The problem is that you are make assumptions based
on the way that things work today, that are not
applicable 500 years ago. Medieval nobels actually obtained very little in the way of material benefit from the titles they held to large areas of land. The main benefit they recieved from it was one of status. They would earn some money but the taxes the church levied on the peasants were far higher than anything the nobels recieved and even that was fairly small by todays standards. You have to realise that peasants were not wage labours, in general, and therefore after a certain point where they are producing enough food to feed themselves and pay their taxes it is very difficult to make them work a lot harder. Even if you demand more taxes all they can give you is food and since they grow their own food there is a very limited market to sell it for profit.
I am not saying being a serf is a case study in implementing human rights. I am just saying that being a factory worker is even worse and this transition in the 18th century was what led to the
requirement for a full time police force. A serf might have to work from dawn till dusk for a very limited period of time around planting and harvest but in general they they would have a much larger
amount of free time than we do today, let alone an
18th century factory worker. At some point (as is
always to way with these things) the elite realised that if they exported the new practice of
wage labour that had appeared in the cities to the
countryside (where the majority of the population was) they could extract a much larger amount of
"value" from the peasants, i.e. make them work harded for less and pocket the difference. But to
do this it was necessary to remove the peasant's
means of support, the land, since no one in their
right mind is going to work for some one else if
they have a choice.
Hence the "enclosure acts" which paved the way for the introduction of wage labour in agriculture by forcing the peasants to choose between starving and working directly for the landowners for wages.
Since the peasants can then be forced to work harder, you need less to work the same amount of
land and so you introduce the concept of unemployment which allows the wages the landowner
pays to be a fraction of the worth of the food
produced, since there is strong competion not to
be unemployed and starving. A draconian system of
internal passports was also introduced to help
keep wages low by not allowing peasants to move
from areas of high to low unemployment, except when it was in the interests of the landowners.
The surplus peasants were eventually funneled into
the cities to work in the new factories and the
net effect was to go from majority rural, "self-employed" to majority urban, wage labourers.
The point is prior to this massive transition there was nothing that remotely resembles the police we have today. There were judges and courts
but no police or for that matter any standing army. The nobility and their servants had weapons
(to protect themselves from their subjects) and in time of war a noble was expected to "join the army" and provide a certain number of troops from his retainers but the ordinary people were not involved in this. They were neither conscripted to
fight or for that matter generally in any danger
as the result of a war. Wars involved nobility and
their servants fighting large set peice battles in
the open countryside or about fortifications (castles). Unlike today, since there was no attempt to involve the general population, there was no need to pretend that war was anything other than it was, a fight between elites over land and resources.
To give you some idea of how different things were consider the make up of the approx. 10,000 french casulaties at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Charles de Albert, the Constable of France and leader of the french army (the king was not present), 3 dukes, 5 counts and 90 barons were amoung the 5,000 men of noble birth who died on the french side. Even though the english lost no more than a few hundred men, the Duke of York and the Earl of Suffolk, the two deputy commanders of the english army, were amoung the dead, and the english King Henry V fought in the front line throughout the battle. Fast foreward half a millenium and not only has the level of exploitation of the common people increased enormously but they are also forced to fight the elite's wars for them, while someone like Bush directs from the back in perfect safety.
All this stuff about dedicated to protecting the lives and liberties of all people is just a modern post facto justification of the status quo and have nothing to do with why things like police forces were originally created or why they still exist today. In some ways it also links back
into the previous paragraph since the elite itself is no longer a heavily armed and well trained fighting force (Bush and his cronies wouldn't stand much chance in a fair fight) and firearms have closed the gap to some extent (it is trivial to learn how to use a gun whereas medieval weaponry required extensive training, both in skill and strength, to use effectively), it is therefore necessary for the elite to have a large force of professional police and soliders to protect themselves. This is doubly important given
than the system has changed from basically "self-employed" peasants who if they pay minimal taxes will be left alone, to wage labourers plus
the unemployed, who see about 80% of their work
going to their employers and half the rest going
to the state, if they are luckly enough to have
a job at all. The level of discontent this generates needs large amounts of repression to
control, or though, in the last few decades television and the like has been very useful in
You are also mixing up very different periods of
time and confusing war with "crime". The medieval
period approx. 1000-1500 A.D.is very distinct from the so called "dark ages" approx. 500-1000 A.D. In the past "civilisation" has gone in cycles with society becoming more centralised and hierarchical
until it gets so top heavy it collapses. The end of the last cycle (it europe anyway) was the collapse to the Roman empire around 500 A.D. The
"dark ages" that followed were a relatively free
period with weak or non-existent government, hence
the reason they are portrayed by the elite as bad,
"dark", since it wasn't a good time if you wanted to be rich and oppress lots of people.
You are mistaken when you imply that "norse raiders" and the like are equivalent to modern
"criminals" and required the solution of stronger
"policing". In fact the opposite is true. The "norse raiders" are equivalent to the modern elite
and they did not content themselves with just
raiding for long. As a case study consider the
norsemen who after raiding for a while decided that going to and fro from Scandinavia every year
to get plunder was inefficent and settled in what
is now northern france so they be right next to
the people they were stealing from. With a constant presence, violence is not normally necessary, simply the threat of violence, and you
quickly establish as system of nobility (the Normans - a coruption of norsemen) taxing peasants. The Normans later crossed the channel in
1066 A.D. and after defeating Harold of Wessex at
the Battle of Hastings, founded the beginnings of
the modern english state.
This pattern, involving different peoples in different parts of europe, progressed throughout
the dark ages and by the beginning of the medieval
period the majority of europe was under the control of an elite of nobility (i.e. bandits).
There were notable exceptions however that held
out long into the medieval period: the medieval
free cities. While small villages are easy to attack or intimedate with a small band of men, cities are another thing entirely and by the time
certain nobles (bandits) had aquired a sufficent power base in the countryside to consider attacking a city, many cities had grown large enough to be able to construct significant fortifications to defend themselves.
The kingdoms of early medieval europe were therefore generally confined to the countryside
and small towns, with the cities free of their
control. An effect of this can be seen in the
placement of the capital cities of many european
states. For instance both Paris and Moscow were
in the middle of nowhere, reatively speaking,
when they became capital cities. The Kremlin was built in the centre of some villages on the banks of the Moskva river. Much larger cities existed inside the borders of both France and Russia at the time, such as Lyon and Novgorod, but they were not under the control of the kingdoms. Even in England the capital was founded in the village of
Westminster outside the gates of the City of London and to this day the Sovereign is forbidden
to enter the City of London without the permission
of the Lord Mayor.
Throughout the medieval period these kingdoms slowly chipped away at the independence of the free cities and the cities were also slowly
corrupted from the inside becoming more heirarchical and less free. Still the last hold outs, particularly in Italy, were where the flowering of art and science of the renaissance
was most concentrated e.g. Florence. Eventually
however the modern state gained control of all
the people within its borders and has been ratcheting up the level of that control ever since, as discussed above. Whether events are heading towards another catastrophic collapse as befell the Roman empire or whether new techonologies will allow a "boot stamping on a human face - forever" as in 1984 is unclear.
In any case the clear lesson from history is when
the bandits come to you village to pillage, if you
don't stand up and fight them they will return and
once they have got into the habit of expecting
free stuff they will soon become your masters. Even the cities that built walls and hid behind them for a while eventually sucumed, since if you stand by and allow your neighbours become slaves,
you will be next. A thousand years later and SWAT
teams can burst into your home at will to investigate every little facet of your life and
make sure you are no threat to the elite. The
"norse raiders" have traded the horned helmet and
axe for the flack jacket and Heckler & Kock MP5
but they as much a threat as ever, and now there
is little chance of any resistance. At the same
time what started as stealing some food has evolved into a hugely complex system of oppression
designed to extract the maximum amount from each
one of it's little cogs.
[ Parent ]