Vol. XVII The Light and The Dark. A cultural history of dualismdoor P.F.M. Fontaine [Wetenschap]
Imperialism in Medieval History III
Dualism in German History II
Vol. XVII is the third on the Middle Ages in the series The light and the Dark. A cultural history of dualism. Vols. XV-XVII are all devoted to the history of medieval imperialism. Imperialism is conceived of as a dualistic phenomenon, which means that it is based on an unsolvable opposition. This is the opposition between the tendency of imperialism to bring all national and political entities under one supreme leadership and the resistance of these entities: tribes, nations, states, to this tendency. This not rarely leads to fierce, even bloody conflicts, because these entities are forced to accept imperialistic rule against their wish. Imperialism, incorporated in the Holy Roman Empire deutscher Nation, is one of the main features of medieval history.
Ch. I describes German imperialism during the Salian dynasty. Most of the problems the Salian emperors (Conrad II, Henry III, Henry IV, Henry V) had were located in Italy (German emperors were also kings of Italy). One of the aims of German imperialism was to unite Italy under the imperial crown. This was difficult to accept for the wealthy North Italian cities, especially Milan, which continiously resisted the German claims. Then there was the Roman Catholic Church, with a universalistic claim of its own, which did not want to be at the beck and call of the German emperors. The reform movement of Cluny had made the Church far more self-conscious; it began to break the bonds that, since Otto I, tied to German policy. This led to a fierce conflict between Pope Gregory VII and the Emperor Henry IV. Some sort of compromise was reached in 1122, with the Concordat of Worms.
The Staufer dynasty (Lothar III, Conrad III, Frederick I Barbarossa, Henry IV, Frederick II, Ch. II) not only inherited the problems of the Salians, but was also confronted with fierce resistance in Germany itself, especially from the side of the Welf House; there were long periods of civil war, during which there were two German kings. The mighty communes in North Italy remained a problem which sometimes led to open warfare. Relations with the papacy also remained problematic. The main aim of German policy came nearer to its goal, when the emperor Henry VI inherited the Kingdom of Sicily and South Italy. But with the death of Frederick II in 1250 Sicily-South Italy was lost again.
After 1250 (CH. III) not much was left of the reality of the Holy Roman Empire. German emperors were only powerful in their own feudal domains. Particularist tendencies were becoming even more powerful, to the detriment of the unitary concept. It was the period of the Hausmšchte, of the time that rulers collected all sorts of feudal domains under their aegis: Nassau, Luxemburg, Wittelsbach, Burgundy all built up a Hausmacht; members of these Houses became emperors. The day was won by the House of Habsburg with its enormous Hausmacht. Since 1438 the Empire had a Habsburg emperor (Albrecht II, Frederick III, Maximilian I).
Ch. IV sums up the main features of this period
For more information about 'The Light and the Dark'- series go to Fontaine's own website:
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