One of these extracts is from a paper read at the Tenth International Congress of Historical Sciences convening in Rome in His interests, as a writer, were in a sense equally diverse, for he ranged over all periods of history. Bachrach, “Pirenne and Charlemagne” , in which the author uses the Pirenne thesis as a launching pad for a review of Charlemagne’s career in order to highlight the great Carolingian monarch as “an excellent symbol for representing western civilization” and “for refocusing scholarly attention on the individual. It is also well established that these cities were the centers of an economic activity which itself was a survival of the preceding civilization. When, in the course of the fourth century, the frontiers gave way for the first time under their blows, they poured south- xvard in a living flood. It was one system of government which included all the lands from northern Brit- ain to the borders of Iraq, and from the Rhine and Danube to the Sahara. On the other hand, the barbarism by which the Roman system was faced in the fifth century, was not barbarism in general, but a particular form of it.

External Websites Britannica Websites. Rostovtzeff, one of the most important of Roman historians of the twentieth century. The trade of Marseilles did not suddenly cease but, from the middle of the seventh century, waned gradually as the Moslems advanced in the Mediterranean. They had their own notion of what was important, and most of what was essential in the classical period among the constituent parts of ancient civilization was discarded by them as futile and often detrimental. They served as prototypes for the oldest coins of Sweden and Poland, evident proof that they early penetrated, no doubt at the hands of the Norsemen, as far as the Baltic Sea. The last few years he was also Director of Archaeological Studies and was In charge of the work at Dura near ancient Babylon.

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Pirenne thesis – Oxford Reference

Portrait of Pirenne, c. Any text you add should be original, not copied from other sources.

Middle Ages Pirenne, Henri. Virtually nobody believes any more that the barbarian invasions of the fifth century marked a sharp turn in economic history, although most historians will admit that the meeting of German immaturity with Roman decrepitude accelerated the process of disintegration whose first symptoms can be traced as far back as the age of the Antonines.

pirenne thesis definition

XVpp. It continued to be active and well sustained, in marked con- trast with the growing apathy that charac- terized the inland provinces.


It stands as a monumental intellectual achievement. What developments distinguish Antiq- uity from the Middle Ages? According to him, medieval civilization began to take shape at the end of the tenth century after the Yhesis and the Hungarian invasions had ceased.

Henri Pirenne

Of a regular and normal commercial activity, of steady trading carried on by a class of professional merchants, in short, of all that constitutes the very essence of an economy of exchange worthy of the name, no traces are to be found after the closing off of the Mediterranean by the Islamic invasion.

When, in the course of the fourth century, the frontiers gave way for the first time under their blows, they poured south- xvard in a living flood. You can make it easier for us to review and, hopefully, publish your contribution by keeping a few points in mind.

And if this conception was that of a class of warrior-conquerors, there is but little doubt that it was held for so long because these warriors were, at the same time, merchants. The products of the East papyrus, spices, costly textiles, wine and oil were the basis of a regular import trade. Francis was not more civil- ized than Seneca, but he had wider and more subtle sympathies; and Abelard, Aquinas and Occam were better thinkers than Cicero and Pliny, although their ob- servation and experience were more limited.

Medieval civilization was more primitive than the Roman in externals, be- cause it lacked, for example, baths and roads; and in culture it was more primitive, because it lacked that natural intercourse between educated men and women, which existed in the Roman villas and city man- sions.

Undoubtedly it is to be explained only by a prodigious falling off of both trading and wealth. The first, the less extensive, was directly exploited by the proprietor; the second was divided, under deeds of tenure, among the peasants.

The sorry proceeds, which should have served to keep up the bridges, the From Medieval Cities 23 docks and the highways, were swallowed up by the functionaries who collected them.

It was organized in local congregations or Churches, each independent of the other, but connected by a common literature and ritual, and by the Councils of bishops.

Pirenne thesis

They did not indeed suffer from such vices of luxury as may be due to fine clothes, baths and thezis cooking. Henri Pirenne donated the majority of his personal library to the Academia Belgica in Rome.


At least a futile culture will be brought down to common earth. It is interesting to see how consistently the Merovingian dynasty tended, from that date on, to become in its turn a Mediterranean power.

Legal rights of ownership, marriage, inheritance and trade were clearly defined; and an official administration made them effectual. Put in the most general terms the ques- tion which Pirenne faced, and which as a consequenceVof his writing the whole of medieval scholarship has confronted since, is that of the relation of Roman Antiquity to the medieval vwrld of the First Europe.

The oriental merchants of the Prankish Empire were virtually engaged in wholesale trade. The Mediterranean was, without ques- tion, the bulwark of both its thesks and economic unity. Or again, to change the meta- phor, the early history of the First Europe treats of the roots of that great tree which has now expanded into modern science, modern music and arts, and modern skill in government.

pirenne thesis definition

His superb pleading and his personal charm won many converts. But they were not wrong in supposing that any form of civil- ized life is better than any barbarism, al- The First Europe though it is always difficult to distinguish the first signs of a new civilization from the barbarism by which it is surrounded. In brief, the Pirenne Thesis, an early essay in economic history diverging from the narrative history of the 19th century, notes that in the ninth century long-distance trading was at a low ebb; the only settlements that were not purely agricultural were the ecclesiastical, military and administrative centres that served the feudal ruling classes as fortresses, episcopal seats, abbeys and occasional royal residences of the peripatetic palatium.

His “Merchant Enterprise School” opposed Marxism but shared many of Marx’s ideas on the merchant class. Richard Hodges and David Whitehouse examine the archaeological evidence in the light of the Pirenne thesis. The Church had of course closely pat- terned the religious districts after the ad- ministrative districts of the Empire.

Pirenne’s history remains crucial to the understanding of Belgium’s past, but his notion of a continuity of Belgian civilization forming the basis of political unity has lost favor.