Frederick Engels on the Origins of Feudalism in Romano-Frankish Gaul

Pre-note by Shaun May – In this article, ‘The Frankish Period’, Engels discusses the origins of Feudalism in the Roman Gaul of late empire and its Frankish conquest. As Marx saw England as the classical homeland of the capitalist mode of production so he saw France as the classical homeland of the feudal mode. The mode of production which eventually eclipsed the colonate of late antiquity first originated as an assimilation, synthesis and development of decaying Roman patrocinial social relations by the Frankish tribal relations and constitution and became established as a distinctly new, determinate mode of production and social formation. [extra to text]



The mark system [3]remained the basis of almost the entire life of the German nation till the end of the Middle Ages. Eventually, after an existence of one and a half millennia, it gradually disintegrated for purely economic reasons. It succumbed to economic advances with which it was unable to keep pace. We shall later examine its decline and ultimate destruction and we shall see that remnants of the mark system continue to exist even today.

It was only at the expense of its political importance that it was able to survive for so long. For centuries it had been the form embodying the freedom of the Germanic tribes. Then it became the basis of the people’s bondage for a thousand years. How was this possible?

The earliest community, as we have seen, comprised the whole people. Originally the people owned all the appropriated land. Later the whole body of inhabitants of a district [Gau], who were closely interrelated, became the owners of the territory settled by them, and the people as such retained only the right to dispose of the tracts which had not yet been claimed. The populace of the district in their turn handed over their field and forest marks to individual village communities, which likewise consisted of closely kindred people, and in this case too the land that was left over was retained by the district. The same procedure was followed when the original villages set up new village colonies–they were provided with land from the old mark by the parent village.

With the growth of the population and the further development of the people the blood-ties, on which here as everywhere the entire national structure was based, increasingly fell into oblivion.

This was first the case with regard to the people as a whole. The common descent was less and less seen as real consanguinity, the memory of it became fainter and fainter and what remained was merely the common history and the dialect. On the other hand, the inhabitants of a district naturally retained an awareness of their consanguinity for a longer time. The people thus came to mean merely a more or less stable confederation of districts. This seems to have been the state of affairs among the Germans at the time of the great migrations. Ammianus Marcellinus reports this definitely about the Alamanni, [4] and in the local law [5] it is still everywhere apparent. The Saxons were still at this stage of development during Charlemagne’s time and the Frisians until they lost their independence.

But the migration on to Roman soil broke the blood-ties, as it was bound to. Although the intention was to settle by tribes and kindreds, it was impossible to carry this through. The long marches had mixed together not only tribes and kindreds but also entire peoples. Only with difficulty could the blood-ties of the individual village communities still be held together, and these became thus the real political units of which the people consisted. The new districts on Roman territory were from the start, or soon became, judicial divisions set up more or less arbitrarily–or occasioned by conditions found already in existence.

The people thus disintegrated into an association of small village communities, between which there existed no or virtually no economic connection, for every mark was self-sufficient, producing enough to satisfy its own needs, and moreover the products of the various neighbouring marks being almost exactly the same. Hardly any exchange could therefore take place between them. And since the people consisted entirely of small communities, which had identical economic interests, but for that very reason no common ones, the continued existence of the nation depended on a state power which did not derive from these communities but confronted them as something alien and exploited them to an ever increasing extent.

The form of this state power depends in its turn on the form of the communities at the time in question. Where, as among the Aryan peoples of Asia and the Russians, it arises at a time when the fields are still cultivated by the community for the common account, or when at any rate the fields are only temporarily allotted by it to individual families, i. e. when there is as yet no private property in land, the state power appears as despotism. On the other hand, in the Roman lands conquered by the Germans, the individual shares in arable land and meadows already take, as we have seen, the form of the allodium, the owners’ free property subject only to the ordinary mark obligations. We must now examine how on the basis of this allodium a social and political structure arose, which–with the usual irony of history–in the end dissolved the state and completely abolished the allodium in its classical form.

The allodium made the transformation of the original equality of landed property into its opposite not only possible but inevitable. From the moment it was established on formerly Roman soil, the German allodium became what the Roman landed property adjacent to it had long been–a commodity. It is an inexorable law of all societies based on commodity production and commodity exchange that the distribution of property within them becomes increasingly unequal, the opposition of wealth and poverty constantly grows and property is more and more concentrated in a few hands. It is true that this law reaches its full development in modern capitalist production, but it is by no means only in it that this law operates. From the moment therefore that allodium, freely disposable landed property, landed property as commodity, arose, from that moment the emergence of large-scale landed property was merely a matter of time.

But in the period we are concerned with, farming and stock-breeding were the principal branches of production. Landed property and its products constituted the by far largest part of wealth at that time. Other types of movable wealth that existed then followed landed property as a matter of course, and gradually accumulated in the same hands as landed property. Industry and trade had already deteriorated during the decline of the Roman empire; the German invasion ruined them almost completely. The little that was left was for the most part carried on by unfree men and aliens and remained a despised occupation. The ruling class which, with the emerging inequality in property, gradually arose could only be a class of big landowners, its form of political rule that of an aristocracy. Though, as we shall see, political levers, violence and deceit contribute frequently, and as it seems even predominantly, to the formation and development of this class, we must not forget that these political levers only advance and accelerate an inevitable economic process. We shall indeed see just as often that these political levers impede economic development; this happens quite frequently, and invariably when the different parties concerned apply them in opposite or intersecting directions.

How did this class of big landowners come into being?

First of all we know that even after the Frankish conquest a large number of big Roman landowners remained in Gaul, whose estates were for the most part cultivated by free or bound copyholders against payment of rent (canon).

Furthermore we have seen that as a result of the wars of conquest the monarchy had become a permanent institution and real power among all Germans who had moved out, and that it had turned the land which had formerly belonged to the people into royal domains and had likewise appropriated the Roman state lands. These crown lands were constantly augmented by the wholesale seizure of the estates of so-called rebels during the many civil wars resulting from the partitions of the empire. But rapidly as these lands increased, they were just as rapidly squandered in donations to the Church and to private individuals, Franks and Romans, retainers (antrustions [6]) and other favourites of the king. Once the rudiments of a ruling class comprising the big and the powerful, landlords, officials and generals had formed, during and because of the civil wars, local rulers tried to purchase their support by grants of land. Roth has conclusively proved that in most cases these were real grants, transfers of land which became free, inheritable and alienable property, until this was changed by Charles Martel. [7]

When Charles took over the helm of state, the power of the kings was completely broken but, as yet, by no means replaced by that of the major-domos. [8] The class of grandees, created under the Merovingians at the expense of the Crown, furthered the ruin of royal power in every way, but certainly not in order to submit to the major-domos, their compeers. On the contrary, the whole of Gaul was, as Einhard says, in the hands of these

“tyrants, who were arrogating power to themselves everywhere” (tyrannos per totam Galliam dominatum sibi vindicantes).[9]

This was done not only by secular grandees but also by bishops, who appropriated adjacent counties and duchies in many areas, and were protected by their immunity and the strong organisation of the Church. The internal disintegration of the empire was followed by incursions of external enemies. The Saxons invaded Rhenish Franconia, the Avars Bavaria, and the Arabs moved across the Pyrenees into Aquitania.[10] In such a situation, mere subjection of the internal enemies and expulsion of the external ones could provide no long-term solution. A method had to be found of binding the humbled grandees, or their successors appointed by Charles, more firmly to the Crown. And since their power was up to then based on large-scale landed property, the first prerequisite for this was a total transformation of the relations of landownership. This transformation was the principal achievement of the Carolingian dynasty. [11] The distinctive feature of this transformation is that the means chosen to unite the empire, to tie the grandees permanently to the Crown and thus to make the latter more powerful, in the end led to the complete impotence of the Crown, the independence of the grandees and the dissolution of the empire.

To understand how Charles came to choose this means, we must first examine the property relations of the Church at the time, which anyway cannot be passed over here, being an essential element of contemporary agrarian relations.

Even during the Roman era, the Church in Gaul owned considerable landed property, the revenue from which was further increased by its great privileges with regard to taxes and other obligations. But it was only after the conversion of the Franks to Christianity [12] that the golden age began for the Gallic Church. The kings vied with one another in making donations of land, money, jewels, church utensils, etc., to the Church. Already Chilperic used to say (according to Gregory of Tours):

“See how poor our treasury has become, see, all our wealth has been transferred to the Church.” [13]

Under Guntram, the darling and lackey of the priests, the donations exceeded all bounds. Thus the confiscated lands of free Franks accused of rebellion mostly became the property of the Church.

The people followed the lead of the kings. Small man and big could not give enough to the Church.

“A miraculous cure of a real or imagined ailment, the fulfilment of an ardent wish, e. g. the birth of a son or deliverance from danger, brought the Church whose saint had proved helpful a gift. It was deemed the more necessary to be always open-handed as both among high and low the view was widespread that gifts to the Church led to the remission of sins” (Roth, p. 250).

Added to this was the immunity protecting the property of the Church from violation at a time of incessant civil wars, looting and confiscation. Many a small man thought it wise to cede his property to the Church provided he retained its usufruct at a moderate rent.

Yet all this was not sufficient for the pious priests. With threats of eternal punishment in hell they virtually extorted more and more donations, so that as late as 811 Charlemagne reproaches them with this in the Aachen Capitulary,[14] adding that they induce people

“to commit perjury and bear false witness, so as to increase your” (the bishops’ and abbots’) “wealth”. [15]

Unlawful donations were obtained by hook or by crook in the hope that, apart from its privileged judicial status, the Church had sufficient means to cock a snook at the judiciary. There was hardly any Gallic Church Council in the sixth and seventh centuries that did not threaten to excommunicate anyone trying to contest donations to the Church. In this way even formally invalid donations were to be made valid, and the private debts of individual clerics protected against collection.

“We see that truly contemptible means were employed to arouse, again and again, the desire for making donations. When descriptions of heavenly bliss and infernal torment were no longer effective, relics were brought from distant parts, translations were arranged and new churches built; this was a veritable business in the ninth century” (Roth, p. 254). “When the emissaries of the St. Medard monastery in Soissons by much assiduous begging obtained the body of Saint Sebastian in Rome and in addition stole that of Gregory, and both bodies were deposited in the monastery, so many people flocked to see the new saints that the whole area seemed to be swarming with locusts, and those seeking relief were cured not individually but in whole herds. The result was that the monks measured the money by the bushel, counting as many as 85, and their stock of gold amounted to 900 pounds” (p. 255).

Deceit, legerdemain, the appearance of the dead, especially of saints, and finally also, and even predominantly, the forging of documents, were used to obtain riches for the Church. The forging of documents was — to let Roth speak again —

“practised by many clerics on a vast scale … this business began very early…. The extent of this practice can be seen from the large number of forged documents contained in our collections. Of Bréquigny’s 360 Merovingian certificates [16] nearly 130 are definitely forgeries…. The forged testament of Remigius was used by Hincmar of Reims [17] to procure his church a number of properties, which were not mentioned in the genuine testament, although the latter had never been lost and Hincmar knew very well that the former was spurious.” [18]

Even Pope John VIII tried to obtain the possessions of the St. Denis monastery near Paris by means of a document which he knew to be a forgery. (Roth, pp. 256 ff.)

No wonder then that the landed property the Church amassed through donations, extortion, guile, fraud, forgery and other criminal activities assumed enormous proportions within a few centuries. The monastery of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, now within the perimeter of Paris, at the beginning of the ninth century owned landed property of 8,000 mansi or hides, [19] an area which Guérard estimates at 429,987 hectares with an annual yield of one million francs which equals;800,000 marks.[20] If we use the same average, i. e. an area of 54 hectares with a yield of 125 francs, this equals 100 marks per hide of land, then the monasteries St. Denis, Luxeuil, St. Martin de Tours, each owning 15,000 mansi at that time, held landed property of 810,000 hectares with an income of 1½ million marks. And this was the position after the confiscation of Church property by Pepin the Short! [21] Roth estimates (p. 249) that the entire property of the Church in Gaul at the end of the seventh century was probably above, rather than below, one-third of the total area.

These enormous estates were cultivated partly by unfree and in part also by free copyholders of the Church. Of the unfree, the slaves (servi) were originally subject to unmeasured service to their lords, since they were not persons in law. But it seems that for the resident slaves too a customary amount of duties and services was soon established. On the other hand, the services of the other two unfree classes, the colons and lites [22] (we have no information about the difference in their legal position at that time) were fixed and consisted in certain personal services and corvée as well as a definite part of the produce of their plot. These were long established relations of dependence. But for the Germans it was something quite new that free men were cultivating not their own or common land. It is true that the Germans met quite frequently free Roman tenants in Gaul and in general in territories where Roman law prevailed; however during the settlement of the country care was taken to ensure that they themselves did not have to become tenants but could settle on their own land. Hence before free Franks could become somebody’s copyholders they must have in some way or other lost the allodium they received when the country was being occupied, a distinct class of landless free Franks must have come into existence.

[note by spm : In my opinion, ‘free’ is an ambiguous term here which requires clarification. As soon as they became ‘landless’ without allodium, they became, by necessity, dependent as tenants (free or unfree) of church or secular lord. Whilst the allodium was still held as freehold, the peasant could work his own land as part of the mark system. Only in this real, as opposed to the nominal formal, sense was he free since by selling or ceding his land he cut the material basis of his own existence from underneath himself and would soon – unless he became a dependent tenant –  have become a vagabond or starved, etc, unless fortune favoured him in some sort of peddling or tinkering, etc, which was unlikely under the historical circumstances of the time. As soon as the Frank peasant lost ownership of his allodium, he became funnelled into dependency on church or lord. The ‘freedom’ of cultivating one’s own plot was replaced by the ‘bondage’ of cultivating someone else’s land. ‘Free’ could only mean under these historical conditions that the tenant was neither slave, nor colonus or lites and so not subject to the laws and regulations which governed their existence. But, in spite of all, he remained a dependent tenant regardless of the more favourable conditions of his existence vis-a-vis those enslaved lower in the emerging feudal order and even if he had slaves and coloni, etc, working his land. If he exercised any freedom to quit his tenancy, where was he to go? Where would he have ended up? Today under capitalism the tenant farmer or the wage labourer is ‘free’ but this freedom is rendered nominal by the actual, determining historical conditions and parameters of their lives. What happens if the farmer quits his tenancy or the wage worker his job? Dependency of one class on another, subservience to it, makes it, by definition, unfree, enslaved. The three forms of slavery, which Engels referred to, were slave, bond and wage labour. ] 

This class arose as a result of the beginning concentration of landed property, owing to the same causes as led to this concentration, i.e., on the one hand civil wars and confiscations and on the other the transfer of land to the Church mainly due to the pressure of circumstances and the desire for security. The Church soon discovered a specific means to encourage such transfers, it allowed the donor not only to enjoy the usufruct of his land for a rent, but also to rent a piece of Church land as well. For such donations were made in two forms. Either the donor retained the usufruct of his farm during his lifetime, so that it became the property of the Church only after his death (donatio post obitum). In this case it was usual, and was later expressly laid down in the kings’ Capitularies, that the donor should be able to rent twice as much land from the Church as he had donated. Or the donation took effect immediately (cessio a die praesente) and in this case the donor could rent three times as much Church land as well as his own farm, by means of a document known as precaria, issued by the Church — which transferred the land to him, usually for the duration of his life, but sometimes for a longer or shorter period. Once a class of landless free men had come into being, some of them likewise entered into such a relationship. The precaria they were granted seem at first to have been mostly issued for five years, but in their case too they were soon made out for life.

There is scarcely any doubt that even under the Merovingians relations very similar to those obtaining on Church estates developed also on the estates of the secular magnates, and that here too free and unfree rent-paying tenants were living side by side. They must have been very numerous as early as Charles Martel’s rule for otherwise at least one aspect of the transformation of landownership relations initiated by him and completed by his son and grandson [23] would be inexplicable.

[note by spm – Throughout the whole roman period, about 90% + of the entire population lived on the land as cultivators, herdsmen, etc. This percentage seems to have been maintained, or even increased, during the colonate period of the late empire and subsequent to this in Frankish Gaul. These societies were overwhelmingly agrarian. So much so that a horse ride at the time from, for example, Londinium to Verulamium or from Paris to Orleans would have presented a picture of the countryside worked by many people on route living in their huts, hovels, roundhouses and settlements. The absence of people in the countryside as we see today was, of course, a creation of capitalist agriculture. The ‘appearance’ of the societies of antiquity as being urban is largely the creation of 20th century cinema.]

This transformation depended basically on two new institutions. First, in order to keep the barons of the empire tied to the Crown, the Crown lands they received were now as a rule no longer a gift, but only a “beneficium”, granted for life, and moreover on certain conditions nonfulfilment of which entailed the forfeiture of the land. Thus they became themselves tenants of the Crown. And secondly, in order to ensure that the free tenants of the barons turned up for military service, the latter were granted some of the district count’s official powers over the free men living on their estates and appointed their “seniores”. For the present we need only consider the first of these two changes.

When subduing the rebellious small “tyrants” Charles (Martel? – spm) probably — we have no information regarding this — confiscated their landed property according to old custom, but in so far as he reinstated them in their offices and dignities he will have granted it to them entirely or in part as a benefice. He did not yet dare to treat the Church land of recalcitrant bishops in the same way. He deposed them and gave their positions to people devoted to him, though the only clerical trait of many of them was their tonsure (sola tonsura clericus). These new bishops and abbots then began at his bidding to transfer large tracts of Church land to laymen as precaria. Such instances had occurred earlier too, but it was now done on a mass scale. His son Pepin (the short? – spm) went considerably further. The Church was in decay, the clergy despised, the Pope, [24] hard pressed by the Langobardi, depended exclusively on Pepin’s support. He helped the Pope, favoured the extension of his ecclesiastical rule and held the Pope’s stirrup. [25] But as a remuneration he incorporated the by far largest part of the Church land into the Crown estates and left the bishops and monasteries an amount just sufficient for their maintenance. The Church acquiesced passively in this first large-scale secularisation, the synod of Lestines [26] confirmed it, albeit with a restrictive clause, which was, however, never observed. This huge mass of land placed the exhausted Crown estate once more on a secure footing and was to a large extent used for further grants, which in fact soon assumed the form of ordinary benefices.

Let us add here that the Church was soon able to recover from this blow. Directly after the conflict with Pepin the worthy men of God resumed their old practices. Donations came once more thick and fast from all directions, the small free peasants were still in the same sorry plight between hammer and anvil as they had been for the past 200 years. Under Charlemagne and his successors they fared far worse still and many entrusted themselves and all their possessions to the protection of the crosier. The kings returned some of their booty to favoured monasteries, and donated vast stretches of Crown land to others, especially in Germany. The blessed times of Guntram seemed to have returned for the Church during the reign of Louis the Pious. The monastery archives contain especially numerous records of donations made in the ninth century.

The benefice, this new institution, which we must now examine closer, was not yet the future fief, but certainly its embryo. It was from the outset granted for the common span of life of both the conferrer and the recipient. If one or the other died, it reverted to the owner or his heirs. To renew the former relationship, a new transfer of property to the recipient or his heirs had to be made. Hence the benefice was subject to both “throne-fall” and “home-fall”, to use a later terminology. Throne-fall soon fell into desuetude; the great beneficiaries became more powerful than the king. Home-fall, even at an early stage, not infrequently entailed the re-transfer of the estate to the heir of the former beneficiary. Patriciacum (Percy), an estate near Autun, which Charles Martel granted as a benefice to Hildebrannus, remained in the family passing from father to son for four generations, until in 839 the king presented it to the brother of the fourth beneficiary as full property. Similar cases occur quite frequently since the mid-eighth century.

The benefice could be withdrawn by the conferrer in all cases in which confiscation of property was applicable. And there was no shortage of such cases under the Carolingians. The risings in Alamannia under Pepin the Short, the conspiracy of the Thuringians and the repeated risings of the Saxons [27] invariably led to new confiscations, either of free peasant land or of magnates’ estates and benefices. This occurred also, despite all treaty stipulations to the contrary, during the internal wars under Louis the Pious and his sons. [28] Certain non-political crimes were also punished by confiscation.

The Crown could moreover withdraw benefices if the beneficiary neglected his general obligations as a subject, e. g., did not hand over a robber who had sought asylum, did not turn up armed for a campaign, did not pay heed to royal letters, etc.

Furthermore benefices were conferred on special terms, the infringement of which entailed their withdrawal, which of course did not extend to the rest of the property of the beneficiary. This was the case, for example, when former Church estates were granted and the beneficiary failed to pay the Church the dues that went with them (nonae et decimae [29]). Or if he let the estate deteriorate, in which case a year’s notice was usually first given as a warning so that the beneficiary could improve matters to avert confiscation which would otherwise follow, etc. The transfer of an estate could also be tied to definite services and this was indeed done more and more frequently as the benefice gradually developed into the fief proper. But initially this was by no means necessary, especially with regard to military service, for many benefices were conferred on lower clerics, monks, and women both spiritual and lay.

Finally it is by no means impossible that in the beginning the Crown also conferred land subject to recall or for a definite period, i. e. as precaria. Some of the information and the procedure of the Church make this probable. But at any rate this ceased soon for the granting of land as a benefice became prevalent in the ninth century.

For the Church — and we must assume that this applied to the big landowners and beneficiaries as well — the Church, which previously granted estates to its free tenants mostly only as precaria for a definite period of time, had to follow the stimulus given by the Crown. The Church not only began to grant benefices as well, but this kind of grant became so predominant that already existing precaria were turned into lifelong ones and imperceptibly became benefices, until the former merged almost completely into the latter in the ninth century. Beneficiaries of the Church and also of secular magnates must have played an important part in the state as early as the second half of the ninth century, some of them must have been men of substantial property, the founders of the future lower nobility. Otherwise Charles the Bald would not have so vigorously helped those who had been without reason deprived of their benefices by Hincmar of Laon.

The benefice, as we see, has many aspects which recur in the developed fief. Throne-fall and home-fall are common to both. The benefice, like the fief, can only be revoked under certain conditions. The social hierarchy created by the benefices, which descends from the Crown through the big beneficiaries — the predecessors of the imperial princes — to the medium beneficiaries — the future nobility — and from them to the free and unfree peasants, the bulk of whom lived in mark communities, formed the foundation for the future compact feudal hierarchy. Whereas the subsequent fief is, in all circumstances, held in return for services and entails military service for the feudal lord, the benefice does not yet require military service and other services are by no means inevitable. But the tendency of the benefice to become an estate held in return for services is already obvious, and spreads steadily during the ninth century; and in the same measure as it unfolds, the benefice develops into the fief.

Another factor contributed to this development, i. e., the changes which took place in the district and army structure first under the influence of big landed property and later under that of the big benefices, into which big landed property was increasingly transformed as a result of the incessant internal wars and the confiscations and retransfers associated with them.

It is evident that only the pure, classical form of the benefice has been examined in this chapter, which was certainly only a transitory form and did not even appear everywhere simultaneously. But such historical manifestations of economic relations can only be understood if they are considered in their pure state, and it is one of the chief merits of Roth that he has laid bare this classical form of the benefice, stripping it of all its confusing appendages.


The transformation in the position of landed property just described was bound to influence the old structure. It caused just as significant changes in the latter, and these in their turn had repercussions on the relations of landed property. For the present we shall leave aside the remodelling of the political structure as a whole and confine ourselves to an examination of the influence the new economic position exerted on the still existing remnants of the old popular structure in the districts and the army.

As early as the Merovingian period we frequently encounter counts and dukes as administrators of Crown estates. But it was not until the ninth century that certain Crown estates were definitely linked to the countship in such a way that the count of the day received their revenue. The formerly honorary office had been transformed into a paid one. In addition to this we find the counts holding royal benefices granted to them personally, which is something self-evident under the conditions of that time. The count thus became a powerful landowner within his county.

First of all it is obvious that the authority of the count was bound to suffer when big landed proprietors arose under him and side by side with him. People who had often enough scorned the commands of the kings under the Merovingians and early Carolingians could be expected to show even less respect for the orders of the count. Their free tenants, confident of the protection of powerful landlords, just as frequently disregarded the count’s summons to appear in court or turn up for his levy to the army. This was one of the reasons that led to grants being made in the form of benefices instead of allodial grants and later to the gradual transformation of most of the formerly free big estates into benefices.

[note by spm – My understanding here is that ‘free tenants’ means not legally bound to the soil like a slave, colonus or lites. In the historical actuality of the conditions of the time, this ‘free’ did not mean much more than that. In reality, they were bound to the soil like the others but could ‘move around’ or ‘move on’ for what good it did them. Even if the ‘free tenant’ himself used coloni he remained localised and so was only ‘free’ within the conditions of the time. Engels’ use of the term ‘free’ needs to be qualified and rendered more concrete according to the conditions of the time. By free I think we can understand not a colonus, slave or lites and not, as yet, subinfeudated. See my note above]

This alone was not enough to ensure that the free men living on the estates of the magnates did in fact perform their services to the State. A further change had to be introduced. The king saw himself compelled to make the big landlords responsible for the appearance of their free tenants at court and for their performance of military and other traditional services to the State in the same way as hitherto the count was held accountable for all free inhabitants of his county. And this could only be accomplished if the king gave the magnates some of the count’s official powers over their tenants. It was the landlord or beneficiary who had to make sure that his people appeared before the court, they therefore had to be summoned through him. He had to bring them to the army, therefore the levy had to be effected by him, and so that he might always be held accountable for them he had to lead them and have the right to impose military discipline on them. But it was and continued to be the king’s service that the tenants performed, and the recalcitrant was punished not by the landlord but by the royal count, and the fine went to the royal fisc.

This innovation too goes back to Charles Martel. At any rate only since his time do we find the custom of high ecclesiastical dignitaries taking the field themselves, a custom which, according to Roth, was due to the fact that Charles made his bishops join the army at the head of their tenants in order to ensure that the latter turned up. [30] Undoubtedly this also applied to the secular magnates and their tenants. Under Charlemagne the new arrangement is already firmly established and universally enforced.

But this caused a substantial change also in the political position of the free tenants. They who had formerly been on an equal footing with their landlord before the law, however much they depended on him economically, now became his subordinates also in the legal sphere. Their economic subjection was politically sanctioned. The landlord becomes Senior, Seigneur, the tenants become his homines, the “lord” becomes the master of his “man”. The legal equality of the free men has disappeared; the man on the lowest rung of the ladder, his full freedom already greatly impaired by the loss of his ancestral land (allodium – spm), moves down another step nearer the unfree. The new “lord” rises that much higher above the level of the old communal freedom. The basis of the new aristocracy, already established economically, is recognised by the State and becomes one of the fully operative driving wheels of the State machinery.

But alongside these homines made up of free tenants there existed yet another kind. These were impoverished free men who had voluntarily entered into the service or become retainers of a magnate. The retinue of the Merovingians were the antrustions, the magnates of that time will likewise have had their retainers. The retainers of the king were, under the Carolingians, called vassi, vasalli or gasindi, terms which had been used for unfree men in the oldest codes of common law, but had now come to mean usually free retainers. The same expressions were applied to the grandee’s retainers, who now occur quite commonly and become an increasingly numerous and important element of society and State.

Old treaty formulas show how the grandees came to have such retainers. One of them (Formulae Sirmondicae 44) for instance says:

“Since it is known to one and all that I have not the wherewithal to feed and clothe myself, I ask of your” (the lord’s) “piety that I may betake and commend myself into your protection” (mundoburdum–guardianship, as it were) “so that … you will be obliged to aid me with food and clothing, according as I shall serve you and merit the same; in return, may I be obliged to render you service and obedience in the manner of a freeman (ingenuili ordine); nor shall it be in my power to withdraw from your authority and patronage during my lifetime but I shall spend my days under your authority and protection.” [31]

This formula provides full information about the origin and nature of the ordinary relations of allegiance stripped of all alien admixtures, and it is especially revealing because it presents the extreme case of a poor devil who has been reduced to absolute penury. The entry into the seigneur’s retinue was effected by the two parties reaching a free agreement–free in the sense of Roman and modern law–often rather similar to the entry of a present-day worker into the service of a manufacturer. The “man” commended himself to the lord, and the latter accepted his commendation. It was confirmed by a handshake and an oath of allegiance. The agreement was lifelong and was only dissolved by the death of one of the two contractors. The liege man was obliged to carry out all services consistent with the position of a free man which his lord might impose on him. In return the lord provided for his keep and rewarded him as he thought fit. A grant of land was by no means necessarily involved and in fact it certainly did not take place in all cases.

Under the Carolingians, especially since Charlemagne, this relationship was not only tolerated but directly encouraged and eventually, it seems, made compulsory for all ordinary free men–by a Capitulary of 847–and regulated by the State. For example, the liege man could unilaterally annul the relationship with his lord only if the latter attempted to kill him, hit him with a stick, dishonour his wife or daughter or deprive him of his hereditary property (Capitulary of 813). The liege man moreover was bound to his lord as soon as he had received a value equivalent to one solidus from him. This again clearly shows how little at that time the vassal relationship was linked with the granting of land. The same stipulations are repeated in a Capitulary of 816, with the addition that the liege man was released from his obligations if his lord wrongfully attempted to reduce him to the status of an unfree man or failed to afford him the promised protection although he was able to do so. [32]

With regard to his retainers the liege lord now had the same rights and duties towards the State as the landlord or beneficiary had with regard to his tenants. As before they were liable to serve the king, but here too the liege lord was interposed between the king and his counts. The liege lord brought the vassals to court, he called them up, led them in war and maintained discipline among them, he was responsible for them and their regulation equipment. This gave him a certain degree of penal authority over his subordinates, and was the starting point of the feudal lord’s jurisdiction over his vassals, which developed later.

In these two additional institutions, the formation of the retainer system and the transfer of the official powers of the counts, that is the State, to the landlord, the holder of a Crown benefice, and the liege lord over his subordinates–both tenants and landless retainers, who were soon all to be called vassi, vasalli or homines–in this political confirmation and strengthening of the actual power of the lord over his vassals we see an important further development of the germ of the fief system contained in the benefices. The hierarchy of social estates, from the king downwards through the big beneficiaries to their free tenants and finally to the unfree men, has in its official capacity become a recognised element of the political organisation. The State recognises that it cannot exist without its help. We shall see later how in actual fact this help was given.

The differentiation between retainers and tenants is only important in the beginning, in order to show that the dependence of free men came about in two ways. The two types of vassals very soon merged inseparably, in name as well as in fact. It became more and more customary for the big beneficiaries to commend themselves to the king, so that they were not only his beneficiaries but also his vassals. It was in the interest of the kings to make the magnates, bishops, abbots, counts and vassals swear the oath of allegiance to them personally (Annales Bertiniani 837 [33] and other documents of the ninth century); consequently the distinction between the general oath of the subject and the specific oath of the vassal was bound to disappear soon. Thus all the great men gradually became vassals of the king. The slow transformation of the big landowners into a special estate, an aristocracy, was herewith recognised by the State, incorporated into the State structure and became one of its officially functioning elements.

Similarly the retainers of the individual big landowners gradually became tenants. Apart from providing board at the manorhouse, which after all could only be done for a small number of people, there was but one way of assuring oneself of retainers, that is by settling them on the ground, by granting them land as a benefice. A numerous military retinue, the main prerequisite for the existence of the magnates in those times of perpetual fighting, could therefore only be obtained by granting land to the vassals. Consequently landless retainers gradually disappear from the manor while the mass of those settled on the lord’s land grows.

But the more this new element penetrated the old structure, the more it was bound to weaken the latter. The old direct exercise of State power by the king and the counts was more and more replaced by an indirect method; the seignior, to whom the common free men were increasingly tied by personal allegiance, now stood between them and the State. The count, the mainspring of the mechanism of State, was bound to recede into the background more and more, and so he did. In this situation Charlemagne acted as he generally used to do. First he encouraged the spread of the vassal relationship, as we have seen, until the independent small free men had almost disappeared, and when the weakening of his power to which this led became obvious, he tried to help it on its feet again by State intervention. Under such an energetic and formidable ruler this could be successful in some cases, but the force of circumstances created with his help asserted itself inexorably under his weak successors.

Charlemagne’s favourite method was to send out royal emissaries (missi dominici) with plenipotentiary powers. Where the ordinary royal official, the count, was unable to stem the spread of disorder, a special envoy was expected to do so. (This has to be historically substantiated and amplified.)

There was, however, another method, and this was to put the count in such a position that he had at his disposal material means to enforce his authority which were at least equal to those of the magnates in his county. This was only possible if the count too became a big landowner, which again could be brought about in two ways. Certain estates could be attached to the office of the count in the various districts as a sort of endowment, so that the count of the day administered them ex officio and received the revenue they yielded. Many examples of this kind can be found, especially in documents, from as early as the end of the eighth century, and this arrangement is quite usual from the ninth century onwards. It is self-evident that such endowments come for the most part from the king’s fiscal estates, and as early as the time of the Merovingians we often find counts and dukes administering the king’s fiscal estates situated in their territory.

Strangely enough there are also a good many examples (and even a formula for this purpose) of bishops using Church property to endow the office of the count, of course in the form of some sort of benefice since Church property was inalienable. The munificence of the Church is too well known to allow of any other reason for this but dire need. Under the growing pressure of neighbouring secular magnates no other resort was left to the Church but to ally itself with the remnants of the state authority.

These appurtenances associated with the count’s post (res comitatus, pertinentiae comitatus) were originally quite distinct from the benefices which were granted personally to the count of the day. These too were usually distributed generously, so that, endowment and benefices taken together, countships, originally honorary positions, had by then become very lucrative posts, and since Louis the Pious they were, like other royal favours, bestowed on people whom the king wanted to win over to his side or of whom he wanted to be sure. Thus it is said of Louis the Stammerer that he “quos potuit conciliavit [sibi], dans eis comitatus et abbatias ac villas” (Annales Bertiniani 877). [34] The term honor, formely used to designate the office with reference to the honorary rights connected with it, acquired the same meaning as benefice in the course of the ninth century. And this necessarily caused a substantial change in the character of the count’s office, as Roth rightly emphasises (p. 408). Originally the seigniory, in so far as it was of a public character, was modelled upon the office of the count and invested with some of the count’s powers. Then, in the second half of the ninth century, the seigniory had become so widespread that it threatened to outweigh the count’s office and the latter could only maintain its authority by more and more assuming the characteristics of seigniory. The counts increasingly sought, and not without success, to usurp the position of a seignior vis-à-vis the inhabitants of their districts (pagenses) with regard to both their private and their public relations. Just as the other “lords” sought to subordinate the small people in their neighbourhood, so the counts tried, in an amicable way or by force, to induce the less well-off free inhabitants of their district to become their vassals. They succeeded the more easily as the mere fact that the counts could thus abuse their official power was the best proof that the remaining common free men could expect very little protection from the royal authority and its organs. Exposed to oppression from all quarters, the smaller free men had to be glad to find a patron, even at the cost of relinquishing their allodium and receiving it back as a mere benefice. Already in the Capitulary of 811 Charlemagne complained that bishops, abbots, counts, judges and centenarii [ 35]by continuous legal chicanery and repeated summonses to the army reduced the small people to such a state that they agreed to transfer or sell their allodium to them, and that the poor bitterly lamented that they were being robbed of their property, etc. The greater part of free property in Gaul had in this way already passed into the hands of the Church, the counts and other magnates by the end of the ninth century (Hincmar, Annales Remenses 869). And somewhat later no free landed property belonging to small free men existed any longer in some provinces (Maurer, Einleitung, p. 212). [36] When the increasing power of the beneficiaries and the declining power of the Crown had gradually caused benefices to become hereditary, the count’s office as a rule became hereditary too. If we saw the beginnings of the subsequent nobility in the large number of royal beneficiaries, here we see the seed of the territorial sovereignty of the future princes that evolved from the district counts.

While thus the social and political system changed completely, the old constitution of the army, based on the military service of all free men–a service which was both their right and their duty–remained outwardly unchanged, except that where the new relations of dependence existed, the seignior interposed himself between his vassals and the count. However, year by year the common free men were less able to carry the burden of military service. This consisted not only of personal service; the conscript had also to equip himself and to live at his own expense during the first six months. This continued until Charlemagne’s incessant wars knocked the bottom out of the barrel. The burden became so unbearable that in order to rid themselves of it the small free men began en masse to transfer not only their remaining property but also their own person and their descendants to the magnates, and especially to the Church. Charlemagne had reduced the free warlike Franks to such a state that they preferred to become bondsmen or serfs to avoid going to war. That was the consequence of Charlemagne’s insistence on maintaining, and even carrying to the extreme, a military system based on universal and equal landownership by all free men, at a time when the bulk of the free men had lost all or most of their landed property.

The facts, however, were stronger than Charlemagne’s obstinacy and ambition. The old army system was no longer tenable. To equip and provision the army at the expense of the State was even less feasible in that age of a subsistence economy run practically without money or commerce. Charlemagne was therefore obliged to restrict the liability to service in such a way that equipment and food could still remain the responsibility of the men themselves. This was done in the Aachen Capitulary of 807, at a time when the wars were reduced to mere border fights, and the continued existence of the empire seemed, on the whole, ensured. Firstly all the king’s beneficiaries without exception had to turn up, then those owning twelve hides (mansi) of land were to appear clad in armour, and therefore presumably also on horseback (the word caballarius–knight is used in the same Capitulary). Owners of three to five hides of land were also obliged to serve. Two owners having two hides of land each, three owners having one hide of land each, or six owners each possessing half a hide of land, had to send one man equipped by the others. As to free men who had no land at all but personal property worth five solidi, every sixth of them was to take the field and receive one solidus as pecuniary aid from each of the other five men. Moreover the obligation of the various parts of the country to take part in the fighting, an obligation which applied fully when the war was waged in the neighbourhood, was in the case of more distant wars reduced to between one-half and one-sixth of the total manpower, depending on the distance from the theatre of war. [37]

Charlemagne evidently attempted to adapt the old system to the changed economic position of the men liable to military service, to rescue what he could still rescue. But even these concessions were of no avail, and he was soon compelled to grant further exemptions in the Capitulare de exercitu promovendo. [38] The whole contents of this Capitulary, which is usually regarded as antecedent to that of Aachen, shows that it was undoubtedly drawn up several years later. According to it, one man has to do military service from every four hides of land, instead of three as previously. The owners of half a hide of land and those without land appear to be exempt from military service, and as regards beneficiaries their obligation is also restricted to the provision of one man for every four hides of land. Under Charlemagne’s successors the minimum number of hides of land obliged to provide one man seems even to have been raised to five. [39]

It is strange that the mobilisation of the armoured owners of twelve hides of land seems to have encountered the greatest difficulties. At any rate, the order that they must turn up clad in armour is repeated innumerable times in the Capitularies.

Thus the common free men disappeared to an increasing extent. Just as the gradual separation from the land had driven part of them to become vassals of the new big landlords, so the fear of being completely ruined by military service actually drove the other part into serfdom. How rapidly this submission to servitude proceeded can be seen from the polyptychon (land register) of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés monastery, which then still lay outside Paris. It was compiled by abbot Irminon early in the ninth century, and among the tenants of the monastery it lists 2,080 families of colons, 35 of lites, 220 of slaves (servi), but only eight free families. [40] In the Gaul of those days, however, the word colonus definitely denoted a serf. The marriage of a free woman to a colonus or slave subjected her to the lord as defiled (deturpatam) (Capitulary of 817). Louis the Pious commanded that “colonus vel servus” (of a monastery at Poitiers) “ad naturale servitium velit nolit redeat”. [41] They received blows (Capitularies of 853, 861, 864 and 873) and were sometimes set free (see Guérard,Irmino). [42] And these enthralled (enserfed) peasants were by no means of Romance stock, but according to the testimony of Jacob Grimm (Geschichte der deutschen Sprache, I, p. [537]), who examined their names, “almost exclusively Frankish, far outweighing the small number of Romance ones”.

This huge rise in the unfree population in its turn changed the class relations of the Frankish society. Alongside the big landlords, who at that time rapidly emerged as a social estate in its own right, and alongside their free vassals there appeared now a class of unfree men which gradually absorbed the remnants of the common free men. But these unfree men had either themselves been free or were children of free men; those who had lived for three or more generations in hereditary bondage formed a small minority. Moreover, for the most part they were not Saxon, Wendish, or other prisoners of war brought in from outside, but natives of Frankish or Romance origin. Such people, especially when they began to constitute the bulk of the population, were not as easy to deal with as inherited or foreign serfs. They were not yet used to servitude, the blows which even the colonus received (Capitularies of 853, 861, 873) were still seen as a humiliation and not as something natural. Hence the many plots and risings of unfree men and even peasant vassals. Charlemagne himself brutally crushed an uprising of the tenants of the bishopric of Reims. In a Capitulary of 821 Louis the Pious mentions slaves (servorum) plotting in Flanders and Menapiscus (on the upper Lys). Risings of the liege men (homines) of the Mainz bishopric had to be put down in 848 and 866. [43] Orders to stamp out such plots are reiterated in capitularies from 779 onwards. The rising of the Stellinga in Saxony [44] must likewise be included here. The fact that from the end of the eighth century and the beginning of the ninth gradually a definite limit was fixed for the obligations of the unfree men, and even of the settled slaves, and that this limit, which was not to be exceeded, was laid down by Charlemagne in his Capitularies, was obviously a consequence of the threatening attitude of the enthralled masses.

The price therefore which Charlemagne had to pay for his new Roman Empire [45] was the annihilation of the social estate of common free men, who had constituted the entire Frankish people at the time of the conquest of Gaul, and the division of the people into big landlords, vassals and serfs. But with the common free men the old military system collapsed, and with these two the monarchy went down. Charlemagne had destroyed the foundation of his own power. It could still sustain him, but under his successors it became evident what the work of his hands had been in reality.


1. Engels’ manuscript The Frankish Period was not published during his lifetime.
The manuscript has two parts; the first part includes two chapters: “The Radical Transformation of the Relations of Landownership under the Merovingians and Carolingians” and “The District and Army Structure”.

The Frankish Period was first published in full in: Marx and Engels, Works, First Russian Edition, Vol. XVI, Part 1, Moscow, 1937, and in the language of the original in: Friedrich Engels, Zur Geschichte und Sprache der deutschen Frühzeit. Ein Sammelband. Berlin, 1952, S. 97-152.

The Frankish Period was published in English for the first time in: Marx, Engels, Pre-Capitalist Socio-Economic Formations. A Collection, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1979.

2. The Merovingians–the first royal dynasty in the Frankish state (457-751), which got its name from its legendary founder Merovaeus. The policy pursued by the Merovingians promoted the rise of feudal relations among the Franks.
For the Carolingians, see Note 8.

3. The terms the “Mark system” and “Mark” are explained in G. L. von Maurer,Einleitung zur Geschichte der Mark-, Hof-, Dorf- und Stadt-Verfassung der öffentlichen Gewalt, Munich, 1854, pp. 5 and 40.
For more details about the “Mark”, see present edition, Vol. 24, pp. 439-56.

4. Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum gestarum, XVIII, 2, 1; XX, 4, 1; XXX, 3, 1.–Ed.

5. See Note 64 below, The Paderborn Records.

6. Antrustions–warriors under the early Merovingians (see Note 2); evidently descendants of the gentile nobility.

7. P. Roth, Geschichte des Beneficialwesens, Erlangen, 1850. One of the best books of the pre-Maurer period. I have borrowed a good deal from it in this chapter.

8. Major-domo (Lat. major domus)–the highest official in the Frankish state under the Merovingians (see Note 2). Originally the major-domo was appointed by the king and was in charge of the palace. As feudalism advanced and royal power was weakened the functions of major-domos were extended; they became the biggest landowners and concentrated state power in their hands. Most powerful of all were the major-domos from the Pepinide clan–Pepin of Heristal (687-712), Charles Martel (715-741) and Pepin the Short (741-751) who became the first king (751-768) of the Carolingian dynasty.

9. Einhardus, Vita Caroli Magni, 2. Quoted in P. Roth, Geschichte des Beneficialwesens…, Erlangen, 1850, p. 352.–Ed.

10. The Saxons defeated the Frankish army at Mount Süntel on the right bank of the Weser (782).
For more than two centuries, from around 560, the Avars made innumerable raids on the territory of the Frankish state. In 796 the joint forces of the Franks and the southern Slavs destroyed the Avars’ central fortification in Pusta-Ebene.
The Arabs, who conquered Spain at the beginning of the 8th century, invaded Southern Gaul in 720. In the Battle of Poitiers (732) Charles Martel defeated the Arabs and put an end to their incursions into Europe.

11. See Note 8.

12. The Franks were converted to Christianity in 496 during the reign of Clovis I (481-511). The adoption of Christianity and alliance with the Catholic episcopate secured Clovis the support of the clergy and goodwill towards the Franks on the part of the Catholic Gauls and Romans.

13. Gregorius Turonensis, Historia Francorum, VI, 46. Quoted in P. Roth, op. cit., pp. 248-49, Note 6.–Ed.

14. Capitularies — royal legislative acts and ordinances of the early Middle Ages (the Carolingian dynasty — 8th-10th cent.). The Aachen Capitulary (Capitulare duplex Aquisgranense a. 811), which noted the wholesale seizure of peasant lands by ecclesiastical and secular feudal lords, is a major source on the history of the Frankish state. The full Latin text of the Aachen Capitulary is quoted by Paul Roth in Geschichte des Beneficialwesens von den ältesten Zeiten bis ins zehnte Jahrhundert, Erlangen, 1850, p. 253, Note 31.

15. Quoted in P. Roth, Geschichte des Beneficialwesens…, p. 253. — Ed.

16. L. G. O. F. de Bréquigny, F. J. G. La Porte du Theil, Diplomata, chartae, epistolae, et alia documenta…In P. Roth, Geschichte des Beneficialwesens…, p. XVII. — Ed.

17. Hincmar Remensis, Vita Remigii. Quoted in P. Roth, op. cit., pp. XIX, 258. — Ed.

18. Quoted in P. Roth, op. cit., pp. 256-58. — Ed.

19. Hide — a variable unit of area of land, enough for a household. — Ed.

20. The information quoted by Engels is taken from the 9th-century polyptych (record of landed property, population and incomes) of Saint-Germain-des-Prés Monastery. For the first time this record was published with commentaries by the French historian Guérard, under the title Polyptique de l’abbé Irminon, vols I-II, Paris, 1844. Engels is quoting from Paul Roth’s book Geschichte des Beneficialwesens…, Erlangen, 1850, p. 251. Details on the landed property of the monasteries of St. Denis, Luxeuil and St. Martin de Tours are also taken from Roth’s book.

21. See this volume, p. 66. — Ed.

22. Colons were bondsmen of the Carolingian feudal lord on whose land they lived; colons had no right to abandon their plots which were in their hereditary use. [related to the Roman Colonus – note by spm]
Lites–a semi-free stratum among the Franks and Saxons. They occupied an intermediate position between free-holders and slaves.

23. Pepin III (the Short) and Charlemagne. — Ed.

24. Stephen II. — Ed.

25. In response to an appeal by Pope Stephen II, Pepin the Short undertook two campaigns to Italy (in 754 and 756) against the Langobardian King Aistulf. Part of the lands he conquered Pepin ceded to the Pope and this laid the foundation of the Papal States (756).

26. This refers to the second synod in Lestines (743) which endorsed the secularisation of Church lands in favour of the state as effected under Charles Martel.

27. The risings of the Alamanni were suppressed by Pepin the Short (in 744) and Carloman (in 746), and after this their duchy was destroyed. The Thuringians won independence in 640.
Charlemagne’s wars against Saxony, which was conquered and annexed to the Frankish state, lasted for more than 30 years (from 772 to 804). During this period the Saxons twice (in 782 and 792) rose in revolt against their conquerors.

28. The growing discord in the family forced Louis the Pious, Charlemagne’s son and successor, to divide the empire among his heirs on three occasions (in 817, 829 and 837); this led to the internal wars that continued till his death and ended in the political disintegration of the empire. In 843, following Louis’ death, his sons concluded in Werden a treaty on a new division of the empire. The Werden treaty virtually laid the foundation of France, Germany and Italy — three modern states of Western and Central Europe.

29. Ninth and tenth part of the harvest or other revenues. See P. Roth, op. cit., pp. 363-64. — Ed.

30. See P. Roth, op. cit., p. 356. — Ed.

31. Formulas were models for drawing up legal deeds and transactions relating to property and other matters in the Frankish state between the end of the 6th and the end of the 9th centuries. Several collections of such formulas have survived to this day. That quoted by Engels is included in the collection Formulae Turonenses vulgo Sirmondicae dictae. Engels may have taken it from Roth’s book Geschichte des Beneficialwesens…, p. 379, Note 51.

32. In his description of Charlemagne’s Capitularies (Capitulare a. 847, Capitulare a. 813, Capitulare a. 816) Engels makes use of the material in Paul Roth’s Geschichte des Beneficialwesens…, pp. 380-81, notes 58 and 61.

33. The reference is to the Annales Bertiniani, an important source on the history of the Carolingian empire. The Annales, which owe their name to St. Bertin Monastery in France, are a chronicle covering the period from 741 to 882 and consisting of three parts written by different authors. The Annales advocate the interests of the French Carolingians and support their claim to the territory of the East Frankish kingdom. The Annales Bertiniani were published in the well-known series Monumenta Germaniae historica.
Engels’ description of the Annales Bertiniani is based on Roth’s Geschichte des Beneficialwesens…, p. 385, Note 81.

34. “Tried to win the support of all he could by giving them countships, abbacies and estates.” See P. Roth, Geschichte des Beneficialwesens…, p. 420, Note 10.–Ed.

35. Subordinate judges, responsible to the court.–Ed.

36. Hincmar Remensis, Annales Remenses: Annales ad annum 869 in G. L. Maurer,Einleitung zur Geschichte der Mark-, Hof-, Dorf- und Stadt- Verfassung und der öffentlichen Gewalt, Munich, 1854, pp. 210-12 and notes 61 and 71.–Ed.

37. P. Roth, Geschichte des Beneficialwesens…, pp. 398-401.–Ed.

38. Capitulary on the levy for military service.–Ed.

39. See P. Roth, op. cit., pp. 399-400.–Ed.

40. B. E. Ch. Guérard, Polyptyque de l’abbé Irminon in P. Roth, op. cit., p. 378.–Ed.

41. “A colon or slave has to return to his natural servitude whether he is willing or not.”–Ed.

42. Quoted according to P. Roth, op. cit., pp. 376-77.–Ed.

43. See P. Roth, op. cit., p. 378, Note 47.–Ed.

44. This refers to the rising of free and semi-free Saxon peasants-freelings and lites or the Stellinga (from Stellinger–Sons of the Old Law), which took place in 841-843 and was directed against the feudal order in Saxony.

45. Charlemagne was crowned Roman Emperor in 800.

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