The momentous historiographical debates surrounding the idea of a ‘feudal revolution’ stand at the centre of this chapter. It considers, first, the nature of social and political change in Francia in the decades around the year 1000, and the putative shift in a post-Carolingian world towards a privatization of public power: or whether, in fact, these changes are just tricks of the evidentiary light, the product of shifts in documentary culture. It turns next to the emergence of the new social stratum of knights, and changes to family and kin structure as the basis for personal identification, together with an apparent rise of unfreedom as individuals sought the protection of the Church against the warlords. Finally, it considers the rising donations to Frankish monasteries in this period, and their concomitant growth in status. It assesses the ‘Peace of God’ movement as an ecclesiastical response to violence, driven by those newly empowered monasteries.
This chapter considers the history of those polities that were formed across western Europe in the wake of the Roman Empire: many relatively short-lived, but others of much greater longevity, some of which are seen as the ancestors of modern European nation-states. It considers first their nature as ‘states’, questioning the utility of that term to describe what were often very large territories indeed, extensively governed but in a very shallow manner, with only limited purchase on the lives of the governed. It turns then to the question of identity, initially picking up the theme of ethnic labels raised in the first chapter, before turning to law and social status as arguably much more important markers of identity. Finally, it considers the religious life of the period: the great proliferation of holy men (and some women), the Christian saints, accounts of whose lives give us so much of our evidence for this period, and the widespread foundation of monasteries, in which those accounts were written and copied.