5.1 Lords and vassals, Franks and Frisians (2020)

   Age 3 : The age of Monks and Knights

5.1 Lords and vassals, Franks and Frisians
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   Age 3 : The age of Monks and Knights

5.1 Lords and vassals, Franks and Frisians

Slide 1 - Tekstslide

500 - 1000

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AGE 3: the Time of Monks and Knights
500 - 1000 AD

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AGE 3: the Time of Monks and Knights
500 - 1000 AD
Typical Aspects:
  1. the spread of Christianity in Europe
  2. the rise and spread of Islam
  3. the Manorial system and serfs
  4. the Feudal system
Early Middle Ages / Dark Ages

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Europe at the beginning of the Time of Monks and Knights

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What is?
continuity and discontinuity (in history lessons)?

Continuity: this means that somethings continues, or "keeps going on" . 
For example: After the fall of the western Roman empire Christianity continued as an important religion.

Discontinuity: this means that something ends and is replaced by something different (it does NOT continue)
For example: When the Roman monarchy ended and Rome became a Republic.
A system of government was replaced by a very different system. So this is "discontinuity".

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500 AD

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Local rulers

The fall of the Roman Empire had huge consequences for the whole society. The empire had been run centrally from Rome. A professional army secured its protection and local government had been in the hands of city officials. This system of government ended with the fall of the Empire.
The Germanic peoples, including the Franks, had a different kind of society. They had no cities, did not know how to write and they did not have one, but several rulers. 
These local rulers now became the kings of the different Germanic kingdoms.

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The Frankish empire

One of the local leaders was the Frank Childeric ( 440-482). He was not the leader of all the Franks, but he created a Frankish empire in the area he controlled around Tournai (Belgium). His son Clovis     466-511) was able to unite all the Franks under his rule by killing other leaders. Among them were several of his relatives. He saw them as competitors for his position. In addition, he conquered other areas to extend his territory. Although many battles for power would follow, the Frankish kingdom was from then on the most powerful empire of Western Europe.
Clovis became the first Frankish king. And more important; he also became a Christian.

The Franks had a warrior culture: it was common to fight. In combats and battles they could earn honour and booty. The amount of victories that a warrior had on the battlefield and the way he showed bravery and - to our eyes - cruelty, provided him with power. This can be seen in the story in which Clovis personally executes a warrior who had opposed his authority (see question 4).
Clovis is baptised and becomes a Catholic Christian.
Frankish warriors

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Lords and vassals

Lord is the term used in the Early Middle Ages for rulers, such as kings. In Germanic society, the bond between a lord and his followers, vassals, was very important. It was a personal bond based on mutual benefits. The benefits for the lord were that vassals fought for him and gave him respect. The lord’s power was demonstrated by the number of his followers. A powerful lord offered his followers protection, shelter and income.

The bonds between lords and their vassals were strengthened in the hall: a building that could accommodate a large group of people. In the hall people ate and drank, made music and listened to stories together. Important decisions were made here, about starting a war or forming alliances, for example. Visitors such as traders came to the hall to offer their goods. In the hall, the lord also gave gifts.
a vassal kneels and swears loyalty to his lord

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Franks and Frisians

The expansion of the Frankish Empire had started in the end of the fifth century, in the time of King Clovis. The expansion often came to a standstill in the centuries that followed. The weakness of the Empire was that it was personal property of the King. When he died, the land was divided among his sons. They fought each other to get their hands on more territory.
Lords at the borders paid little attention to the Frankish kings. This also applied to the Frisian lords at the northern border of the Frankish Empire. The Frisians were a people that lived in the coastal areas of the northern and western Netherlands and along the river delta in the middle of the Netherlands. The area inhabited by the Frisians around 700 AD is therefore different from the present province of Friesland.
In the first half of the eighth century, the Franks started the political centralisation of their Empire. They removed the power of local rulers to increase the influence of the Frankish kings. The military leader Charles Martel (718-741) managed to defeat the Frisians and gain possession of their lands.

Slide 12 - Tekstslide

What is?
centralisation and decentralisation ?

Centralisation: this means that a country / empire is ruled from 1 place (the centre) and by one ruler (king / emperor)
For example: The whole Roman empire was ruled from 1 place (Rome). Everywhere within the empire there were the same laws, rules, money, taxes. Everything was decided from Rome (the centre)

Decentralisation: this means that a country does not have one central point from where all the laws are made, but the country is divided into many different regions, each with its own ruler, laws, money, taxes, etc.
For example: Ancient Greece was a decentralised country because every city state had its own laws, rulers, money etc.

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Slide 14 - Video


The Frankish Empire was at its largest during the rule of Charlemagne (768-814). He managed to defeat the Saxons and other peoples. He also conquered parts of Italy. Besides fighting, Charlemagne focused on improvements in his kingdom.
He appointed a body of officials and made sure that laws were written down. Furthermore he greatly encouraged education and science. He even interfered with the administration of other rulers, such as the kings of England. His authority was so great, it was reminiscent of the power of the Roman emperors. He was even crowned Emperor by the Pope in 800 AD.

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