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Royal efforts to create national states and strong monarchies during the later Middle Ages succeeded in England, France, and Spain for different reasons and under different circumstances. In two of the great geographical subdivisions of central Europe the monarchs were not so successful. Eventual unification of Germany and Italy was delayed until the nineteenth century and may be explained by a number of factors, some beyond the control of individual kings and others based on weaknesses in the character of the monarchs themselves.

The political destinies of Germany and Italy became inextricably interwoven with the creation of the Holy Roman Empire. In both countries the throne involved itself in fatal disputes with the papacy, failed to get support in the towns, and over-extended itself in an attempt to rule such a large area. In addition the same conditions which resulted in feudalism in France prevailed in Germany. The crude transportation and communication facilities made virtually impossible effective government by one monarch on both sides of the Alpine barrier. German kings took seriously their emperorship, divided their attention and effort between the two lands, and except temporarily hardly exercised successful government in either. [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.