From the 11th century onward, the Normans as with other European aristocracies sought greater access to the Eastern European and Mediterranean based trade and commerce. The Crusades against the Islamic states of the Near East and Spain, and against pagan regions of Northern Europe and Russia were products of an inferior trade position that relied upon an ideological religious crusade to mobilize a profit seeking military aristocracy in alliance with the clergy. The accumulation of wealth among this aristocracy and clergy rested on their ability to disenfranchise and dislocate peasants from land based rights privileges during the late phases of the 10th century and during this period. While peasants were not passive and would at various times rebel against this encroachment, the trend toward lordship and prominent clerical estates as major landowners in Europe became the major force of accrual of wealth and prestige in late Medieval and early modern Europe. For recent surveys of this trend toward peasant dislocation and the rise of the aristocratic court, military orders and clergy, see Chris Wickham, The Formation of the Early Middle Ages (Oxford, 2005), and The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages 400-1000 (Viking, 2009), and M. McCormick, The Origins of the European Economy (Oxford, 2001).
|Fig. 1 Map of Norman Empire circa 1100 CE|
It shows the additional lands conquered, including Italy and Sicily, England, the Crusade State of Antioch, and coastal regions in Tunisia. By the 1150s Anglo-Normans will also invade Southern Ireland.