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Middle Ages: 500-1500. Between the Roman Empire and the Early Modern Period. 500-800: Dark Ages: little cultural or scientific advancement. 1050 - 1450: High Middle Ages: social institutions matured; era of greater creativity.

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middle ages 500 1500
Middle Ages: 500-1500
  • Between the Roman Empire and the Early Modern Period.
  • 500-800: Dark Ages: little cultural or scientific advancement.
  • 1050 - 1450: High Middle Ages: social institutions matured; era of greater creativity.
  • The culture of Western Europe was a blend of classical (Greco-Roman), Christian, and Germanic elements.
  • Political System
  • Through interdependence and mutual responsibilities, feudalism provided people with protection and stability.
  • A lord gave each of his vassals a parcel of land called a fief in exchange for military service and payments called relief.
  • A vassal protected the inhabitants of his fief, collected revenue (taxes), and dispensed justice
manor system
Manor System
  • A great fief was subdivided into hundreds of smaller estates called manors, which were the basic social and economic units of the Middle Ages.
  • Most were about 1,000 acres and supported 200-300 people.
  • Peasants were not allowed to leave the manor.
  • The lord could not evict them from the land.
  • They were required to do any labor the lord demanded.
  • They also had to work a plot of land for the church, God’s acre.
  • The lord of the manor traditionally took half the produce.
roman catholic church
Roman Catholic Church
  • With both spiritual and secular power, the church dominated life and was the primary institution of medieval society.
  • The church was believed to be the only way to salvation and possessed great influence.
  • Secular clergy were the parish priests.
  • Regular clergy lived in monasteries and kept literacy alive.
  • It was a time of Church corruption.
    • Vows of poverty and chastity were ignored.
    • Nobles often sold the offices of Bishops and Archbishops.
crusades causes
Crusades: Causes
  • Goal: to liberate the Holy Land of Jerusalem from the Muslims
  • 1071: Seljuk Turks took over Palestine and were allegedly torturing Christians.
  • 1095: Byzantine Emperor asked Pope for help.
  • Between 1096 and 1270, there were multiple crusades, but only the 1st Crusade in 1099 was successful.
crusades appeal
Crusades: Appeal
  • The crusades appealed to people’s desire for wealth, honor, sense of adventure, freedom from serfdom, freedom from debts, and hope for spiritual salvation.
  • Encouraged by Venetian merchants, the 4th Crusade attacked and looted Constantinople.
  • The Crusades failed in their chief goal - the conquest of the Holy Land.
political outcome
Political Outcome
  • briefly increased the power and prestige of the pope
  • increased the power of monarchs who levied taxes to support the Crusades
  • increased trade between east and west
  • rise of towns
economic outcome
Economic Outcome
  • encouraged the growth of a money economy in Western Europe
  • selling goods for a profit became acceptable
  • Italian merchants and shipbuilders got rich by maintaining supply lines and transportation to the Holy Land
social cultural outcome
Social & Cultural Outcome
  • contact with other civilizations opened minds to new ideas
  • sparked an interest in exploration
  • increased persecution of Jews
  • thousands were slaughtered & much property was destroyed
high middle ages 1050 1350
High Middle Ages 1050-1350
  • Agricultural Revolution
    • iron plows
    • horse harness
    • windmill to grind grain
  • Expanding Production
    • peasants cleared forests, drained swamps, reclaimed waste land
  • Led to population increase
  • Towns grew up around castles and monasteries to provide them with goods and services. 
trade revives
Trade Revives
  • people began to desire more than what was produced on the manor
  • peasants wanted iron for tools
  • nobles wanted fine wool, furs, and spices from Asia
  • regular trade routes were set up
    • traders formed merchant caravans for safety
  • local goods (honey, furs, fine cloth, tin, lead) were exchanged for imported goods (Chinese silks, Byzantine gold jewelry, Asian spices)
  • Constantinople to Venice to Flanders to England
trade fairs
Trade Fairs
  • located near navigable rivers and where trade routes met
  • people from nearby villages, towns, and castles attended
  • entertainment included jugglers, acrobats, and dancing bears
new towns
New Towns
  • merchants would wait out the winter near a castle or bishop’s palace
  • artisans came to live
  • eventually populations reached 10,000
  • most prosperous cities were in northern Italy and Flanders – which were centers of the wool trade and prosperous textile industries
  • charter - merchants would ask the local lord for a written document that set out the rights and privileges of the town
  • in return the merchants paid the lord a large sum of money, a yearly fee, or both
  • charters usually allowed townspeople to choose their own leaders and control their own affairs
  • most had a clause declaring any serf who lived in the town a year and a day to be free
commercial revolution
Commercial Revolution
  • money reappeared
  • merchants borrowed from moneylenders to buy goods
  • clergy felt the practice of usury (lending money at interest) was immoral
  • capital – money for investment
  • new business practices
    • partnerships – merchants pooled their funds to finance a large-scale ventures
    • insurance was created to compensate for lost or destroyed merchandise
    • bills of exchange used – deposit money in a bank in one city and cash in the paper in another city
social changes
Social Changes
  • use of money undermined serfdom
    • lords needed money to buy goods
    • peasants sold produce to townspeople and paid the lord’s rent with money rather than labor
  • by 1000 – middle class of merchants, traders, and artisans emerged between nobles and peasants
  • nobles resented middle class for being a disruptive influence
  • by 1300 – few serfs were left in Western Europe
  • associations of merchants and artisans
  • dominated life in medieval towns by passing laws, levying taxes, and deciding how to spend funds
  • guilds limited membership, monopolized labor, made rules to ensure quality, regulated hours of labor, regulated prices, provided social services
  • apprentice (trainee) began around age 7, spent 7 years learning the trade, and only received bed and board
  • most became journeymen (salaried workers), a few became guildmasters
  • in some cities a third of all guildmembers were women
city life
City Life
  • cities were surrounded by walls for protection
  • narrow streets and tall houses
  • larger cities had a great cathedral or a splendid guild house
  • hawkers sold stuff during the day
  • unlit streets were deserted at night
  • no garbage or sewage collection
    • people yelled “gardyloo” as they flung their waste out a window into the street
  • filthy, smelly, noisy, crowded
  • facilitated the spread of disease
  • wooded buildings were a fire hazard
major changes
Major Changes
  • return of a money economy
  • trade brought new products, ideas, and technology
  • middle class changed the social structure
  • monarchs increased their power
  • increased contact with other cultures
learning literature
Learning & Literature
  • 1100s - first universities evolved out of cathedral schools
  • Literature began to be written in the vernacular (everyday language of the people) rather than in Latin only.
  • Scholasticism was developed by Christian scholars to resolve the conflict between faith and reason.
medieval art
Medieval Art
  • Theme was religion.
  • illuminated manuscripts
  • great cathedrals
romanesque 1000 1150
Romanesque: 1000 - 1150
  • thick walls, rounded arches and domed roofs
  • narrow slits for windows
  • simple, solid, dark, gloomy fortress
  • flat, masculine, and simply adorned
gothic 1150 1300
Gothic: 1150 - 1300
  • tall, light, and airy
  • flying buttresses
  • large stained glass windows
  • complex, lacy, richly embroidered, feminine
  • Despite the lack of scientific observation and experimentation and the unquestioned authority of the Catholic Church, some scientific progress was made.
  • 1200s - Roger Bacon : founder of experimental science
  • Medicine was still poor - illness was the work of the devil
  • Cures = herbal folk medicine, prayer, and pilgrimages to holy shrines
1200s rise of towns
1200s - Rise of Towns
  • The growth of towns and a middle class weakened the position of the nobility.
  • Increased trade created a money economy, which replaced the barter economy.
  • Monarchs were able to hire soldiers for standing armies to protect the people, and they no longer relied on vassals for support.
  • Strong monarchs undermined feudal nobility.
black plague
Black Plague
  • illness and death - killed 1/3 of the population
1300s challenging century
1300s - Challenging Century
  • social unrest = peasant revolts
  • bad weather & crop failures early in the century = hunger and starvation
  • divisions in the Church
  • Babylonian Captivity: 1309 – 1378 = 2 Popes
  • heresies : Wycliffe and Hus
hundred years war 1337 1453
Hundred Years’ War ~ 1337-1453
  • military conflict ~ England v. France
  • New weapons such as the longbow and cannons made armored knights obsolete and castles indefensible.
  • Many nobles died during the war.
economic transformation
Economic Transformation
  • growth of banking and capitalism
  • decline of feudal and manorial systems
  • weakening of the guild system
  • emergence of the domestic system - merchants hired laborers who were paid for piecework
1400s time of change
1400s - Time of Change
  • Strong national monarchies arose in England, France, and Spain to form centralized governments.
  • Most serfs were emancipated.
  • Flourishing in the arts and literature = the Renaissance.
  • Inquisition - court established by the Catholic Church in the 1200s to locate and try heretics - actively persecuted Jews, Muslims, and alleged witches.