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The Medieval Era. The medieval period stretches between the fourth and fourteenth centuries The term medieval was coined by latter people looking to connect their own time to classical antiquity. . Medieval Western Hemisphere. Lords and Ladies, Knights and Samurai.

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the medieval era
The Medieval Era
  • The medieval period stretches between the fourth and fourteenth centuries
  • The term medieval was coined by latter people looking to connect their own time to classical antiquity.
lords and ladies knights and samurai
Lords and Ladies, Knights and Samurai
  • The vast majority of the medieval population were peasants
  • Monarchs gathered nobility around them to enhance the glory of their courts and to keep a watchful eye on potential rivals.
lords and ladies knights and samurai5
Lords and Ladies, Knights and Samurai

Feudal System: In Europe and sometimes elsewhere, authority and landownership were organized feudally.

  • An overlord held title to all land in his domain, and granted it to noble vassals in exchange for the loyalty and support
  • The vassals in turn controlled the lives of the serfs who worked their lands.

Feudalism in Europe

  • After the death of Charlemagne, who had managed to unite most of Europe, feudalism emerged as a social and political organization
  • Its form varied greatly from place to place
lords and ladies knights and samurai6
Lords and Ladies, Knights and Samurai

Women gained new, important roles in patronizing and creating the arts – including literature

Medieval knights sought fame and wealth; tales of their exploits grew in popularity

Illustration of a knight in Gothic armor from Concilium zu Constanz woodcut, (digitized page 34 of 509). Credit: Library of Congress

lords and ladies knights and samurai7
Lords and Ladies, Knights and Samurai

Medieval writers typically portray their royal patrons as vastly wise, powerful, and generous, yet the reality was less glorious

  • Communication was difficult
  • Subsistence level farming led to shortages and uprisings
  • Frequent struggles for ascendancy
  • An exception is feudal China
    • Sui, then Tang dynasties

Originially from: British Library Royal MS 18, dated c. 1385-1400 Depicting the end of the 1381 peasant's revolt, the image shows London's mayor, Walworth, killing . There are two images of Richard II. One looks on the killing while the other is talking to the peasants.

travel trade and conquest
Travel, Trade, and Conquest
  • Travel increased throughout the medieval period
    • Merchants
    • Missionaries and pilgrims
  • “Silk Road”: East Asia to the shores of the Mediterranean
the growth of world religions
The Growth of World Religions

Every aspect of medieval life was profoundly marked by religion

    • Several faiths gained increasingly global scope
  • The intermingling of old and new faiths produced conflict, but also presented new ideas
    • Conference of the Birds
    • Divine Comedy
medieval spain
Medieval Spain
  • Medieval Spain represents a fascinating meeting of the three medieval cultures of the West
  • Christian
  • Jewish
  • Islamic
medieval china
Medieval China
  • As medieval Europe begins with the collapse of the Roman empire, medieval China begins with the collapse of the Han dynasty.
  • During this period, Buddhism arrived in China via the Silk Road.
    • New focus on renunciation of duties and rewards of this world
medieval china13
Medieval China
  • The Sui dynasty reunited the empire, but fell within 30 years to the Tang, which ruled for the next 3 centuries.
  • The center of government was the northern capital of Chang’an, located at the end of the Silk road.
    • Foreign influences very visible
    • Tang military expanded boundaries in all directions
  • Civil service exam reached new importance
    • Opened doors to those of humble background, fulfilling Confucian mandate for governance by those with merit
    • Unifying force intellectually
    • Required a version of a liberal arts education: literature, classics, current affairs, administrative issues, and poetry composition
medieval japan
Medieval Japan
  • In the ancient period, the Yamato clan conquered other clans.
    • The Kojiki, one of Japan’s earliest literary works, was an effort to legitimize their rul.
    • Shinto folk beliefs
  • Chinese introduced Buddhism, Confucianism, and written language
    • All highly influential in Japanese life (esp. poetry)
medieval japan15
Medieval Japan

The Heian Period (794-1185)

  • 4 centuries of cultural production centered on imperial court and aristocratic life
  • While Japan still absorbed culture from the continent, it began to develop its own forms.
    • Writing by women in the vernacular, while men wrote in Chinese
      • Tale of Genji, Pillowbook, Man’yoshu, Diary of Murasaki Shi-kibu
      • Much of this literature exists in a Buddhist context that regards excessive attachment as a cause for suffering. Female writings focus on the difficulty of attaining detachment, not on didactic lessons.

The Medieval Period

  • The Heike and the Genji engaged in a prolonged war for control of Japan at end of 12th century – resulting in the birth of Samurai culture
    • Tales of the Heike
  • In the later medieval period, samurai patronage and court culture fused
    • Noh drama
    • Kyogen: focus on commoner life in the provinces
classical arabic and islamic literature
Classical Arabic and Islamic Literature
  • North and South: Two geographic areas/climates and two cultures, with different Semetic languages.


Arid desert, with scattered oases

Bedouin – nomadic, depended on camel and dates

Strong tribal ethos

Frequent warfare


Semi-topical climate

Phoenicians – successful traders

Spoke Sabaic

Noted calligraphy, but little other artistic or architectural achievements

classical arabic and islamic literature18
Classical Arabic and Islamic Literature
  • By 3rd century, Bedouins were a trading force to be reckoned with
    • Southern Arabians were under pressure by Ptolomies of Alexandria and Abyssinians
    • With less competition in South, Mecca became a trading capital
      • Muhammad born in 570 to a distinguished Meccan family
      • Orphaned as young child, raised by uncle a caravan trader who brought him on some journeys
      • Married around 25 to an influential woman
classical arabic and islamic literature19
Classical Arabic and Islamic Literature


  • Around the age of 40 (c. 610) began to have his revelations
    • Archangel Gabriel appeared to him with prophetic call
    • Began public ministry 3 years later because didn’t recognize these early message
    • Early messages focused on devotional aspects of religion
  • Early ministry was tolerated because it was not threatening to Meccan society as it was
classical arabic and islamic literature20
Classical Arabic and Islamic Literature
  • When Muhammad openly attacked polytheism, he encountered severe opposition and persecution
    • Migrated to Medina in 622 (hijra)
    • Various battles to establish Islam
      • Passages against the Jew appeared in Quran when it became clear to Muhammad that they would not accept him
      • Conquest of Mecca in 630
    • After Muhammad’s death, claimants fought over the leadership role
      • Eventually, Bakr was accepted as Caliph
classical arabic and islamic literature21
Classical Arabic and Islamic Literature
  • Caliphate
    • Islamic Empire continued to grow
    • By the time of the 3rd Caliphate, turbulent problems erupted at home, eventually leading to the division of Muslims into two groups
      • The followers of Umayyads: Sunni (orthodox)
      • The supporters of ‘Ali: Shi’ites
      • The division exists to the present day
    • The majority followed Umayyads, who encouraged the development of Arabic language and literature
medieval africa
Medieval Africa
  • During this period, native West African traditions interweaved with Islamic theology and history
  • Epic of Son Jara
medieval europe
Medieval Europe

Difficult time to live

  • Waves of raids, invasions, and tribal migrations
  • Black Death killed off 1/3 of the population

Nevertheless, Middle Ages left us with much of their identity and heritage

  • Architecture, Governmental and religious structure, languages, borders, literature
medieval europe24
Medieval Europe
  • The medieval period begins symbolically when a Germanic tribe conquers Rome in 410
  • Language
    • Latin remained the language of high culture
      • Monks laboriously copied manuscripts
      • After the Great Schism, Greek became a lost language in W. Europe. Islamic empire was source of great Greek scholars, eventually working its way back to Europe through that means
    • Local vernaculars existed alongside Latin

The Book of the Kells

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Medieval Europe
  • Religion
    • The worldly power of the papacy grew throughout the period, seemingly at odds with its mission
      • Great Schism
    • The monastery system also grew in influence
      • St. Benedict
      • Also invested in expanding Christianity in frontiers
        • Efforts to understand religion filtered into architecture and arts of the day

Notre Dame

Credit: Arnaud GaillardThis file is licensed under Creative CommonsAttribution ShareAlike 1.0 License

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Medieval Europe

The people had little access to official dogma, so heresies erupted and were violently repressed by the Church.

Crusading united Christians of Europe and channeled their military energy outward

  • First Crusade called by Pope Urban II in 1095
    • Urban proclaimed peace in Europe and prohibited local fighting
    • The force took a heavy toll on non-Christians it met along the way – especially the Jews
    • Crusaders also saw booty captured along the way as their reward for piety
    • Seven named Crusades and many other related expeditions
medieval europe27
Medieval Europe
  • Lyric: sung by jongleur, written by troubadour
    • Topics were usually of court culture (esp. love)
  • Song: hymns, chants, workman’s songs, Goliard’s drinking songs
  • Romances
  • Medieval mind preferred analogy to symbolism
    • Multiple meanings, complex relationships