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The Economic and Social Development of the State

Автор:   •  Май 14, 2023  •  Лекция  •  4,995 Слов (20 Страниц)  •  58 Просмотры

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Lecture 2


The Economic and Social Development of the State

The whole economic development of the country from the 11th to the 14th century illustrates the increasing degree of exploitation of the peasant by the feudal lords, as well as by the church. Trade was increasing throughout the country with merchants and middlemen who travelled from manor to manor and market to market. Much trading consisted of wool, which could be profitably sold not only at the local market but more especially to the cloth-manufacturing towns of the European continent, particularly Flanders. England was not originally a cloth-weaving country, and when Flemish weavers were brought into the country in the 14th century to teach the secrets of their trade to English peasants and craftsmen, the resulting cloth manufacture meant a still more rapid increase of the volume of trade and more rapid accumulation of wealth. Till: towns grew rapidly in size, importance and wealth, and became centres of handicraft production of all kinds.

The lords of the manor were no longer content to accept merely the surplus produce of their peasants for their own immediate use, but began to increase their wealth by the sale 'of agricultural products at the country markets. Striving to achieve greater productivity the lords were interested to pay money to the peasant who would sell his labour for hire, rather than rely on forced labour which was unproductive. The peasant who had been unfortunate with his harvest quite often became a hired agricultural labourer. In this way wage labourers were formed, without land of their own. This process of 'commuting' labour services for money was spreading gradually over the country, but it was not complete, when it was interrupted by a disaster in the middle of the 14th century, the plague or Black Death, which spread all throughout Europe including England.

In the 12th century a new dynasty was established in England—the so-called Plantagenet dynasty. Henry II (1154—89), became King of England. He came from France and his family name was Angevin, but he was called Henry Plantagenet, because that was the name of Henry's father, the Count of Anjou. The name Plantagenet was taken from their badge, which was a sprig of planta genista, the Latin name for broom. His domain included large possessions in France.' To his new English possessions he soon added some Scotch territory, established his lordship over Wales and made 'conquests' in Ireland. Henry was the first English king to attempt the conquest of Ireland. The country was seriously divided—with little central government. In 1169 an Irish chieftain asked Henry for aid, and in reply the king sent an adventurer, Richard Strongbow, who proceeded to conquer much of the country. Two years later Henry II himself .crossed the Irish Channel and became recognized as Lord of Ireland. However, he succeeded in establishing his authority only in a small district around Dublin known as 'The Pale' because of fierce Irish opposition. The events marked the beginning of the long struggle of the Irish people for independence against English yoke. To rule such a vast domain effectively, Henry had to have considerable money. To secure this, he restored the Exchequer to its earlier prominence and made it aid him in collecting the customary taxes, as well as some/newly introduced taxes. With this money he employed mercenaries for his army instead of using unwilling vassals. He removed most of the old sheriffs and replaced them by appointees of his own who were better tax collectors. Henry II had four sons, two of which died in his lifetime. When Henry II died he was succeeded by Richard, best known as the Lionhearted, who loved adventure and conflict and typified the chivalry of the time. All but six months of his ten years' reign he spent abroad either on a crusade or on the continent of Europe. On Richard's death John, the fourth son of Henry II, became king (1199-1216).

The main provisions of feudalism may be regarded as a contract between the king, on the one hand, and his vassals, on the other. It was recognized that the king had certain rights and duties. In the same way the vassal had his corresponding rights and duties. If the feudal contract was openly violated by the king, the barons, having exhausted all other means, could rebel against the king. This of course was a very risky thing, especially in England, where the power of the Crown was very great.

John Lackland, as he was known in English history because he practically lost everything that he possessed, thought himself above the existing feudal laws and used the most evil means for forcing money out of his people.

The church was similarly treated, and the towns, that had become comparatively independent, were made to pay all kinds of taxes and fines. The result was the complete isolation of the Crown from those sections that had previously been its supporters. John was unwise enough to make an attack on the church over the filling of the vacant seat of Archbishop of Canterbury at he time when Pope Innocent III was in power, for then the Catholic church was extremely powerful. Pope Innocent III made use of this situation in England and declared John excommunicated and deposed of his powers as king. Moreover, Innocent III persuaded the kings of France and Scotland to make war on him. John's forces were crushed and the English barons refused to fight. John stood alone. Unwillingly he submitted and on June 15, 1215, at a field called Runnymede by the river Thames John signed the programme of demands expressed by the barons in a document known as Magna Charta or the Great Charter.

This document of sixty-three sections provided that the church and the barons were to retain their old rights and liberties. The ancient liberties of London and of other towns were guaranteed. Merchants were to be permitted to trade without paying heavy tolls. However, most important was the clause decreeing that no freeman was to be detained or punished except 'by the lawful judgement of his peers and the law of the land'. The class character of this clause is most evident for only the freeman, or in fact the privileged classes could make use of this right. One of the specific points of the Great Charter was the setting up of a permanent committee of 25 barons to see that John's promises were kept. It also said that John must govern with the Council's advice and permission. This particular device did not work well but it gave the barons the advantage to start a political struggle against the king if necessary as a class rather than as individuals.

Magna Charta meant great changes in the feudal system. Even more important, however, was the Charter's influence on those classes in future centuries — the bourgeoisie and the gentry — who stood against the king's powers and demanded a limitation of his rights.

The moment the barons dispersed, John denounced the Charter and gathered an army. A war followed which was interrupted by the death of John. His son Henry was only nine. Government was carried out in his name by a group of 'barons. They became stronger than ever before. Within this period the principles of Magna Charta came to be accepted as the basis of the law at least in theory.


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