The middle ages in western europe
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The Middle Ages in Western Europe. Began with the fall of Rome and lasted until the 15 th century Two general periods: 500-1000 Dark Ages Gradual recovery from the shock of Rome’s collapse 1000-1450 Late Middle Ages Growing interaction with other societies. Nomadic Invasions.

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The Middle Ages in Western Europe

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The Middle Ages in Western Europe

  • Began with the fall of Rome and lasted until the 15th century

    Two general periods:

  • 500-1000 Dark Ages

    • Gradual recovery from the shock of Rome’s collapse

  • 1000-1450 Late Middle Ages

    • Growing interaction with other societies

Nomadic Invasions

  • Western Europe under attack by invaders

    • Vikings - Scandinavia

    • Magyars - Hungary

    • Muslims - Middle East

  • Resulted in weak government and lack of durable economic activity beyond farming

Vikings used multi-oared long boats to travel along the North Atlantic Coast and inland rivers.

Vikings were raiders, but also merchants and fishermen

Vikings converted to Christianity

Impact of invasion and weak rule

Feudalism: general term for the social, political and economic system that emerged


  • people were vulnerable to constant invasion

    Population shift

  • many left cities and moved to the countryside

    Economic decline

  • trade contacts were disrupted

Japanese vs. European Feudalism


  • King & Emperor largely symbolic

  • Lord-vassal relationship

  • Samurai and knights served higher lords

  • Loyalty, bravery, and honor

    • bushido vs. chivalry

  • Family lineage important

Differences between European and Japanese Feudalism


  • Goal was survival

  • Relationships based on legal code

  • Only firstborn son was heir

  • Cult of chivalry—women placed on pedestal

  • Some contempt for arts and learning


  • Seppuku or hari-kari; stoic acceptance of death

  • Relationships based on moral code

  • Any son adopted was heir

  • Women should have samurai attitude—be tough

  • Interest in arts and learning

The Catholic Church: hierarchical structure and most powerful force in medieval Europe

Why was the Church so powerful in the Middle Ages?

  • Controlled people’s souls through the sacraments (baptism, communion, etc.)

  • Threat of excommunication and interdiction

    (banishment from the Church)

  • Canon law (religious law) governed both laypeople (members of the church) and the clergy (officials of the church)

The Late Middle Ages:Changes in Europe between 1000-1450

Contact with other regions &

challenges to traditional medieval society

  • New agricultural techniques

  • Crusades

  • Formation of guilds

  • Commercial Revolution

  • Revival of learning

What do you see happening in this picture?How does it seem different from feudalism?

Changes in Agriculture

  • Contacts with E. Europe and Asia led to new agricultural techniques

  • Use of new plow, horse collar, stirrups, 3- field system led to improved productivity

  • Surplus of food led to population increase which led to more economic innovation

  • New markets were formed and trade opened up

Look at the impact of increased trade. How would this undercut manorialism?

Revival of Learning

  • Muslims and Byzantine scholars kept Classical Greek learning alive

  • Crusades brought Europe into contact with these works and out of the “dark ages”

  • Poets began to use vernacular or everyday, local language (instead of Latin)

  • Growth of universities in Europe

Compare & Contrast

Women in Western Europe compared to Islamic societies:

  • In some ways higher status

  • Less segregated in religion and less confined in home

  • No property rights

  • Increasingly patriarchal over time

    Feudal society compared to Japan

    Development of individual nation-states (England & France) as opposed to centralized empire in China

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