- -----Original Message-----
From: Kai Beste
Date: Saturday, January 23, 1999 6:17 AM

>Ok, I should have been more specific. I meant the start of the rise
>of the middle class. I am well aware of the fact that this was a
>longer process, but I'm sure there was some kind of "breaking point",
>when the middle class overtook the knights in economic and,
>more important, social importance.

In Germany the knights had special rights and privledges confirmed and
guaranteed by the Emperor, so the knights never revised their roll in German
society. In England and France, knighthood was transformed from a strictly
warrior class which attempted to extract a surplus from its lands to
maintain its military purpose to a kind of intermediate step for people on
their way up in the world. Tracing the Howard family is very instructive in
this respect as they started the Hundred Years War as commoners in mercenary
service, attained knigthood, used that to buy lands (with war booty) and
leveraged that into marriages with cash poor nobles. A combination of royal
rewards and good family planning and the Howards ended up as Earl marshall
of England and first duke of Norfolk. (John d. 1485)

Its one of the central problems of the Reich that it was a better bulwark
against change than anything else. It was a guarantor of stability, and so
lasted long after it ceased to have dynamism of its own.

Kenneth Gauck