Living in the Tenth Century, a book by Heinrich Fithtenau, presents an interesting view of life in Europe in the tenth century. Fithtenau takes the audience to a journey through the second millennium in Medieval Europe. The book is voluminous and challenging for those with no scholarly interest in History.
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For Historians, it offers enlightenment and deeper understanding on how life has changed from medieval period to now. Fithtenau delves into all facets of life in Medieval Europe. The book digs into the interplay between rural schooling and religion. Additionally, it focuses on social order and the tenth century economy. This book review will demonstrate that Fithtenau’s book has well developed and credible arguments. It will also show that the book is resourceful but challenging to undergraduate students.
Fithtenau extrapolates the life in the tenth century Europe from the Carolingian age. He then ventures into emerging states like France and Germany. The tenth century experienced several changes in religion, economy, and education. In religion, the hypocrisy in Roman Catholic Church had led to disenchantment within a cross section of Christians.
There was incessant clamor for church reform from many quarters. Religious movements opposed to the Roman Catholic were gaining momentum day by day. What makes Fithtenau compelling as a writer is his style of themes presentation. On religion for instance, the book has pages with accounts of renowned clergy and bishops.
The book also focuses on population growth and urbanization. Increased food production led to better health and higher population. Additionally, people could sell surplus agricultural products or exchange them for things they did not have. The places that people met to trade became urban centers.
The book details accounts of rich land owners who cultivated corn. This era also witnessed the rise of different professions. These include architecture, engineering, and insurance. Trade led to emergence of brokers and intermediaries. In the new economic order, these intermediaries became merchants. The rich carved more land for themselves and hired poor people as laborers in vast cornfields.
Fithtenau book is unique because of the author’s dexterity in showing how different spheres of life connected and interplayed in the tenth century. The book delves into the notion of social order and shows how the societies organized themselves along schemes of order. The church exploited this order to teach subservience to those in low schemes. The elites exploited the notion of social order for social preservation.
Fithtenau uses this notion of social order to penetrate and understand the tenth century Europe. The medieval society was conducting rituals as a means of perpetuating and preserving schemes of order. However, Fithtenau suggests that order was elusive as people sought more participation in church reform and governance issues. This often led to conflicts.
The book caricatures the world around six basic notions. The first part of the book, titled Ordo, shows how social class determined access to the leadership and god. The society venerated the rich and lavished them with gifts and kind gestures. The second part of the book, titled Familia, captures family relations.
Fithtenau explores the subordinate status of women in the society. The book reveals the family as a unit organized around a woman in spite of her subjugated status. It also portrays the tensions that persisted in the royal family especially when it was time for succession. In the third section, titled Nobolitas, the book explores the administrative powers of the nobility.
In the book, Fithtenau captures human struggles to impose social order on the society. The society was also witnessing a conflict between Christian and pagan belief. This conflict is believed to emanate from the bumper harvest of 1033.There were those who attributed the harvest to God’s powers.
Others attributed it to magic. More than religion, people were also obsessed with proximity to power. Those close to power attracted respect and attention from those who were far from it. To get closer to those in power, those far from it offered gifts and praises. Women for instance addressed powerful men as “my lord”.
Living in the tenth Century also captures the debates on social thoughts that prevailed in Medieval Europe. The ecclesiastical nobility had outraged the secular nobility by using religion rather than economic status as a route to nobility. Fithtenau subverts the ecclesiastical nobility and upholds the secular nobility.
This shows that medieval Europe valued and esteemed secular clergies more. In the section titled religio, Fithtenau does not discuss ecclesiastical clergy, as the audience would expect. Instead, the section discusses reformers who were dissatisfied with the monastic. Interestingly, Fithtenau discusses bishops and clergy under the section of his book titled nobilitas. This shows that he considered their social status higher than their religious position.
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Another conspicuous aspect of the tenth century Europe as presented by Fithtenau is veneration of ranks and social status. The society expected people of the higher rank to behave and dress in a certain way. The ruling class lost personal identity because it had to conform to predetermined models. This class had a standing army for self-preservation. The army ensured that the peasants did not jeopardize the safety or status of the ruling class.
Fithtenau not only presents his argument but also provides logical reasoning to back it. In the original German version of the book, the author provides appendix and footnotes detailing accounts of the clergy, the ruling class, and the emerging intellectuals. This enhances credibility of the book.
Fithtenau portrays historical events correctly and factually. For instance, other Historians corroborate the loss in distinction between the clergy and ruling class. The increasing disenchantment with the clergy and ruling class appears in many other texts as Fithtenau captures it in his book.
Fithtenau’s Living in the Tenth Century is voluminous and very detailed. It is thus appropriate for Historians and anthropologists who wish to advance in their discipline. However, the book is complex and advanced for undergraduates. Fithtenau’s command on the subject and narrative style makes the book a compelling read. It is an incomparable resource book in spite of Lexical complexity. I would therefore recommend it to anyone interested in the History of medieval Europe.