It is commonly believed that the Middle Ages were merely a period of no change or advancement that bridged the fall of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Renaissance. However, the theme of the excerpt from James M. Powell's The Civilization of the West is that, contrary to this belief, the time of the Middle Ages was actually a time of progression. Powell states that political, economic, social, and cultural advancements were made during this time, and helped pave the way for the Renaissance and the structure of modern society.
In this passage, Powell explains that feudalism didn't cause the weakening of the monarchs, but was actually an outcome of it. Because the kings were so weak, and people needed protection that the monarchy simply could not give, the people turned to the nobles for security. These nobles had held high positions during the monarchy, and they used this authority to assert power. One of the reasons the nobles were able to utilize this control was because of the need many men of the time had for protection for their possessions and families. This need for protection led to the creation of fiefs, which nobles controlled, and became what we call feudalism. Feudalism was a stable political system, and this stability led to the creation of states in Western Europe. What Powell shows is that feudalism wasn't the break-down of society, but it actually was the basis of a stable Western European society today.
Another way Powell develops his thesis is in presenting the changes of the economic structure during the Middle Ages, showing that people during that time were, in fact, innovative and developed urban centers and a money economy, in addition to the agricultural society of the day. In the opening of medieval times, the way most people made their living was through agriculture. However, as the Middle Ages went on, an urban society grew, and although an agricultural profession was still common towards the end of the Middle Ages, there...
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