The 2 1/2 Orders?
Following on tenthmedieval's comment on this post, and a conversation at the massive group exam read of last week, I have some thoughts.
The conversation was about the F word at first. A group of us were talking, me, a Late Antique person, a very modern person, and two high school teachers. I mentioned the F word, and one of the high school teachers said, as they often do, "but wait, I always teach the Feudal Pyramid -- it's in the textbook! What am I supposed to tell them?" Me being me, I said, "well, really, that's a model that has been pretty much abandoned. Textbooks tend not to be written by medieval specialists, so the information is often very outdated. If it were a university course, there's a good chance that the first half would be taught by someone who was a pre-modernist, and they'd correct the misrepresentations." So we talked a bit about feudalism and Peggy Brown, and Susan Reynolds, and Chris Wickham, and manorialism, and other such things... like Duby and the Three Orders and how a feudal obligation is between members of the same social group.
Fast forward to the last post.
Because what do you do with the three orders? it doesn't really work unless 'those who pray' are really the low-level monks -- except that in the Early Middle Ages, at least, even monks tend to be not from the lower echelons of society. And if we look at the people who are at the top of the ecclesiastical food chain, so to speak, they are members of the leading families. Their brothers and fathers are comitesand duces -- and even kings. And yet we have a model that is based on lines that we see more and more to be very fluid between the first two orders. By birth, they are largely the same people. And yet, so much of the existing scholarship of the past, oh... hundred years? has created an understanding of society that means that we always seems to express some sort of surprise, or at least forceful assertion, when we find something that indicates that the interests of ecclesiastics and laity were often the same, and were intertwined. And yet, it is only logical. So where do we go from here, to get to where we can start really changing our models? Or should we?