The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and the largest national library in the world by number of items catalogued. It is estimated to contain 150–200 million+ items from many countries; as a legal deposit library, the British Library receives copies of all books produced in the United Kingdom and Ireland, including a significant proportion of overseas titles distributed in the UK. The Library is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture and Sport; the British Library is a major research library, with items in many languages and in many formats, both print and digital: books, journals, magazines and music recordings, play-scripts, databases, stamps, drawings. The Library's collections include around 14 million books, along with substantial holdings of manuscripts and historical items dating back as far as 2000 BC. In addition to receiving a copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland, the Library has a programme for content acquisitions.
The Library adds some three million items every year occupying 9.6 kilometres of new shelf space. There is space in the library for over 1,200 readers. Prior to 1973, the Library was part of the British Museum; the British Library Act 1972 detached the library department from the museum, but it continued to host the now separated British Library in the same Reading Room and building as the museum until 1997. The Library is now located in a purpose-built building on the north side of Euston Road in St Pancras and has a document storage centre and reading room near Boston Spa, near Wetherby in West Yorkshire; the Euston Road building is classified as a Grade I listed building "of exceptional interest" for its architecture and history. The British Library was created on 1 July 1973 as a result of the British Library Act 1972. Prior to this, the national library was part of the British Museum, which provided the bulk of the holdings of the new library, alongside smaller organisations which were folded in.
In 1974 functions exercised by the Office for Scientific and Technical Information were taken over. In 1983, the Library absorbed the National Sound Archive, which holds many sound and video recordings, with over a million discs and thousands of tapes; the core of the Library's historical collections is based on a series of donations and acquisitions from the 18th century, known as the "foundation collections". These include the books and manuscripts of Sir Robert Cotton, Sir Hans Sloane, Robert Harley and the King's Library of King George III, as well as the Old Royal Library donated by King George II. For many years its collections were dispersed in various buildings around central London, in places such as Bloomsbury, Chancery Lane and Holborn, with an interlibrary lending centre at Boston Spa, 2.5 miles east of Wetherby in West Yorkshire, the newspaper library at Colindale, north-west London. Initial plans for the British Library required demolition of an integral part of Bloomsbury – a seven-acre swathe of streets in front of the Museum, so that the Library could be situated directly opposite.
After a long and hard-fought campaign led by Dr George Wagner, this decision was overturned and the library was instead constructed by John Laing plc on a site at Euston Road next to St Pancras railway station. From 1997 to 2009 the main collection was housed in this single new building and the collection of British and overseas newspapers was housed at Colindale. In July 2008 the Library announced that it would be moving low-use items to a new storage facility in Boston Spa in Yorkshire and that it planned to close the newspaper library at Colindale, ahead of a move to a similar facility on the same site. From January 2009 to April 2012 over 200 km of material was moved to the Additional Storage Building and is now delivered to British Library Reading Rooms in London on request by a daily shuttle service. Construction work on the Newspaper Storage Building was completed in 2013 and the newspaper library at Colindale closed on 8 November 2013; the collection has now been split between the St Pancras and Boston Spa sites.
The British Library Document Supply Service and the Library's Document Supply Collection is based on the same site in Boston Spa. Collections housed in Yorkshire, comprising low-use material and the newspaper and Document Supply collections, make up around 70% of the total material the library holds; the Library had a book storage depot in Woolwich, south-east London, no longer in use. The new library was designed specially for the purpose by the architect Colin St John Wilson in collaboration with his wife MJ Long, who came up with the plan, subsequently developed and built. Facing Euston Road is a large piazza that includes pieces of public art, such as large sculptures by Eduardo Paolozzi and Antony Gormley, it is the largest public building constructed in the United Kingdom in the 20th century. In the middle of the building is a six-storey glass tower inspired by a similar structure in the Beinecke Library, containing the King's Library with 65,000 printed volumes along with other pamphlets and maps collected by King George III between 1763 and 1820.
In December 2009 a new storage building at Boston Spa was opened by Rosie
Wales in the Early Middle Ages
Wales in the early Middle Ages covers the time between the Roman departure from Wales c. 383 and the rise of Merfyn Frych to the throne of Gwynedd c. 825. In that time there was a gradual consolidation of power into hierarchical kingdoms; the end of the early Middle Ages was the time that the Welsh language transitioned from the Primitive Welsh spoken throughout the era into Old Welsh, the time when the modern England–Wales border would take its near-final form, a line broadly followed by Offa's Dyke, a late eighth-century earthwork. Successful unification into something recognisable as a Welsh state would come in the next era under the descendants of Merfyn Frych. Wales was rural throughout the era, characterised by small settlements called trefi; the local landscape was ruled by a warrior aristocrat. Control was exerted over a piece of land and, by extension, over the people. Many of the people were tenant peasants or slaves, answerable to the aristocrat who controlled the land on which they lived.
There was no sense of a coherent tribe of people and everyone, from ruler down to slave, was defined in terms of his or her kindred family and individual status. Christianity had been introduced in the Roman era, the Celtic Britons living in and near Wales were Christian throughout the era; the semi-legendary founding of Gwynedd in the fifth century was followed by internecine warfare in Wales and with the kindred Brittonic kingdoms of northern England and southern Scotland and structural and linguistic divergence from the southwestern peninsula British kingdom of Dumnonia known to the Welsh as Cernyw prior to its eventual absorption into Wessex. The seventh and eighth centuries were characterised by ongoing warfare by the northern and eastern Welsh kingdoms against the intruding Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Northumbria and Mercia; that era of struggle saw the Welsh adopt their modern name for themselves, meaning "fellow countrymen", it saw the demise of all but one of the kindred kingdoms of northern England and southern Scotland at the hands of then-ascendant Northumbria.
The total area of Wales is 9 % of the area of Great Britain. Much of the landscape is mountainous with treeless moors and heath, having large areas with peat deposits. There is 1,200 km of coastline and some 50 offshore islands, the largest of, Anglesey; the present climate is wet and maritime, with warm summers and mild winters, much like the medieval climate, though there was a significant change to cooler and much wetter conditions in the early part of the era. The southeastern coast was a wetland, but reclamation has been ongoing since the Roman era. There are deposits of gold, lead and zinc, these have been exploited since the Iron Age so in the Roman era. In the Roman era some granite was quarried, as was slate in the north and sandstone in the east and south. Native fauna included large and small mammals, such as the brown bear, wildcat, several species of weasel, shrews and many species of bat. There were many species of birds and shellfish; the early medieval human population has always been considered low in comparison to England, but efforts to reliably quantify it have yet to provide acceptable results.
Much of the arable land is in the south, southwest, on Anglesey, along the coast. However, specifying the ancient usage of land is problematic in that there is little surviving evidence on which to base the estimates. Forest clearance has taken place since the Iron Age, it is not known how the ancient people of Wales determined the best use of the land for their particular circumstances, such as in their preference for wheat, rye or barley depending on rainfall, growing season and the characteristics of the land on which they lived. Anglesey is the exception producing more grain than any other part of Wales. Animal husbandry included the raising of cattle, sheep and a lesser number of goats. Oxen were kept for asses for beasts of burden and horses for human transport; the importance of sheep was less than in centuries, as their extensive grazing in the uplands did not begin until the thirteenth century. The animals were tended by swineherds and herdsmen, but they were not confined in the lowlands.
Instead open land was used for feeding, seasonal transhumance was practiced. In addition, bees were kept for the production of honey; the importance of blood relationships in relation to birth and noble descent, was stressed in medieval Wales. Claims of dynastic legitimacy rested on it, an extensive patrilinear genealogy was used to assess fines and penalties under Welsh law. Different degrees of blood relationship were important for different circumstances, all based upon the cenedl; the nuclear family was important, while the pencenedl held special status, representing the family in transactions and having certain unique privileges under the law. Under extraordinary circumstances the genealogical interest could be stretched quite far: for the serious matter of homicide, all of the fifth cousins of a kindred were liable for satisfying any penalty; the Welsh referred to themselves in terms of their territory and not in the sense of a tribe. Thus there was Broceniauc. Welsh custom contrasted with many Irish
Codex Sinaiticus or "Sinai Bible" is one of the four great uncial codices, handwritten copies of the Greek Bible. The codex is a celebrated historical treasure; the codex is an Alexandrian text-type manuscript written in uncial letters on parchment in the 4th century. Scholarship considers the Codex Sinaiticus to be one of the best Greek texts of the New Testament, along with the Codex Vaticanus; until Constantin von Tischendorf's discovery of the Sinaiticus text, the Codex Vaticanus was unrivaled. The Codex Sinaiticus came to the attention of scholars in the 19th century at Saint Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula, with further material discovered in the 20th and 21st centuries. Although parts of the codex are scattered across four libraries around the world, most of the manuscript is held today in the British Library in London, where it is on public display. Since its discovery, study of the Codex Sinaiticus has proven to be useful to scholars for critical studies of biblical text.
While large portions of the Old Testament are missing, it is assumed that the codex contained the whole of both Testaments. About half of the Greek Old Testament survived, along with a complete New Testament, the entire Deuterocanonical books, the Epistle of Barnabas and portions of The Shepherd of Hermas; the codex consists of parchment in double sheets, which may have measured about 40 by 70 cm. The whole codex consists, with a few exceptions, of quires of eight leaves, a format popular throughout the Middle Ages; each line of the text has some twelve to fourteen Greek uncial letters, arranged in four columns with chosen line breaks and ragged right edges. When opened, the eight columns thus presented to the reader have much the same appearance as the succession of columns in a papyrus roll; the poetical books of the Old Testament are written stichometrically, in only two columns per page. The codex has 4,000,000 uncial letters; the work was written in scriptio continua with neither polytonic accents.
Occasional points and a few ligatures are used, though nomina sacra with overlines are employed throughout. Some words abbreviated in other manuscripts, are in this codex written in both full and abbreviated forms; the following nomina sacra are written in abbreviated forms: ΘΣ ΚΣ ΙΣ ΧΣ ΠΝΑ ΠΝΙΚΟΣ ΥΣ ΑΝΟΣ ΟΥΟΣ ΔΑΔ ΙΛΗΜ ΙΣΡΛ ΜΗΡ ΠΗΡ ΣΩΡ. A plain iota is replaced by the epsilon-iota diphthong, e.g. ΔΑΥΕΙΔ instead οf ΔΑΥΙΔ, ΠΕΙΛΑΤΟΣ instead of ΠΙΛΑΤΟΣ, ΦΑΡΕΙΣΑΙΟΙ instead of ΦΑΡΙΣΑΙΟΙ, etc. Each rectangular page has the proportions 1.1 to 1, while the block of text has the reciprocal proportions, 0.91. If the gutters between the columns were removed, the text block would mirror the page's proportions. Typographer Robert Bringhurst referred to the codex as a "subtle piece of craftsmanship"; the folios are made of vellum parchment from calf skins, secondarily from sheep skins. Most of the quires or signatures contain four sheets, save two containing five, it is estimated that the hides of about 360 animals were employed for making the folios of this codex.
As for the cost of the material, time of scribes and binding, it equals the lifetime wages of one individual at the time. The portion of the codex held by the British Library consists of 346½ folios, 694 pages, constituting over half of the original work. Of these folios, 199 belong to the Old Testament, including the apocrypha, 147½ belong to the New Testament, along with two other books, the Epistle of Barnabas and part of The Shepherd of Hermas; the apocryphal books present in the surviving part of the Septuagint are 2 Esdras, Judith, 1 and 4 Maccabees and Sirach. The books of the New Testament are arranged in this order: the four Gospels, the epistles of Paul, the Acts of the Apostles, the General Epistles, the Book of Revelation; the fact that some parts of the codex are preserved in good condition while others are in poor condition implies they were separated and stored in several places. The text of the Old Testament contains the following passages: Genesis 23:19 – Genesis 24:46 – fragments Leviticus 20:27 – Leviticus 22:30 Numbers 5:26–Numbers 7:20 – fragments 1 Chronicles 9:27–1 Chronicles 19:17 Ezra-Nehemiah.
Book of Psalms–Wisdom of Sirach Book of Esther Book of Tobit Book of Judith Book of Joel–Book of Malachi Book of Isaiah Book of Jeremiah Book of Lamentations 1 Maccabees–4 Maccabees The text of the New Testament lacks several passages: Omitted verses Gospel of Matthew 12:47, 16:2b-3, 17:21, 18:11, 23:14, 24:35. Ἀ
The Bible is a collection of sacred texts or scriptures. Varying parts of the Bible are considered to be a product of divine inspiration and a record of the relationship between God and humans by Christians, Jews and Rastafarians. What is regarded as canonical text differs depending on traditions and groups; the Hebrew Bible overlaps with the Christian Old Testament. The Christian New Testament is a collection of writings by early Christians, believed to be Jewish disciples of Christ, written in first-century Koine Greek. Among Christian denominations there is some disagreement about what should be included in the canon about the Apocrypha, a list of works that are regarded with varying levels of respect. Attitudes towards the Bible differ among Christian groups. Roman Catholics, high church Anglicans and Eastern Orthodox Christians stress the harmony and importance of the Bible and sacred tradition, while Protestant churches, including Evangelical Anglicans, focus on the idea of sola scriptura, or scripture alone.
This concept arose during the Protestant Reformation, many denominations today support the use of the Bible as the only infallible source of Christian teaching. The Bible has been a massive influence on literature and history in the Western World, where the Gutenberg Bible was the first book printed using movable type. According to the March 2007 edition of Time, the Bible "has done more to shape literature, history and culture than any book written, its influence on world history is unparalleled, shows no signs of abating." With estimated total sales of over 5 billion copies, it is considered to be the most influential and best-selling book of all time. As of the 2000s, it sells 100 million copies annually; the English word Bible is from the Latin biblia, from the same word in Medieval Latin and Late Latin and from Koinē Greek: τὰ βιβλία, translit. Ta biblia "the books". Medieval Latin biblia is short for biblia sacra "holy book", while biblia in Greek and Late Latin is neuter plural, it came to be regarded as a feminine singular noun in medieval Latin, so the word was loaned as a singular into the vernaculars of Western Europe.
Latin biblia sacra "holy books" translates Greek τὰ βιβλία τὰ ἅγια tà biblía tà ágia, "the holy books". The word βιβλίον itself had the literal meaning of "paper" or "scroll" and came to be used as the ordinary word for "book", it is the diminutive of βύβλος byblos, "Egyptian papyrus" so called from the name of the Phoenician sea port Byblos from whence Egyptian papyrus was exported to Greece. The Greek ta biblia was "an expression. Christian use of the term can be traced to c. 223 CE. The biblical scholar F. F. Bruce notes that Chrysostom appears to be the first writer to use the Greek phrase ta biblia to describe both the Old and New Testaments together. By the 2nd century BCE, Jewish groups began calling the books of the Bible the "scriptures" and they referred to them as "holy", or in Hebrew כִּתְבֵי הַקֹּדֶשׁ, Christians now call the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible "The Holy Bible" or "the Holy Scriptures"; the Bible was divided into chapters in the 13th century by Stephen Langton and it was divided into verses in the 16th century by French printer Robert Estienne and is now cited by book and verse.
The division of the Hebrew Bible into verses is based on the sof passuk cantillation mark used by the 10th-century Masoretes to record the verse divisions used in earlier oral traditions. The oldest extant copy of a complete Bible is an early 4th-century parchment book preserved in the Vatican Library, it is known as the Codex Vaticanus; the oldest copy of the Tanakh in Hebrew and Aramaic dates from the 10th century CE. The oldest copy of a complete Latin Bible is the Codex Amiatinus. Professor John K. Riches, Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at the University of Glasgow, says that "the biblical texts themselves are the result of a creative dialogue between ancient traditions and different communities through the ages", "the biblical texts were produced over a period in which the living conditions of the writers – political, cultural and ecological – varied enormously". Timothy H. Lim, a professor of Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism at the University of Edinburgh, says that the Old Testament is "a collection of authoritative texts of divine origin that went through a human process of writing and editing."
He states that it is not a magical book, nor was it written by God and passed to mankind. Parallel to the solidification of the Hebrew canon, only the Torah first and the Tanakh began to be translated into Greek and expanded, now referred to as the Septuagint or the Greek Old Testament. In Christian Bibles, the New Testament Gospels were derived from oral traditions in the second half of the first century CE. Riches says that: Scholars have attempted to reconstruct something of the history of the oral traditions behind the Gospels, but the results have not been too encouraging; the period of transmission is short: less than 40 years passed between the death of Jesus and the writing of Mark's Gospel. This means that there was little time for oral trad
Roman square capitals
Roman square capitals called capitalis monumentalis, inscriptional capitals, elegant capitals and capitalis quadrata, are an ancient Roman form of writing, the basis for modern capital letters. Square capitals were used to write inscriptions, less to supplement everyday handwriting; when written in documents this style is known as Latin book hand. For everyday writing the Romans used a current cursive hand known as Latin cursive. Notable examples of square capitals used for inscriptions are found on the Roman Pantheon, Trajan's Column, the Arch of Titus, all in Rome. Square capitals are characterized by sharp, straight lines, supple curves and thin strokes, angled stressing and incised serifs; these Roman capitals are called majuscules, as a counterpart to minuscule letters such as Merovingian and Carolingian. Before the 4th century, square capitals were used to write de luxe copies of the works of authors categorized as "pagan" by Christians those of Virgil. After the 5th century the square capitals fell out of use, except as a display lettering for titles and chapter headings in conjunction with various script hands for body text: for example, uncials.
Square capitals were respected by artisans of the Renaissance such as Geoffroy Tory and Felice Feliciano. A few centuries they were a major inspiration for artisans of the Arts and Crafts movement such as Edward Johnston and Eric Gill, so many signs and engravings created with an intentionally artistic design in the twentieth century are based on them. Edward Catich is noted for the fullest development of the thesis that the inscribed Roman square capitals owed their form, including the serifs, wholly to the use of the flat brush, rather than to the exigencies of the chisel or other stone cutting tools. Although not universally accepted, the brushed-origin thesis had been proposed in the nineteenth century. Catich made a complete study and proposed a convincing ductus by which the forms were created, using a flat brush and chisel, he promulgated his views in two works, Letters Redrawn from the Trajan Inscription in Rome and The Origin of the Serif: Brush Writing and Roman Letters. During the early era of the movable type printing press, Roman square capitals became the primary inspiration for the capital letters in early serif typefaces.
The 1989 digital typeface Trajan from Adobe is a direct, all-capital adaptation of the Roman square capitals on Trajan's column. Roman cursive Rustic capitals
Italy in the Middle Ages
The history of the Italian peninsula during the medieval period can be defined as the time between the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and the Italian Renaissance. Late Antiquity in Italy lingered on into the 7th century under the Ostrogothic Kingdom and the Byzantine Empire under the Justinian dynasty, the Byzantine Papacy until the mid 8th century; the "Middle Ages" proper begin as the Byzantine Empire was weakening under the pressure of the Muslim conquests, the Exarchate of Ravenna fell under Lombard rule in 751. Lombard rule ended with the invasion of Charlemagne in 773, who established the Kingdom of Italy and the Papal States; this set the precedent for the main political conflict in Italy over the following centuries, between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, culminating with conflict between Pope Gregory VII and Henry IV and the latter's "Walk to Canossa" in 1077. The term "Middle Ages" itself derives from the description of the period of "obscurity" in Italian history during the 9th to 11th centuries, the saeculum obscurum or "Dark Age" of the Roman papacy as seen from the perspective of the 14th to 15th century Italian Humanists.
In the 11th century began a political development unique to Italy, the transformation of medieval communes into powerful city states modelled on ancient Roman Republicanism. The republics of Venice, Genoa, among others, rose to great political power and paved the way for the Italian Renaissance and the "European miracle", the resurgence of Western civilization from comparative obscurity in the Early Modern period. On the other hand, the Italian city states were in a state of constant warfare, adding to and overlapping with the persistent conflict between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor; each city aligned itself with one faction or the other, yet was divided internally between the two warring parties and Ghibellines. Since the 13th century, these wars had been fought by mercenaries, giving rise to the Italian institution of condottieri and the Swiss mercenary culture. After the three decades of wars in Lombardy between the Duchy of Milan and the Republic of Venice, there was a balance of power between five emerging powerful states, which at the Peace of Lodi formed the so-called Italic League, bringing relative calm for the region for the first time in centuries.
These five powers were the maritime republics of Venice and Florence, whose naval powers dominated the east and west coast of the peninsula the territorial powers of Milan and the Papal States, dominating the northern and central parts of Italy and the Kingdom of Naples in the south. The precarious balance between these powers came to an end in 1494 as the duke of Milan Ludovico Sforza sought the aid of Charles VIII of France against Venice, triggering the Italian War of 1494–98; as a result, Italy became a battleground of the great European powers for the next sixty years culminating in the Italian War of 1551–59, which concluded with Habsburg Spain as the dominant power in Italy. The House of Habsburg would control Italy for the duration of the early modern period, until Napoleon's invasion of Italy in 1796. Italy was invaded by the Visigoths in the 5th century, Rome was sacked by Alaric in 410; the last Western Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustus, was deposed in 476 by an Eastern Germanic general, Odoacer.
He subsequently ruled in Italy for seventeen years as rex gentium, theoretically under the suzerainty of the eastern Roman emperor Zeno, but in total independence. The administration remained the same as that under the Western Roman Empire, gave religious freedoms to the Christians. Odoacer fought against the Vandals, who had occupied Sicily, other Germanic tribes that periodically invaded the peninsula. In 489, Emperor Zeno decided to oust the Ostrogoths, a foederatum people living in the Danube, by sending them into Italy. On February 25, 493 Theodoric the Great became the king of the Ostrogoths. Theodoric, who had lived long in Constantinople, is now considered a Romanized German, he in fact ruled over Italy through Roman personnel; the Goth minority, of Arian confession, constituted an aristocracy of landowners and militaries, but its influence over the country remained minimal. The reign of Theodoric is considered a period of recovery for the country. Infrastructures were repaired, frontiers were expanded, the economy well cared for.
The Latin culture flourished for the last time with figures like Theodoric's minister. However, Theodoric's successors were not equal to him; the eastern half of the Empire, now centred on Constantinople, invaded Italy in the early 6th century, the generals of emperor Justinian and Narses, conquered the Ostrogothic kingdom after years of warfare, ending in 552. This conflict, known as the Gothic Wars, destroyed much of the town life that had survived the barbarian invasions. Town life did not disappear, but they became smaller and more primitive than they had been in Roman times. Subsistence agriculture employed the bulk of the Italian population. Wars and disease epidemics had a dramatic effect on the demographics of Italy; the agricultural estates of the Roman era did not disappear. They produced an agricultural surplus, sold in towns; the withdrawal of Byzantine armies allowed the Lombards, to invade Italy. Cividal
The Carolingian Renaissance was the first of three medieval renaissances, a period of cultural activity in the Carolingian Empire. It occurred from the late 8th century to the 9th century, which took inspiration from the Christian Roman Empire of the fourth century. During this period, there was an increase of literature, the arts, jurisprudence, liturgical reforms, scriptural studies; the Carolingian Renaissance occurred during the reigns of Carolingian rulers Charlemagne and Louis the Pious. It was supported by the scholars of the Carolingian court, notably Alcuin of York. Charlemagne's Admonitio generalis and Epistola de litteris colendis served as manifestos; the effects of this cultural revival were limited to a small group of court literati. According to John Contreni, "it had a spectacular effect on education and culture in Francia, a debatable effect on artistic endeavors, an unmeasurable effect on what mattered most to the Carolingians, the moral regeneration of society"; the secular and ecclesiastical leaders of the Carolingian Renaissance made efforts to write better Latin, to copy and preserve patristic and classical texts, to develop a more legible, classicizing script.
They applied rational ideas to social issues for the first time in centuries, providing a common language and writing style that enabled communication throughout most of Europe. As Pierre Riché points out, the expression "Carolingian Renaissance" does not imply that Western Europe was barbaric or obscurantist before the Carolingian era; the centuries following the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West did not see an abrupt disappearance of the ancient schools, from which emerged Martianus Capella and Boethius, essential icons of the Roman cultural heritage in the Middle Ages, thanks to which the disciplines of liberal arts were preserved. The 7th century saw the "Isidorian Renaissance" in the Visigothic Kingdom of Hispania in which sciences flourished and the integration of Christian and pre-Christian thought occurred, while the spread of Irish monastic schools over Europe laid the groundwork for the Carolingian Renaissance. There were numerous factors in this cultural expansion, the most obvious of, that Charlemagne's uniting of most of Western Europe brought about peace and stability, which set the stage for prosperity.
This period marked an economic revival in Western Europe, following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Local economies in the West had degenerated into subsistence agriculture by the early seventh century, with towns functioning as places of gift-exchange for the elite. By the late seventh century, developed urban settlements had emerged, populated by craftsmen and boaters and boasting street grids, artisanal production as well as regional and long-distance trade. A prime example of this type of emporium was Dorestad; the development of the Carolingian economy was fueled by the efficient organization and exploitation of labor on large estates, producing a surplus of grain and salt. In turn, inter-regional trade in these commodities facilitated the expansion of towns. Archaeological data shows the continuation of this upward trend in the early eighth century; the zenith of the early Carolingian economy was reached from 775 to 830, coinciding with the largest surpluses of the period, large-scale building of churches as well as overpopulation and three famines that showed the limits of the system.
After a period of disruption from 830 to 850, caused by civil wars and Viking raids, economic development resumed in the 850s, with the emporiums disappearing and being replaced by fortified commercial towns. One of the major causes of the sudden economic growth was the slave trade. Following the rise of the Arab empires, the Arab elites created a major demand for slaves with European slaves prized; as a result of Charlemagne's wars of conquest in Eastern Europe, a steady supply of captured Slavs, Avars and Danes reached Jewish merchants in Western Europe, who exported the slaves via Ampurias and the Pyrenees passes to Muslim Spain and other parts of the Arab world. The market for slaves was so lucrative that it immediately transformed the long-distance trade of the European economies; the slave trade enabled the West to re-engage with the Muslim and Eastern Roman empires so that other industries, such as textiles, were able to grow in Europe as well. Kenneth Clark was of the view that by means of the Carolingian Renaissance, Western civilization survived by the skin of its teeth.
However, the use of the term renaissance to describe this period is contested, notably by Lynn Thorndike, due to the majority of changes brought about by this period being confined entirely to the clergy, due to the period lacking the wide-ranging social movements of the Italian Renaissance. Instead of being a rebirth of new cultural movements, the period was more an attempt to recreate the previous culture of the Roman Empire; the Carolingian Renaissance in retrospect has some of the character of a false dawn, in that its cultural gains were dissipated within a couple of generations, a perception voiced by Walahfrid Strabo, in his introduction to Einhard's Life of Charlemagne, summing up the generation of renewal: Charlemagne was able to offer the cultureless and, I might say completely unenlightened territory of the realm which God had entrusted to him, a new enthusiasm for all human knowledge. In its earlier state of barbarousness, his kingdom had been hardly touched at all by any such zeal, but now