History of the Germans

Ep. 103 – All the Duke’s Men - Lothar III as duke of Saxony kicks of the colonisation of the East

May 4, 2023

This week we talk about what happens after the fight for independence is won. As had happened countless times before in history, precious freedoms gained in bloody struggles can be lost easily in the subsequent peace, not to the old adversary, but to new, homegrown usurpers. That is at least one way of telling the story, the other being, that every major political upheaval is followed by a period of consolidation that embeds the gains made and truncates the excesses that appeared during the revolutionary period.

Something like that happened following the Saxon wars when Lothar of Supplinburg, a hitherto minor count from Westphalia is raised to ducal authority in 1106. Before he took the reins of the duchy, Saxony had turned into a free for all. Whenever a rich count or margrave fell victim to the various dangers a civil war generated, his cousins and peers would race to first seize his wife or daughter and then use their claim to grasp as much of his property as possible. A process not much more dignified than the opening of the doors on a Black Friday pre-pandemic.

Lothar established a central authority for the duchy that calms things down considerably. It is during this time that four of the five great princely dynasties in the North get established, the Welf, the Wettins, the Ascanier and the counts of Holstein. The rise of these four was however not a given. There were others, like the counts of Stade and Wiprecht of Groitzsch whose burning ambitions came to nought as they stumbled in the race between reproduction and their near inevitable violent death.

The music for the show is Flute Sonata in E-flat major, H.545 by Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach (or some claim it as BWV 1031 Johann Sebastian Bach) performed and arranged by Michel Rondeau under Common Creative Licence 3.0.

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