early medieval states

This is based (loosely) on Chris Wickham's model - see http://magistraetmater.blog.co.uk/ for the blog post that inspired this…

3 sorts of early medieval states:

  • those with a salaried army
    • examples include
      • Byzantium
      • later Roman Empire
      • Ummayad Caliphate
    • highly organised
    • comprehensive written records
    • effective taxation system
    • professional military class
    • highly hierarchical social order
  • those with a landed army
    • less hierarchical social system
    • miltary service by obligation
    • solidiers raised from peasantry
    • no taxation system as such
    • few written records
      • but increasing use of charters to define relationships and obligations
        • also seen in marriage contracts
          • work of Georges Duby on changes in form of marriage between 900 and 1200 in medieval France
            • see The knight, the lady and the priest for a summary
        • compare with medieval social networking
      • examples include
        • Gothic Italy
        • Lombard states in north Italy
        • Visigothic Spain (Asturias)
        • Merovingian Francia
    • memory of panoply of late Roman empire and a desire to hark back to these forms
      • cf Gregory of Tours History of the Franks and comments re the provision of soldiers at public expense
      • early medieval Welsh successor states and use of late Roman titles eg Protector and land tax system (need to revisit this)
  • those with no effective organisation
    • little or no records
      • records that do exist are maintained by the church
    • military organisation limited to personal warband of leader
    • no network of social obligation between landholders
    • examples include
      • early anglo saxon england
      • viking states including viking ireland
      • early mediveval scotland
    • no memory or continuity with late roman forms
    • tends over time to evolve into something like a state with a landed army
      • example later anglo saxon england and the development of the fyrd


  1. did social organisation impact on travel/trade
  2. did people at the time make such distinctions
  3. is Wickham right to argue the landed army model more stable as creation of tax system generates substantial administrative overhead (can one make a tenuous arguement about Cromwell's new model army versus the Cavalier army which was essentially a continuationof the Tudor model)
  4. implications for different levels of military skill, deployment of more sophisticated military technology, general military effctiveness
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