mark, designation for the free village community that was supposed to have been the unit of primitive German social life. According to a theory formulated in the 19th cent. by Georg Ludwig von Maurer and others, the mark was composed of free men in voluntary association, holding lands communally, and governed by a chief elected for a short term. The theory was expanded by other scholars, among them Edward Augustus Freeman, but it later was bitterly attacked by the historians N. D. Fustel de Coulanges and Frederic Seebohm. It has become generally accepted that Roman as well as Germanic institutions influenced the formation of the medieval manorial system and that the idyllic democratic society depicted by Maurer never existed. See village .
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