The Middle Ages: The Myth • We think of knights in shining armor, lavish banquets, wandering minstrels, kings, queens, bishops, monks, pilgrims, and glorious pageantry. • In film and in literature, medieval life seems heroic, entertaining, and romantic.
The Middle Ages: The Reality • In reality, life in the Middle Ages, a period that extended from approximately the 5th century to the 15th century in Western Europe, could also be harsh, uncertain, and dangerous.
The Lord of the Manor • For safety and defense, people in the Middle Ages formed small communities around a central lord or master.
The Manor • Most people lived on a manor, which consisted of the castle (or manor house), the church, the village, and the surrounding farm land.
Self-Sufficiency • Each manor was largely self-sufficient, growing or producing all of the basic items needed for food, clothing, and shelter. • To meet these needs, the manor had buildings devoted to special purposes, such as: • The mill for grinding grain • The bake house for making bread • The blacksmith shop for creating metal goods.
Isolation • These manors were isolated, with occasional visits from peddlers, pilgrims on their way to the Crusades, or soldiers from other fiefdoms.
The Feudal System • Under the feudal system, the king awarded land grants or fiefs to his most important nobles, barons, and bishops, in return for their contribution of soldiers for the king's armies.
Nobles and Vassals • Nobles divided their land among the lesser nobility, who became their vassals. Many of these vassals became so powerful that the kings had difficulty controlling them.
The Magna Carta • In 1215, the English barons formed an alliance that forced King John to sign the Magna Carta. It limited the king's powers of taxation and required trials by jury. It was the first time that an English monarch was subject to the law.
The Peasants • At the lowest level of society were the peasants, also called serfs or villeins. • The lord offered his peasants protection in exchange for living and working on his land.
Hard Work & High Taxes • Peasants worked hard to cultivate the land and produce the goods that the lord and his manor needed. • They were heavily taxed and were required to relinquish much of what they harvested.
Bound by law and custom… • It is the custom in England, as with other countries, for the nobility to have great power over the common people, who are serfs. This means that they are bound by law and custom to plough the field of their masters, harvest the corn, gather it into barns, and thresh and winnow the grain; they must also mow and carry home the hay, cut and collect wood, and perform all manner of tasks of this kind.-- Jean Froissart, 1395
MEDIEVAL LIFE Cooperation and Mutual Obligations • MANORIALISM: ECONOMIC SYSTEM • Agriculture the basis for wealth • Lands divided up into self-sufficient manors • Peasants (serfs) worked the land and paid rent In exchange for protection • Barter the usual form of exchange • FEUDALISM: POLITICAL SYSTEM • Decentralized, local government • Dependent upon the relationship between members of the nobility • Lord and his vassals administered justice and were the highest authority in their land KING Fief and Peasants Fief and Peasants Military Aid Loyalty LORDS (VASSALS TO KING) Food Protection Shelter Food Protection Shelter Military Service Homage KNIGHTS (VASSALS TO LORDS) Food Protection Shelter Pay Rent Farm the Land PEASANTS (SERFS)
The Catholic Church • The Catholic Church was the only church in Europe during the Middle Ages, and it had its own laws and large income. • Church leaders such as bishops and archbishops sat on the king's council and played leading roles in government.
Monasteries • Monasteries in the Middle Ages were based on the rules set down by St. Benedict in the sixth century. The monks became known as Benedictines and took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to their leaders.
Monks • Monks were required to perform manual labor and were forbidden to own property, leave the monastery, or become entangled in the concerns of society. • Daily tasks were often carried out in silence.
Tradesmen • With the advent of trade and commerce, feudal life declined. As the tradesmen became wealthier, they resented having to give their profits to their lords.
Boroughs • Arrangements were made for the townspeople to pay a fixed annual sum to the lord or king and gain independence for their town as a "borough" with the power to govern itself. The marketplace became the focus of many towns.
Town Governments • As the townspeople became "free" citizens, powerful families, particularly in Italy, struggled to gain control of the communes or boroughs. Town councils were formed.
Guilds • Guilds were established to gain higher wages for their members and protect them from competitors. As the guilds grew rich and powerful, they built guildhalls and began taking an active role in civic affairs, setting up courts to settle disputes and punish wrongdoers.
The Merchant Class • The new merchant class included artisans, masons, armorers, bakers, shoemakers, ropemakers, dyers, and other skilled workers.
Masons • Of all the craftsmen, the masons were the highest paid and most respected. They were, after all, responsible for building the cathedrals, hospitals, universities, castles, and guildhalls.
Apprentices • Masons learned their craft as apprentices to a master mason, living at lodges for up to seven years. The master mason was essentially an architect, a general contractor, and a teacher.
The First Companies • The population of cities swelled for the first time since before the Dark Ages. With the new merchant activity, companies were formed. Merchants hired bookkeepers, scribes, and clerks, creating new jobs.
The Rise of European Monarchies: England
Evolution of England’s Political System • Henry I: • William’s son. • set up a court system. • Exchequer dept. of royal finances. • Henry II: • established the principle of common law throughout the kingdom. • grand jury. • trial by jury.
Magna Carta, 1215 • King John I • Runnymeade • “Great Charter” • monarchs were not above the law. • kings had to consult a council of advisors. • kings could not tax arbitrarily.
The Beginnings of the British Parliament • Great Council: • middle class merchants, townspeople [burgesses in Eng., bourgeoisie in Fr., burghers in Ger.] were added at the end of the 13c. • eventually called Parliament. • by 1400, two chambers evolved: • House of Lords nobles & clergy. • House of Commons knights and burgesses.
Gothic Architectural Style • Pointed arches. • High, narrow vaults. • Thinner walls. • Flying buttresses. • Elaborate, ornate, airier interiors. • Stained-glass windows. “Flying” Buttresses
The Hundred Years' War (1347-1453)
Causes of the 100 Years' War
1. Controversy Over Succession • The French nobility selected Philip of Valois, a cousin of the last king through the male line. • He founded a new French dynasty that ruled through the 16c. • He was chosen in preference to King Edward III of England, whose mother was the daughter of the late king, Philip IV. • In 1340, Edward claimed the title “King of France.”
2. Fr. Land Belonging to Br. Kings • A longer standing issue was the status of lands within France that belonged to English kings. • Edward was actually a vassal of Philip’s, holding sizable French territories as fiefs from the king of France [it went back to the Norman conquest].
3. Conflict Over Flanders The ‘dagger’ pointing at the ‘heart’ of England! • Wool industry. • Flanders wants its independence from French control. • Asks England for help.
4. A Struggle for National Identity • France was NOT a united country before the war began. • The French king only controlled about half of the country.
The War Itself
Military Characteristics • The War was a series of short raids and expeditions punctuated by a few major battles, marked off by truces or ineffective treaties. • The relative strengths of each country dictated the sporadic nature of the struggle.
French Advantages • Population of about 16,000,000. • Far richer and more populous than England. • At one point, the French fielded an army of over 50,000 at most, Britain mustered only 32,000.