What Are The Problems Surrounding The Evidence For And Against The Pirenne Thesis? Europe From Late Antiquity To The Early Middle Ages

2757 words - 11 pages

What are the problems surrounding the evidence for and against the Pirenne thesis?Europe From Late Antiquity to the Early Middle AgesCormac Griffin: A1177407In 1921, the Belgian historian Henri Pirenne hypothesized a premise that aimed to explain the materialization of settlements and the model of trading in Europe throughout the medieval period. Acknowledged as Pirenne's Thesis, it confronted the established orthodoxy, extracted from the works of historians such as Niccolo Machiavelli, Russell and others, which asserted that Germanic power definitively terminated medieval urbanization and thus ended any noteworthy trade amongst municipalities and provinces. This piece examines the data for and in opposition to the Pirenne Thesis by utilising an assortment of insights and disagreements in the prose on the potential attenuation of trade during a particular stage of medieval history. It will suggest that, regardless of momentous shortcomings, the Thesis is still an important historical input for the study of medieval Europe. The essay begins with a concise summation of the Thesis itself.At its centre, the Pirenne Thesis argued that the expansion, growth and the advances of the Muslim societies, as opposed to demands and pressures from the Germanic clans resulted in the fall of the European medieval city. This innovative historical perspective initially was unveiled in 1937 in Pirenne's posthumously published Mahomet et Charlemagne. This volume enclosed a prominent quote which summarizes his argument: "without Islam, the Frankish Empire would probably never have existed and Charlemagne, without Mohammed, would be inconceivable". Simply put, pre-existing conventions were erroneous and any medieval historiography that did not comprise a position, indeed the foremost position, for Islam was deficient. The Pirenne Thesis was extensively discussed over the ensuing years and, conceivably due to the reality that the history of the era was relatively naïve and unsophisticated and had not yet expanded further than its shallow borders, was broadly accepted. In the 1980s, though, fresh analyses determined that there could be more than one conceivable interpretation for the eventual termination of medieval society. There are still historians who shield Pirenne, but there has been an emergence of historians who state that their former contemporaries had been accurate in blaming the Germanic barbarians for the medieval downturn. Others take the middle ground between the two factions and allege that both the Germans and the Arabs were liable for the disruption to trade and development. Still others maintain that the notion of trade itself did not materialize before the tenth century A.D., consequently, in their minds rendering Pirenne's Thesis totally superfluous. This essay now examines these diverse viewpoints.It is of utmost interest, and a vital starting point is to comprehend why Pirenne abandoned the interpretation of his forbears who argued that...

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