The Middle Ages 1066 - 1485 Feudalism, Knighthood, Chivalry, and the Crusades
Beginnings • William the Conqueror conquered the Anglo-Saxon tribes in 1066. • He changed rather than destroyed their culture. • The old social structure (a warrior chief with loyal thanes) was replaced with a new system called feudalism. • The Catholic Church became one of the most powerful forces.
Feudalism Defined • Feudalism is a social, property, and military system. • An oath of fealty bound a vassal to his lord. • The system was like a pyramid. - God was the supreme overlord. - A king ruled and allocated land to barons in return for allegiance. - These barons were called vassals. - The people who lived on the land, but had no rights, were called serfs. They were effectively slaves to their lord.
Knights • Knights protected their lord’s land. • Boys were trained from an early age to be knights. A boy in training to become a knight was called a squire. • Knights wore armor weighing up to 120 pounds when in battle. • Knights lived by a code of loyalty and honor. • Only the upper class could become knights (no serfs).
Chivalry • Chivalry was a system of ideals and social codes governing the behavior of knights and gentlewomen. • Rules included never attacking an unarmed man, and adoring a particular lady. • Courtly Love – concept that acting in the name of a lady would make a knight a better person. • This woman was not necessarily the knight’s wife.
Romance • Chivalry led to a new form of literature called romance. • In these stories men (often knights) acted in honor of their ladies. • The King Arthur legends are romance stories. • The genre survives in popular novels, movies, and songs.
BALLADS Ballads (from Old French meaning “dancing song”) come from an oral tradition and have no strict rules governing them. A number of characteristics are associated with ballads and all ballads reflect some of them • Supernatural events • Sordid, sensational or tragic subject matter • The omission of details • A refrain (think popular music!)
Ballads continued Like stories, ballads contain a narrative: • Characters • Plot • Climax • resolution
Conventions • Incremental repetition – phrase or sentence repeated with new information added until the climax is reached • Question & answer format – the facts of the story are learned little by little from the answers • Conventional phrases – understood by listeners to have meaning beyond the literal • Strong, simple beat – balllads were sung to a general, rather than elite, audience
The Crusades • Took place between 1095-1270. • A series of wars waged by European Christians against the Muslims. • The Europeans sought to free Jerusalem and the Holy Lands from Muslim rule. • Europeans learned mathematics, astronomy, and architecture from Muslims.
Women’s Roles • Women had no political rights in feudalism. They were dependent on their husband’s or father’s social status. • Women actually took a step back from Anglo-Saxon times. • A peasant woman’s life consisted of childbearing, housework, and fieldwork. • Women of higher status could manage estates, but only when their husbands were away at war.