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Tenth Century

time, history, europe, schools, government, france and northmen

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TENTH CENTURY. The tenth is com monly rated in history as one of the lowest of centuries in achievement. Undoubtedly fewer monuments and documents representing physi cal or intellectual accomplishment have come down to us from it than from corresponding periods. The principal reason for this is to be found in the almost continuous invasions of the Northmen who at this time disturbed most of the western European countries. They estab lished themselves in France under Rollo in the early part of the century. They landed on the English coast in larger numbers than ever, they invaded Ireland and destroyed particularly the monasteries and schools. They sailed around into the Mediterranean and made in cursions on the cities and established themselves in Sicily and southern Italy. No wonder that the monastic chroniclers were not active and that men were discouraged over making at tempts at progress. While these sea robbers came from the North the Saracens from Arabia were making similar incursions in the East and the eastern portion of the Mediterranean. It was the state of unsettledness of mind induced by the attacks of these two sets of invaders and the inhibitions set up by their savage cruelties and not, as is sometimes said, the persuasion that the world was to come to an end in the year 1000 which dulled the efforts of the generations of the time.

The 10th century was, notwithstanding, a significant transition period in which occurred many events that were to be fundamentally con structive for modern history. The Northmen consolidated their power in Russia and are usually said to have given a name and a certain stability to the government of the country at this time. They explored Greenland and prob ably landed on the American continent in the region known as Vineland, somewhere south of Labrador, before the year 1000. Their in vasion of England was to lead to the establish ment of Canute's empire in the next century and their presence brought about a consolida tion of some of the warring peoples of Europe and an improvement in political conditions. They introduced a new racial element into the life of what we know as France and the Nor mans, as they were called, became an extremely important factor in the subsequent history of Europe. At the same time the Arabs in Spain

became leaders in the intellectual life of Europe and their schools in Cordova of geometry, chemistry, astronomy and medicine made that city a centre of learning famous throughout the world. Cordova laid the foundation of that profound Arabic interest in science and medicine which in the following two centuries gave us Abulcasis, Avenzoar, Averroes and Avicenne and was to mean so much for the stimulation of the scientific spirit of Europe. There was a great Arabian physician in the East too, Rhates, the first to describe smallpox, whose books are still famous in the history of medicine.

In spite of the ever recurring incursions of the Northmen the political development of Europe at this time is of special interest to modern history. The 9th saw the breaking up of Charlemagne's Empire by di visions among his sons as well as among the sons of succeeding rulers to whom unfortu nately the government by the Frankish custom was parceled out. The result was that France without a firm central authority was in a highly disturbed state all during the 10th century. The feature of European history most inter esting for our time is the bitter rivalry between the Germans and the French over the possession of Lorraine which culminated nearly a thou sand years ago. The German emperor of that time, Otto, invaded and devastated all the country of the Franks almost to Paris, then was forced to make a disastrous retreat and the greater part of his army perished in a battle on the Aisne.

England after the magnificent reign of Al fred continued for some time to grow in peace and prosperity. Alfred's son Edward (reigned 901-25) conquered Mercia and East Anglia, strengthened the government and protected his people against invasion by the building of many strongholds. He encouraged town de velopment and patronized learning, founding schools, though the tradition of any connection between the Saxon schools of this time and Oxford or Cambridge is mythical.

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