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At the time when the medieval Empire was gradually crumbling into small territorial states, a new state, situated as one might say in the heart of Europe, comes into the foreground of central European history. Distinguished from its more easterly neighbours, Poland and Hungary, by its close legal relations with the German Empire, it yet differs from all the principalities of that Empire in its characteristic nationality and its almost complete independence in internal affairs. This is the kingdom of Bohemia, which from the beginning of the eleventh century is indissolubly united with its neighbour Moravia, and in the fourteenth century extends its boundaries to include even Silesia and both the Lusatias.

At the period in which Bohemia begins to play a considerable part in central European history, and indeed long before this, we find in Bohemia and Moravia, if we disregard the not unimportant German minority, a Slav population very closely related to the Poles. The Slavs were, however, by no means the first inhabitants of these countries; for we learn, partly from the discoveries of archaeologists, partly from the writings of old chroniclers, that both lands were inhabited centuries before the immigration of the Slavs. Of the various peoples who had succeeded each other in Bohemia and Moravia before the advent of the Slavs, none of whom are of any importance for the later development of the country, we need only mention the Celtic Boii and the Germanic Marcomanui and Quadi. Of these, the Celts inhabited both the countries which later became Slavonic, or at any rate a large part of them, for about five hundred years before, the Germans for about five hundred years after the birth of Christ. Although recent archaeological discoveries seem to show with ever increasing certainty that there were Slavs dwelling in Bohemia and Moravia at least as early as the time of Christ, if not before, still it is only after the beginning of the sixth century that we have historical proof of their presence in Bohemia. Towards the end of that century they fell under the dominion of the Avars, whose rule, however, cruel though it was, did not last for long. They shook off the Avar rule about the year 623, under the leadership of a Frankish merchant named Samo, who became king of the liberated Slavs. Samo’s kingdom was not limited to Bohemia; but its extent cannot be accurately determined, and we know little of its internal affairs. On Samo’s death (about 658) his great kingdom also collapsed.

In the following centuries, it is only by much later popular tradition, and, after the end of the eighth century, by occasional references in the writings of Frankish chroniclers, that any light is thrown upon Bohemia and Moravia. From these, we see no sign that the country was in any way a unitary state. The Slavs who had settled in Bohemia are certainly mentioned in Frankish sources, from the end of the eighth century, under the general name of “Beehaimi”, “Boemani,” and the like, denoting clearly the inhabitants of “Behaim” or Boihaemum,” that is, the land formerly settled by the Boii. But it is none the less certain that neither at that time nor for long after did the Slavs create a united kingdom in Bohemia, but they were split up into a considerable number of small tribes each ruled by its own prince. In the centre of Bohemia, round about the later capital, Prague, dwelt the race of true Bohemians (in Slavonic Cechs), who were destined later to combine all the tribes which had settled in the land into one state and one nation, and were to give it their name. This name the old legend derived from a certain Cech, first progenitor of the race, who is said to have led his people out of the east to their new home. Later, according to the legend, there appears at the head of the race the wise Libusa, whose chosen husband, the farmer Premysl, was founder of the princely house of the Premyslids, the house which, as time went on, gathered into its hands the oterlordship of all Bohemia and Moravia, and ruled both countries until its extinction in 1306.

The union of the small Slavonic tribes in Bohemia and Moravia was indeed only gradually achieved, and required the co-operation of many different factors. In Moravia, the progress towards unification was more rapid than in Bohemia proper. As early as the first half of the ninth century, we find a united kingdom of Moravia, with prince Mojmir at its head. It included, besides Moravia, probably the northern portion of the later Austria, and certainly the western portion of the modern Slovakia. Mojmir’s successor, Rastiz or Rostislav (about 846 onward), under whose rule the power of the Great Moravian kingdom was still further increased, won an important place in history through his services in the conversion of his people to Christianity. The Christian faith had indeed been known before this to the Slavs who inhabited Bohemia and Moravia, chiefly through German, and more particularly Bavarian, priests. From a contemporary source we learn, for instance, that in 845 certain Bohemian princes, with their followers, were baptised at Ratisbon. Rostislav himself also was a Christian. But among the people generally the new faith, preached as it was in a foreign tongue by German priests, was little comprehended. Accordingly Prince Rostislav, who was clearly actuated by the desire not only to establish the Christian faith in his dominions, but also to shake himself free from dependence upon the episcopate of Bavaria, turned, about 860, to Pope Nicholas I, and requested him to send teachers of the Christian faith competent to explain its leading principles in a way which the people might understand. When Rome, probably for the reason that no such teachers could be found, failed to comply with this request, Prince Rostislav caused the same petition to be laid before the Greek Emperor Michael at Constantinople. So it came about that the Slavs of Bohemia and Moravia were brought into relations with the Greek East; relations which, though only transitory, were of the highest importance.

At Constantinople the desired teachers were in fact discovered in the persons of the two brothers, Constantine, later called Cyril, and Methodius. Though Greek by birth, both were masters of the Slavonic tongue, for it was at that time spoken in Thessalonica, their native town, and in the districts round. To equip himself adequately for his labours in Moravia, Constantine, whose wide erudition had gained him the name of the “Philosopher”, constructed, before he left Constantinople, a purely Slavonic alphabet—the so-called Glagolitic script—and translated the chief liturgical texts into Slavonic. After these preparations the brothers Constantine and Methodius journeyed to Moravia, about the year 863, there to begin the successful labours which won for them the honourable title of the apostles of the Slavs. By their means Moravia was completely Christianised, and its neighbour Bohemia, following its example, was also won over permanently to the Christian faith. But the exceptional importance of the brothers' efforts lies in the fact that, while they introduced Christianity, they, at the same time, brought the Gospels in the Slavonic tongue. Constantine and Methodius were thus the founders of the Slavonic church literature which, if in Bohemia and Moravia it soon died out, bore more abundant fruit among other Slavonic peoples.

At the papal court the activity of the two brothers met, in the first instance, with full approval. When Constantine, who had retired to a monastery in Rome and had adopted the name of Cyril, died during his residence there (869), Methodius was appointed first bishop, later archbishop, and was made head of a province which was considered as a revival of the old metropolitan see of Sirmium, and included, besides, the whole of Moravia. The clergy of Bavaria, who felt that their rights were thus curtailed and their material interests threatened, violently opposed the new archbishop. He was in fact for two and a half years held prisoner in Germany; but he succeeded none the less in maintaining his position.

The lordship of Moravia passed meanwhile from Rostislav to his nephew, the energetic Svatopluk (Zwentibold), in 870, who soon subdued to himself both the Bohemians in the west and the Slavonic Sorbs in the north, and enjoyed such great prestige among his contemporaries that he is often referred to as king. With Archbishop Methodius, Svatopluk maintained at first complete accord, and for political reasons, with a view to making his dominions independent of Germany in ecclesiastical affairs, supported him in all his struggles. But, as time went on, relations between them became strained, for Svatopluk inclined more and nyore to the archbishop’s opponents, the Frankish priests, who made use of the Latin liturgy. The enmity between the supporters of the Latin and the Slavonic liturgies, which was inflamed also by disputes on matters of dogma arising out of the antagonism then beginning between Rome and Constantinople, did not cease even after the death of Methodius (885). When, however, in the same year, Pope Stephen V issued an edict by which the use of the Slavonic liturgy, expressly approved by his predecessors, was absolutely forbidden, and, as a result, a bitter persecution of the followers of Methodius was begun, with the full support of Svatopluk, and they were banished from the country, the last hope of establishing the Slavonic liturgy was gone. But the Great Moravian kingdom itself had no long life. Immediately after Svatopluk’s death (894), it began to fall to pieces, and after a few years was destroyed by the Magyars (about 906).

The downfall of the Great Moravian kingdom was an event of the highest importance for the whole future history of Bohemia and Moravia. Above all, as a result, the connexion of the Slavonic peoples of those countries with Constantinople, established by the summons of the brothers Constantine and Methodius to Moravia, was entirely severed, and they were definitely and permanently brought within the sphere of West European civilisation. This is shewn most clearly in the further development of the Church in Bohemia and Moravia. The whole administration of the Church fell now under Western, and German, influence, and the Latin liturgy consequently won a complete victory. The Slavonic liturgy did not, it is true, disappear all at once; yet it held its ground only in a few monasteries, and even from them it was entirely expelled before the end of the eleventh century. It is true that in the fourteenth century the great King of Bohemia, the Emperor Charles IV, did establish in Prague a special monastery for the Slavonic liturgy, but the activities of this monastery, artificial in their inception, had no deep-seated connexion with earlier ages, nor had they any considerable influence upon the contemporary development of Bohemian civilisation.

Through the fall of the Great Moravian kingdom, the orientation of the political history of Bohemia and Moravia was changed. Its earlier development seemed to be leading up to a federation of the Slavs in Bohemia and Moravia, and also of the Slovaks, into a Slavonic kingdom of which the modern Moravia would have formed the centre; but such a development was henceforth permanently out of the question. The Slovaks were severed for centuries from political union with Bohemia and Moravia, and if the federation of these last two countries was certainly soon re-established, the centre of gravity of this new Bohemian-Moravian kingdom lay no longer in Moravia but in Bohemia. Here, in the course of the tenth century, is built up, by the subjection of all the old races under ihe rule of the Premyslids, a homogeneous state, into which, in the first half of the following century (about 1029), Moravia also is permanently incorporated.

But another result of the collapse of the Great Moravian kingdom was that Bohemia and Moravia were brought into more intimate relations with the Romano-German Empire. As early as the reign of Charles the Great, probably about 805, Bohemia, or a part of it, fell under the over­lordship of the Frankish kingdom, and was forced, apparently, to pay a yearly tribute (120 oxen and 500 silver marks). Soon after, Moravia also fell into complete dependence upon the East Frankish kingdom. The mighty Svatopluk himself was forced after long struggles, not only to swear life-long allegiance, but also to submit to the payment of an annual tribute (874). Still neither Bohemia nor Moravia was incorporated in the administrative organisation of the East Frankish realm; they kept their own princes who had full control of internal affairs. In the last years of Svatopluk, when Bohemia was a part of his kingdom, German overlordship in both lands lost practically all its significance. After Svatopluk’s death, the Bohemian dukes broke away from his kingdom and gave in their allegiance to King Arnulf (895), yet, on the speedy collapse of the East Frankish kingdom, Bohemia was freed from its position of dependence.

However, as soon as the efforts of King Henry I had established a new German kingdom, Bohemia fell once more into its former dependence upon it. King Henry, by marching on Prague, forced the Bohemian Duke, St Wenceslas, to acknowledge his suzerainty (929). Wenceslas’ brother and successor, Boleslav I (929-967), who had attained the throne by his murder, tried in vain to shake off the German over-lordship. After several years of resistance, he was compelled, when the Emperor Otto I invaded Bohemia, to agree to pay the old tribute and to recognise the suzerainty of the German Empire (950). From that time Bohemia became a fief of the German Empire and the Bohemian dukes became its vassals, bound to take part in the Emperor’s campaigns and to attend the royal court.

About a hundred years after the subjection of Boleslav I, the brave Duke Bratislav I (1034-1055), who during the reign of his father Oldrich (Udalrich) had succeeded in permanently uniting Moravia and Bohemia, and had later rendered himself for a time even master of part of Poland, made a fresh attempt to free himself from Germany; but he too was compelled by King Henry III once more to swear allegiance (1041). From that time the Dukes of Bohemia never again tried to shake off German overlordship; they fulfilled without resistance their obligations towards the Empire, and their relations with the German kings and emperors were for the most part friendly. Bratislava son, Duke Vratislav II (1061-1092), was a loyal supporter of King Henry IV in his frequent campaigns in Germany and Italy; in 1081 three hundred Bohemian men-at-arms distinguished themselves by their courage at the siege of Rome. As a reward for his loyal services the Emperor Henry, at a Diet of the Empire at Mayence in 1085, granted him the title of King of Bohemia, although only as a personal privilege. In connexion with this, but probably a few years earlier (about 1081), the German Emperor seems to have remitted the old tribute due from the King of Bohemia, in consideration of his sending three hundred fully-equipped men-at-arms to join in the Emperor’s expedition to Rome.

On the death of the first King of Bohemia, Vratislav, the dignity of kingship was indeed lost to the country, but even then the Bohemian rulers were considered as among the most important of the princes of the Empire. From the beginning of the twelfth century (for the first time in the year 1114), we find the Dukes of Bohemia in hereditary possession of the office of cupbearer to the Emperor, an office which procured for them an ever-increasing influence on the affairs of the Empire. Duke Vladislav II (1140-1173), in particular, acquired great authority. Following the example of King Vratislav, he zealously supported the German Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa in his warlike undertakings. In 1158 he descended in person with a large army into Italy, to give assistance to the Emperor against the North Italian towns, and took a prominent part in the capture of Milan. Even before this campaign, in which the reckless valour’ of Vladislav’s Bohemian army performed wonders, the Duke of Bohemia had been crowned king by the Emperor at a Diet at Ratisbon (January 1158). He obtained thereby an honourable privilege by which not only he, but also his successors, were granted the right to wear the royal crown. Bohemia should thus have become an hereditary monarchy, but struggles for the succession broke out even in Vladislav’s lifetime, and the Bohemian monarchy once more lapsed. Not until a quarter of a century had passed was it to be restored (1198) to a new and this time lasting existence.

If Bohemia was, from the tenth century, a fief of the German Empire, yet its position differed in many and important particulars from that of other vassals. While with other vassals the right of heredity was only a gradual development, the Bohemian ducal office was considered from the very beginning to be the hereditary possession of a single princely family, the Premyslids. There was, however, no clearly-settled law of succession. In the earliest times of the united Bohemian state, in the tenth century, the dukedom passed in succession from the father to his eldest son, who at that time happened to be the oldest male member of the family Later the principle obtained that the oldest male member of the family should always ascend the throne. But this principle, which was hardly ever considered to have the authority of a formal law—the old view that Bratislav I had, in 1055, promulgated such a law, the so-called Law of Seniority, is entirely without foundation—was not adhered to in practice. There was bound to be, therefore, in every separate case, a difference of opinion as to which of the Premyslids should succeed to the throne. The first word on this matter lay with the Bohemian nobles, particularly those who, as governors of the ducal, castles, ruled the land with armed force to back them. The Kings of Germany were accustomed only to confirm the election and to invest the new duke with the fief of Bohemia. But the struggles for the throne, which usually arose owing to the lack of a definite ordinance regulating the succession, gave the German kings very frequently the opportunity of exercising a directly decisive influence upon the election. This influence reached its highest point during the struggles for the succession after the death of King Vladislav I. At that time, the Emperor Frederick I granted Bohemia as a fief now to one, now to another of the Pfemyslids, according as they succeeded in winning his favour by gifts of money or by other means, and acted as if he alone had the right to decide who should occupy the throne of Bohemia. Matters came to such a point that in 1182 the Emperor ordered the Dukes Frederick and Conrad Otto, two claimants of the throne who were at the time in the field against one another, to appear before his tribunal at Ratisbon; and there he declared the former to be Duke of Bohemia, but granted to the latter Moravia as a margravate independent of Bohemia, and owing allegiance directly to the Empire. Until that time Bohemia and Moravia formed a single state, even though by old custom separate domains, especially in Moravia, had been allotted to the younger princes of the ruling family; but now they were to be transformed into two principalities of the Empire independent of each other. The Emperor’s policy, however, did not attain its end. Moravia, after 1182, certainly always remained a margravate, and even its direct dependence on the Empire, established by the Emperor Frederick, did not very quickly fall into oblivion; yet in practice, even before the end of the twelfth century, it became once more an integral part of the unified kingdom of Bohemia and Moravia. It still, indeed, retained its own margraves—often the King of Bohemia himself held the title of margrave—but at the same time it always recognised the overlordship of the Bohemian king. Nor did the German kings retain the influence over the appointment to the Bohemian throne which had been won in the time of Frederick Barbarossa. The ruinous struggles for the throne in Bohemia ceased at the end of the twelfth century; and from this very fact the imperial influence in the election henceforward lost its importance. Soon after, the German kings themselves were compelled formally to renounce it.

The independence of the Empire which Bohemia displayed in the matter of the appointment of its rulers, an independence greater than that enjoyed by any other imperial princedom, is reflected clearly in the whole character of the Bohemian principality and in the internal organisation of the Bohemian State. Although a fief of the Empire, Bohemia was never directly part of the imperial organisation. The Frankish, and later the German, system never extended to Bohemia, which was never a mere administrative district governed by imperial officials. The Bohemian dukes were vassals of the German Emperor, but not his officials. Their power was not derived from the higher authority of the Emperor, but originated in themselves. It was neither limited by the interference of his higher imperial authority in the internal organisation of the land, nor was it weakened by the exemption from their rule of certain classes of people, or certain domains, directly subordinated to the Empire. They held sway over the whole land and over all their subjects, without distinction. In internal affairs, the Bohemian dukes were entirely independent rulers; they exercised freely, from the first, all those prerogatives of sovereignty which other princes of the Empire won for themselves only after many a year.

But further, in the period which immediately followed the foundation of a united Bohemian State, there was no man, even in the land itself, whose rights might limit the power of the duke. His authority was there legally unlimited. His was the sole decision over war and peace; he called out the troops equally for home defence and for a campaign abroad, and exacted obedience by force of arms. To the duke belonged also the supreme judicial power in the land; and to it all the inhabitants of the country without exception—including even the clergy—were subject. In this the duke found naturally a rich source of income, through fines, confiscation of goods, and the like. From his subjects he exacted at his will and pleasure various services and forced labours (for the construction and repair of castles, bridges, and roads, for the lodging and victualling of the royal household, etc.) as well as divers taxes in money and in kind. In addition to an annual “peace tax” (tributum pacis, Bohemian mir), levied in money, which from the time of the foundation of the united Bohemian State was probably paid by all free landowners, the duke exacted also exceptional taxes of his own authority. So too the establishment of tolls, customs, and markets, as well as the coining of money, was the privilege of the duke alone. He also possessed very extensive domains, which were cultivated by his numerous slaves, and he was considered to be lord of all uncultivated ground; of this he had free disposal.

For the exercise of these wide powers the duke was bound to appoint various officials. The most important of these were the governors of the royal castles, the castellans (castellani, comites, praefecti urbis), who in the duke’s name governed the castles assigned to them, and the surrounding country with the population settled on it. In this way the whole land was divided into smaller administrative districts which resembled the Frankish counties, and probably were to some extent modelled on them, although they differed from them in the complete concentration of the public authority in the castles: an arrangement which we find also among other Slavonic peoples. For this reason, we may rightly speak of a castle organisation in this first period of the Bohemian State. Within the limits of their jurisdiction the castellans had considerable power, for they possessed almost full authority as representatives of the duke; but they were, on the other hand, completely dependent on the duke, who appointed and dismissed them at his pleasure. Since the duke, with his household, travelled about the country, and stopped now at one castle, now at another, he ensured the obedience of the castellans, and through them of the whole land. If the throne was vacant, or held by a prince who was not universally recognised, these castellans became the most important factor in the country. In the election of a ruler, and when there were rival candidates in the field, the decision lay usually in the castellans’ hands. But once the duke had established himself on the throne and had occupied the castles with his followers, his rule was again unrestricted, for he was supported by his own followers and by the castellans. It depended on his own personal energy whether he ruled over these followers and over the castellans, or whether he was perhaps himself ruled by them. But we can find no evidence of any legal limitation of the power of the Bohemian dukes in these times; since the very people who, besides the duke, had a regular influence on the government of the country, the duke’s followers and the officials of the court and of the castles, had no authority of their own independent of the duke.

This primitive patriarchal absolutism of the royal authority in Bohemia was made possible by the fact that, in the first centuries after the founding of a united State, there were no firmly established higher classes whose own clearly settled rights might have placed them in a position to impose definite limits upon the power of the duke. Among the Bohemians, as with other Slavs, in the days in which they were split up into little clans, there existed indeed a class of what might be called nobles by birth; but after the federation of the clans under the leadership of the Premyslids, the old nobility, among whom, are to be reckoned more especially the families of the different princes of the clans, either entirely disappeared—some of them were violently extirpated—or lost their former importance. Only little by little did a new nobility develop, and then, as it seems, on an entirely new basis. This new nobility falls very distinctly into two classes. The more numerous class was composed of warriors or knights (milites), that is, of those who were compelled to give personal service in war, as a rule, in all probability, on horseback. We soon find these warriors forming a distinct class, separate from the rest of the free population, and often intervening with considerable effect in the administration of the government. In the twelfth century they were usually designated nobles (nobiles). Above these warriors, however, stood a class of higher nobility, the true nobles (nobiles). These were composed at first chiefly of the higher ducal officials (castellans and others), and afterwards of those families to whose members the ducal offices were usually entrusted. But the Bohemian dukes were at this time in no way bound to choose their officers from particular families. There was, therefore, in Bohemia no real hereditary nobility whose closed ranks were sharply divided from the rest of the population. A nobility of this kind was not formed until certain families acquired large estates through the favour of the duke, and succeeded also in keeping them entirely in their own hands, so that their power was independent of the will of the sovereign and of the possession of a princely office. This did not take place to any considerable extent until the thirteenth century, and it was then that this great landed nobility first acquired a distinct and firmly established position, with authority of their own, that is, independent of the sovereign. Their members later were called simply barons (Bohemian pani, Latin domini, barones), while the lesser nobles were known as knights (Bohemian rytiri, vladykové).

Among the rest of the people, not of noble rank, there also grew up later many distinctions of social and legal position. In essentials, however, they fell into two great classes: the slaves and the free. We find slaves among the Bohemian and Moravian Slavs certainly before the foundation of a unified Bohemian State. Originally for the most part an article of export, they were later employed in great measure as farm-labourers or artisans on the large estates of the sovereign or of monasteries. Not until about the turning-point of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries do slaves disappear in Bohemia, when they are merged in the lowest classes of the agricultural and town population. Besides the slaves, the non-noble population of Bohemia was originally composed of small free landowners, peasants (rustici, pauperes, heredes). Their freedom consisted in their being dependent upon no one except the sovereign and his officers. They were certainly bound to give various compulsory services on the land, and to pay various duties, of which the chief was the “peace-tax.” These public duties, which were in themselves by no means light, were made still more oppressive by the arbitrary actions of the ducal officers, and especially of the castellans. In order to escape from such arbitrary oppression, many of the original free-born peasants divested themselves of their freedom of their own accord, by placing themselves and their goods under the protection of ecclesiastical or lay authority, and thus became dependent on them. The dependency of the subject peasants referred to in the sources as “heirs” (heredes, Bohemian dedicové) seems to have come about in this way. Another part of the peasant population fell into dependence in the following manner: many personally free men settled on estates which were not their own, accepted the burden of various taxes and duties in return for the use of the land, and thus came into a position of dependence under the overlordship of the landlords. Such peasants, personally free but settled on land which did not belong to them, are called in the sources of the eleventh and twelfth centuries “strangers” (hospites). Thus, before the end of the twelfth century, the greater part of the once free peasant population had become dependent upon ecclesiastical and lay authorities, while the former slaves raised themselves indeed to a position of greater freedom than they had enjoyed before, but were still extremely dependent.

There was from the first another class of the community, composed of the clergy, although it was not so sharply divided from the rest of the people as it became in the later Middle Ages. The Christian faith was brought into Bohemia in the first half of the ninth century; and from the end of that century, after the Bohemian prince Borivoj had received baptism at the hands of the Moravian Archbishop Methodius (about 880), it has at least the exterior semblance of a Christian country. Most of the members of the royal family were distinguished above all others for their zeal for Christianity: Borivoj’s wife, Saint Ludmila (ob. 921), and their grandson, Prince Wenceslas the Saint (ob. 929), are especially notable for this. So in the beginning of the tenth century the first Christian churches sprang up in Bohemia, and foreign priests sent from the neighbouring German dioceses came to spread the Christian faith among the people. Bohemia was first raised to the position of an independent diocese by the foundation of the bishopric of Prague (973-974), which was the joint work of the Bohemian Duke Boleslav II (967-999) and of the German Emperors Otto I and Otto II. Besides Bohemia, a considerable part of Poland, which was at that time united to Bohemia, and probably Moravia and western Slovakia also, formed a part of this new bishopric, which was placed under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Mayence. When, however, all Polish territory was severed, not only from Bohemia but also from the diocese of Prague, while a separate bishopric was set up at Olomouc (Olmutz) (about 1063) for Moravia, soon after that country had been finally united with Bohemia by Duke, afterwards King Vratislav, the ecclesiastical authority of the Bishop of Prague was in future confined to Bohemia alone. About the time of the foundation of the bishopric of Prague, there appear in Bohemia the two first monasteries of the Benedictine Order, one for women (St George at Prague about 967), the other for men (in Brevnov near Prague about 992); and these were followed by a number of other monasteries in Bohemia and Moravia. Endowed with rich estates, these old monasteries were among the most important economic factors in the country. Bohemia has to thank them above all for the knowledge of large-scale agriculture as it was carried on in Western Europe.

The position of these ecclesiastical establishments and of the clergy generally was originally by no means so independent and so self-sufficient as it became in the later Middle Ages. The Church was, on the contrary, entirely dependent on the lay authority. The will of the sovereign decided appointments to both the sees, even though the bishops received consecration from the Archbishop of Mayence and investiture from the Emperor. Similarly, too, the abbots of the monasteries founded by the sovereign were often appointed solely by him. The smaller churches, even when they had the character of the later parish churches, were considered to be, with all their appurtenances, the property of the founders and their heirs, who, as a result, were accustomed to appoint and dismiss the ecclesiastical incumbents of these churches entirely on their responsibility without any consultation of the bishop, and to treat them as their own nominees. The influence of the bishop on the administration of the Church was thus only very slight, and the action of the papal Curia upon ecclesiastical affairs in Bohemia was even slighter.

If the relationship of the Bohemian Church of that time with Rome was of only theoretical importance, its connexion with the secular world around it was all the more intimate. The priests were, as a rule, married, and neither in public administration nor in judicial matters was there any distinction between clerical and lay persons. From the point of view of nationality indeed, a considerable part of the clergy, especially of the monks, was distinguished from its surroundings; in particular there were among them certainly very many Germans. But there was also a large and influential Bohemian section. Not only were the two outstanding champions of ecclesiastical freedom, St Adalbert, Bishop of Prague (who met with a martyr’s death as a missionary to the heathen Prussians in 997), and Henry Zdik, Bishop of Olomouc (ob. 1151), of Bohemian nationality, but the writers of the most important Bohemian legends and chronicles of that time (though it is true that they were written in Latin) were also Bohemian. We need only mention here, as the most outstanding of them, Cosmas, dean of Prague (ob. 1125), whose Chronica Bohemorum is among the best works of medieval historiography.

Although the missionary St Adalbert, the Bishop of Prague, had striven to win greater independence for the Church in Bohemia, and although the papal Curia, during the great investiture struggle, made an attempt to reform the administration of the Church in Bohemia in the spirit of the Gregorian ideal, it was not until about the middle of the twelfth century that, by a papal legate sent to Bohemia in 1143, the Church’s rule as to celibacy of the clergy was, at least in certain cases, enforced. From that time the scheme of a reformation of the Bohemian Church was never dropped. King Vladislav I (II) himself was in favour of it, as well as the distinguished Bishop of Olomouc, Henry Zdik; yet reform made little headway. Celibacy of the clergy did not become the rule until the thirteenth century, and up to the end of the twelfth century the relations of the parish churches and their owners were hardly at all modified. Thus it came about that, in the second half of the twelfth century, the chief ecclesiastical establishments of Bohemia, especially the bishoprics of Prague and Olomouc, sought to obtain an exceptional position for their estates by means of a privilege of immunity from the Bohemian rulers. The peasantry settled on these estates were in this way freed from public services and taxes, and from the jurisdiction of the ducal castellans, and were placed directly under that of the officials of the royal household.

The growing power and importance of the Church in Bohemia led speedily to conflicts between its leaders and the rulers of the country. One such conflict between the Bohemian Duke Frederick and Henry Bretislav, Bishop of Prague, a member of the Premyslid family, gave the German Emperor Frederick Barbarossa the welcome opportunity of declaring the Bishop of Prague and immediate prince of the Empire (1187). Since Moravia, too, had been made into an ‘immediate’ margravate a short time before, the authority of the Bohemian duke, heretofore complete, was at the end of the twelfth century, so to speak, torn into shreds. This collapse of the power of the Bohemian dukes, due partly to the crafty policy of Barbarossa, partly to the pernicious struggles for the throne among the Premyslids, was, however, not of long duration. Even before the end of the twelfth century, the cessation of the internecine feuds and the simultaneous collapse of the power of the German Emperor brought about a change for the better in this respect.


After the death, which occurred in 1197, of Henry Bretislav, Bishop of Prague, who four years before had become Duke of Bohemia and had also conquered Moravia, two sons of King Vladislav I, Premysl Ottokar I and Vladislav Henry, came forward as candidates for the throne. The younger, Vladislav, was first raised to the throne by the Bohemians, but in the same year he came to an agreement with his elder brother, by which Premysl Ottokar became duke in Bohemia and Vladislav Henry margrave of Moravia. Premysl Ottokar I ruled thereafter in Bohemia until his death (1230) in complete harmony with his brother Vladislav (0b. 1222), and all his successors up till the end of the Premyslid dynasty ascended the throne unopposed. This was a fact of the greatest importance for the further development of Bohemia, both in foreign and in home affairs.

Above all, an end was put once and for all to the dismemberment of the Bohemian State caused by the recognition of the margravate of Moravia and of the bishopric of Prague as direct principalities of the Empire. The agreement of 1197 had already restored the real unity of Moravia and Bohemia, and in the years that followed this union became ever more firmly cemented. The ‘immediacy’ of the bishopric of Prague was still more rapidly and decisively abolished. During his short reign Premysl’s brother Vladislav on his own authority appointed a new bishop in place of Henry Bretislav, and himself bestowed investiture upon him. By this action he made it clear, not only that he did not recognise the ‘immediate’ position of the bishopric of Prague, but that he was determined also to put an end to the bishop’s former dependence on the German Emperor, formal though it was, which was expressed by the conferring of investiture by the Emperor. In the path indicated in this momentous action of Vladislav, the object of which was to make Bohemia more independent of the Empire, Premysl Ottokar also persevered. As a result of the struggles for the throne which arose after the death of the Emperor Henry VI, Premysl Ottokar achieved important successes in this direction. As early as 1198 he was raised to the dignity of king, and the dukedom of Bohemia was made a kingdom, by King Philip of Swabia, with whom he at first joined forces. When afterwards the new king, at the instance of Pope Innocent III, was persuaded to desert Philip and declare himself for the anti-king, Otto of Brunswick, Premysl’s royal title was confirmed to himself and his successors, not only by Otto but also by the Pope (1207). But Premysl’s friendship with Otto did not last long. The King of Bohemia soon entered again into friendly relations with Philip, and only the latter’s murder (1207) prevented his defection from Otto. When, however, soon afterwards the Pope himself deserted Otto and began to support Frederick II, the young son of the Emperor Henry VI, the King of Bohemia allowed himself easily to be won over to Frederick. As a reward for this, he obtained from King Frederick in 1212, by a Golden Bull, an important privilege which for many years regulated the legal relationship of Bohemia to the German Empire. By the main provisions of this bull the royal dignity of Premysl and his heirs is confirmed, but at the same time the old right of the Bohemians to choose their ruler for themselves is clearly recognised, although the Emperor’s right to confer the regalia upon the elected king is reserved. In addition, the King of Bohemia is granted the right to confer investiture upon the bishops of his kingdom, not only in the case of Prague, but evidently in that of Olomouc also. Finally, it is decreed that the Kings of Bohemia are to be bound to attend the Court only when it is held at Bamberg, Nuremberg, or Merseburg, and, on the occasions of the Emperor’s journeys to Rome, they are to have the choice of either sending three hundred armed men or paying three hundred silver marks.

Even after the Golden Bull of 1212, Bohemia remained a fief of the German Empire, but the bull considerably strengthened her peculiar position in regard to the Empire. In this respect the definite recognition of the Bohemian right of election is especially important. The value of this right had, it is true, been much diminished by the hereditary right of the Premyslids to the crown, and it lost almost all its significance so soon as there was only one candidate for the throne. A no less important event, therefore, was the preparation by Premysl Ottokar of a precise law of succession. It is true that he issued no decree on the subject, yet he succeeded in securing the election by the Bohemians of his eldest son Wenceslas as king, during his own lifetime, and in obtaining confirmation of this from the Emperor Frederick (1216). In this imperial confirmation, and even more clearly in another published (in 1281) after the death of Premysl, emphasis is strongly laid upon the fact that Wenceslas was elected as the king’s eldest son. From this time until the fall of the Premyslids the rule of primogeniture in the succession was definitely maintained. This was certainly made possible by the fact that, on the death of the remaining Premyslid kings, their sons were always the sole male members of the royal house. But in this way the election of the king became only a more solemn recognition and acceptance of the only legitimate heir.

If the duties of the Bohemian king towards the Empire were diminished by the Golden Bull of 1212, as time went on they became ever less. Though the King of Bohemia in 1212 was only released from personal participation in the actual ‘journeys to Rome’ in after years, as the power of the German Empire was broken, the compulsion under which he lay to participate in the Emperor’s campaigns generally ceased as it were of its own accord. Rudolf I certainly extorted from the Bohemian King Premysl Ottokar II, after the latter’s defeat in 1276, an acknowledgement that the king was bound to assist the Emperor in time of war in the same manner as other princes of the Empire, but after some years, in 1298, Rudolf’s son, Albert I, promised King Wenceslas II, son of Premysl Ottokar II, that provided he was elected King of the Romans he would exact no armed assistance from Wenceslas. Later, in 1314, the Bohemian King John of Luxemburg obtained a similar promise from the German King Louis of Bavaria, and so little by little Bohemian participation in the Emperor’s campaigns came to an end.

While the obligations of the Bohemian kings towards the Empire grew steadily less and less after the beginning of the thirteenth century, on the other hand their rights in the Empire and their influence upon imperial affairs increased in importance. Even in the eleventh century the Bohemian dukes appear at the election of the German king, and after the end of the twelfth century especially they were accustomed to play a more important part on these occasions. When, in the thirteenth century, the theory began to be established that the right to elect the German king belonged only to the three Rhenish archbishops and to the holders of the so-called arch-offices of the Empire, the King of Bohemia, as hereditary holder of the office of cupbearer, was also counted as an Elector, and thus attained very high authority in the Empire. It is true that the first advocate of this theory, Eike von Repgow, the author of the famous Sachsenspiegel, wished from the first to deprive the King of Bohemia of his right of election, on the ground that he was not a German, ‘urame dat he nicht dudesch n’is,’ but his opinion was not heeded. Only at the election of Rudolf I of Habsburg (1273) was the Bohemian king’s right of election denied, and the seventh electoral chair was adjudged to the dukedom of Bavaria; but King Rudolf himself later (1289 and 1290) restored to the King of Bohemia the office of cupbearer and the dignity of Elector.

The great increase in the power of the Kings of Bohemia, to which the accession of Premysl Ottokar I opened the way, was also not without influence upon the foreign policy of Bohemia. This had formerly been regulated almost exclusively by the personal inclinations of the individual rulers, and thus almost entirely lacked consistency; but henceforth it begins to follow a clearly-conceived and consistent aim, so that as time goes on we can speak of definite traditions of Bohemian policy. In this connexion the relations of Bohemia with Austria must first be considered. Even in the last years of Premysl Ottokar I, hostilities arose between Bohemia and Austria. Their origin lay in the fact that Henry, the eldest son of the Emperor Frederick II, married a daughter of the Austrian Duke Leopold VI, of the house of Babenberg, instead of the daughter of the King of Bohemia, to whom he had been betrothed since childhood. But it was only under Premysl’s successor, King Wenceslas I (1230-1253), that open war broke out on this account. In his attack upon the Duke of Austria, Frederick II the Valiant, the last Babenberger, the King of Bohemia was joined by his two neighbours, Bela IV, King of Hungary, and Otto, Duke of Bavaria, and after some time the Emperor Frederick II himself joined this coalition. As executor of the ban pronounced by the Emperor against the Duke of Austria, King Wenceslas together with other princes of the Empire invaded his territory and brought it almost under the Emperor’s power (1237). But soon after, King Wenceslas, at the instigation of the papal Curia, broke away from the Emperor and reconciled himself with the Duke of Austria, whose niece Gertrude, to mark the occasion, was betrothed to Wenceslas’ eldest son Vladislav (1239). Hostilities broke out again between Bohemia and Austria immediately after this, but were stopped by the common danger which threatened both lands in the approach of the Mongols. Wenceslas’ kingdom was entered by these terrible foes. After the northern Tartar horde had crushingly defeated the Duke of Silesia (1241) at Liegnitz, it invaded Moravia also. While Bohemia was saved from the Mongols, owing largely to the exertions of King Wenceslas, who took up a position on the borders wi th a strong army to face the foe, Moravia was utterly laid waste, and not until their retreat from Europe was it freed from this torment.

Hardly was the danger from the Mongols over before hostilities broke out once more between Bohemia and Austria; and these, in so far as they were involved in the great contemporary struggle between the Papacy and the Empire, were also of importance for the general history of that time. An important change in the relations between Bohemia and Austria came about on the death of Duke Frederick of Austria (1246). Only then did the long-arranged marriage between his niece Gertrude and Vladislav, son of the King of Bohemia, actually take place. Through this marriage the royal house of Bohemia saw open before it the brilliant prospect of a widening of its realms through the Babenberg succession. For when Duke Frederick had died childless, Vladislav, as husband of his niece Gertrude, became the most important candidate for the lands left vacant by his death. But only a few months after his marriage, Vladislav, whom the contemporary Austrian sources actually call “Duke of Austria,” died, and so for the present the Bohemian royal house lost all hope of the Babenberg succession.

However, after the death of the Emperor Frederick II and that of Herman of Baden, Gertrude of Babenberg’s second husband, in 1250, as soon as the position of affairs in Austria had become more favourable to the claims of Bohemia, hostilities again broke out. Premysl Ottokar II, who, after the death of his elder brother Vladislav, was King Wenceslas’ only surviving son, and had already been appointed Margrave of Moravia by his father, led an array into Austria, on the invitation of a section of the Austrian nobility with the support of the papal Curia and of the clergy, and subdued a considerable part of the country without meeting any opposition (1251). To strengthen his position, the young Premysl married the sister of the last Babenberger, Margaret, who was more than fifty years of age. But immediately afterwards the powerful King of Hungary, Bela IV, came up against him, and in a short time by force of arms made himself master of Styria, a part of the Babenberg possessions.

The struggle between the two claimants to the former Babenberg lands was not yet at an end when Premysl Ottokar II, on the death of his father, ascended the Bohemian throne, which he held for a full quarter of a century (1253-1278). In the next year, through the intervention of the papal Curia, which rightly regarded the young King of Bohemia as its true supporter, a peace was negotiated between Premysl Ottokar and Hungary, by which Premysl kept Austria while Bela retained Styria (1251). But when, some four years later, the Styrian nobles supported by Bohemia raised a rebellion against Hungarian rule, a new war broke out, which, after the King of Bohemia had won a brilliant victory at the battle of Kroissenbrunn, ended with the cession of Styria to him (1260). Afterwards he obtained from the German King Richard of Cornwall the investiture of both the newly-acquired lands, Austria and Styria.

The King of Bohemia had already, two years after his accession to the throne (1255), shewn his gratitude for the support extended to him by the papal Curia in these successful struggles for the Babenberg inheritance, by undertaking a crusade to assist the Teutonic Order against the heathen Prussians. At that time a part of Saraland was conquered by the German Knights, and, to establish their rule in those regions, they founded the town named Konigsberg (Mons Hegins) in honour of the King of Bohemia. Soon after, Premysl Ottokar pledged himself to the papal Curia to undertake another crusade, which, however, did not take place for several years (1268). This crusade, too, was to assist the Teutonic Order, but its special objective was the heathen Lithuania. This country, with some of the neighbouring lands, was to be converted to Christianity, but was at the same time to be placed under the rule of the King of Bohemia, and a newly-created archbishopric was to be founded, at the head of which was to be. set the Bishop of Olomouc as archbishop. Without waiting for the papal decision on this plan, Premysl Ottokar II started on his second crusade (in the winter of 1267-68); but when the Curia would not consent to his audacious design, he turned back without effecting anything.

While thus Premysl Ottokar’s plan to annex to his kingdom new provinces in the north miscarried, he soon after acquired an extension of it in the south. Ilis kinsman Ulrich, the childless Duke of Carinthia, had appointed him his heir, and after Ulrich's death he obtained possession of Carinthia with the county of Carniola which was united to it (1269). Thus the kingdom of Premysl Ottokar reached its greatest extent. Besides Bohemia and Moravia, it included Austria, Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola, in addition to some smaller possessions on the Adriatic. It thus stretched from the mountain ranges in the north of Bohemia to the Adriatic Sea, and was a forerunner of the later Habsburg monarchy, excluding Hungary.

The establishment of so powerful a kingdom, which threatened to be a dangerous competitor to the power of the Holy Roman Empire in Central Europe, was made possible by contemporary events in Germany, where there was, during the whole of this time, no generally recognised ruler—it is the period of the Interregnum. The continuance of the kingdom might possibly have been secured, had the King of Bohemia himself attained the German crown. Premysl Ottokar, after the death of Richard of Cornwall (1272) if not before, did become a candidate for the Empire. The election of Rudolf of Habsburg as the German King (1273) inflicted a serious check on his policy, all the more so in that Rudolf was elected by evading the electoral rights of Bohemia, and in spite of the protest of Premysl Ottokar. Since the new German King, whose royal power had been greatly diminished by the course of events in preceding years, aimed at establishing a strong position for himself by extending the power of his own house, he naturally took as his objective those territories of the Empire which during the Interregnum had fallen into the possession of Premysl Ottokar, and which from the point of view of imperial law might be considered to have been illegally acquired. So it came about that at the diet of Nuremberg, a year after Rudolf’s election, the King of Bohemia was deprived of all rights to these lands and was himself summoned to shew cause for his actions (1274). When Premysl Ottokar heeded neither this nor yet a second summons, he was outlawed and was declared to be deprived of his own hereditary possessions (1276). At the same time a campaign in which the whole Empire joined was begun against the King of Bohemia. While Rudolf’s allies, the brothers Meinhard of the Tyrol and Albert of Gorz, attacked Carinthia, Carniola, and Styria, he himself invaded Austria. Weakened by the revolt of a powerful body of nobles in Bohemia, Premysl Ottokar was soon compelled to sue for a truce. By a peace concluded with Rudolf at Vienna, he ceded Austria, Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola, and in return was invested by the German King with Bohemia and Moravia (November 1276). However, a new war against Rudolf, who was this time assisted by Hungary also, soon broke out; and Premysl Ottokar was again unsuccessful. His army was annihilated at Durnkrut in Austria, and there the king, once so glorious, met with a miserable death (26 August 1278).

Immediately after the battle, King Rudolf led his army into Moravia, and, since Premysl Ottokar’s only son, who became king as Wenceslas II (1278-1305), was only seven years old, for five years he kept the administration of the margravate in his own hands, while he had to entrust the administration of Bohemia for the same period to Premysl Ottokar’s nephew, Otto of Brandenburg, as Wenceslas’ guardian. These five years were for Bohemia a real reign of terror, owing to the cruelty and avarice of Otto of Brandenburg and to the disorders caused by internecine feuds among the nobles; but then young Wenceslas, whom Otto only released from his guardianship on payment of a large sum, entered upon his father’s possessions.

Soon after this, a prominent Bohemian noble, Zavis of Falkenstein, who had formerly been among the opponents of Premysl Ottokar, but after his death married his widow, Wenceslas’ mother, became the true director of Bohemian policy. When, however, the young king, under Zavis’s influence, began to lay claim to the lands of which his father had been deprived, a paid of which had already been bestowed upon Rudolf’s sons, King Rudolf contrived that Zavis should be removed from the court; he was later imprisoned, and finally beheaded (1290). After some time, King Wenceslas indeed renewed his efforts to recover his father’s kingdom—with this object his policy was specially directed against Albert of Habsburg. But later he gave up this attempt and turned his attention ever more towards the east. He had already entered into friendly relations with certain Silesian princes, and, during a dispute over the succession, had taken possession of the Polish county of Cracow; in 1300 he brought Greater Poland also under his sway, and had himself crowned King of Poland at Gnesen.

Immediately after this, an opportunity for a farther extension of his kingdom was offered to King Wenceslas. After the death of Andrew III, the last Hungarian king of the line of Arpad, the Hungarian nobles who were dissatisfied with Charles Robert, the candidate of the papal Curia, offered the crown of Hungary to the King of Bohemia. The latter did not, indeed, accept it himself, but he induced his Hungarian supporters to elect his twelve-year-old son, Wenceslas III, King of Hungary. The young prince, after adopting the Hungarian national name of Ladislas (Laszlo), was crowned and installed as king in the capital, Buda (1301). However, Pope Boniface VIII and the German King Albert, who naturally felt that their interests were threatened, bitterly opposed the Bohemian rule in Hungary. King Wenceslas, on his side, formed an alliance with King Philip IV of France (1303), and also entered into relations with England. But on the death of Pope Boniface (1304), the hostility between France and the Papacy came to an end, and with it the main reason for the French alliance with Bohemia. In Hungary, too, the position of affairs changed to the detriment of Bohemia, when the nobles began to fall away from her. Then King Wenceslas of Bohemia invaded Hungary with a large army, but soon beat a retreat without engaging battle, and brought back his son to Bohemia, together with the Hungarian royal insignia. On the other hand, King Albert, who with his allies invaded Bohemia and besieged the town of Kutna Hora (Kuttenberg), famous for its silver mines which were then at the height of their prosperity, had also to retire without gaining any success. A new campaign against Bohemia, which had been planned for the next year, was averted by the sudden death of King Wenceslas, who was only thirty-four years old (June 1305).

The new King of Bohemia, Wenceslas III (1305-1306), the only son of the late king, was hardly seventeen years old. He concluded a peace with King Albert soon after his father’s death; in return for the cession of certain disputed provinces (Eger, Meissen), he received a solemn confirmation of the old liberties and rights of Bohemia. In Hungary, too, Wenceslas III gave up the hopeless struggle, for he handed over his claims upon Hungary, and the Hungarian royal insignia, to his cousin Otto of Bavaria. On the other hand he began to make preparations with great ardour for a campaign in Poland, in order to obtain possession of his father’s seriously imperilled lands. But when, in the summer of 1306, he was staying at Olomouc, where his army was to concentrate, he was murdered in the dean’s house by an unknown assailant (4 August 1306). At his death the male line of the Premyslids was extinguished; and this was in itself an important turning-point in the history of Bohemia.


The time of the rule of the last Premyslid kings is of significance, not only for the great external expansion of the power of the Bohemian throne, but also for important changes in the internal conditions of the lands beneath its sway. The disruption of the old constitution of the State and of society, a disruption which had been approaching even in earlier times, was fulfilled in this period. For in this period various special rights were acquired by single social classes, which thus withdrew themselves from the old organisation of the State and cut themselves off from the rest of the population and also from each other. In the forefront stand the clergy. The development, for which the way was prepared even in the twelfth century by the introduction of the celibacy of the clergy and the privilege of immunity granted to certain ecclesiastical establishments, was continued in the thirteenth century by the gradual emancipation of the Church in Bohemia from lay authority. In the very first years of the thirteenth century the chapters of both the cathedrals of Bohemia, at Prague and Olomouc, obtained the right of free election to their bishoprics. And soon after, Andrew, Bishop of Prague, entered upon a great struggle for ecclesiastical freedom against Premysl Ottokar I, whom he, with the support of Rome, compelled to grant noteworthy concessions. By the agreements of 1219 and 1221, the bishop obtained the definite recognition of his right to appoint and dismiss the incumbents of all churches in his diocese, although the right of presentation of the patrons (patroni) was reserved; beyond this, he obtained the right to exercise jurisdiction over clerical persons in ecclesiastical matters, that is, particularly, in matters of discipline. The independence of the clergy in spiritual matters (in spiritualibus) as regards the secular authority, thus recognised in principle, was not realised at once in all its implications, but little by little it obtained real value. In secular matters, however, the clergy remained even after this subject to secular authority. Quarrels between clerical persons or corporations, in which landed property was concerned, were even at a later date decided by the ruler or by the competent secular court. Also the Bohemian kings never ceased to regard the possessions of the old monasteries, and other ecclesiastical establishments founded by their predecessors, as their own property, and to demand from them special contributions in addition to the regular taxes. On the other hand, these establishments had the right to obtain for all those who dwelt upon their estates complete exemption from the authority of the state officials, and to take upon themselves the full exercise of this authority. After the end of the great struggle with Bishop Andrew, King Premysl Ottokar I by an important grant in 1222 confirmed to all the clergy of his country the right which had actually been possessed before by a large number of ecclesiastical establishments. The inhabitants of their property were exempted from the jurisdiction of the castle or provincial officials, and were placed directly under that of the king and of his chief court officials. But even in the thirteenth century it came about that, in the majority of the ecclesiastical establishments of Bohemia, the jurisdiction over their dependents, which by the privilege of 1222 was vested in the king, was abandoned to the clergy and to their officers.

Like the clergy, the nobles, especially those of highest rank, obtained at this time various rights for themselves and for the vassals settled on their estates. Even in the second half of the twelfth century, disputes between nobles, especially those which concerned landed property, were decided at great general judicial assemblies and in the second half of the thirteenth century a special court, composed only of the members of the highest nobility, the Lords, assumed this jurisdiction. But, following the example of the clergy, the nobles too obtained for their vassals, by placing them under their own authority, a similar exemption from the authority of the State. In this manner the peasants settled on the property of ecclesiastical and lay landlords first became their true vassals, bound not only to pay definite private services, but also to serve them in all such matters as were formerly regulated by the authority of the State, that is, of the ruler and his officials.

The legal position of the vassal peasant population also underwent at this time a fundamental change, due to German colonisation and the introduction of German law. The immigration of German colonists into Bohemia begins even in the twelfth century. They received from their new overlords, as a rule in return for a clearly determined yearly payment, only portions of untilled land, chiefly in the wooded and formerly uninhabited regions of the country, but on the other hand they enjoyed a more favourable legal position in regard to their landlords than that in which the native peasant population found itself. The main privilege of this new law in Bohemia, which was there known as the German Law (ius teutonicum), lay in this: it secured to the peasant the hereditary possession of his land and thus made him an hereditary or emphiteutic tenant, and, more than this, settled his duties towards the overlord by a firm and precise agreement. For the overlords themselves it was profitable, because it secured to them a fixed yearly income from their lands. Thus is explained the rapid spread of this “German Law” in Bohemia and Moravia, not only among the new colonists but also among the older peasant population, which for the most part was gradually brought into a relationship with its overlords similar to that of the colonists.

In this manner, in the coarse of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the various classes of the dependent peasant population were fused into one tolerably united class of peasant vassals, who occupied their land as hereditary tenants in return for a definite yearly rent and for other precisely settled duties, and were exempt from the authority of the state officials; but, on the other hand, were subject to the authority of their overlords and were represented at the king’s court only by them.

During this time a new class grew up in Bohemia and Moravia through the rise of a number of towns, of which there had been none before the thirteenth century. They developed partly out of older colonies of foreign, chiefly German, traders, which had early been formed here and there, and enjoyed special rights and immunities; in Prague we find as early as the eleventh century such a community of traders, with a considerable measure of autonomy; it was not till the first half of the thirteenth century that this community was transformed into the Old Town of Prague. In part, they were entirely new foundations of the kings and also of other overlords. At the end of the Premyslid era there were in Bohemia alone not less than thirty-two royal towns, of which the greater part owed their foundation to Kings Premysl Ottokar II and Wenceslas II.

Through the exemption of the clergy and the higher nobility, together with their vassals, from the authority of the old castellans, as well as through the establishment of the towns, whose inhabitants from the first stood outside the range of this authority, the old castle administration was completely undermined. Since the loss of most of their old authority had rendered the great number of old castle districts superfluous, the ancient smaller districts gradually, in the course of the thirteenth century, were replaced by larger spheres of administration; but these had, however, for the present, by no means so great an importance from the constitutional point of view as those old districts, since they possessed no permanent fully-equipped organ of administration, nor had they wide powers extending over the whole population, such as the erstwhile castle­administration had possessed.

As the old castle-administration decayed, so the importance of the central administration increased, and in the second half of the thirteenth century this becomes a truly national administration. The most important of the central institutions, the court of which we have spoken above, had, at the same time, the character of a permanent representative assembly of the higher nobility, of the great landed proprietors. This was particularly important for the reason that the court constituted at the same time the royal council, which assisted the king in deciding important national affairs. In this way the Bohemian landed proprietors gained a permanent and regular influence, not only upon the administration of justice, but also upon the political conduct of the country. The lower nobility, too, the higher clergy, and even the burghers, often exercised in those times an important influence upon national affairs, but this influence was neither so wide, nor so regular as that of the great proprietors. It made itself felt mainly at great assemblies, which we may call diets, though we must remember that they were substantially different from the later diets. Even in earlier times, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, such general assemblies of the nobles and the higher clergy were held in certain exceptional cases; however, these did not pass resolutions, but limited themselves to taking cognisance of the decisions of the king which were presented to them. Also, at the general judicial assemblies mentioned above, which used to be held regularly from about the middle of the twelfth century, there must occasionally have arisen questions affecting national affairs. In the second half of the thirteenth century, these regular and general judicial assemblies cease, since they were supplanted by the newly organised court. Only exceptionally are general assemblies held after this, and then they are no longer judicial, but assume the functions of real diets, which not only deliberate upon important public affairs, but also decide upon them. In the first years after the tragic death of King Ottokar II, particularly, there were held several such diets, at which the nobility, the clergy, and the representatives of the burghers decided upon important affairs which concerned the whole country : for instance, on the question of a general tax for the payment of the sums expended by Margrave Otto of Brandenburg as guardian of the young king. These decisions, however, took the form rather of agreements, similar to the German Landfrieden,which the participants bound themselves to observe, than of real decrees of a diet, universally binding in and for themselves. When, after the accession of Wenceslas II, normal conditions were re-established in the land, the necessity for such extraordinary diets ceased, and their further development only begins after the fall of the Premyslid dynasty.

The great changes in the interior structure of the Bohemian State, which took place under the last Pfemyslids, also affected the ethnographic aspect of the country. Even in earlier times there were in Bohemia and Moravia certainly many Germans, above all among the clergy, and especially in the monasteries; and they were also to be found at the court of the Bohemian rulers, whose wives, belonging for the most part to German princely families, brought their German retinue with them to Bohemia. Also most of the colonies of merchants, and those the most important, were composed of Germans, and, finally, there was probably a sprinkling of German immigrants among the peasant population too. But it was not until the second half of the twelfth century that a considerable immigration of German colonists to Bohemia took place. Whole districts, especially on the borderland, were then settled by Germans, and preserved their German character, in part, up to the present day. The first burghers of the Bohemian towns were almost exclusively German, and their German character in most respects outlasted the Pfemyslid epoch by more than a century, and in some cases, especially in Moravia, preserved it until the present time. Besides this, both in early and in later times, the whole public and social life of Bohemia was exposed to the strong influence of her neighbour Germany. The Bohemian court was, in the thirteenth century, from time to time a place of resort for German minstrels, and had assumed an apparently strong German complexion. The Bohemian nobles, too, after the end of the twelfth century, adopted not only German customs but even German surnames. Not until the end of the Pfemyslid epoch do we find a strong national consciousness among the Bohemian nobles, and then it was due partly to the conduct of Otto of Brandenburg in Bohemia, partly to their detestation of the German burgherdom which had sprung into existence and was attaining a steadily increasing importance in the country.

Besides the considerable influence of Germany upon the whole development of Bohemia, other influences of the highest importance were asserting themselves during this time. The great and successful struggle, previously mentioned, for the freedom of the Church, which begins in the time of Henry Zdik, Bishop of Olomouc, and reached its highest point under Bishop Andrew of Prague, was called into existence through the direct influence of Rome, and was brought to a victorious conclusion with the support of Rome, without any assistance from the neighbouring German prelates, indeed at times in spite of their opposition. The important reforming activities of the greatest of the Premyslids, Premysl Ottokar II and his son Wenceslas II, on the other hand, were influenced very powerfully by Italy. At the court of Premysl Ottokar II the important position of royal protonotary was held by an Italian named Henry (Henricus Italicus), who seems to have exercised great influence upon the Bohemian Chancery and official documents. Another Italian (Henricus de Isernia) kept, at the same period, a school of rhetoric in Prague for the eding laws of several neighbouring countries, for instance Hungary.

As in King Wenceslas’ efforts towards a codification of Bohemian law, so in his plan (which indeed was never carried into effect) to found a university in Bohemia, we see a noble aim towards a higher civilisation for his country. In regard to the economic improvement of his kingdom, Wenceslas deserves credit for a reform of the coinage, especially the issue in 1300 of the famous groschen of Prague. This reform was made possible mainly by the rich silver mines at Kutna Hora in eastern Bohemia, which at this time were a great financial support of the Bohemian throne.

Thus by the end of the Premyslid epoch, Bohemia and Moravia, through the favourable development of their external and internal affairs and through the prudent rule of the last Premyslids, reached so high a position in politics, in civilisation, and in economic affairs, that the kingdom of Bohemia began to play the leading role among the states of Central Europe. This brilliant development of Bohemia was checked for some time by the extinction of the Premyslid dynasty and by the disorders which followed. Soon, however, it begins afresh, to reach its highest point, on the one hand in the reign of the Emperor Charles IV of the house of Luxemburg, and, on the other, in the great Hussite movement.


POLAND, 1050-1303.


Although the Slav empire of Boleslav the Great (992-1025) had been dissolved, the consolidation of a number of West Slav tribes under the Piast dynasty had lasted long enough to form a permanent Polish State, owing a theoretic allegiance to the Papacy and the Empire, but forming in practice an independent national entity—a State which was a bulwark of Slav resistance to German expansion, the representative to Orthodox Russia of the “Latinism” of the West, and a competitor with both Germany and Russia in the conquest and conversion of the pagan tribes of the Baltic region. Casimir the Restorer (1038-1058) had failed to regain for Poland the Slavs of Slovakia, Meissen, and Pomerania, the Prussians, or the Russians of the Brig and San, but he had reunited under firm monarchical rule his own tribe the Polanie of the Warta, the Kujawianie further East, the Mazowszanie or Mazovians on the Middle Vistula, the Wislanie or Vistulans on the Upper Vistula, and the Slenzanie or Silesians of the Upper Oder. The archbishopric in the capital Gniezno (Gnesen) strove to assert metropolitan rights against Magdeburg over the bishoprics of Poznan (Posen), Wroclaw or Breslau, Cracow, and Kujawia. The Pomeranian bishopric at Kolberg had not survived, but a new see at Plock was established for Mazovia. By the prestige of the Piast dynasty and by ecclesiastical and administrative centralisation, the prince had temporarily overcome the provincialism of the tribes, but he had to carry on an incessant struggle against the local strength of the clans. From the clans the Court had attracted a number of individual magnates who constituted the official class and served the prince as his comites,” filling the various posts which had been established on the model of the Bohemian system, itself derived from Frankish institutions. The chief official, the prince’s deputy in military and judicial affairs, was the Comes Palatinus, who came to be called in Polish the Wojewoda. The Succamerarius or Podkomorzy was in charge of the royal domain, the Skarbnik of the treasury, the Kanclerz of the chancery, while the provincial administration was carried out in the castles by the Comites Castellani or Kasztelanle. In place of the comitatus or druzyna, which had been so important under Boleslav, the prince drew his soldiers from a new class of milites, who were rewarded with estates which tended to become hereditary. This ecclesiastical and civil hierarchy superimposed on the clan system, together with the powerful position of the prince as supreme administrator and judge, chief landowner and sole commander of the army, formed the basis of the Polish State and gave it resources with which to maintain its position against the claims of the Empire and to compete with Bohemia, Hungary, and the Russian principalities. Its weakness lay in the smallness of the class that was influenced by Western ideas and institutions; in the fact that Christianity was a mere veneer and its chief exponents foreigners who were disliked by the natives; in the separatism of the tribes, which had different laws and few common interests; and in the local strength of the clans, which offered a solid, obstinate resistance to the new religious and political institutions. Fortunately, the Piast dynasty produced a series of rulers competent to overcome for a time these centrifugal forces.

Casimir I was succeeded in 1058 by his son Boleslav II the Bold, who possessed many of the qualities of his great-grandfather, and was able to enhance the power of the Polish State. In the interests of the Papacy he interfered in Czech, Hungarian, and German affairs with such success that he felt strong enough to have himself crowned as king in 1076. Secure against his western and southern neighbours, Boleslav emulated his great namesake by embarking on a Russian expedition. In support of the exiled prince Izyaslav, he invaded Russia in 1069 and captured Kiev, and, though his high-handed conduct and immorality led to his expulsion after ten months’ residence there, he occupied on his way home the border provinces of Chervien and Przemysl which had formerly belonged to Poland. In domestic matters, however, Boleslav acted so despotically as to arouse strong discontent. A quarrel with the Church, which was led by Stanislas, Bishop of Cracow, ended in the assassination of the prelate by the infuriated king, who was forced to retire into exile where he shortly after died. Boleslav II is an enigmatic figure in history. Universally condemned by the chroniclers as the murderer of St Stanislas, he was undoubtedly the strong type of ruler which the country needed. The real weakness of his reign was the vagueness of plan which led him to adventurous interference in Hungary and Russia when it was open to him, by taking advantage of the quarrel between the Empire and the Papacy, to secure more solid gains west of the Oder. By his exile the prestige of the monarchy was dangerously lowered, the more so as his brother and successor, Vladyslav I Herman (1079-1102), was an incapable ruler who soon lost the recent Russian conquests and allowed the Russian prince Volodar to form at Przemysl a principality which was destined to be a dangerous neighbour to Poland. Apart from a campaign against the Pomeranians, his reign was marked by civil war in which the princely power was supported by the energetic but violent Palatine Sieciech against Vladyslav’s natural son Zbigniev, to whom at his death he was forced to bequeath a part of his principality.

Boleslav III, surnamed Wrymouth (1102-1138), combined the valour and military skill of his ancestors with high qualities of statesmanship and the spirit of ascetic Christianity. He judiciously refrained from rash expeditions to Russia, and after a short war with Svyatopolk of Kiev, he married his daughter and maintained peace with Russia for sixteen years. Although the jealousy of his half-brother Zbigniev involved him in a war with Bohemia, he refused to be distracted from the principal object of his policy, which was to strengthen the position of Poland in the West by a stout resistance to imperial pretensions and by a forward policy against the tribes on his western frontier. Burning with zeal for the conversion of the infidel, he found a field for his crusading ardour among the heathen Slavs. The Pomeranians, who occupied the territory from the Lower Oder to the Lower Vistula under the rule of their native princes, were still obstinately pagan. Not only did their land separate Poland from the Baltic sea, but it was a field for Danish and German aggression. The attempts of Boleslav I to convert these pagans had been as fruitless as his conquest of their land had been transitory, and since his time the almost impenetrable marshes of the Notec had isolated them. The young Polish prince, at the dictates of policy and religion, determined to anticipate the Germans in the conquest of this important territory whose inhabitants were in language and customs so near to the Poles. In 1102 he crossed the Notec and overcame the princes of the south; then, gradually occupying the northern territory, he penetrated as far as the sea and captured the towns of Belgard, Kolberg, Wollin, and Stettin. The victory of Naklo in 1109 completed the Polish conquest and left Boleslav in possession of all Pomerania from the Vistula to the Oder. The South Pomeranians were converted to Christianity but were left to be ruled by their own princes as vassals of the Polish prince. During the campaign Boleslav was embarrassed by the hostility of Zbigniev, who not only called in the Czechs, but intrigued with the pagans against his brother. On being exiled he sought the assistance of the Emperor Henry V, who was anxious to reassert his power over his eastern neighbours in order to restore the imperial prestige lost by his father, and was ready to take advantage of any opportunity to interfere in the domestic affairs of Poland, Bohemia, and Hungary. Allying himself with Svatopluk of Moravia, therefore, Henry attacked the Hungarians. But while King Koloman held his own in Pressburg, Boleslav compelled. Svatopluk to make peace, whereupon Henry turned against him and demanded the cession of half Poland to Zbigniev and the payment of an annual tribute by Poland to the Empire. On Boleslav’s refusal, Henry invaded Silesia and, after besieging Bytom (Beuthen) and Glogow (Glogau) without success, attempted to capture Wroclaw (Breslau). Harassed continually by the attacks of the Polish prince, he was forced to abandon the siege and retired with great loss. When Zbigniev, persisting in his opposition, obtained the support of the Czech prince Vladislav I, Boleslav, after two campaigns in 1109-1110 in which he forced the Czechs to make peace, at length lost patience and caused his brother to be blinded and exiled—a necessary act of violence which he expiated by severe penances and long pilgrimages. The peace with Russia was broken in 1118, and, though war dragged on till 1123, Boleslav wisely refused to take an active part in it, and in 1120 decided to resume his campaign against the Western Slavs. The cause for the renewal of war was the revolt of the chief prince in South Pomerania, who negotiated with Russia and with the fierce Prussian tribes for assistance. Boleslav defeated him in two campaigns and annexed to Greater Poland the southern strip of Pomerania, including Naklo, Santok, and Czarnkow, which remained an integral part of Poland. He then turned against the Prince of Stettin who had been privy to the rebellion, and not only forced him to submit, but invaded the lands west of the Oder, conquered the seaboard as far as the island of Rügen, and finally compelled the untamed Lyutitzi to do him homage. In order to complete the conversion of the conquered tribes, Boleslav called to his assistance Otto, Bishop of Bamberg, who, though a German, had learned Polish during his residence as chaplain at the Polish court. The prince and the bishop succeeded in establishing Christianity in Eastern Pomerania in 1124-25, in Western Pomerania in 1128. The success of this great crusade was crowned by the inauguration of a new bishopric at Wollin for the western region, the eastern region being placed under the diocese of Kujawia. It was this eastern province of Pomerania which was destined, despite many vicissitudes, to give Poland an outlet to the sea, to preserve a remnant of its Slav population, the Kashubes, and to possess in the village of Gdansk a centre which was to become, by German enterprise under Polish protection, the great port of Danzig. Boleslav’s campaigns in the West were cut short by events in Hungary (1132-1135) which brought him into relations with the Emperor Lothar III, to whom at Merseburg in 1135 he did homage for Pomerania and Rügen.

The firm rule of Boleslav maintained order in Poland, while his zeal for the Church resulted in certain improvements in ecclesiastical organisation and encouraged the growing influence of the Church on education and morality. His chaplain, Martin Gallus, wrote the first Polish chronicle. Foreign trade began to transform such castles as Wroclaw (Breslau) and Cracow into cities, and a great advance in civilisation was made during his reign. No ruler of Poland did more for his country than Boleslav III. A great warrior, almost invariably victorious, he also spread the Christian religion both in Poland and among the pagan Slavs. He sowed the seeds of Western culture in his backward country, and shewed how the deepest respect for the ideas and institutions of Western Europe could be combined with a glowing patriotism and a firm resolve to resist the encroachments of his western neighbours. Before his death in 1138, Boleslav drew up a will to determine the succession to the throne, which effected a great change in the internal constitution of the State. Hitherto, while the succession as determined by the will of the dying prince had usually involved a division of territory among his sons, in practice one son, by personal prestige or after civil war, had obtained the sole power.

Boleslav III had been convinced by the long civil war with his own brother that, in order to avoid future dissension among his numerous sons, it would be best to divide the country among them. By his will, therefore, he bequeathed Silesia to his eldest son, Vladyslav, Mazovia and Kujawia to Boleslav, Greater Poland to Mieszko, and Sandomierz to Henry, the youngest son Casimir being too young to receive a principality. In order to preserve the unity of the State, he established out of Cracow, Sieradz, and Lenczyca a suzerain principality, which, together with the tribute from Pomerania and the Oder district, was to be held by the eldest Piast, who was invested in this way with the Seniorat or suzerain power over the younger members of the dynasty. The capital was no longer to be at Gniezno (Gnesen), the chief city of Greater Poland, but at Cracow, the chief city of the new suzerain principality. Such was the scheme. But the circumstances of the time combined to carry Boleslav’s project not only far beyond the decentralisation which he had intended, but almost to the complete and permanent disruption of the Polish State. The immediate success of the scheme depended on the altruism and enlightenment of his sons, and it was soon apparent that these qualities were lacking in them.

But more fundamental factors were working against the unity of Poland. In the first place, the administration of so large a country by one prince, with the scanty resources and inadequate machinery of a backward State in the early Middle Ages, was only practicable with a ruler of extraordinary energy and ability. Secondly, not only had traditions of tribal separation in the great provinces never died out, but there was now a class of magnates, growing up in each province and holding estates there, to voice the old claims. For instance, the Pomeranian wars had brought both military glory and fresh territory to Greater Poland, but they had brought no gain to the rising aristocracy of Cracow and Sandomierz, which was by class interest opposed to the enhancement of the monarchy and was directed by political interests to the neighbouring Russian principalities. Still less did such wars affect Mazovia, where the people were backward, half pagan, and resembled more their barbarian neighbours the Prussians than they did the westernised magnates of Greater Poland or Silesia. At this time ethnographical boundaries were not sharply defined, and the border population of Silesia had much in common with the Czechs, just as there was a population half Polish and half Russian on the Wieprz and San. Thus the foreign relations of one province did not concern the other provinces. Moreover, the magnates found it easier to deal with several princes than with one prince, and the establishment of several courts, each with its own hierarchy of official gave them wider opportunities for advancement. All these factors combined to intensify the division of Poland, and so for nearly two centuries Poland was split up into a number of provinces—Greater Poland or Wielko-Polska, Silesia, Kujawia, Mazovia, Sandomierz, and 29—2 others, each with its own prince, its Wojewoda and other officials, its own army, and its own customary law. The only surviving factors of unity were the nominal suzerainty of the prince at Cracow and the influence of the Church, the head of which continued to reside at the ancient capital Gniezno.


The partition of Poland designed by Boleslav III proved extraordinarily permanent. The descendants of Vladyslav continued to rule Silesia till the middle of the seventeenth century. The line of Mieszko ruled Greater Poland till its extinction in 1296. On the death of Boleslav his son, and Henry, their principalities passed to the youngest son Casimir, one of whose grandsons founded the Mazovian line which lasted till 1526; the other inherited Kujawia and became the ancestor of the later kings. For some time after the death of Boleslav the princely power remained as strong as before. Vladyslav II (1138-1146), the first Grand Prince, held Cracow as well as his own province of Silesia, the suzerainty over Pomerania, and other sovereign rights such as the nomination of the archbishop, direction of foreign affairs, and command of the common army. The new prince, at the instigation of his Austrian wife Agnes, attempted to reunite all the provinces under monarchical rule, but the magnates and clergy stood firmly by the Partition and supported his younger brothers against him. After a long struggle, in which Vladyslav made use of Russian allies and even called in the Prussians and Jadzwings, he was defeated, and the senior throne passed to his brother Boleslav IV (1146-1173). The exiled prince succeeded in enlisting the support of the King of the Romans, Conrad III, whom he accompanied on his Crusade. Conrad’s intervention in Poland was fruitless, but his powerful successor, Frederick I, invaded Poland, penetrated as far as Poznafi, and forced Boleslav to submit. By the peace of Krzyszkowo in 1157 a Polish prince—for the last time—admitted the ancient claim of the Emperor to overlordship, promising to pay him tribute, to appear at his court, to furnish 300 knights for his Italian campaigns, and to make peace with his brother. These promises were not all kept, and Boleslav, in refusing to admit a prince who was forced on Poland by German influence, was supported by the magnates and, in spite of a papal interdict, by the clergy. Vladyslav died in exile in 1159 and not till some, years later was Silesia restored to his sons, whose pro-Germanism became a permanent feeling in the Silesian branch of the Piast dynasty. At this time the German Marks were carrying out a rapid expansion in the Elbe and Oder lands. Under Henry the Lion and Albert the Bear, not only were the Obotrites and Lyutitzi finally subdued, but in 1181 the Pomeranian princes of Stettin became vassals of the Empire. These Slav lands were quickly settled with German colonists, and the Mark of Brandenburg began that career of steady conquest and assimilation of the Western Slavs which made it an aggressive and dangerous neighbour to Poland. Of the conquests of Boleslav III, only East Pomerania continued to recognise the suzerainty of the Polish prince, while the crusading spirit spent itself in ineffective attacks on the Prussians, in the course of which Henry of Sandomierz was killed. On the Russian side the position was better. The decline of Kiev had transferred the main strength of Russia to the remote north-east, so that Poland only had relations with Volhynia and the new principality of Halich (Galicia) which had grown out of Volodar’s principality of Przemysl. While the more distant provinces of Russia were developing autocratic tendencies (as in Suzdal) or republican institutions (as in Novgorod), in Halich, partly through Polish and Magyar influence, a strong aristocratic element was gaining predominance. The struggles of this class with its princes gave the neighbouring states constant opportunities for intervention. But the weakness of Poland made her military expeditions far less formidable than under the first three Boleslavs.

On the death of Boleslav IV, the third son of Boleslav III succeeded to the Grand Principality as Mieszko III surnamed the Old (1173-1177), a man of lofty ideals and a staunch upholder of the monarchical traditions of his house, who attempted in vain to curb the growing power of the aristocracy. The magnates of Cracow, headed by their Bishop Getko, rose against him, forced him to withdraw to his own province of Greater Poland, and called to the throne his younger brother Casimir II the Just (1177-1194), who renounced the obsolete despotism which had led to the downfall of his brothers and inaugurated a new policy of compromise. He conciliated the magnates, and at the Congress of Lenczyca in 1180 he granted certain privileges to the clergy. He sought and obtained the confirmation of his position from Pope Alexander III, and made no attempt to resist the Emperor when he sent his son to support Mieszko in 1184. Nor did he endeavour to reassert Polish claims to the western conquests of his father, but he occupied himself with Russian affairs. By alliance with his sister’s son, Roman of Volhynia, and by a policy of intervention in the quarrels of the numerous Russian princes, he obtained for Poland a strong position in Western Russia. This policy of moderation both in domestic and foreign affairs made his reign more peaceful than those of his predecessors, and enabled him to hold the large part of Poland which fortune threw into his hands. Already Prince of Sandomierz by the death of his brother Henry, of Greater Poland during the exile of Mieszko, and of Cracow by right of seniority, the premature death of his nephew Leszek gave him the vast territory of Kujawia and Mazovia. A lover of learning, he was the patron of the chronicler Vincent Kadlubek; and he was able to preserve such peace and prosperity as Poland was not to know for over a century. His death was followed by a long period of civil war between Mieszko and Casimir’s son. The latter was supported by the nobles, but it was not till the death of Mieszko that he Anally came to the suzerain throne as Leszek I the White (1202-1227). Following his father’s policy of an alliance with the Church, he managed to obtain the consent of the Pope to a fundamental change which destroyed the principle involved in the will of Boleslav III. This was the transformation of the suzerain principality of Cracow together with his own province of Sandomierz into a new principality to be hereditary in his own family, his younger brother receiving Kujawia and Mazovia. This new province, the ancient territory of the Vistulan tribe, which came to be known as Lesser Poland, Polonia Minor or Malo-Polska, to distinguish it from Greater Poland, thus ceased to be a transferable principality. The affairs of the Church bulked largely in the history of Poland at this time. Hitherto the Polish ecclesiastics had been prominent in Polish internal affairs rather as magnates than as representatives of the Western Church. Several of their leaders, in particular Henry Kietlicz, Archbishop of Gniezno, now began to support Pope Innocent III in his efforts to introduce into Poland the ecclesiastical organisation and discipline which were already universal in Western Europe. In 1215 a synod was held at which the clergy swore to maintain celibacy. But only reluctantly did the princes surrender their sovereign power. Gradually, in the different principalities, ecclesiastics were released from the jurisdiction of the civil courts, the right of the chapters to elect their bishops was conceded, and various other curtailments of princely prerogatives were made in Poland, while externally Leszek formally placed his country under the power of the Holy See. The most important external event of Leszek’s reign was the extinction of the dynasty of Volodar in Halich, whereupon the Polish prince followed his father’s policy of supporting Roman, who united Halich to his own principality of Volhynia and thus established a powerful State which maintained its independence till 1340. Roman, however, refused to pay the homage which Leszek had demanded, and during an invasion of Poland was defeated and killed at Zawichost in 1205. In the long civil wars which ensued, the diplomacy and arms of Hungary triumphed over those of Poland, but, after a short period of Hungarian rule, the principality was ultimately regained by Roman’s son Daniel. The death of Leszek in 1227 was followed by a new war of succession. His son was too young to reign and was placed by the magnates of Lesser Poland in charge of Henry, Prince of Wroclaw, who, after a struggle with Conrad of Mazovia made himself Grand Prince as Henry I the Bearded (1234- 1238). Grandson of Vladyslav II, in his own right prince of Lower Silesia, guardian of the princes of Upper Silesia, master by right of conquest of Cracow and Greater Poland, Henry was the eldest, the most powerful, and the ablest of the Piasts of his time. So great was his prestige that he was able to hand down Silesia and Cracow without opposition to his son Henry II the Pious (1238-1241), who inherited many of his father’s qualities. Unfortunately, the reigns of these two princes were too short to allow them to effect the permanent reunion of the Polish provinces. But their careers mark a first effort to restore the dignity of the monarchy and nearly resulted in the restoration of a Polish State with its main strength in Silesia, a development which was abruptly terminated by the calamity of the Mongol invasion.

During the thirteenth century, the acts of the Grand Princes of Poland are overshadowed by two events of primary importance for Central Europe—the settlement of the Germans in Prussia, and the Mongol invasion and its consequences. After the conversion of the Pomeranians, the only large group of pagans left in Central Europe were the tribes of the Letto-Lithuanian stock—a race quite distinct from the Slavs, but brought into contact with them from the earliest times. With the Lettish tribes on the Dvina Poland had in the Middle Ages no connexion. The Lithuanians, dwelling in the dense forests of the river Niemen and its tributaries, had relations with the Russians from an early date, but were not an aggressive people before the thirteenth century and were little known to the Poles. The western members of the group, however, the Prussians and the Jadzwings or Yatvags, their fierce and restless neighbours on the north and north-east, had long presented a difficult problem for Poland. All attempts to conquer or convert the Prussians, from the time of St Adalbert and Boleslav I, had failed. Stubbornly pagan, fierce plunderers of their neighbours, inaccessible in their marshes from the Vistula to the Niemen, they had long been the terror of the Kujawian and Mazovian borderlands. The Jadzwings, who occupied the vast forest of Belovezh from Grodno on the Niemen to Brest on the Bug, a people whose ethnic origin is still a matter of debate, were quite unknown to history, save as barbarous and persistent raiders of Mazovia, Sandomierz, and the Russian province of Volhynia. Mazovia had suffered so much from the continual ravages of these barbarians, that it had lagged behind the other provinces of Poland in civilisation and had become a sort of Polish Ukraine or borderland with a half-wild population habituated to irregular warfare. Conrad of Mazovia, the brother of Leszek I, was seized with the ambition to emulate the conqueror of Pomerania, and to convert the Prussian pagans to Christianity and make them Polish subjects. Innocent III supported him with apostolic zeal, and when a monk named Christian succeeded in converting the Prussians of Chelmno, he made him Bishop of Prussia in partibus. A crusade was preached not only in Poland but in Germany, but the campaigns of 1219 and 1222 were fruitless and the borderlands suffered more than ever. Conrad then followed the example of the Bishop of Riga, who had established an Order of Knights to conquer the Letts, and founded the Dobrzyn Brotherhood. When the Brotherhood was almost annihilated in 1224, Conrad and Christian resolved to call to their aid the Teutonic Knights of St Mary.

This Order, which had fought in Palestine and for a short time in Transylvania, was granted the districts of Chelmno or Kulm and Nieszawa on the northern borders of Kujawia in return for assistance against the pagans. The Grand Master, Herman von Salza, hastened to obtain from the Emperor Frederick II and from the Pope the confirmation of Conrad’s donation and to place the Order under imperial and papal suzerainty with the right to the ownership of all territory to be won from the pagans. In 1230 the Knights settled in their new lands and began a systematic occupation of Prussian territory, founding castles at Torun, Chelmno, Marienwerder, Elbing, and Braunsberg. The first campaign under the leadership of Conrad himself was successful; and a great crusade in 1234, in which, besides the Order, many Polish princes, the Prince of Pomerania, and the Margrave of Meissen participated, culminated in a decisive victory at Sirgun which won for the Order the whole region of Chelmno and a part of Western Prussia. The Order incorporated in 1234 the Dobrzyn Knights and in 1237 the Livonian Knights of the Sw'ord, and soon conquered the greater part of Prussia. Warriors from all parts of Europe flocked to Prussia to join in this popular crusade, including such an illustrious monarch as Ottokar II of Bohemia after whom Konigsberg received its name. For most of the century the Polish princes co-operated zealously with the Order, and contributed no small part to its triumph, which was so sweeping that in 1283 the last Prussian leader Skurdo fled in despair to Lithuania. The Prussians were soon exterminated or assimilated and their lands were colonised by Polish and German settlers. The chief result of the Crusade was the establishment on the borders of Poland of a new German Power, a danger which was only realised by Sventopelk, Prince of Pomerania, who waged a long and desperate war (1241-1253) against the combined forces of the Knights and the Poles. His intervention, however, failed to avert the doom of the Prussians, who vanished from history leaving their name to their German conquerors. Only a thin strip of Pomerania now separated the German settlers in Prussia from the Neumark, which the rulers of Brandenburg were just forming out of newly annexed lands on the Lower Warta and Notec.

Poland was threatened, too, on another side by the rise of Lithuania—a further result of the conquest of Prussia. The united Orders, having occupied all the lands of the Prussians and Letts, began to threaten Lithuania itself on both sides. The small tribes of Lithuania, menaced with foreign conquest and stirred by the fate of their kinsriien the Prussians, who poured into their country as refugees, began to combine. Under their able prince Mindowe or Mendog (1219-1263) they had annexed part of the Russian borderlands and formed a State with its capital at Novgorodok, which speedily became a centre of resistance to German and Pole alike and a serious danger to the princes of Russia. Lithuanians took an increasing share in the raids of the Jadzwings on Poland. The Poles, while assisting the Knights against Prussians and Lithuanians, co­operated with Daniel of Halich against the Jadzwings. They were so far successful that by a victory at Zawichost in 1264 they broke the power of these barbarians, who disappeared as a people at the same time as the Prussians. Their land, which came to be known as Podlasia, was colonised by Russian settlers from Volhynia and Poles from Mazovia. During the life­time of Mendog, Lithuania was always formidable, although on his death its military strength was for a time wasted in civil dissension. Poland thus saw a powerful new nation formed on her eastern borders at a time when a still more terrible foe was attacking her from the south-east.

The Black Sea steppes had been occupied for two hundred years by the Kipchak Turks, known to the Russians as the Polovtsy, to Western Europe as the Cumans. The valour of Russian and Magyar arms had protected Europe from all fear of these nomads. But a more organised nomad power was now to fall on Europe—the Mongol Empire of Jenghiz Khan, which in 1224 conquered the Kipchaks and defeated the Russians. Batu Khan, who in the years 1237-1240 had swept over Russia and devastated the whole country, proceeded to invade Central Europe. In 1241 the Mongol host invaded the kingdom of Halich and poured into Poland, devastating just those parts of the country which had not suffered from the raids of the Prussians. The only serious resistance offered was at Liegnitz, where Henry the Pious fell, valiantly fighting, with ten thousand Polish knights. The Mongols retreated, leaving Poland free, but they kept Russia under their direct rule and became the neighbours of Poland, which they continually plundered, in one raid in 1259 working more havoc than in their first invasion. The half century following the Mongol invasion is the darkest period in Polish history. During the reigns of Boleslav V the Chaste (1243-1279) and Leszek II the Black (1279-1288), internal dissensions rendered impossible any attempt to resist German aggression or to check the terrible raids of the Mongols and Lithuanians. Further, Daniel of Halich made an agreement with the Pope, was crowned king in 1254, and increased his power by a close alliance with the successors of Mendog. Thus on all sides of Poland there were powerful States ready to take advantage of her weakness.

An important result of the devastation committed by the Mongols was a great immigration into Poland of German colonists. This movement had begun some time before. German mass-colonisation had long since crossed the Oder and begun to invade not only Pomerania, but Silesia and Greater Poland. The Piast princes of Silesia from the time of Vladyslav II had welcomed German settlers. By the middle of the thirteenth century all the Polish princes were anxious to receive settlers who would cultivate their lands, ruined and depopulated by the persistent raids of the Prussians and Lithuanians and by the still more terrible depredations of the Mongols. Such peasants Germany was sending forth in large numbers in the years when the decline of the central authority made the life of the lower classes far from secure. Consequently, the immigration of Germans took on enormous proportions and became more and more a danger to Polish nationality, since they came not as individuals but in groups, which by treaty with Polish princes established themselves with their own institutions in Poland. This great wave of immigration poured both into the towns and over the countryside. One group would settle in a town, after making an agreement with the prince to form an autonomous community, not under Polish, but under that German law which came to be known as Magdeburg law from the city which was its model and to which such a community had a right to appeal. Such a town governed itself through a Council under its own elected head and possessed its own law courts. It was free from all burdens except the payment of rent to the prince on whose land it was settled. Not only were new German towns founded in this way, but the old Polish towns, too, became Germanised and received privileges under Magdeburg law. Wroclaw in 1241 became German Breslau, while Poznan (Posen), Cracow, Sandomierz, and Lublin were similarly transformed. In the same way German peasants formed village communities with full autonomy and were free of all the burdens which fell on the Polish peasants. Such was the widespread penetration by Germans that it appeared as if Poland, already a political nonentity, would soon disappear as a nation. Parts of the country such as Lower Silesia became definitely German at this time, and the new communities all over Poland, particularly in the towns, soon revealed themselves as a political element which, if not actively in alliance with the enemies of Poland, was decidedly indifferent to Polish national interests. With the Germans there came a considerable Jewish population which received wide concessions such as the Charter of Boleslav V in 1264.

But this influx of German settlers was not altogether an evil. Besides enabling the Poles to repopulate the devastated areas and even to reclaim marshland and forest that had never been tilled, and so revive the economic prosperity of their country, the German element was valuable both because of its own qualities and also as a model for the Poles. The German peasant brought with him the iron plough, the three-field system of agriculture, methods of clearing forest and reclaiming marsh quite unknown to the backward Pole, who soon began not only to imitate his methods, but to envy his liberty and to claim similar privileges. Soon the Polish princes and magnates were granting to the Poles all the privileges of the Germans, and by these concessions the whole position of the Polish peasantry was transformed, and a period of peasant freedom and prosperity began which lasted for two hundred years. Further, the new settlers began to spread Western ideas not only in the courts of princes and magnates, but in the towns and villages. Such foreign communities as the religious Orders were encouraged to settle in Poland, and some of them, particularly the Cistercians, contributed greatly to the social, moral, and economic advance of the country. The towns such as Breslau, Poznan (Posen), and Cracow became important centres of trade, and industry was organised by the new gild institutions. So rapid was the growth of population that the Poles themselves began to spread beyond their ethnographic frontiers, especially the enterprising Mazovians, who colonised the greater part of the Jadzwing country and the south of Prussia, while the Lesser Poles colonised the Lublin plateau and advanced over the Wieprz, the Bug, and the San from Brest to the Carpathians. The Kujawians and Greater Poles made an advance down the Vistula and into South Pomerania. All these movements, though they did not attain their full power till later, began in the later years of the thirteenth century. Even the political disintegration of Poland was not without its advantages. It enabled the local prince and his magnates to devote their resources exclusively to the development of one small area. The different provinces began to display different tribal qualities and to express each its own individuality. The superior education and political sense of the inhabitants of Greater Poland were in striking contrast to the wealth and rude turbulence of the freedom-loving magnates of Lesser Poland or to the restless enterprise and poverty of the backward Mazovians. Such an expression of tribal independence was an inevitable preliminary to any real centralisation of Polish institutions.

Communities absorbed in their own local affairs could learn only from long experience the necessity for combination; and that such a lesson was being learned was obvious towards the end of the thirteenth century. On the death of Leszek II in 1288 a host of claimants appeared, but after the short reign of Henry Probus (1289-1290), Prince of Breslau, a Germanised ruler who recognised the overlordship of the Empire and was elected by the support of the German elements in Poland, three strong candidates emerged—Przemyslav of Greater Poland, Vladyslav of Kujawia, and Wenceslas, King of Bohemia. Wenceslas received support from the Germanised princes of Silesia and certain elements in Cracow, and was able to occupy the capital. But Przemyslav was supported by the patriotic Poles of his own principality, and by Vladyslav who nobly withdrew his candidature. His personal possessions were enhanced by East Pomerania, which was bequeathed to him by its last prince, Mesezuj II, and which he snatched from the grasping hands of Brandenburg. Supported by the revival of national feeling in Greater Poland, especially among the clergy, Przemyslav II made a determined effort to save Poland from foreign domination and, with the consent of the Pope, had himself crowned at Gniezno (Gnesen) as king in 1295. This new attempt to reunite Poland, emanating from Greater Poland instead of Silesia, was frustrated by the assassination of the king in the next year at the instigation of the Margrave of Brandenburg. The magnates of Greater Poland at once proclaimed Vladyslav king, but Wenceslas, already in occupation of Lesser Poland, began to seize the other provinces, and, forcing Vladyslav to flee, had himself crowned in Gniezno (Gnesen) as King of Poland (1300-1305), thus making Poland once more a vassal State of the Empire. At the beginning of the new century the national revival in Greater Poland had failed, and that province began to fall under the influence of the princes of Silesia, while Pomerania was left to its fate, and Mazovia, backward and indifferent, was subdivided into a number of small principalities. Only in Vladyslav of Kujawia did a spark of hope survive. On the extinction of the Hungarian house of Arpad in 1301, all Central Europe seemed to fall into the hands of the Premyslids of Bohemia, but the death of Wenceslas in 1305, followed by the murder of his only son in the next year, left the question of the succession in Poland, as in Bohemia and Hungary, once more open.


The partitional period is marked by rapid and sweeping changes in the constitution of the Polish community. The eleventh century had witnessed the steady development of a monarchy intent on its great task of welding the scattered clans into a State. By the end of the century the disruption of the clans was complete. The aristocratic elements had been attracted to the prince’s court; the other enterprising individuals had acquired estates all over the country. The weaker clans or weaker elements in the clans had sunk to a position of dependence on the prince, on the Church, or on the knights on whose estates they worked. The centre of the prince’s local administration was the Grod or castle under his deputy, the Kasztelan. The Grod was both a fortress and a centre of the prince’s domain. Round it were grouped the peasants in their Hundreds and Tens—an organisation which lasted till the thirteenth century—or in the later territorial units, the Opola. To this large class of dependants must be added the slaves. The prince’s administration had become supreme. The power of the clans gave way to the ius ducale. In the twelfth century, however, the prince found himself forced to extend his resources to meet the requirements of his wider commitments. To secure the co-operation of the Church—his partner in the work of unification—to obtain more officials and soldiers, he was compelled to make wide concessions, at first to individuals and institutions, then to whole groups. Such concessions took the form of a Przywilej or charter, by which the prince not only conferred land, exemption from taxation, and other “immunities,” but also defined the status of the individual, institution, or group in question, and so gave up part of his sovereign power. The period from the end of the twelfth century to the death of Casimir the Great is distinguished by the transformation of the com­munity on the basis of such individual privileges. Thereafter the monarch had to deal with definite classes, which were in process of formation in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. As the charters conferred tended to conform to certain types, so the individuals receiving them tended to combine into groups with common interests. Such groups crystallised into fixed classes.

The first group to benefit by such privileges was the Church. Not only were charters granted to ecclesiastical landowners, but monastic communities received large grants of land. The Cistercians received a charter in 1140, the Dominicans in 1223; above all the Teutonic Order obtained wide privileges. Besides the clergy, the townsmen and peasants received considerable “immunities” under German law and formed new and important groups. More complex and more important was the evolution of the upper class. We have seen alongside the magnates, or nobiles, the rise of a group of milites who tended to be identified with the former in status, if not in wealth or influence. After the acquisition of an hereditary estate and the attainment of extensive rights over his dependants, a miles desired to make his position secure by some outward symbol. Coats of arms were used in Poland in the twelfth century, in imitation of Western Europe, but were at first temporary marks of individual prowess. In the thirteenth century, however, such arms tended to become hereditary. Now the Polish knights were distinguished from the knights of other Western countries in that they had only recently emerged from the clan stage. Instead of the adoption of a coat of arms by one family, the knights of a whole district, in which the bond of clanship was still strong, adopted a common coat of arms. Further, the war-cry or slogan which along with other clan traditions was rapidly sinking into desuetude, was revived and used along with the coat of arms. Thus, a Polish miles was distinguished by his Christian name and the name of the slogan, which he shared with other members of his clan. Only much later did he begin to adopt a surname, almost invariably taken from the name of his estate. It is premature to speak of the Szlachta or gentry as a class in the thirteenth century, but it was in process of crystallisation, and its connexion with the earlier clan system is an important factor in the evolution of a class which was to be relatively more numerous, more independent of authority, and more provincially-minded than the knighthood of any other State.

With the multiplication of princely courts, the Polish knights, and particularly the magnates, found a wide field for their energies, and by their numbers and their growing tendency to combine, they became a power to be reckoned with by the princes, and the local officials became rather territorial magnates than officers of the prince. Thus the Wojewoda became the head of the province rather than the agent of the ruler, and the Kasztelan ceased to function as a royal official, like the counts and barons of the West. The prince began to seek a new class of officials more like the French bailli. Such officials were established by the Czech King Wenceslas. The new office of Starosta was adopted in Poland as an institution separate from the old territorial hierarchy. But it was inevitable that the growing power of the magnates should find some means of expression. The prince in order to seek advice and support was accustomed to call together a Wiec or council, at first simply composed of the officials. Gradually he began to summon the territorial magnates from time to time to discuss questions of policy, and continued to do so even after the Starosta had superseded the older officials. But such a Wiec was limited to one province. As yet there was no common council for all Poland. There was a Wiec for Greater Poland, another for Lesser Poland, another for Mazo via. The different principalities were, in fact, separate States bound together loosely by a common dynasty and a common Church. The very name of Poland was little used and generally meant Greater Poland, while the princes strove to obtain “the throne of Cracow,” not of Poland. At the beginning of the fourteenth century the Poles were rapidly assimilating Western ideas; although hopelessly weak politically, they were learning to combine under one ruler; but of the consolidation of the separate provinces into one organic whole there could be no immediate hope.


HUNGARY, 1000-1301


The Magyars of Ural-Altaic stock established in the midst of the Slav nations were bound of necessity to feel the influence of these settled neighbours, who had reached a higher stage in Christian and European civilisation than they had themselves. Two words which still exist in Hungarian political vocabulary will suffice to prove this influence: “liberty” is called szabadsag, which represents the Slavonic svoboda; the “king” is Koraty, from the Slavonic Icral, which itself represented the Germanic name of Karl (Charlemagne, the king par excellence), just as in Russia the title of Tsar perpetuated the name of Caesar. The conversion to Christianity introduced the use of Latin among the upper classes; this facilitated closer relations in intellectual matters with the non-Magyar peoples, and up to the Reformation there is no question of linguistic conflicts in medieval Hungary.

The official entry of the Magyars into the family of Christian nations dates from the end of the tenth century. It was a Czech, Vojtech, otherwise called Adalbert, who, in the town of Gran (Esztergom), baptised the son of Duke Geza, destined to be canonised under the name of St Stephen.

Stephen I reigned from 997 to 1038. He brought Christian Hungary into relations with the neighbouring states, with Poland and with Venice. After the heathen chieftain Arpad, it is in Stephen that the Magyars see the second founder of their nation. Up to the most recent times the crown of Hungary has been called the crown of St Stephen. The prince carried on an energetic struggle against a heathen prince, Kopany, who saw serious danger in the introduction of a new faith. As skilful in diplomacy as he was valiant in war, Stephen entered into direct negotiations with the Pope to obtain the exemption of Pannonia from the claims of the German bishops of Lorch and Salzburg, and sent an embassy to Rome to place Hungary under the protection of the Papacy. The latter, in after years, shewed its gratitude by admitting him to the number of the saints.

The Pope cordially welcomed the homage laid at his feet, granted to the king the crown of which we have just spoken, and authorised the establishment of an archbishopric at Gran, and of any bishoprics which the king might wish to set up. Thus Hungary achieved ecclesiastical independence of Germany. He bestowed on the king, in addition, the privilege of having the cross carried before him, as a symbol of the apostolic power with which he was invested.

On 15 August 1000, Stephen was crowned at Gran with the crown which the supreme pontiff had sent to him. In this connexion we may mention a detail which deserves notice. The crown which is still shewn today, and which bears the name of St Stephen, is not the crown sent by the Pope. It is a Byzantine work, the gift of the Byzantine Emperor Michael Ducas, who reigned from 1071 to 1078.

Stephen was the first organiser of political life in the kingdom. The kingdom was completely unified and was not divided up into appanages. Latin was the language at once of the Church and of the administration. The king, the supreme overlord, was surrounded by a body which the authorities call sometimes regalis senatus, sometimes regale or commune concilium. From the political point of view the country was divided into counties under counts (finspan}. This word is derived from the Slavonic (zupan) as are many other words in the language of politics and administration. We need only cite the word udvornik, which designates the intermediate class between noble and serf (from dvor, a court or dwelling­place). The same word supplied the name of the chief official of the kingdom, analogous to the Anglo-Norman justiciar, the count-palatine, vice-president of the royal court (nador, Slavonic na dvor). Christian customs in these primitive times were in certain respects in accord with the barbarous system of ancient days. The loss of a limb by violence was compensated by the loss of a similar limb. It is the application of the old biblical precept; an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. All free­men served in the army. To muster all the warriors, it was enough to send a bloodstained sword through every county.

Stephen had drawn up for his son Emeric a book of instructions, some of which are very remarkable. He notes that Hungary is not inhabited solely by Magyars, but also by “strangers,” hospites. “Be kindly towards these strangers,” he writes, “for they bring knowledge and light into thy country. They are the ornaments of the throne. The kingdom, in which a single language and a single set of customs prevail is weak.”

From the religious point of view the kingdom was divided into ten dioceses, dependent on the diocese of Gran. Their sees were Kalocsa, Vcszprém, Pecs (Ipek), Bores (Borsa), Raab, Erlau, Csanád, Nagy-Vdrad (Grosswardein), and Fehervar in Transylvania. In the early twelfth century, however, a second province was formed under the archbishopric of Kalocsa. Stephen also founded abbeys to which Benedictine monks were summoned. Schools were built in these abbeys. The religious edifices were built by Italian and Byzantine architects.

Among the inhabitants of certain towns, particularly old Buda, Gran, Raab (of which the Magyar name is Gyor, and the Latin name Arrabona), we early find a large number of German hospites. The towns enjoyed municipal self-government under the supervision of the foispan (count) or the bishop.

At the beginning of Stephen’s reign private property did not exist. No property was known but that of the state or the tribe. The king suppressed tribal property and ordained that every citizen might retain and bequeath to his children the possessions which he might have acquired personally or received as a gift from the sovereign.

An aristocratic caste began to be formed, and seems to have been divided into two classes. The first includes the counts, the bishops, the higher officers of the army, probably the descendants of the chieftains of the tribes which once invaded the plain of the Danube. The second was more specially made up of knights. The common people possessed no landed property.

The king was the supreme fountain of justice and in certain cases acted personally as judge. The great ecclesiastical, civil, or military dignitaries appeared before the royal court, which was presided over by the sovereign, or, in his absence, by the count-palatine. The royal court served as a court of appeal against judgments delivered by the comites from the bishoprics, the towns, or the villages. Single combat was admitted as a judicial test. Penalties were very severe. The man who sowed dissension among the king’s subjects was condemned to lose his tongue. The right of asylum in the churches was refused to a conspirator against the king or against the kingdom. Some crimes were punished according to the social position of the offender. A count who murdered his wife paid her family fifty head of cattle; a knight, in similar circumstances, ten.

The immediate successors of St Stephen are of little interest. But special mention should be made of Ladislas (Laszld) I, who was also surnamed the Saint (1077-1095). This prince had the skill to make himself independent equally of the Pope and of the Emperor. He obtained from the court of Rome the canonisation of Stephen and of his son Emeric. He fought successfully against the foreign peoples who were, besides, blood relations of the Magyars—the Cumans and the Patzinaks—caused them to settle in his kingdom, and converted them to the Christian faith. By forcing Croatia to accept a Magyar prince, his nephew Ahnos, son of King Geza I, Ladislas prepared the way for the union of that country with Hungary. He took severe measures against those of his subjects who returned to paganism, and against those who committed theft or acts of violence.

At a great assembly held at Szabolcs in 1092 he promulgated laws upon religious matters. They authorised the marriage of priests, contrary to the traditions of the Roman Church, regularised the collection of tithes, and enacted rigorous penalties against serfs who worked on Sunday. The Church, which from the king’s successor secured the revocation of the permission of clerical marriage, grateful for his zeal, made Ladislas a saint.

He was succeeded by Koloman, who reigned from 1095 to 1114. Like his father, this prince was a reforming monarch and a champion of justice and order. His Great Road, which was loug a main artery, shows his appreciation of the value of commerce. When the crusaders passed through Hungary, he entered into relations with Godfrey of Bouillon, and succeeded in preserving his kingdom from the excesses of troops not noted for their discipline. The most important event of his reign was the acquisition of Croatia. This Slavonic province, which today forms part of the Jugo-Slav state, had up till that time been an independent kingdom. Koloman succeeded in obtaining his own recognition as king and was crowned King of Croatia in the town of Bielegrad (Zara Vecchia), which today is no more than a wretched hamlet south of Zara but was in those days the seat of a bishopric. This Bielegrad has nothing but its name in common with the present capital of Jugo-Slavia. The word means the white castle, and is found no less than five times in Slavonic countries. At that period, we cannot too often insist upon it, the use of Latin entirely obscured the difference between the Ural-Altaic Magyar tongue and the Slavonic Serbo-Croatian language spoken by their neighbours of Croatia and Dalmatia. Koloman, at a diet held near Zara in 1108, had to swear to allow no Magyar to enter the Croatian countries without the permission of the natives. The Venetians at that time occupied part of the eastern coast of the Adriatic. Koloman took from them the towns of Split (Spalato), Zadar (Zara), Trogir (Trau); it was only for a time, it is true, for they were lost again to the sea-power within a generation

Henceforward the destinies of the Croatian nation were associated with those of the Magyar state; but they were never confounded with them. In virtue of the agreement of 1108 Croatia preserved the right to control its own internal constitution, its national army, and its financial system.

The reign of Geza II (1141-1161) is marked by an event no less considerable than the union with Croatia for the growth and prosperity of the Hungarian monarchy: the arrival of Saxon colonists in northern Hungary and Transylvania. The colonists obtained a guarantee of what was, in effect, self-government. They had a national assembly which was called universitas nationis Saxonicae.

The reign of Bela III (1173-1196) brought his country into closer connexion with Western Europe. He married princess Margaret of France, sister of Philip Augustus and widow of prince Henry of England. On the occasion of this marriage he caused an inventory of the revenues of his kingdom to be compiled, perhaps a trace of the influence of the English Domesday Book. The struggles in which he engaged against his neighbours the Russians of Kiev extended Hungarian ambitions north of the Carpathians into Galicia (Halich). The relations of Hungary with foreign countries began to multiply. King Louis VII of France and Conrad III, King of the Romans, had passed through the kingdom in 1147 on their way to the Crusades. Magyar students travelled to Paris to enrol themselves at the university there.

In the reign of Andrew II (1203-1235) the Golden Bull of 1222, which is the Magna Carta of Hungary, was promulgated. At the head of this document the sovereign takes the titles of hereditary King of Hungary, Dalmatia, Croatia, Rascia (or Serbia proper), Galicia, and Lodomeria (which preserves the name of a Russian prince called Vladimir). The Golden Bull contains thirty-one articles, of which the following are the most important. The king promises to summon a diet every year at the town of Szekes-Fehervar (Alba Regia, Stuhl Weissenburg), to imprison no noble without previous trial and condemnation not before himself but before the count-palatine, to levy no taxes upon the estates of the nobles and ecclesiastics, and henceforward to receive tithes in kind and not in money. Foreigners are forbidden to possess landed property. While the provisions were undoubtedly in the interest of the nobles, that is the free landholders, as a whole, they also, in accordance with the strong State-tradition of Hungary, checked the rise of feudalism proper, for it was definitely decreed that, like other great officers of the Crown, the counts should be removable for misconduct and not be hereditary in tenure, thus providing another analogy in their position to the English sheriffs.

Seven copies of the great charter were engrossed, and these were placed in the hands of the Pope, of the king, of the chapters of the cathedrals of Gran and Kalocsa, of the Knights Hospitallers, of the Templars, and one in charge of the count-palatine, whose special duty it was to watch over the observation of this fundamental law. If the king were to violate it, the bishops and nobles were empowered to resist sine nota alicuius infidelitatis. This article has often been invoked in the history of Hungary. It is similar to the provision for resistance, if the king infringes his concessions in Magna Carta. During the year 1231 an article which forbade Jews and Mohammedans to fill public offices was added to the text of the charter. Taken as a whole, the Golden Bull testifies to a remarkably early development of constitutional and parliamentary rights only paralleled in Spain and England in the thirteenth century. The tumultuary diet, formed by the attendance in person of the nobles, both greater and lesser, was the most archaic of such assemblies, but proved quite capable of concerted action, and of limiting the absolutism of the monarchy. Like John Lackland of England, Andrew II attached his name to a document of the highest importance, but he was himself essentially a mediocre and characterless ruler.

His son Bela IV (1235-1270) saw Hungary laid waste by a terrible plague, the invasion of the Mongols. These Mongols belonged originally to the same race as the Magyars. But the latter had become Christians and Europeans. They had ennobled their primitive stock by intermarriage with neighbouring peoples. The Ottoman Turks, relations of the Mongols, founded a state which represents, all in all, some degree of civilisation. The Mongols, however, at least in Europe, could only massacre, pillage, and destroy. They were led by a Khan named Batu. They brought with them fire-arms, the use of which they had learned from the Chinese, and powerful siege-engines. They were admirably disciplined. Their arrival was the signal for an appalling panic. The bloodstained sword which was to call the whole population to arms was sent through the villages. The Cumans who formed the advance-guard of the Magyar armies were unable to check the invaders. The Mongols succeeded in capturing the town of Waitzen on the left bank of the Danube; its population was entirely destroyed, and had to be replaced later by German colonists. It was formerly the residence of the first princes of the Arpad line. A single ally offered his help to Bela to stem the plague, his neighbour, Frederick, Duke of Austria. The Cumans were accused of treason, and a certain number were put to death. In some districts the people, in exasperation, joined the invaders.

The Magyar army came into contact with that of the invaders in 1241 at Mohi on the banks of the Sajo, a tributary of the Theiss, but only to meet with a disastrous defeat. A hundred thousand men were slain, according to some accounts; others say sixty thousand. Fere extinguitur militia regni Hungariae, wrote the Emperor Frederick II. Pesth and Varad fell, Csanad was destroyed. The invasion was only checked by the Croats on the field of Grobnok not far from Fiume on the poast of Dalmatia.

King Bela, in terror, fled to Austria. Duke Frederick made him pay for his hospitality by the cession of three border counties. The fugitive vainly begged shelter from the Emperor Frederick II, whose vassal he offered to become, and had to seek refuge in the islands of Dalmatia. Fortunately for him, the invaders, recalled to Asia by circumstances of which we know little, suddenly retreated towards the countries from which they had come. Possibly they had heard of the death of the Great Khan, or possibly they feared that they would perish of starvation, since they had destroyed and ravaged everything.

The Magyar state was not as yet sufficiently civilised to have lost much in this period of torment. But one thing could not be replaced: the lost man-power. The gaps in the population were filled by German colonists.

We have related above how the unchivalrous Frederick of Austria had profited by the wretched situation of his neighbours to extort from them three counties. He was to be punished for this mean action. Bela, freed from the Mongols, demanded the return of his possessions, and fought a battle against Frederick on the banks of the stream which formed the boundary of the two states, that same Leitha which afterwards divided the two halves of the two-fold Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Frederick was killed in the battle, and Bohemia and Hungary disputed his succession. The quarrel was decided in favour of Bohemia. Her king, Premysl Ottokar II, proved himself generous. He had no wish, he said, by once more weakening Hungary, to lay open to the Mongols access to both kingdoms. He even married a daughter of the King of Hungary, the princess Constance.

During the very brief reign of Bela’s successor, Stephen V (1270-1272), a personage who was cleverly to exploit the rivalry between the two countries came on the scene. This was the King of the Romans, Rudolf of Habsburg. He secured an alliance with the young King of Hungary, Ladislas IV, called the Cuman (1272-1290), and pitted him against his rival the King of Bohemia, Premysl Ottokar II (1253-1278). Hungary, in striving to destroy Bohemia, was paving the way, little as she knew it, for the fortunes of Austria. Fifty-six thousand Hungarians and Cumans took part in the battle of Dürnkrut on the Marchfield, in which the fortunes of Premysl Ottokar were dashed to the ground (1278). Rudolf, in his letters, showed himself full of gratitude and affection towards the Magyars, “his dearly beloved children, flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone.” Twelve years later he vainly attempted to instal his son Albert as their king on the ground that Hungary was a fief of the Empire.

Ladislas the Cuman, in spite of this victory, was far from popular among the Magyars. He made himself hated on account of the favour he sheowed towards the race from which he derives his surname. In 1239 his predecessor Bela IV had received into the kingdom forty thousand representatives of these nomads and had settled them between the Danube and the Theiss. Ladislas, whose mother was a Cuman, remembered too well her race, and the Cumans presumed upon his predilection for them. At last the king was forced to take military measures against them; and they ended by murdering him. It was not until the following century, during the reign of Louis the Great, that they allowed themselves to be completely assimilated and were converted to Christianity. To this day their name is attached to two Hungarian counties: Great and Little Cumania (Nagy-Kunsag, Kis-Kunsag).

Ladislas IV left no male child. He had adopted a grandson of Andrew II, who was crowned by the name of Andrew III. The court of Rome, which favoured the house of Anjou, refused to recognise him. Charles Martel of Anjou invaded Croatia, and had himself crowned by the papal legate at Zagrab (Agram) in 1290; but he died in 1295, and the death of Andrew III, which took place during the year 1301, produced a new war of succession, for with him ended the dynasty of Arpad.

The princes of the line of Arpad created, in broad outline, the framework within which the Magyar nation was henceforth to develop. This framework included peoples of varied race, Slovaks related to the Czechs, Serbocroats, Roumanians, who all allowed themselves to be absorbed into a unity which, if not Magyar, was at all events Latin. The native languages did not count in public life. The idea of nationality or of historical right did not as yet exist. Right was created by conquest. Time and again the rulers of Hungary undertook military expeditions against the neighbouring peoples,and assumed the titles of King of Serbia, of Rama (Bosnia), of Galicia, of Lodomeria, and even of Bulgaria. But these ephemeral titles never represented an. effective and lasting sovereignty. For the most part the occupation was very brief.

The only important acquisition made by the dynasty of Arpad was Croatia. This province, which is today a part of the Jugo-Slav kingdom, had in early days formed an independent State lying between the republic of Venice and the Byzantine Empire. Its rulers bore the title of king. One of the most notable of its kings was Peter Kresimir (1059-1073). In 1076 Zvonimir was crowned by the papal legate, and received from him the standard, sword, and sceptre. In return for these good offices he recognised the overlordship of the Pope, and promised him an annual tribute of 800 gold bezants. He married Helen, sister of King Ladislas I of Hungary. In 1103-1108 Koloman, King of the Magyars, profiting by the anarchy which reigned in Croatia, laid hands, as we have seen, upon Croatia and the sea-coast of Dalmatia, although his successor, Stephen II (1114-1131), could not in the end retain all the latter acquisition.

Under the rule of the Magyar kings, the Croatian districts retailed the name of Slavonia, which revealed clearly enough their ethnographic character. The kings held the title Dalmatiae, Croatiae rex. They had as their lieutenants two officials called Bans. This title, which seems to be eastern in origin, continued to be employed for the viceroy of Croatia until the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian State. There were as a rule two bans, one for Croatia, the other for Dalmatia. The latter had his residence at Knin. The diets met now in one town, now in another. Up till the fifteenth century the Croats were not represented in the diet of Hungary proper.

The Hungarian Church was in communion with Rome; but it was divided into two sections by districts and liturgical language: the Latin section, which followed the Latin liturgy of the Roman Church, and the Slavonic (Glagolitic) section which employed the Latin liturgy in the Slavonic tongue. The alphabet they used differed from that employed in the Russian, Bulgarian, and Serbian churches, which was called Cyrillic, from the name of the apostle of the Slavs.

Transylvania, on the eastern borders of the kingdom of St Stephen, like Croatia on the west, had a clearly defined individuality both from the ethnographical and political point of view. This district, composed mainly of mountains and forests (its Latin name, Transylvania, alludes to the forests which surround the country, while its Magyar name Edily comes from Erdo, a forest), had been occupied successively by the Dacians, the Huns, the Gepids, the Avars, the Slavs, and the Magyars ; there were still to be found Roumanian inhabitants, like their kinsmen in Wallachia and Moldavia, and the frontier guards, a Magyar tribe, the Szekels, called in Latin Siculi, in German Szekler, whose native name seems to mean “guardian.” The origin of these Szekels is wrapped in mystery, and cannot here be discussed; they were always distinguished by certain peculiarities from the rest of the population. In the first centuries of history the situation of Transylvania as regards Hungary was this: Hungary was the caput, Transylvania the membrum.

We have just explained the name of this province as an allusion to its vegetation. In German it has another name, Siebenbürgen (in Slavonic Sedniskradsko), which seems to mean the province of the seven castles (Gyuba-Fehervar or Alba Transylvana, Hunyad, Kukullo, Torda, Kolozs, Doboka, and Szolnok), and has nothing to do with forests or mountains. It is not, however, certain that the name Siebenbürgen was not simply taken from that of the town called in Latin Cibinium, in Roumanian Sibenium, and in Magyar Nagy-Szeben, the population of which was made up of Germans, Roumanians, Magyars, and Jews. Each of these interpretations has its supporters. But we can at all events agree that at the time of the invasion a Magyar tribe occupied the province and there encountered the remnants of an ancient Roumanian civilisation.

Like the rest of Hungary, Transylvania was divided up into counties. We find in its provincial history three clearly marked groups of political importance: the Magyars, who form the, nobility, the Szekels, and the colonists who came from Germany, the Saxons. The Magyar group had at its head a voievode; the colonists, whose centre was at Nagy-Szeben, a count called in German Sachsengraf. The German colonists had come from Flanders, or from the Saxon provinces. In 1224 a royal privilege of Andrew II had gathered them into a single group subject to a single tribunal (unus populus sub uno iudice), the unwersitas Saaonum de Sibino. The special organisation under which the Saxons lived was to acquire considerable importance in the period after 1526 when the province of Transylvania formed an independent principality.