Page:Western Europe in the Middle Ages.djvu/68

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
52
WESTERN EUROPE IN THE MIDDLE AGES

mentaries they demonstrated the necessity for consulting and correlating many different sources; in their treatises they restated what they had learned in their own words. These were particularly valuable exercises at a time when Latin was ceasing to be a spoken language, when the rise of local dialects was depriving the peoples of Europe of a common tongue. Latin was needed for serious thinking on any subject, since the new dialects had serious deficiencies in vocabulary. It was even more necessary for purposes of inter-European communication, since no other language covered more than a local area. If medieval Europe possessed a common fund of ideas, it was largely due to the work of Carolingian scholars.

Carolingian government was not entirely uniform — each major part of the empire kept its own laws and customs but it did tend to lessen the sharp distinctions which had prevailed between different peoples. The old division between Roman and German practically disappeared during the Carolingian period and the basis of law tended to be territorial rather than personal. For example, the people of Burgundy now settled their disputes by referring to a single set of customs; they were no longer divided into groups "living" Burgundian, Frankish, or Roman law. Moreover, there were institutions and laws which were common to the whole empire. The county and the count were much the same everywhere, and these basic elements of local government long survived the collapse of the Carolingian monarchy. Coinage and weights and measures also followed the Carolingian pattern for centuries in most European countries. Newly acquired territories such as Italy and Saxony were usually governed by men who came from the older Frankish domains, and this also tended to establish a degree of uniformity. As a result, there came to be a certain similarity in the laws and institutions of most Western countries, and it was not difficult for men of one region to fit into the political systems of other areas.

At the end of the Carolingian period Europe, for the first time,