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England led the way to national consolidation and a strong monarchy for a number of reasons. The geographical advantages have already been briefly mentioned. Of some importance were the Anglo-Saxon precedents in force between the seventh and eleventh centuries. Roman Civilization was never much more than a thin veneer in England and with the withdrawal of the Romans this veneer wore away. In its place rose Saxon England, and despite the partially successful invasions of the British Isles by the Northmen a degree of cultural homogeneity developed. In fact, these invasions promoted the levying of a royal tax known as the "danegeld" with which the Saxon kings bought off the invaders and which they continued to collect after the danger was gone. In addition, the kings had close control over the Church and, with the approval of a council called the witan, they could issue decrees which had the force of law. By the time of Alfred the Great (871-900), the ablest of the Saxon kings, there had appeared rough outlines of two political institutions which were to influence subsequent governmental practices in England -- the witan and the local councils which operated in the townships, hundreds, and shires. We have, therefore, the germ of a national representative institution and popular participation in local government. [excerpt]


This is a part of Section V: The Rise of Capitalism and the National State to 1500. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections of Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, as well as the Table of Contents for both volumes.

More About Contemporary Civilization:

From 1947 through 1969, all first-year Gettysburg College students took a two-semester course called Contemporary Civilization. The course was developed at President Henry W.A. Hanson’s request with the goal of “introducing the student to the backgrounds of contemporary social problems through the major concepts, ideals, hopes and motivations of western culture since the Middle Ages.”

Gettysburg College professors from the history, philosophy, and religion departments developed a textbook for the course. The first edition, published in 1955, was called An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization and Its Problems. A second edition, retitled Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, was published in 1958 and 1960. It is this second edition that we include here. The copy we digitized is from the Gary T. Hawbaker ’66 Collection and the marginalia are his.