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Were the middle ages more democratic than modern times?

Discussion in 'World History' started by Mouthwash, Nov 20, 2018.

  1. Dachs

    Dachs Hero of the Soviet Union

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    The split between the opinions of the Commentariat and of social media on that particular gentleman's legacy was very noticeable.
     
  2. Hrothbern

    Hrothbern Warlord

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    There are "Farmer Republics" in the Low Lands in the 13th century.

    Between 1000 AD and 1300 AD you had the freemen farmer communities living in the bogs of Frisia and the river bogs of Utrecht in the Low Lands (Frisia was originally the whole Northsea coast of the Netherlands, not that one Province now).
    The bogs full of reed fields, bush like forestry, are deplorable areas to make a living and difficult to travel through by enemies or anybody.

    The basic drive to organise was to control the groundwater level for better farming yields and control dikes against flooding, which would cause death and destruction.
    It starts with digging narrow long canals and use the soil to create narrow long strips of land. The next step was pumping rainwater away to canals behind dikes encircling the plots, to get drier ground with lower groundwater level. Because doing that with bog causes the now drier soil to shrink, the soil surface level starts to go down and you need increasingly more landcreation, pumping and higher dikes.
    Every farmer that had his own farm was obliged to take care of his part of the dike, which was attributed by meetings where all farmers for that area (a buurschap, neighborhood-body) decided together. The inspectors on the work to do by the farmers were chosen as well from out this neighborhood-body: the Heemraden (home-councils).
    Self-management.

    Nobility did not care that much about these deplorable low yielding bog areas, until the cultivation of the soil, and the yields became higher and the potential tax revenues, goods and soldiers, became higher as well. Nobility installed a representative in these neighbor-hood bodies, a dijkgraaf (dike-count), and the name changed over time to waterschap (water-body).
    What's in a name. The name neighborhood bodies, changed into the top-down functionality name of water-bodies.
    Nobility increased over the centuries their influence. From 1300 AD onward, corruption becomes more important (to get the approval from the inspectors). Around 1500 the nobility and patricians control the waterbodies, and are also a member of the Court of Holland in the Hague, that controls the waterbodies. Corruption goes sky high and the Habsburgian emperor Charles V intervenes with actions, but it never really stopped.

    In the Northern part of the Low Lands, now Friesland and Groningen, even more deplorable areas, the nobility is too far away until 1300, and the bottom-up communities develop to "Farmers Republics".
    Although clearly not the same but still.....they are as concept, as proto Republics not needing nobility, the predecessors of the later Dutch Republic that started in 1581.

    Note
    What also played a role in the independence thinking of the Northern part of the Low Lands is that Charlemagne, their Lord, rewarded around 800 the Frisians (Magnus Forteman) for their services in his army, with the privilege that they would not have a Lord (excepth himself). The Libertas Frisonica of Previlegii Frisiorum Caroli Magni.
    This was later contested by the Earls of Holland when they wanted to add North Frisia to their domain. But several Holy Roman Emperors and a Pope confirmed that privilege.

    And expanding on Frisians and medieval democracy : Frisians are famous (or infamous ?) pirates since very long time.
    Their biggest hero Grutte Pier around 1500, rebel leader against Amsterdam, an enormous huge and strong man. Exceptional. Frisian chronicles are great to read. Just divide the number of soldiers mentioned by a factor 10 and they make sense.

    Pirates have often on board very basic "democratic" systems. here a link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Governance_in_18th-century_piracy

    But like Grutte Pier, like pirates, like the Farmers Republics and the neighborhood bodies of farmers all over the bogs of the Low Lands....
    Is that democracy or very functional self-management, self-organisation, where everybody counts while so much needed and social peace in-group mandatory to survive ?

    I think these models are most suitable for smaller companies owned by the workers, for neighborhood communities (tenants etc).... but not anymore for the scale size of real villages.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2019
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  3. Hrothbern

    Hrothbern Warlord

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    Is there not a substantial effect on the education access for women when nobility started with universities that were in reality for male only ?
    Benedectine monasteries were for men and women, also headed up by both genders.
    => access to the same knowledge and talking on that knowledge between both genders was there for many centuries in medieval time before universities changed the rules of the game.

    And nobility started those universities.
    More a getting out of the reach of the Church I would guess and not a conspiracy against women.... although they were not expected to be at a university (Perhaps also the effect of Plato losing ground and Aristotle victorious ?).
    Somewhere 1200-1300 AD a tipping point ?

    But the effect was the same.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2019

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