Page:The Normans in European History.djvu/173

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So long as mediæval society remained almost entirely agricultural there was no need of adapting its organization to other classes than those which have just been described. In course of time, however, the growth of industry and commerce, very slow before the eleventh century, but rapid and constant in the period during and after the Crusades, as may be seen by the large number of markets and fairs in Normandy, created a new class of dwellers in towns who demanded recognition of their peculiar character and status. By reason of the nature of their occupations they sought release from the seigniorial system, with its forced labor, its frequent payments, and its vexatious restrictions upon freedom of movement and freedom of buying and selling; and as their economic needs drew them together into industrial and commercial centres of population, they developed a collective feeling and demanded collective treatment. They asked, not, as has sometimes been said, for the overthrow of the feudal system, but for a place within it which should recognize their peculiar economic and political interests; and the result of their efforts, when fully successful, was to form what has been called a collective seigniory, standing as a body in the relation of vassal to lord or king, and owing the obligations of homage, fealty, and communal military service. But while not anti-feudal in theory, this movement was often anti-feudal in practice, so far at least as the rights and privileges of the immediate overlord were concerned, and it