossible
to conduct a battle with the delicate niceties of a chess
tournament. The knight became superfluous. Soon he became
a ridiculous figure, with his devotion to ideals that had no
longer any practical value. It was said that the noble Don
Quixote de la Mancha had been the last of the true knights.
After his death, his trusted sword and his armour were sold
to pay his debts.

But somehow or other that sword seems to have fallen into
the hands of a number of men. Washington carried it during
the hopeless days of Valley Forge. It was the only defence
of Gordon, when he had refused to desert the people who had
been entrusted to his care, and stayed to meet his death in the
besieged fortress of Khartoum.

And I am not quite sure but that it proved of invaluable
strength in winning the Great War.



IT is very difficult to understand the people of by-gone
ages. Your own grandfather, whom you see every day, is a
mysterious being who lives in a different world of ideas and
clothes and manners. I am now telling you the story of some
of your grandfathers who are twenty-five generations removed,
and I do not expect you to catch the meaning of what I write
without re-reading this chapter a number of times.

The average man of the Middle Ages lived a very simple
and uneventful life. Even if he was a free citizen, able to
come and go at will, he rarely left his own neighbourhood.
There were no printed books and only a few manuscripts.
Here and there, a small band of industrious monks taught
reading and writing and some arithmetic. But science and history
and geography lay buried beneath the ruins of Greece and

Whatever people knew about the past they had learned by
listening to stories and legends. Such information, which goes
from father to son, is often slightly incorrect in details, but
it will preserve the main facts of history with astonishing
accuracy. After more than two thousand years, the mothers of
India still frighten their naughty children by telling them that
``Iskander will get them,'' and Iskander is none other than
Alexander the Great, who visited India in the year 330 before
the birth of Christ, but whose story has lived through all these

The people of the early Middle Ages never saw a textbook
of Roman history. They were ignorant of many things
which every school-boy to-day knows before he has entered
the third grade. But the Roman Empire, which is merely a
name to you, was to them something very much alive. They
felt it. They willingly recognised the Pope as their spiritual
leader because he lived in Rome and represented the idea of
the Roman super-power. And they were profoundly grateful
when Charlemagne, and afterwards Otto the Great, revived
the idea of a world-empire and created the Holy Roman
Empire, that the world might again be as it always had been.

But the fact that there were two different heirs to the
Roman tradition placed the faithful burghers of the Middle
Ages in a difficult position. The theory behind the mediaeval
political system was both sound and simple. While the worldly
master (the emperor) looked after the physical well-being of
his subjects, the spiritual master (the Pope) guarded their

In practice, however, the system worked very badly. The
Emperor invariably tried to interfere with the affairs of the
church and the Pope retaliated and told the Emperor how
he should rule his domains. Then they told each other to mind
their own business in very unceremonious language and the
inevitable end was war.

Under those circumstances, what were the people to do,
A good Christian obeyed both the Pope and his King. But
the Pope and the Emperor were enemies. Which side should
a dutiful subject and an equally dutiful Christian take?

It was never easy to give the correct answer. When the
Emperor happened to be a man of energy and was sufficiently
well provided with money to organise an army, he was very
apt to cross the Alps and march on Rome, besiege the Pope
in his own palace if need be, and force His Holiness to obey
the imperial instructions or suffer the consequences.

But more frequently the Pope was the stronger. Then the
Emperor or the King together with all his subjects was
excommunicated. This meant that all churches were closed, that no
one could be baptised, that no dying man could be given absolution--
in short, that half of the functions of mediaeval government
came to an end.

More than that, the people were absolved from their oath of
loyalty to their sovereign and were urged to rebel against their
master. But if they followed this advice of the distant Pope
and were caught, they were hanged by their near-by Lege
Lord and that too was very unpleasant.

Indeed, the poor fellows were in a difficult position and
none fared worse than those who lived during the latter half of
the eleventh century, when the Emperor Henry IV of Germany
and Pope Gregory VII fought a two-round battle which
decided nothing and upset the peace of Europe for almost fifty

In the middle of the eleventh century there had been a
strong movement for reform in the church. The election of the
Popes, thus far, had been a most irregular affair. It was to the
advantage of the Holy Roman Emperors to have a well-disposed
priest elected to the Holy See. They frequently came
to Rome at the time of election and used their influence for
the benefit of one of their friends.

In the year 1059 this had been changed. By a decree of
Pope Nicholas II the principal priests and deacons of the
churches in and around Rome were organised into the so-
called College of Cardinals, and this gathering of prominent
churchmen (the word ``Cardinal'' meant principal) was given
the exclusive power of electing the future Popes.

In the year 1073 the College of Cardinals elected a priest
by the name of Hildebrand, the son of very simple parents in
Tuscany, as Pope, and he took the name of Gregory VII.
His energy was unbounded. His belief in the supreme powers
of his Holy Office was built upon a granite rock of conviction
and courage. In the mind of Gregory, the Pope was not only
the absolute head of the Christian church, but also the highest
Court of Appeal in all worldly matters. The Pope who had
elevated simple German princes to the dignity of Emperor
could depose them at will. He could veto any law passed by
duke or king or emperor, but whosoever should question a
papal decree, let him beware, for the punishment would be
swift and merciless.

Gregory sent ambassadors to all the European courts to
inform the potentates of Europe of his new laws and asked
them to take due notice of their contents. William the Conqueror
promised to be good, but Henry IV, who since the age
of six had been fighting with his subjects, had no intention of
submitting to the Papal will. He called together a college of
German bishops, accused Gregory of every crime under the
sun and then had him deposed by the council of Worms.

The Pope answered with excommunication and a demand
that the German princes rid themselves of their unworthy ruler.
The German princes, only too happy to be rid of Henry, asked
the Pope to come to Augsburg and help them elect a new Emperor.

Gregory left Rome and travelled northward. Henry,
who was no fool, appreciated the danger of his position. At
all costs he must make peace with the Pope, and he must do
it at once. In the midst of winter he crossed the Alps and
hastened to Canossa where the Pope had stopped for a short
rest. Three long days, from the 25th to the 28th of January
of the year 1077, Henry, dressed as a penitent pilgrim
(but with a warm sweater underneath his monkish garb),
waited outside the gates of the castle of Canossa.
Then he was allowed to enter and was pardoned for
his sins. But the repentance did not last long.
As soon as Henry had returned to Germany, he behaved
exactly as before. Again he was excommunicated. For the
second time a council of German bishops deposed Gregory,
but this time, when Henry crossed the Alps he was at
the head of a large army, besieged Rome and forced Gregory
to retire to Salerno, where he died in exile. This first violent
outbreak decided nothing. As soon as Henry was back in
Germany, the struggle between Pope and Emperor was continued.

The Hohenstaufen family which got hold of the Imperial
German Throne shortly afterwards, were even more independent
than their predecessors. Gregory had claimed that the
Popes were superior to all kings because they (the Popes) at
the Day of Judgement would be responsible for the behaviour
of all the sheep of their flock, and in the eyes of God, a king
was one of that faithful herd.

Frederick of Hohenstaufen, commonly known as Barbarossa
or Red Beard, set up the counter-claim that the Empire
had been bestowed upon his predecessor ``by God himself''
and as the Empire included Italy and Rome, he began a campaign
which was to add these ``lost provinces'' to the northern
country. Barbarossa was accidentally drowned in Asia Minor
during the second Crusade, but his son Frederick II, a brilliant
young man who in his youth had been exposed to the civilisation
of the Mohammedans of Sicily, continued the war. The
Popes accused him of heresy. It is true that Frederick seems
to have felt a deep and serious contempt for the rough Christian
world of the North, for the boorish German Knights and
the intriguing Italian priests. But he held his tongue, went
on a Crusade and took Jerusalem from the infidel and was
duly crowned as King of the Holy City. Even this act did not
placate the Popes. They deposed Frederick and gave his
Italian possessions to Charles of Anjou, the brother of that
King Louis of France who became famous as Saint Louis.
This led to more warfare. Conrad V, the son of Conrad IV,
and the last of the Hohenstaufens, tried to regain the kingdom,
and was defeated and decapitated at Naples. But twenty years
later, the French who had made themselves thoroughly unpopular
in Sicily were all murdered during the so-called Sicilian
Vespers, and so it went.

The quarrel between the Popes and the Emperors was
never settled, but after a while the two enemies learned to
leave each other alone.

In the year 1278, Rudolph of Hapsburg was elected Emperor.
He did not take the trouble to go to Rome to be
crowned. The Popes did not object and in turn they kept
away from Germany. This meant peace but two entire centuries
which might have been used for the purpose of internal
organisation had been wasted in useless warfare.

It is an ill wind however that bloweth no good to some one.
The little cities of Italy, by a process of careful balancing,
had managed to increase their power and their independence
at the expense of both Emperors and Popes. When the rush
for the Holy Land began, they were able to handle the transportation
problem of the thousands of eager pilgrims who were
clamoring for passage, and at the end of the Crusades they
had built themselves such strong defences of brick and of gold
that they could defy Pope and Emperor with equal indifference.

Church and State fought each other and a third party--the
mediaeval city--ran away with the spoils.



DURING three centuries there had been peace between Christians
and Moslems except in Spain and in the eastern Roman
Empire, the two states defending the gateways of Europe.
The Mohammedans having conquered Syria in the seventh
century were in possession of the Holy Land. But they regarded
Jesus as a great prophet (though not quite as great
as Mohammed), and they did not interfere with the pilgrims
who wished to pray in the church which Saint Helena, the
mother of the Emperor Constantine, had built on the spot of
the Holy Grave. But early in the eleventh century, a Tartar
tribe from the wilds of Asia, called the Seljuks or Turks,
became masters of the Mohammedan state in western Asia and
then the period of tolerance came to an end. The Turks took
all of Asia Minor away from the eastern Roman Emperors
and they made an end to the trade between east and west.

Alexis, the Emperor, who rarely saw anything of his Christian
neighbours of the west, appealed for help and pointed to
the danger which threatened Europe should the Turks take

The Italian cities which had established colonies along the
coast of Asia Minor and Palestine, in fear for their possessions,
reported terrible stories of Turkish atrocities and Christian
suffering. All Europe got excited.

Pope Urban II, a Frenchman from Reims, who had been
educated at the same famous cloister of Cluny which had
trained Gregory VII, thought that the time had come for
action. The general state of Europe was far from satisfactory.
The primitive agricultural methods of that day (unchanged
since Roman times) caused a constant scarcity of food. There
was unemployment and hunger and these are apt to lead to
discontent and riots. Western Asia in older days had fed millions.
It was an excellent field for the purpose of immigration.

Therefore at the council of Clermont in France in the year
1095 the Pope arose, described the terrible horrors which the
infidels had inflicted upon the Holy Land, gave a glowing
description of this country which ever since the days of Moses
had been overflowing with milk and honey, and exhorted the
knights of France and the people of Europe in general to
leave wife and child and deliver Palestine from the Turks.

A wave of religious hysteria swept across the continent.
All reason stopped. Men would drop their hammer and saw,
walk out of their shop and take the nearest road to the east
to go and kill Turks. Children would leave their homes to ``go
to Palestine'' and bring the terrible Turks to their knees by
the mere appeal of their youthful zeal and Christian piety.
Fully ninety percent of those enthusiasts never got within
sight of the Holy Land. They had no money. They were
forced to beg or steal to keep alive. They became a danger
to the safety of the highroads and they were killed by the
angry country people.

The first Crusade, a wild mob of honest Christians, defaulting
bankrupts, penniless noblemen and fugitives from justice,
following the lead of half-crazy Peter the Hermit and Walter-
without-a-Cent, began their campaign against the Infidels by
murdering all the Jews whom they met by the way. They
got as far as Hungary and then they were all killed.

This experience taught the Church a lesson. Enthusiasm
alone would not set the Holy Land free. Organisation was
as necessary as good-will and courage. A year was spent in
training and equipping an army of 200,000 men. They were
placed under command of Godfrey of Bouillon, Robert, duke
of Normandy, Robert, count of Flanders, and a number of
other noblemen, all experienced in the art of war.

In the year 1096 this second crusade started upon its long
voyage. At Constantinople the knights did homage to the
Emperor. (For as I have told you, traditions die hard, and
a Roman Emperor, however poor and powerless, was still held
in great respect). Then they crossed into Asia, killed all the
Moslems who fell into their hands, stormed Jerusalem, massacred
the Mohammedan population, and marched to the Holy
Sepulchre to give praise and thanks amidst tears of piety and
gratitude. But soon the Turks were strengthened by the arrival
of fresh troops. Then they retook Jerusalem and in turn
killed the faithful followers of the Cross.

During the next two centuries, seven other crusades took
place. Gradually the Crusaders learned the technique of the
trip. The land voyage was too tedious and too dangerous.
They preferred to cross the Alps and go to Genoa or Venice
where they took ship for the east. The Genoese and the Venetians
made this trans-Mediterranean passenger service a very
profitable business. They charged exorbitant rates, and when
the Crusaders (most of whom had very little money) could not
pay the price, these Italian ``profiteers'' kindly allowed them
to ``work their way across.'' In return for a fare from Venice
to Acre, the Crusader undertook to do a stated amount of
fighting for the owners of his vessel. In this way Venice greatly
increased her territory along the coast of the Adriatic and in
Greece, where Athens became a Venetian colony, and in the
islands of Cyprus and Crete and Rhodes.

All this, however, helped little in settling the question
of the Holy Land. After the first enthusiasm had
worn off, a short crusading trip became part of the liberal
education of every well-bred young man, and there
never was any lack of candidates for service in Palestine.
But the old zeal was gone. The Crusaders, who
had begun their warfare with deep hatred for the
Mohammedans and great love for the Christian people
of the eastern Roman Empire and Armenia, suffered
a complete change of heart. They came to despise the
Greeks of Byzantium, who cheated them and frequently betrayed
the cause of the Cross, and the Armenians and all the
other Levantine races, and they began to appreciate the vir-
tues of their enemies who proved to be generous and fair

Of course, it would never do to say this openly. But when
the Crusader returned home, he was likely to imitate the manners
which he had learned from his heathenish foe, compared
to whom the average western knight was still a good deal of a
country bumpkin. He also brought with him several new
food-stuffs, such as peaches and spinach which he planted in his
garden and grew for his own benefit. He gave up the barbarous
custom of wearing a load of heavy armour and appeared
in the flowing robes of silk or cotton which were the traditional
habit of the followers of the Prophet and were originally worn
by the Turks. Indeed the Crusades, which had begun as a
punitive expedition against the Heathen, became a course of
general instruction in civilisation for millions of young Europeans.

From a military and political point of view the Crusades
were a failure. Jerusalem and a number of cities were taken
and lost. A dozen little kingdoms were established in Syria
and Palestine and Asia Minor, but they were re-conquered by
the Turks and after the year 1244 (when Jerusalem became
definitely Turkish) the status of the Holy Land was the same
as it had been before 1095.

But Europe had undergone a great change. The people of
the west had been allowed a glimpse of the light and the sunshine
and the beauty of the east. Their dreary castles no
longer satisfied them. They wanted a broader life. Neither
Church nor State could give this to them.

They found it in the cities.



THE early part of the Middle Ages had been an era of
pioneering and of settlement. A new people, who thus far
had lived outside the wild range of forest, mountains and
marshes which protected the north-eastern frontier of the Roman
Empire, had forced its way into the plains of western
Europe and had taken possession of most of the land. They
were restless, as all pioneers have been since the beginning of
time. They liked to be ``on the go.'' They cut down the
forests and they cut each other's throats with equal energy.
Few of them wanted to live in cities. They insisted upon being
``free,'' they loved to feel the fresh air of the hillsides fill their
lungs while they drove their herds across the wind-swept pastures.
When they no longer liked their old homes, they pulled
up stakes and went away in search of fresh adventures.

The weaker ones died. The hardy fighters and the courageous
women who had followed their men into the wilderness
survived. In this way they developed a strong race of
men. They cared little for the graces of life. They were too
busy to play the fiddle or write pieces of poetry. They had
little love for discussions. The priest, ``the learned man'' of the
village (and before the middle of the thirteenth century, a layman
who could read and write was regarded as a ``sissy'') was
supposed to settle all questions which had no direct practical
value. Meanwhile the German chieftain, the Frankish Baron,
the Northman Duke (or whatever their names and titles) occupied
their share of the territory which once had been part of
the great Roman Empire and among the ruins of past glory,
they built a world of their own which pleased them mightily
and which they considered quite perfect.

They managed the affairs of their castle and the surrounding
country to the best of their ability. They were as faithful
to the commandments of the Church as any weak mortal could
hope to be. They were sufficiently loyal to their king or emperor
to keep on good terms with those distant but always dangerous
potentates. In short, they tried to do right and to be
fair to their neighbours without being exactly unfair to their
own interests.

It was not an ideal world in which they found themselves.
The greater part of the people were serfs or ``villains,'' farm-
hands who were as much a part of the soil upon which they
lived as the cows and sheep whose stables they shared. Their
fate was not particularly happy nor was it particularly
unhappy. But what was one to do? The good Lord who ruled
the world of the Middle Ages had undoubtedly ordered everything
for the best. If He, in his wisdom, had decided that
there must be both knights and serfs, it was not the duty of
these faithful sons of the church to question the arrangement.
The serfs therefore did not complain but when they were too
hard driven, they would die off like cattle which are not fed
and stabled in the right way, and then something would be hastily
done to better their condition. But if the progress of the
world had been left to the serf and his feudal master, we would
still be living after the fashion of the twelfth century, saying
``abracadabra'' when we tried to stop a tooth-ache, and feeling
a deep contempt and hatred for the dentist who offered to help
us with his ``science,'' which most likely was of Mohammedan
or heathenish origin and therefore both wicked and useless.

When you grow up you will discover that many people do
not believe in ``progress'' and they will prove to you by the
terrible deeds of some of our own contemporaries that ``the
world does not change.'' But I hope that you will not pay
much attention to such talk. You see, it took our ancestors
almost a million years to learn how to walk on their hind legs.
Other centuries had to go by before their animal-like grunts
developed into an understandable language. Writing--the art
of preserving our ideas for the benefit of future generations,
without which no progress is possible was invented only four
thousand years ago. The idea of turning the forces of nature
into the obedient servants of man was quite new in the days of
your own grandfather. It seems to me, therefore, that we are
making progress at an unheard-of rate of speed. Perhaps we
have paid a little too much attention to the mere physical comforts
of life. That will change in due course of time and we
shall then attack the problems which are not related to health
and to wages and plumbing and machinery in general.

But please do not be too sentimental about the ``good old
days.'' Many people who only see the beautiful churches and
the great works of art which the Middle Ages have left behind
grow quite eloquent when they compare our own ugly civilisation
with its hurry and its noise and the evil smells of backfiring
motor trucks with the cities of a thousand years ago.
But these mediaeval churches were invariably surrounded by
miserable hovels compared to which a modern tenement house
stands forth as a luxurious palace. It is true that the noble
Lancelot and the equally noble Parsifal, the pure young hero
who went in search of the Holy Grail, were not bothered by
the odor of gasoline. But there were other smells of the barnyard
variety--odors of decaying refuse which had been thrown
into the street--of pig-sties surrounding the Bishop's palace--
of unwashed people who had inherited their coats and hats
from their grandfathers and who had never learned the blessing
of soap. I do not want to paint too unpleasant a picture.
But when you read in the ancient chronicles that the King of
France, looking out of the windows of his palace, fainted at
the stench caused by the pigs rooting in the streets of Paris,
when an ancient manuscript recounts a few details of an epidemic
of the plague or of small-pox, then you begin to under-
stand that ``progress'' is something more than a catchword used
by modern advertising men.

No, the progress of the last six hundred years would not
have been possible without the existence of cities. I shall,
therefore, have to make this chapter a little longer than many
of the others. It is too important to be reduced to three or
four pages, devoted to mere political events.

The ancient world of Egypt and Babylonia and Assyria
had been a world of cities. Greece had been a country of City-
States. The history of Phoenicia was the history of two cities
called Sidon and Tyre. The Roman Empire was the ``hinterland''
of a single town. Writing, art, science, astronomy, architecture,
literature, the theatre--the list is endless--have all
been products of the city.

For almost four thousand years the wooden bee-hive which
we call a town had been the workshop of the world. Then came
the great migrations. The Roman Empire was destroyed.
The cities were burned down and Europe once more became a
land of pastures and little agricultural villages. During the
Dark Ages the fields of civilisation had lain fallow.

The Crusades had prepared the soil for a new crop. It
was time for the harvest, but the fruit was plucked by the
burghers of the free cities.

I have told you the story of the castles and the monasteries,
with their heavy stone enclosures--the homes of the knights
and the monks, who guarded men's bodies and their souls.
You have seen how a few artisans (butchers and bakers and an
occasional candle-stick maker) came to live near the castle
to tend to the wants of their masters and to find protection
in case of danger. Sometimes the feudal lord allowed these
people to surround their houses with a stockade. But they
were dependent for their living upon the good-will of the
mighty Seigneur of the castle. When he went about they knelt
before him and kissed his hand.

Then came the Crusades and many things changed. The
migrations had driven people from the north-east to the west.
The Crusades made millions of people travel from the west to
the highly civilised regions of the south-east. They discovered
that the world was not bounded by the four walls of their little
settlement. They came to appreciate better clothes, more
comfortable houses, new dishes, products of the mysterious Orient.
After their return to their old homes, they insisted that they
be supplied with those articles. The peddler with his pack
upon his back--the only merchant of the Dark Ages--added
these goods to his old merchandise, bought a cart, hired a few
ex-crusaders to protect him against the crime wave which
followed this great international war, and went forth to do
business upon a more modern and larger scale. His career was
not an easy one. Every time he entered the domains of another
Lord he had to pay tolls and taxes. But the business
was profitable all the same and the peddler continued to make
his rounds.

Soon certain energetic merchants discovered that the goods
which they had always imported from afar could be made at
home. They turned part of their homes into a workgshop.{sic}
They ceased to be merchants and became manufacturers. They
sold their products not only to the lord of the castle and to the
abbot in his monastery, but they exported them to nearby towns.
The lord and the abbot paid them with products of their farms,
eggs and wines, and with honey, which in those early days was
used as sugar. But the citizens of distant towns were obliged
to pay in cash and the manufacturer and the merchant began to
own little pieces of gold, which entirely changed their position
in the society of the early Middle Ages.

It is difficult for you to imagine a world without money.
In a modern city one cannot possible live without money. All
day long you carry a pocket full of small discs of metal to
``pay your way.'' You need a nickel for the street-car, a dollar
for a dinner, three cents for an evening paper. But many
people of the early Middle Ages never saw a piece of coined
money from the time they were born to the day of their death.
The gold and silver of Greece and Rome lay buried beneath
the ruins of their cities. The world of the migrations, which
had succeeded the Empire, was an agricultural world. Every
farmer raised enough grain and enough sheep and enough
cows for his own use.

The mediaeval knight was a country squire and was rarely
forced to pay for materials in money. His estates produced
everything that he and his family ate and drank and wore on
their backs. The bricks for his house were made along the
banks of the nearest river. Wood for the rafters of the hall
was cut from the baronial forest. The few articles that had to
come from abroad were paid for in goods--in honey--in eggs
--in fagots.

But the Crusades upset the routine of the old agricultural
life in a very drastic fashion. Suppose that the Duke of Hildesheim
was going to the Holy Land. He must travel thousands
of miles and he must pay his passage and his hotel-bills.
At home he could pay with products of his farm. But he
could not well take a hundred dozen eggs and a cart-load of
hams with him to satisfy the greed of the shipping agent of
Venice or the inn-keeper of the Brenner Pass. These gentlemen
insisted upon cash. His Lordship therefore was obliged
to take a small quantity of gold with him upon his voyage.
Where could he find this gold? He could borrow it from the
Lombards, the descendants of the old Longobards, who had
turned professional money-lenders, who seated behind their
exchange-table (commonly known as ``banco'' or bank) were
glad to let his Grace have a few hundred gold pieces in exchange
for a mortgage upon his estates, that they might be repaid
in case His Lordship should die at the hands of the Turks.

That was dangerous business for the borrower. In the end,
the Lombards invariably owned the estates and the Knight
became a bankrupt, who hired himself out as a fighting man to
a more powerful and more careful neighbour.

His Grace could also go to that part of the town where the
Jews were forced to live. There he could borrow money at a
rate of fifty or sixty percent. interest. That, too, was bad
business. But was there a way out? Some of the people of the
little city which surrounded the castle were said to have money.
They had known the young lord all his life. His father and
their fathers had been good friends. They would not be
unreasonable in their demands. Very well. His Lordship's
clerk, a monk who could write and keep accounts, sent a note
to the best known merchants and asked for a small loan. The
townspeople met in the work-room of the jeweller who made
chalices for the nearby churches and discussed this demand.
They could not well refuse. It would serve no purpose to
ask for ``interest.'' In the first place, it was against the
religious principles of most people to take interest and in the
second place, it would never be paid except in agricultural
products and of these the people had enough and to spare.

``But,'' suggested the tailor who spent his days quietly sitting
upon his table and who was somewhat of a philosopher,
``suppose that we ask some favour in return for our money.
We are all fond of fishing. But his Lordship won't let us
fish in his brook. Suppose that we let him have a hundred
ducats and that he give us in return a written guarantee allowing
us to fish all we want in all of his rivers. Then he gets
the hundred which he needs, but we get the fish and it will be
good business all around.''

The day his Lordship accepted this proposition (it seemed
such an easy way of getting a hundred gold pieces) he signed
the death-warrant of his own power. His clerk drew up the
agreement. His Lordship made his mark (for he could not
sign his name) and departed for the East. Two years later
he came back, dead broke. The townspeople were fishing in
the castle pond. The sight of this silent row of anglers annoyed
his Lordship. He told his equerry to go and chase the crowd
away. They went, but that night a delegation of merchants
visited the castle. They were very polite. They congratulated
his Lordship upon his safe return. They were sorry his
Lordship had been annoyed by the fishermen, but as his Lordship
might perhaps remember he had given them permission
to do so himself, and the tailor produced the Charter which
had been kept in the safe of the jeweller ever since the master
had gone to the Holy Land.

His Lordship was much annoyed. But once more he was
in dire need of some money. In Italy he had signed his name
to certain documents which were now in the possession of Salvestro
dei Medici, the well-known banker. These documents
were ``promissory notes'' and they were due two months from
date. Their total amount came to three hundred and forty
pounds, Flemish gold. Under these circumstances, the noble
knight could not well show the rage which filled his heart and
his proud soul. Instead, he suggested another little loan. The
merchants retired to discuss the matter.

After three days they came back and said ``yes.'' They
were only too happy to be able to help their master in his
difficulties, but in return for the 345 golden pounds would he give
them another written promise (another charter) that they,
the townspeople, might establish a council of their own to be
elected by all the merchants and free citizens of the city, said
council to manage civic affairs without interference from the
side of the castle?

His Lordship was confoundedly angry. But again,
he needed the money. He said yes, and signed the charter.
Next week, he repented. He called his soldiers and went to
the house of the jeweller and asked for the documents which
his crafty subjects had cajoled out of him under the pressure
of circumstances. He took them away and burned them.
The townspeople stood by and said nothing. But when next
his Lordship needed money to pay for the dowry of his daughter.
he was unable to get a single penny. After that little
affair at the jeweller's his credit was not considered good.
He was forced to eat humble-pie and offer to make certain reparations.
Before his Lordship got the first installment of the stipulated sum,
the townspeople were once more in possession of all their old charters
and a brand new one which permitted them to build a ``city-hall''
and a strong tower where all the charters might be kept protected
against fire and theft, which really meant protected against
future violence on the part of the Lord and his armed followers.

This, in a very general way, is what happened during the
centuries which followed the Crusades. It was a slow process,
this gradual shifting of power from the castle to the city. There
was some fighting. A few tailors and jewellers were killed and
a few castles went up in smoke. But such occurrences were
not common. Almost imperceptibly the towns grew richer
and the feudal lords grew poorer. To maintain themselves
they were for ever forced to exchange charters of civic liberty
in return for ready cash. The cities grew. They offered an
asylum to run-away serfs who gained their liberty after they
had lived a number of years behind the city walls. They came
to be the home of the more energetic elements of the
surrounding country districts. They were proud of
their new importance and expressed their power in the
churches and public buildings which they erected
around the old market place, where centuries before
the barter of eggs and sheep and honey and salt
had taken place. They wanted their children to
have a better chance in life than they had enjoyed
themselves. They hired monks to come to their city and
be school teachers. When they heard of a man who could
paint pictures upon boards of wood, they offered him a pension
if he would come and cover the walls of their chapels and their
town hall with scenes from the Holy Scriptures.

Meanwhile his Lordship, in the dreary and drafty halls of
his castle, saw all this up-start splendour and regretted the
day when first he had signed away a single one of his sovereign
rights and prerogatives. But he was helpless. The townspeople
with their well-filled strong-boxes snapped their fingers
at him. They were free men, fully prepared to hold what they
had gained by the sweat of their brow and after a struggle
which had lasted for more than ten generations.



As long as people were ``nomads,'' wandering tribes of shepherds,
all men had been equal and had been responsible for the
welfare and safety of the entire community.

But after they had settled down and some had become rich
and others had grown poor, the government was apt to fall into
the hands of those who were not obliged to work for their living
and who could devote themselves to politics.

I have told you how this had happened in Egypt and in
Mesopotamia and in Greece and in Rome. It occurred among
the Germanic population of western Europe as soon as order
had been restored. The western European world was ruled
in the first place by an emperor who was elected by the seven
or eight most important kings of the vast Roman Empire of
the German nation and who enjoyed a great deal of imaginary
and very little actual power. It was ruled by a number of
kings who sat upon shaky thrones. The every-day government
was in the hands of thousands of feudal princelets. Their
subjects were peasants or serfs. There were few cities. There
was hardly any middle class. But during the thirteenth century
(after an absence of almost a thousand years) the middle
class--the merchant class--once more appeared upon the his-
torical stage and its rise in power, as we saw in the last chapter,
had meant a decrease in the influence of the castle folk.

Thus far, the king, in ruling his domains, had only paid
attention to the wishes of his noblemen and his bishops. But the
new world of trade and commerce which grew out of the
Crusades forced him to recognise the middle class or suffer
from an ever-increasing emptiness of his exchequer. Their
majesties (if they had followed their hidden wishes) would
have as lief consulted their cows and their pigs as the good
burghers of their cities. But they could not help themselves.
They swallowed the bitter pill because it was gilded, but not
without a struggle.

In England, during the absence of Richard the Lion
Hearted (who had gone to the Holy Land, but who was spending
the greater part of his crusading voyage in an Austrian
jail) the government of the country had been placed in the
hands of John, a brother of Richard, who was his inferior in
the art of war, but his equal as a bad administrator. John had
begun his career as a regent by losing Normandy and the
greater part of the French possessions. Next, he had managed
to get into a quarrel with Pope Innocent III, the famous
enemy of the Hohenstaufens. The Pope had excommunicated
John (as Gregory VII had excommunicated the Emperor
Henry IV two centuries before). In the year 1213 John had
been obliged to make an ignominious peace just as Henry IV
had been obliged to do in the year 1077.

Undismayed by his lack of success, John continued to abuse
his royal power until his disgruntled vassals made a prisoner
of their anointed ruler and forced him to promise that he
would be good and would never again interfere with the ancient
rights of his subjects. All this happened on a little island in
the Thames, near the village of Runnymede, on the 15th of
June of the year 1215. The document to which John signed
his name was called the Big Charter--the Magna Carta. It
contained very little that was new. It re-stated in short and
direct sentences the ancient duties of the king and enumerated
the privileges of his vassals. It paid little attention to the
rights (if any) of the vast majority of the people, the peasants,
but it offered certain securities to the rising class of the
merchants. It was a charter of great importance because it defined
the powers of the king with more precision than had ever been
done before. But it was still a purely mediaeval document. It
did not refer to common human beings, unless they happened to
be the property of the vassal, which must be safe-guarded
against royal tyranny just as the Baronial woods and cows
were protected against an excess of zeal on the part of the
royal foresters.

A few years later, however, we begin to hear a very different
note in the councils of His Majesty.

John, who was bad, both by birth and inclination, solemnly
had promised to obey the great charter and then had broken
every one of its many stipulations. Fortunately, he soon died
and was succeeded by his son Henry III, who was forced to
recognise the charter anew. Meanwhile, Uncle Richard, the
Crusader, had cost the country a great deal of money and the
king was obliged to ask for a few loans that he might pay his
obligations to the Jewish money-lenders. The large land-owners
and the bishops who acted as councillors to the king could
not provide him with the necessary gold and silver. The king
then gave orders that a few representatives of the cities be
called upon to attend the sessions of his Great Council. They
made their first appearance in the year 1265. They were supposed
to act only as financial experts who were not supposed
to take a part in the general discussion of matters of state, but
to give advice exclusively upon the question of taxation.

Gradually, however, these representatives of the ``commons''
were consulted upon many of the problems and the meeting
of noblemen, bishops and city delegates developed into a regular
Parliament, a place ``ou l'on parfait,'' which means in English
where people talked, before important affairs of state were
decided upon.

But the institution of such a general advisory-board with
certain executive powers was not an English invention, as
seems to ke the general belief, and government by a ``king and
his parliament'' was by no means restricted to the British Isles.
You will find it in every part of Europe. In some countries,
like France, the rapid increase of the Royal power after the
Middle Ages reduced the influence of the ``parliament'' to nothing.
In the year 1302 representatives of the cities had been
admitted to the meeting of the French Parliament, but five
centuries had to pass before this ``Parliament'' was strong
enough to assert the rights of the middle class, the so-called
Third Estate, and break the power of the king. Then they
made up for lost time and during the French Revolution, abolished
the king, the clergy and the nobles and made the representatives
of the common people the rulers of the land. In
Spain the ``cortex'' (the king's council) had been opened to the
commoners as early as the first half of the twelfth century.
In the Germain Empire, a number of important cities had obtained
the rank of ``imperial cities'' whose representatives must
be heard in the imperial diet.

In Sweden, representatives of the people attended the sessions
of the Riksdag at the first meeting of the year 1359. In
Denmark the Daneholf, the ancient national assembly, was re-
established in 1314, and, although the nobles often regained control
of the country at the expense of the king and the people,
the representatives of the cities were never completely deprived
of their power.

In the Scandinavian country, the story of representative
government is particularly interesting. In Iceland, the ``Althing,''
the assembly of all free landowners, who managed the
affairs of the island, began to hold regular meetings in the ninth
century and continued to do so for more than a thousand

In Switzerland, the freemen of the different cantons defended
their assemblies against the attempts of a number of
feudal neighbours with great success.

Finally, in the Low Countries, in Holland, the councils of
the different duchies and counties were attended by representatives
of the third estate as early as the thirteenth century.

In the sixteenth century a number of these small provinces
rebelled against their king, abjured his majesty in a solemn
meeting of the ``Estates General,'' removed the clergy from
the discussions, broke the power of the nobles and assumed full
executive authority over the newly-established Republic of the
United Seven Netherlands. For two centuries, the representatives
of the town-councils ruled the country without a king,
without bishops and without noblemen. The city had become
supreme and the good burghers had become the rulers of the



DATES are a very useful invention. We could not do without
them but unless we are very careful, they will play tricks
with us. They are apt to make history too precise. For example,
when I talk of the point-of-view of mediaeval man, I
do not mean that on the 31st of December of the year 476,
suddenly all the people of Europe said, ``Ah, now the Roman
Empire has come to an end and we are living in the Middle
Ages. How interesting!''

You could have found men at the Frankish court of Charlemagne
who were Romans in their habits, in their manners, in
their out-look upon life. On the other hand, when you grow
up you will discover that some of the people in this world have
never passed beyond the stage of the cave-man. All times
and all ages overlap, and the ideas of succeeding generations
play tag with each other. But it is possible to study the minds
of a good many true representatives of the Middle Ages and
then give you an idea of the average man's attitude toward
life and the many difficult problems of living.

First of all, remember that the people of the Middle Ages
never thought of themselves as free-born citizens, who could
come and go at will and shape their fate according to their
ability or energy or luck. On the contrary, they all considered
themselves part of the general scheme of things, which included
emperors and serfs, popes and heretics, heroes and swashbucklers,
rich men, poor men, beggar men and thieves. They accepted
this divine ordinance and asked no questions. In this,
of course, they differed radically from modern people who accept
nothing and who are forever trying to improve their own
financial and political situation.

To the man and woman of the thirteenth century, the world
hereafter--a Heaven of wonderful delights and a Hell of brimstone
and suffering--meant something more than empty words
or vague theological phrases. It was an actual fact and the
mediaeval burghers and knights spent the greater part of their
time preparing for it. We modern people regard a noble
death after a well-spent life with the quiet calm of the ancient
Greeks and Romans. After three score years of work and effort,
we go to sleep with the feeling that all will be well.

But during the Middle Ages, the King of Terrors with
his grinning skull and his rattling bones was man's steady
companion. He woke his victims up with terrible tunes on his
scratchy fiddle he sat down with them at dinner--he smiled
at them from behind trees and shrubs when they took a girl
out for a walk. If you had heard nothing but hair-raising
yarns about cemeteries and coffins and fearful diseases when
you were very young, instead of listening to the fairy stories
of Anderson and Grimm, you, too, would have lived all your
days in a dread of the final hour and the gruesome day of
Judgment. That is exactly what happened to the children of
the Middle Ages. They moved in a world of devils and spooks
and only a few occasional angels. Sometimes, their fear of
the future filled their souls with humility and piety, but often
it influenced them the other way and made them cruel and
sentimental. They would first of all murder all the women
and children of a captured city and then they would devoutly
march to a holy spot and with their hands gory with the blood
of innocent victims, they would pray that a merciful heaven forgive
them their sins. Yea, they would do more than pray, they
would weep bitter tears and would confess themselves the most
wicked of sinners. But the next day, they would once more
butcher a camp of Saracen enemies without a spark of mercy
in their hearts.

Of course, the Crusaders were Knights and obeyed a somewhat
different code of manners from the common men. But in
such respects the common man was just the same as his master.
He, too, resembled a shy horse, easily frightened by a
shadow or a silly piece of paper, capable of excellent and faithful
service but liable to run away and do terrible damage when
his feverish imagination saw a ghost.

In judging these good people, however, it is wise to remember
the terrible disadvantages under which they lived.
They were really barbarians who posed as civilised people.
Charlemagne and Otto the Great were called ``Roman Emperors,''
but they had as little resemblance to a real Roman Emperor
(say Augustus or Marcus Aurelius) as ``King'' Wumba
Wumba of the upper Congo has to the highly educated rulers
of Sweden or Denmark. They were savages who lived amidst
glorious ruins but who did not share the benefits of the
civilisation which their fathers and grandfathers had destroyed.
They knew nothing. They were ignorant of almost every fact
which a boy of twelve knows to-day. They were obliged to go
to one single book for all their information. That was the
Bible. But those parts of the Bible which have influenced the
history of the human race for the better are those chapters of
the New Testament which teach us the great moral lessons of
love, charity and forgiveness. As a handbook of astronomy,
zoology, botany, geometry and all the other sciences, the venerable
book is not entirely reliable. In the twelfth century, a
second book was added to the mediaeval library, the great
encyclopaedia of useful knowledge, compiled by Aristotle, the
Greek philosopher of the fourth century before Christ. Why
the Christian church should have been willing to accord such
high honors to the teacher of Alexander the Great, whereas
they condemned all other Greek philosophers on account of
their heathenish doctrines, I really do not know. But next to
the Bible, Aristotle was recognized as the only reliable teacher
whose works could be safely placed into the hands of true

His works had reached Europe in a somewhat roundabout
way. They had gone from Greece to Alexandria. They had
then been translated from the Greek into the Arabic language
by the Mohammedans who conquered Egypt in the seventh
century. They had followed the Moslem armies into Spain and
the philosophy of the great Stagirite (Aristotle was a native of
Stagira in Macedonia) was taught in the Moorish universities
of Cordova. The Arabic text was then translated into Latin
by the Christian students who had crossed the Pyrenees to get
a liberal education and this much travelled version of the famous
books was at last taught at the different schools of northwestern
Europe. It was not very clear, but that made it all
the more interesting.

With the help of the Bible and Aristotle, the most brilliant
men of the Middle Ages now set to work to explain all things
between Heaven and Earth in their relation to the expressed
will of God. These brilliant men, the so-called Scholasts or
Schoolmen, were really very intelligent, but they had obtained
their information exclusively from books, and never from actual
observation. If they wanted to lecture on the sturgeon
or on caterpillars, they read the Old and New Testaments and
Aristotle, and told their students everything these good books
had to say upon the subject of caterpillars and sturgeons.
They did not go out to the nearest river to catch a sturgeon.
They did not leave their libraries and repair to the backyard
to catch a few caterpillars and look at these animals and study
them in their native haunts. Even such famous scholars as
Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas did not inquire whether
the sturgeons in the land of Palestine and the caterpillars of
Macedonia might not have been different from the sturgeons
and the caterpillars of western Europe.

When occasionally an exceptionally curious person like
Roger Bacon appeared in the council of the learned and began
to experiment with magnifying glasses and funny little telescopes
and actually dragged the sturgen and the caterpillar
into the lecturing room and proved that they were different
from the creatures described by the Old Testament and by
Aristotle, the Schoolmen shook their dignified heads. Bacon
was going too far. When he dared to suggest that an hour
of actual observation was worth more than ten years with
Aristotle and that the works of that famous Greek might as
well have remained untranslated for all the good they had ever
done, the scholasts went to the police and said, ``This man is
a danger to the safety of the state. He wants us to study
Greek that we may read Aristotle in the original. Why should
he not be contented with our Latin-Arabic translation which
has satisfied our faithful people for so many hundred years?
Why is he so curious about the insides of fishes and the insides
of insects? He is probably a wicked magician trying to upset
the established order of things by his Black Magic.'' And so
well did they plead their cause that the frightened guardians
of the peace forbade Bacon to write a single word for more
than ten years. When he resumed his studies he had learned
a lesson. He wrote his books in a queer cipher which made it
impossible for his contemporaries to read them, a trick which
became common as the Church became more desperate in its
attempts to prevent people from asking questions which would
lead to doubts and infidelity.

This, however, was not done out of any wicked desire to
keep people ignorant. The feeling which prompted the heretic
hunters of that day was really a very kindly one. They firmly
believed--nay, they knew--that this life was but the preparation
for our real existence in the next world. They felt convinced
that too much knowledge made people uncomfortable,
filled their minds with dangerous opinions and led to doubt
and hence to perdition. A mediaeval Schoolman who saw one
of his pupils stray away from the revealed authority of the
Bible and Aristotle, that he might study things for himself, felt
as uncomfortable as a loving mother who sees her young child
approach a hot stove. She knows that he will burn his little
fingers if he is allowed to touch it and she tries to keep him
back, if necessary she will use force. But she really loves
the child and if he will only obey her, she will be as good to him
as she possibly can be. In the same way the mediaeval guardians
of people's souls, while they were strict in all matters
pertaining to the Faith, slaved day and night to render the
greatest possible service to the members of their flock. They
held out a helping hand whenever they could and the society
of that day shows the influence of thousands of good men and
pious women who tried to make the fate of the average mortal
as bearable as possible.

A serf was a serf and his position would never change. But
the Good Lord of the Middle Ages who allowed the serf to
remain a slave all his life had bestowed an immortal soul upon
this humble creature and therefore he must be protected in his
rights, that he might live and die as a good Christian. When
he grew too old or too weak to work he must be taken care
of by the feudal master for whom he had worked. The serf,
therefore, who led a monotonous and dreary life, was never
haunted by fear of to-morrow. He knew that he was ``safe''--
that he could not be thrown out of employment, that he would
always have a roof over his head (a leaky roof, perhaps, but
roof all the same), and that he would always have something
to eat.

This feeling of ``stability'' and of ``safety'' was found in all
classes of society. In the towns the merchants and the artisans
established guilds which assured every member of a steady income.
It did not encourage the ambitious to do better than
their neighbours. Too often the guilds gave protection to
the ``slacker'' who managed to ``get by.'' But they established
a general feeling of content and assurance among the
labouring classes which no longer exists in our day of general
competition. The Middle Ages were familiar with the dangers
of what we modern people call ``corners,'' when a single rich
man gets hold of all the available grain or soap or pickled
herring, and then forces the world to buy from him at his own
price. The authorities, therefore, discouraged wholesale trading
and regulated the price at which merchants were allowed
to sell their goods.

The Middle Ages disliked competition. Why compete and
fill the world with hurry and rivalry and a multitude of pushing
men, when the Day of Judgement was near at hand, when
riches would count for nothing and when the good serf would
enter the golden gates of Heaven while the bad knight was
sent to do penance in the deepest pit of Inferno?

In short, the people of the Middle Ages were asked to surrender
part of their liberty of thought and action, that they
might enjoy greater safety from poverty of the body and poverty
of the soul.

And with a very few exceptions, they did not object. They
firmly believed that they were mere visitors upon this planet--
that they were here to be prepared for a greater and more
important life. Deliberately they turned their backs upon a
world which was filled with suffering and wickedness and
injustice. They pulled down the blinds that the rays of the
sun might not distract their attention from that chapter in the
Apocalypse which told them of that heavenly light which was
to illumine their happiness in all eternity. They tried to close
their eyes to most of the joys of the world in which they lived
that they might enjoy those which awaited them in the near
future. They accepted life as a necessary evil and welcomed
death as the beginning of a glorious day.

The Greeks and the Romans had never bothered about the
future but had tried to establish their Paradise right here upon
this earth. They had succeeded in making life extremely pleasant
for those of their fellow men who did not happen to be
slaves. Then came the other extreme of the Middle Ages,
when man built himself a Paradise beyond the highest clouds
and turned this world into a vale of tears for high and low,
for rich and poor, for the intelligent and the dumb. It was
time for the pendulum to swing back in the other direction, as
I shall tell you in my next chapter.



THERE were three good reasons why the Italian cities should
have been the first to regain a position of great importance
during the late Middle Ages. The Italian peninsula had been
settled by Rome at a very early date. There had been more
roads and more towns and more schools than anywhere else
in Europe.

The barbarians had burned as lustily in Italy as elsewhere,
but there had been so much to destroy that more had been able
to survive. In the second place, the Pope lived in Italy and
as the head of a vast political machine, which owned land and
serfs and buildings and forests and rivers and conducted courts
of law, he was in constant receipt of a great deal of money.
The Papal authorities had to be paid in gold and silver as did
the merchants and ship-owners of Venice and Genoa. The
cows and the eggs and the horses and all the other agricultural
products of the north and the west must be changed into actual
cash before the debt could be paid in the distant city of Rome.

This made Italy the one country where there was a comparative
abundance of gold and silver. Finally, during the Crusades,
the Italian cities had become the point of embarkation
for the Crusaders and had profiteered to an almost unbelievable

And after the Crusades had come to an end, these same
Italian cities remained the distributing centres for those Oriental
goods upon which the people of Europe had come to depend
during the time they had spent in the near east.

Of these towns, few were as famous as Venice. Venice was
a republic built upon a mud bank. Thither people from the
mainland had fled during the invasions of the barbarians in the
fourth century. Surrounded on all sides by the sea they had
engaged in the business of salt-making. Salt had been very
scarce during the Middle Ages, and the price had been high.
For hundreds of years Venice had enjoyed a monopoly of
this indispensable table commodity (I say indispensable, because
people, like sheep, fall ill unless they get a certain amount
of salt in their food). The people had used this monopoly to
increase the power of their city. At times they had even dared
to defy the power of the Popes. The town had grown rich and
had begun to build ships, which engaged in trade with the
Orient. During the Crusades, these ships were used to carry
passengers to the Holy Land, and when the passengers could
not pay for their tickets in cash, they were obliged to help the
Venetians who were for ever increasing their colonies in the
AEgean Sea, in Asia Minor and in Egypt.

By the end of the fourteenth century, the population had
grown to two hundred thousand, which made Venice the biggest
city of the Middle Ages. The people were without influence
upon the government which was the private affair of a
small number of rich merchant families. They elected a senate
and a Doge (or Duke), but the actual rulers of the city were
the members of the famous Council of Ten,--who maintained
themselves with the help of a highly organised system of secret
service men and professional murderers, who kept watch upon
all citizens and quietly removed those who might be dangerous
to the safety of their high-handed and unscrupulous Committee
of Public Safety.

The other extreme of government, a democracy of very
turbulent habits, was to be found in Florence. This city
controlled the main road from northern Europe to Rome and used
the money which it had derived from this fortunate economic
position to engage in manufacturing. The Florentines tried to
follow the example of Athens. Noblemen, priests and members
of the guilds all took part in the discussions of civic affairs.
This led to great civic upheaval. People were forever being divided
into political parties and these parties fought each other
with intense bitterness and exiled their enemies and confiscated
their possessions as soon as they had gained a victory in the
council. After several centuries of this rule by organised mobs,
the inevitable happened. A powerful family made itself master
of the city and governed the town and the surrounding country
after the fashion of the old Greek ``tyrants.'' They were called
the Medici. The earliest Medici had been physicians (medicus
is Latin for physician, hence their name), but later they had
turned banker. Their banks and their pawnshops were to be
found in all the more important centres of trade. Even today
our American pawn-shops display the three golden balls
which were part of the coat of arms of the mighty house of
the Medici, who became rulers of Florence and married their
daughters to the kings of France and were buried in graves
worthy of a Roman Caesar.

Then there was Genoa, the great rival of Venice, where
the merchants specialised in trade with Tunis in Africa and
the grain depots of the Black Sea. Then there were more than
two hundred other cities, some large and some small, each a perfect
commercial unit, all of them fighting their neighbours and
rivals with the undying hatred of neighbours who are depriving
each other of their profits.

Once the products of the Orient and Africa had been
brought to these distributing centres, they must be prepared
for the voyage to the west and the north.

Genoa carried her goods by water to Marseilles, from where
they were reshipped to the cities along the Rhone, which in
turn served as the market places of northern and western

Venice used the land route to northern Europe. This ancient
road led across the Brenner pass, the old gateway for
the barbarians who had invaded Italy. Past Innsbruck, the
merchandise was carried to Basel. From there it drifted down
the Rhine to the North Sea and England, or it was taken to
Augsburg where the Fugger family (who were both bankers
and manufacturers and who prospered greatly by ``shaving''
the coins with which they paid their workmen), looked after
the further distribution to Nuremberg and Leipzig and the
cities of the Baltic and to Wisby (on the Island of Gotland)
which looked after the needs of the Northern Baltic and dealt
directly with the Republic of Novgorod, the old commercial
centre of Russia which was destroyed by Ivan the Terrible in
the middle of the sixteenth century.

The little cities on the coast of north-western Europe had
an interesting story of their own. The mediaeval world ate a
great deal of fish. There were many fast days and then people
were not permitted to eat meat. For those who lived away
from the coast and from the rivers, this meant a diet of eggs
or nothing at all. But early in the thirteenth century a Dutch
fisherman had discovered a way of curing herring, so that it
could be transported to distant points. The herring fisheries
of the North Sea then became of great importance. But some
time during the thirteenth century, this useful little fish (for
reasons of its own) moved from the North Sea to the Baltic and
the cities of that inland sea began to make money. All the
world now sailed to the Baltic to catch herring and as that fish
could only be caught during a few months each year (the rest
of the time it spends in deep water, raising large families of
little herrings) the ships would have been idle during the rest
of the time unless they had found another occupation. They
were then used to carry the wheat of northern and central Russia
to southern and western Europe. On the return voyage
they brought spices and silks and carpets and Oriental rugs
from Venice and Genoa to Bruges and Hamburg and Bremen.

Out of such simple beginnings there developed an important
system of international trade which reached from the
manufacturing cities of Bruges and Ghent (where the almighty
guilds fought pitched battles with the kings of France and
England and established a labour tyranny which completely
ruined both the employers and the workmen) to the Republic
of Novgorod in northern Russia, which was a mighty city until
Tsar Ivan, who distrusted all merchants, took the town and
killed sixty thousand people in less than a month's time and
reduced the survivors to beggary.

That they might protect themselves against pirates and
excessive tolls and annoying legislation, the merchants of the
north founded a protective league which was called the
``Hansa.'' The Hansa, which had its headquarters in Lubeck,
was a voluntary association of more than one hundred cities.
The association maintained a navy of its own which patrolled
the seas and fought and defeated the Kings of England and
Denmark when they dared to interfere with the rights and the
privileges of the mighty Hanseatic merchants.

I wish that I had more space to tell you some of the wonderful
stories of this strange commerce which was carried on
across the high mountains and across the deep seas amidst
such dangers that every voyage became a glorious adventure.
But it would take several volumes and it cannot be done here.

Besides, I hope that I have told you enough about the Middle
Ages to make you curious to read more in the excellent books
of which I shall give you a list at the end of this volume.

The Middle Ages, as I have tried to show you, had been a
period of very slow progress. The people who were in power
believed that ``progress'' was a very undesirable invention of
the Evil One and ought to be discouraged, and as they hap-
pened to occupy the seats of the mighty, it was easy to enforce
their will upon the patient serfs and the illiterate knights.
Here and there a few brave souls sometimes ventured forth into
the forbidden region of science, but they fared badly and were
considered lucky when they escaped with their lives and a jail
sentence of twenty years.

In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the flood of
international commerce swept over western Europe as the Nile
had swept across the valley of ancient Egypt. It left behind
a fertile sediment of prosperity. Prosperity meant leisure
hours and these leisure hours gave both men and women a
chance to buy manuscripts and take an interest in literature
and art and music.

Then once more was the world filled with that divine curiosity
which has elevated man from the ranks of those other
mammals who are his distant cousins but who have remained
dumb, and the cities, of whose growth and development I have
told you in my last chapter, offered a safe shelter to these
brave pioneers who dared to leave the very narrow domain
of the established order of things.

They set to work. They opened the windows of their
cloistered and studious cells. A flood of sunlight entered the
dusty rooms and showed them the cobwebs which had gathered
during the long period of semi-darkness.

They began to clean house. Next they cleaned their gardens.

Then they went out into the open fields, outside the crumbling
town walls, and said, ``This is a good world. We are
glad that we live in it.''

At that moment, the Middle Ages came to an end and a new
world began.



THE Renaissance was not a political or religious movement.
It was a state of mind.

The men of the Renaissance continued to be the obedient
sons of the mother church. They were subjects of kings and
emperors and dukes and murmured not.

But their outlook upon life was changed. They began to
wear different clothes--to speak a different language--to live
different lives in different houses.

They no longer concentrated all their thoughts and their
efforts upon the blessed existence that awaited them in Heaven.
They tried to establish their Paradise upon this planet, and,
truth to tell, they succeeded in a remarkable degree.

Book of the day:
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