Monday, June 20

Those who pray, those who work, those who fight -

There's the Hindu caste system. Where everybody is divided into castes based upon what you do. And then a bewildering array of sub castes. It's all rubbish of course but still exists I'm afraid. I read about how Dalits, the untouchables and lowest caste people were sold off as slaves by upper classes to the Dutch in the 18th century in India. Tragic. 
But it was curious to read how this kind of work/profession based societal classification and how it was in the Middle Ages in England and France eh? It took a revolution to remove it in France. You still have it in England but hopefully the class based society will get removed soon without a revolution. 
Have a lovely day kids. 

Those who pray, those who work, those who fight -
(via Instapaper)

When people first start learning about the Middle Ages, one of the first concepts they are told was that medieval society was divided into three groups – those who pray, such as priests and monks; those who work, like farmers; and those who fight, the warrior class. How did this idea get started and what does it actually mean?

Cleric, Knight and Workman representing the three classes – from British Library Ms Sloane 2435, f.85 '
The concept of the three orders for society is not something you find in the Bible, or in classical sources. The closest thing that to it comes from the seventh-century encyclopedia writer Isidore of Seville, who makes a short reference to the Romans having divided themselves into three groups: senators, soldiers and plebeians.
It seems that our first reference to the idea of three orders comes from a curious source – an Old English translation of Boethius' The Consolation of Philosophy. This work was written by King Alfred the Great (probably with a team of scholars to help him) in the late-ninth century, and he often included his own commentary. It is here that you can find this statement:
I wished for tools and resources for the task that I was commanded to accomplish, which was that I should virtuously and worthily guide and direct the authority which was entrusted to me. You know of course that no-one can make known any skill, nor direct and guide any enterprise, without tools and resources; a man cannot work on any enterprise without resources. In the case of the king, the resources and tools with which to rule are that he have his land fully manned; he must have praying men, fighting men and working men. You know also that without these tools no king may make his ability known. Another aspect of his resources is that he must have the means of support for his tools, the three classes of men.
In his article, "The 'Three Orders' of society in Anglo-Saxon England" Timothy Powell explains some of the thinking behind this statement:
Alfred's formula is descriptive rather than prescriptive. He is not instructing the three orders in their duties, he is doing the reverse; he is meditating on his own duty to the effect that it is incumbent upon the king to ensure the three orders have the wherewithal they need to fulfil their functions. Alfred does not dwell on the theme; he mentions it as an aside. The point of the passage is not social commentary but a reflection on how he, King Alfred, should exercise his talents to ensure that his memory not be forgotten.

No comments: