Could someone simplify local administration in the middle ages for me?

As Stephen Tempest says, "The Catholic Church was the only institution with a relatively stable and rational system of administration at all levels."

This is a major factor explaining the amazing wealth of the West. The other is that the Roman Catholic Church had the right of direct taxation – the tithe – which made them independent of any secular power.

This was a novelty. Since the first kingships, people had been governed by a tri-part elite consisting of the priesthood, the king, and the military. Sometimes one was more dominant and at other times another but they worked together to collect taxes, wage war (internal or external), and mediate with the god(s). The priesthood was usually the controller of education and information, and the recorder of history.

The fall of Rome broke the tripartite elite in the West. The Church was still the controller of information and education. But for the first time in history, the information controller was economically free of the other two elites. As we see in Stephen Tempest’s post, the secular and military were small, disorganized, varied, and local.

The Church, therefore, had a vested interest in the wealth of the commons. It was to the Church’s advantage for farmers to adopt new technologies that would increase their yield per acre, because the church was entitled to 10% of that yield.

The Church actively fostered technology. We see that in the pictures of God and Saints with technology.

We know that many things were invented in the East before they were either invented or discovered by the West. But, in traditionally organized cultures – those ruled by the tri-part elites – inventions were given to the state, or the church, or the military – in short, to the elite. The elite could use them in a way that did not threaten the power of the elite.

In the West, because of the Church’s teaching, individuals used inventions to produce, and sell more, thereby enriching the Church. This all fostered a spirit of individualism that in turn, fostered the scientific and economic growth of the West.

When Gutenberg introduced the press with movable type it didn’t occur to him to give it to the secular ruler. To him it seemed natural to print Bibles and sell them and since there was no such thing as patent law, others soon followed suit paving the way for secular education. Which eventually led to the invention of capitalism, The reformation, the enlightenment, modern science and the world we know today.

But it all started with the Church in the Middle Ages.

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