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Ifeature review!
The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change, 950-1350
Bartlett, Robert The Making of Europe:
Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change, 950-1350
Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press
432 pp., $29.95 cloth,
ISBN 0-691-03298-X Publication Date: July 1993
One of the challenges of teaching medi-, eval history is the issue of simultaneity,
the necessity of analyzing societies from a large geographic area across a single
time frame. This challenge is usually reached at the point when the Caro-lingian
Empire has disintegrated under the combined onslaught of internal dissension and
external aggression. After a hesitant foray into the thickets of “feudalism” and
the “peasant village,” four or more sociopolitical structures all clamor for
simultaneous attention. No help comes from textbooks as these are invariably
written from the perspective of “national” history. Their authors proclaim, with
biases firmly in place, the essential differences between the Capetian kings, the
Holy Roman Emperors, or the Anglo-Norman kings, even when examining their conflicts
with the reformed papal monarchy.
Robert Bartlett’s study, The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization and Cultural
Change, is a breath of fresh scholarly air, for his book contains an idea that
makes the study of historical simultaneity feasible: the description of
increasingly similar patterns of development discernable in the Europe after 1000.
Bartlett contends that Northern France, Flanders, Western Germany, and England—the
old Carolingian area of influence—created a mechanism that propelled its ideas and
people into the outer reaches of Latin Christendom, also known as Europe. Once this
diaspora had begun, the center was increasingly homogenized and the frontiers
assimilated, though not without considerable conflict. Bartlett, who was
formerly professor of history at the University of Chicago and is now professor of
medieval history at St. Andrews University, Scotland, brings the right credentials
to this task as he has published several studies about the frontiers of European
Bartlett develops his theories in the first half of the book. He begins with a
description of Latin Christendom circa 1200 with its 800 bishoprics and its basic
uniformity of liturgical rituals and theological doctrines centered upon obedience
to a reformed Roman papacy. He follows with an analysis of a military aristocracy,
now fixed on landed estates with inheritance patterns of primogeniture and
patrilineal descent, which produced a surplus of well-trained but landless fighting
men who poured into the less-settled frontiers of the old Frankish realm in order
to acquire their own lands. Aided by superior weaponry, castle building, and
charismatic conquerors such as William of Normandy, Robert Guiscard, the Cid, the
leaders of the first Crusade, or the organizers of the Saxon expansion into the
Slavic East, this military machine of “Frankish” nobles and equally militant Latin
clergy began the process of the “Europeanization” of Europe. The knights were not
alone in their endeavor but were supported by large numbers of peasants and
merchants who farmed the conquered lands, created new towns, and opened up new
markets. This process occurred in Southern Italy and Sicily, on the eastern
frontier of the Holy Roman Empire, in the Anglo-Norman/English takeover of Wales
and Ireland; it was also the mainstay of the Christian Reconquista in Spain as well
as of the crusades to the Holy Land.
The second half of Bartlett’s study deals with race relations on the frontier, the
changes of language, law, and power, and the hostile confrontation of ethnic groups
such as in Ireland or on the eastern borders of Germany. Bartlett examines the
religious unification of Europe, originating from the centralized papal church and
exemplified by
the use of a small number of “Christian” names. Coined money and written charters
symbolize an economic homogeneity; the appearance of universities with uniform
patterns of instruction and scholarly concerns attest to a common intellectual
In his conclusions, Bartlett concentrates on the appearance of a European mentality
that was fully formed by the late Middle Ages, occurring first in the central areas
of Christendom, and then being reproduced on the frontiers. This European
mentality, argues Bartlett, survived into the early modern period and established
the patterns of colonial conquest, thus making possible the European diaspora into
the rest of the world.
The Making of Europe is an important book. Given the intensity with which Robert
Bartlett explains his ideas, he will undoubtedly attract criticism. Historians
whose perspective is nationally oriented will complain of oversimplification;
others will point out that this theory is only the concept of the Spanish
Reconquista on a large scale, or that the Roman Empire worked on a similar premise.
Be that as it may, Bartlett’s analysis is eminently useful. I tested his notion of
the eleventh century warrior-aristocracy and its conquests in a course on the
kingdoms of Western Europe: the students found his ideas very pertinent to their
understanding of medieval history. Bartlett writes with a clear prose, and his
research and his knowledge of the particulars is impressive. The cited works
encompass over thirty-one pages, fourteen of which are devoted to primary sources.
His notes are extensive and could become a useful research tool, although his
system of endnoting is cumbersome. This excellent discussion of medieval colonial
expansion is much overdue, particularly those parts that include German research on
the Ostsiedlung.
But I also have some reservations. One concerns my considerable unease over the
enshrining of the eleventh century knight and his clerical counterpart
Spring 1994
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as the focal point of the European mindset. Whatever else one might say about
William the Bastard, Robert Guiscard, or Pope Gregory VII, 1 would hesitate to call
them the creators of Europe’s finest hour and the dominant models of all its future
development. Perhaps I am unable to believe that all of Europe’s achievements were
driven only by greed for land, power, and glory.
My other reservation is more serious. It concerns the absence of women in
Bartlett’s work, excepting a few anecdotes and references to heiresses, their
occasional appearance on a genealogy, and a half-page commentary on the negative
influence of foreign wives. His bibliography lists no works on women, not even a
well-known book on women in the Spanish Reconquista. Points such as the importance
of the Empress Theo-phanu for the preservation of Otto I’s eastern expansion, the
fact that David of Scotland’s policy of anglicizing his kingdom followed the
example of his mother, St. Margaret, or that Louis IX’s crusading fervour derived
from his mother, Blanche of Castile, could be called minor queries. But there are
more serious faults. In the demography of peasant and merchant migrations or in the
tables of the use of names, the emphasis is on “men” and “male.” The wives of the
peasant and merchant settlers are curiously absent and there is no mention of the
wife of Tancred of Hautville in relationship to his twelve sons. Unless the
settlers and nobles found an alternative way of creating children, then women must
be more fully included. Indeed, in the latter part of the twentieth century, it is
imperative to use inclusive language; I hope that a second edition will correct
this problem.
The above criticism in no way diminishes Bartlett’s enormous contribution to our
understanding of the Middle Ages. His book should become a corrective of ordinary
textbooks as well as add another dimension to such works as The Chivalric Society,
The Age of the Cathedrals, and The Feudal Transformation. Undergraduates will find
him thought provoking; more seasoned scholars should look closely at his fine use
of primary sources and specialized studies in a variety of languages. Even if one
cannot agree with all the elements of his theory, Robert Bartlett’s book goes a
long way toward understanding what is meant by the European mindset and sheds some
light on why this mindset spread into the far corners of the globe.
MADELYN B. DICK York University
Neely, Mark E. Jr.
The Last Best Hope of Earth: Abraham Lincoln and the Promise of America
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 214 pp., $24.95, ISBN 0-674-51125-5
Publication Date: October 1993
Mark E. Neely Jr.’s credentials are impressive; he is one of the nation’s leading
authorities on Abraham Lincoln. As the former editor of Lincoln Lore, he also
edited the Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia, and won the Pulitzer Prize for his book
The Fate of Liberty. Few scholars are better equipped to write a biography of
Lincoln than Neely, who now holds a chair in history at St. Louis University.
This tightly written and richly illustrated work is the best brief life of the
sixteenth president. Although short in length, Neely’s work gives its fullest
attention to Lincoln the president. “Had Abraham Lincoln died in the spring of 1860
... he would be a forgotten man,” Neely observes of the man whom historians have
repeatedly voted as the nation’s greatest president. After preparing the way for
his readers by giving an understanding of Lincoln’s western background, his grasp
of politics, of slavery and race, of economic goals, and of his concept of the
nation, Neely embarks on a series of topical essays, chronologically arranged.
In his brilliant first chapter entitled “Commander in Chief,” Rawley focuses on
Lincoln’s role as a war president. Unprepared for this role, Lincoln used his
constitutional power with a sweep and intensity never before seen by Americans. He
wrote directly to his generals, bypassed the War Department, and exhorted,
admonished, and taught principles of warfare. Largely self taught, by 1863 Lincoln
“had gained a profound grasp of war” (74).
Moving on from this “most absorbing” of Lincoln’s roles, Neely probes the
president’s emancipation policy. Here he lays heavy emphasis, not on
humanitarianism, but on the military justification not only for freeing the slaves,
but also for placing arms in their hands as Union soldiers and sailors.
A chapter on what the twentieth century calls “the home front” treats enlistment,
conscription, desertion, public opinion, and a miscellany of matters, including
women, labor, Indians, and Jews. A final chapter entitled “Fate” concludes with an
incisive analysis of major theories explaining the fatal shooting.
Clearly an admirer of Lincoln, Neely is not uncritical, as he censures the
president on some military decisions such as his justification of the draft (not
made public), and his defense of Congressman Vallang-digham’s arrest by the
military. Neely’s
book, exhibiting his feeling for the times, is erudite and insightful. His literary
and scholarly achievement admirably fits the needs of the general reader and the
professional historian.
JAMES A. RAWLEY University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Brownell, Herbert with John P. Burke Advising Ike: The Memoirs of Attorney General
Herbert Brownell
Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press 406 pp., $29.95 cloth, ISBN 0-7006-0590-8
Publication Date: May 1993
Herbert Brownell waited thirty-six years after resigning as United States attorney
general to write this book. The wait was worthwhile. The memoirs of this estimable
public citizen contain much political history, timely observations on executive
privilege and special prosecutors, and new evidence for the now prevailing view
that Dwight Eisenhower was a strong president.
The Nebraska-bred, Yale-educated Brownell was a Wall Street lawyer, New York
legislator, and twice campaign manager for his friend Thomas E. Dewey. As
Republican national chairman, he reorganized the party and initiated direct-mail
fundraising. In 1948, his ideas of nominating Governor Dwight Green for vice
president and enactment of moderate legislation in Congress might have swung the
election. Brownell believes that Dewey, though confrontational in manner, had great
intelligence and would have made “a first-rate president” (87).
Brownell helped induce Ike to run for president. (Dewey engineered Richard Nixon’s
nomination.) When the campaign stalled, Brownell persuaded Eisenhower to announce
he would go to Korea. After the election, Eisenhower wanted Brownell to become
chief of staff. Instead, Brownell chose to be attorney general—his assistants
included William Rogers and Warren Burger—where he appointed full-time U.S.
attorneys and created the Civil Rights Division.
Brownell dismisses the tale that Ike thought Earl Warren’s appointment his worst
mistake. Brownell himself faults but rationalizes the Court’s reasoning in Brown
vs. Board of Education and praises Warren’s reform of the Court. Eisenhower took a
more moderate position than Brownell preferred but favored Brown’s provision for
court reviews of individual desegregation plans (unexpectedly inspiring local civil
rights activity) and insisted on appointing judges who would uphold the decision.
Brownell blames Democratic changes in his 1957 Civil Rights bill for weakening his
legal actions at Little Rock—the book’s most exciting story.
Brownell found his national security work (necessary because of extensive Soviet
intrigue) disagreeable and not wholly suc-