Carolingian Renaissance Was a Period Essay

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One of the major problems faced by Charlemagne in his efforts to extend the level of education was the fact that there were very few educated persons available to teach others. Years of neglect had left the educational field with few individuals possessing the background necessary to teach others. What little scholarship that still existed in Europe was concentrated in and around Rome and Charlemagne initiated an aggressive program to attract the leading Italian scholars to his court. By recruiting these scholars to his court, Charlemagne ensured that the full body of available knowledge would be made available to himself and his subjects. From this pool of scholars, Charlemagne built his program of learning and began slowly to establish his own body of Frankish scholars. From this group, the future European learning environment would be built (Einhard) and the future of the European educational system would be ensured.

The curriculum used during the Carolingian Renaissance was based on the same educational disciplines that were utilized by the ancient Greeks and Romans. For these ancient civilizations, education was a privilege and was reserved for only free persons and the program of study was comprised of core subjects known as liberal arts. These core subjects did not vary substantially over the course of time (Marrou) and the goal behind the teaching of these core subjects was to convey a general body of knowledge that also served to develop the student's ability to think rationally and to increase his intellectual capabilities. There was no concern in the classical educational model for developing specialization. The goal was to develop the whole person.

The idea of a liberal arts education began with the ancient Greeks. Under the democratic governmental system utilized by the Greeks, an educated citizenry was essential but under the monarchial system as used during the Carolingian Renaissance this need was minimal. To the credit of the Carolingian monarchs, they nonetheless placed a heavy emphasis on a liberal arts education.

Charlemagne and the other Carolingian rulers contributed significantly to the development of the education system in Europe but their greatest legacy is the preservation of the ancient manuscripts that had been passed down from the Greek and Roman cultures. Nearly all the knowledge that modern civilization possess of ancient cultures is the result of the efforts of Carolingian Renaissance scholars.

IV. Economics

The Holy Roman Empire during the Carolingian Renaissance covered most of Western Europe. As a result, it had a significant effect on trade transacted throughout Europe and the policies initiated by the Empire controlled most of the commerce occurring on the continent.

During the Carolingian Renaissance, a significant change was made in the monetary system that was used throughout Europe (Verhulst). Through Charlemagne's guidance, the gold standard that had been used for many years was abandoned and a new system based on silver coinage was initiated. The reasons for this change were motivated by pragmatism as there was a severe shortage of gold during Charlemagne's time and the existence of conflicting currencies was causing confusion in the market place. The standardization resulted in one form of coinage being recognized throughout the Holy Roman Empire ruled by Charlemagne which served to promote trade and allowed the continent to enjoy a brief period of prosperity. During this period Charlemagne also enacted new laws that minimized some of the power of the nobility and allowed the peasantry, who had previously been excluded from most commerce, to participate in some minimal trading (Scott).

Although the primary industry in Europe during the Carolingian Renaissance was agriculture there was some craftsmanship being practiced in the areas of sword manufacturing, pottery, and glassware that produced products that were exported to other areas of Europe, such as England, Scandinavia, and the Lowlands (present day Belgium and Netherlands). Some minimal trade was also initiated between the Empire and the Byzantium and Islam nations. The standardization of coinage made trade with these other nations much easier (Kreis).

During the Carolingian Renaissance, the long held prejudice against Jews was raised in the form of a strict prohibition against money lending. For a variety of reasons, Jews had historically been identified with money lending. The Roman Catholic Church had established a position against money lending and the strong identity of Jews with money lending contributed to the already strong bias against Jews in Europe. The Carolingian rulers ratified the position espoused by the Church.

Under Charlemagne's leadership the system that became known as feudalism developed (Grabowski). The system developed almost by mistake but it was the result of Charlemagne's practice of dividing his kingdom up into smaller and smaller parcels that were ruled by local rulers appointed by the Holy Roman Emperor. As time progressed, Europe was divided up into small kingdoms ruled by individuals seeking to expand their power and influence (S. Kreis). What resulted was a Europe facing constant skirmishes throughout its borders.

As long as a strong monarch occupied the seat of the Holy Roman Empire these small skirmishes were manageable but toward the end of the Carolingian period this was not the case as several weak monarchs ascended to the throne. The result was a period of confusion and conflict. Contributing further to the problem was that Europe was again subject to invasions from various sources. In order to repel these invasions the smaller kingdoms created by the orchestrated division of Charlemagne and other Carolingian monarchs organized their own armies and build castles to protect their holdings. This system led to loyalties being directed toward the local landowner and loyalties toward the monarch to be lessened (Brown).

The feudal society that developed initially during the Carolingian Renaissance and then intensified in the waning years of said period was based on the need for security and protection (Stephenson). The Carolingian years the Holy Roman Empire provided these needs but as weaker monarchs occupied the throne it became incumbent on local lords to fill the void. The system varied considerably from locale to locale throughout Europe but all such systems were based on the need for security and all systems were symbiotic. The Lords would provide the protection and the peasants served the lord in whatever way they could, usually farming, in order to avail themselves of the protection. Charlemagne and his immediate successors would have been disappointed to see how feudalism developed but the times and circumstances demanded its utilization.

V. Management

The abilities of Charlemagne and his successors to the throne to manage the empire the size of the Holy Roman Empire are remarkable. The Empire stretched over the entire expanse of Western Europe in a time when transportation and communication were extremely limited. Yet, the Carolingian monarchs were able to monitor the monetary, governmental, military, cultural, and religious affairs of the Empire with remarkable efficiency. The management employed by the Carolingian monarchs was to impact the political affairs of Western Europe until the final days of the Middle Ages and the enlightened views espoused contributed significantly to the historically more popular Renaissance that signaled the end of the Middle Ages.

Charlemagne's empire was the largest seen in Europe after the fall of Rome. Charlemagne managed to effectively organize and area that had been living in chaos for several hundred years and form a strong, centralized government from his royal court in Aachen. He divided the operation of his empire into smaller counties which were led by individuals who Charlemagne himself appointed. Although Charlemagne attempted to make his presence known throughout his empire as much as possible, the size of the empire demanded that he utilize the services of others to monitor affairs away from his base in Aachen. In recognition of the continued power and authority of the Roman Catholic Church, Charlemagne sent envoys throughout the empire, one secular and one clerical, to report back to him how things were being administered.

The times preceding the dawn of the Carolingian Renaissance were quite barbaric and violence remained a major problem throughout the period. In response, the Carolingian monarchs maintained a large and well-disciplined military. Horses were used extensively by the Carolingian military as they provided the best available form of transportation. Use of the horses for combat was limited during this period as the stirrup had not yet been invented (Hooper). All members of the military and citizens in general were made to swear to an oath of fidelity to the Carolingian monarch and a violation of such oath could result in death. In this way, the monarch ensured that there would be little chance of an open rebellion against the authority of the king.

The Carolingian legal system was archaic by modern standards and much more streamlined than what exists today but the Carolingian system was a recognition that individuals other than the most intimate members of the royal court should be involved in the process of dispensing justice. The Carolingian courts used a combination of laws derived from the German legal…[continue]

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