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Baldwin, M. W. (ed.) / The first hundred years

I: Western Europe on the Eve of the Crusades,   pp. [2]-29 PDF (10.8 MB)

Page 21

struggle against the Moslems, they took part neither in the affairs of Europe
as a whole nor in the early Crusades to the Holy Land. 
 The eleventh Century was a high point in the history of the Scandinavian
states, but, except for the conquest of England by king Swein of Denmark
and Canute his son, they had little to do with the rest of western Europe.
During the century Norway, Sweden, and Denmark were evangelized and their
kings built reasonably firm national governments. Under the vague over lordship
of these kings the Viking chieftains ruled their vast island domain —
the Orkneys, the Shetlands, the Faroes, Iceland, Green land, and the Isle
of Man. It was also the age of the Viking settle ments on the North American
coast, while princes of Kiev, de scendants of Swedish adventurers, ruled
a large state on the Russian plains. A great proportion of the vigor of the
eleventh century was centered in the Scandinavian blood. The Normans, who
were only a century removed from their Viking ancestors, ruled the strongest
feudal principality in France, the kingdom of England, and southern Italy
and Sicily. It is interesting in this connection to notice that of the eight
chief lay leaders of the First Crusade four were Normans and a fifth had
a Norman wife who supplied most of his ardor. Robert, duke of Normandy, and
Bohemond, son of Robert Guiscard, are easily recognizable as Normans, but
in addition Godfrey of Bouillon, duke of Lower Lor raine, and his brother
Baldwin were sons of the Norman count of Boulogne. 
 To the east of the German empire lay the vast Slavic lands cleft in twain
by a wedge of Magyars who occupied the Hungarian plain and Pechenegs in the
steppes north of the Black Sea. To the north of this wedge were three important
Slavic states — Bohemia, Poland, and Russia. The Premyslid dukes of
Bohemia and Mo ravia had a status that is hard to define. They were masters
of their own lands and dealt as they pleased with their eastern neigh bors,
but they acknowledged themselves vassals of the kings of Germany and supported
their policy in the west. Duke Vratislav II (1061—1092) was a loyal
follower of the emperor Henry IV. Poland was an independent state ruled by
its own kings. To the east of Poland lay the Russian principalities. Yaroslav
the Wise, the last powerful prince of Kiev, died in 1054. Under his descendants
the state was divided into a number of principalities under the vague suzerainty
of the prince of Kiev. 
 In religion and culture Bohemia and Poland were part of the Latin west.
Their bishops acknowledged the pope at Rome and 

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