Page:Western Europe in the Middle Ages.djvu/67

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51
THE MAKING OF EUROPE

resolutely supported Christian ideals. As a result, a European conscience developed, based on Christian ethics — a conscience which could be easily aroused by spiritual leaders. There was plenty of brutality and stupidity in the centuries after Charlemagne, but it no longer passed without protest as it had in the earlier barbarian kingdoms. Reform movements succeeded each other with hardly a break from the tenth to the thirteenth century, and each wave of reform played a part in shaping medieval civilization.

In the field of education and learning the Carolingian age saw the establishment of a common basis for European scholarship. The works of the Church Fathers and Latin secular writers were copied, studied, and digested. The mere physical effort of copying older manuscripts had important consequences. Many works have survived only because they were copied in the Carolingian period; many others became better known because they were reproduced in different regions by Carolingian scribes. The Carolingian revival almost ended the loss of classical learning; very little disappeared in the post-Carolingian centuries compared to the wastage of the Late Roman Empire and the barbarian kingdoms. Even more important was the diffusion of ancient learning throughout Western Europe. Gallo-Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Franks, Scots from Ireland, and Lombards all studied and worked together at the courts of the Carolingian rulers. Great monasteries in England, France, Italy, and Germany built up collections of manuscripts and trained scholars to use them. These centers of learning were still widely separated, for not every monastery had the teachers or the resources necessary for scholarship, but there were enough of them to arouse interest in learning in every region of Europe. The work of Carolingian scholars was not especially original (with a few striking exceptions), but originality was not what was most needed at the time. The legacy from the past had to be assimilated before new steps could be taken, and Carolingian writers performed this task admirably. In their com-