Hierarchy in Society in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries

Despite the perception that Medieval Europe was a time of static oppression by the state, the church and the land-holding lords while the populace remained uneducated and barely managed to subsist (Power, 2006), there remains much truth to the idea that the period between the tenth and the 14th centuries were a time of significant change and development. The area within the boundaries of France had one of the most dynamic histories of diversity in the European Middle Ages, occupied as it was at first by native Europeans, then the Celts, then the Romans, then the Germans, and, in the last wave of migration, an influx of Scandinavians. The amazing thing about this history is the culture that the French forged from all these materials, eventually, with England, becoming the central culture in the larger process of the invention of Europe (Hooker, 1996). Historians generally date the European culture as starting its course of development in the late tenth century. The late tenth century marks the beginning of a new phase in European history since Latin Christendom ceased to be on the defensive against neighboring cultures and began to expand aggressively against them (Power, 2006: 5). In addition, the eleventh century was characterized by radical changes to settlement patterns, often through aristocratic direction, which transformed the social and economic structures of the countryside (Power, 2006: 22). An understanding of what happened in the tenth and eleventh centuries can begin to explain why and how this dynamic change started and how it helped to shape the future of the Western European nations.As the tenth century opened, society was split into three primary classes – the priests or monks, the farmers or peasants and the warriors. The beginning of France’s formation could be found in the efforts of Charlemagne, who was the first conqueror to unite much of central Europe under a single government in the early 800s. Carolus Magnus, however, did not have a working model of government over such a vast territory, so he improvised.