The Middle Ages

The Middle Ages
I. Facts and Figures
Middle Ages was between 500 and 1500
Also called Medieval times
Divided into 3 eras (Early, Middle and High)
During the Early Middle Ages, western Europe experienced a
Dark Age
• When the Roman Empire fell the people living in Western
Europe no longer had its army to protect it.
• Germanic tribes as well as different Muslim groups were
invading the area
• Feudalism came from the need to organize and protect society;
How It Works
Kings needed armies to protect their kingdoms.
• Gives vassal land (or job, church position) and vassal promises
protection for the lord
• What is given is called a fief
• The fief still technically belongs to the lord
• Could give part of their fief to another vassal then they would
be a lord
• Vassals were knights
• Vassals controlled the land and had permission to rule the
people that lived on it (serfs)
*Serfs (villiens)
• Could not leave the manor, own property or marry without the
Lord’s permission
• Were not slaves could not be sold, however, could runaway. If
they remained uncaught for a year and a day they were free.
• Had to work the land for the lord and given him a portion of
what they grew. Also had to pay for the use of the mill,
winepress, bread ovens etc on the manor.
• A large estate that includes a village, a church, farmlands and
the serfs that work it.
• Completely self sufficient (had to provide for all of its own
• Most people were farmers on the manor but there were skilled
laborers too (blacksmiths, carpenters, shoemakers etc.)
• Farming:
Benefits During Feudal Times
• Developed new farming techniques ( tools, rotation farming)
monks developed new tools
• Learned to harness wind and water power
• Role of Women:
• Ran manors when husbands were away at war or died
Feudalism: Good or Bad??
• Positives
• Helped protect communities
• Helped restore trade
• System of loyalties eventually helped shape future governments
• System did not allow for any one person to become too
powerful. Power was shared
• Negatives
• Could not unite big areas
• Could not afford big building projects
• No central gov’t to enforce laws fairly
• Protected from outside forces but did not bring peace (vassal
vs vassal)
• Vassals could be harsh
• Life of serf was very restrictive
The Decline of Feudalism
• By 1000 feudalism made Europe safer. Roads and bridges were
rebuilt and became safer to travel on as a result trade
• People were healthier, populations grew; manors became
overpopulated; many lords very willing to let serfs go.
• New technologies were discovered that enabled people to
produce more food and goods
• As trade increased towns grew larger, some turned into wealthy
cities. As trade increased people began to use money again
instead of the barter system.
Towns and Cities
Growth of Towns and Cities
• Towns were located on a piece of land so whatever Lord owned
the land controlled the town.
• Townspeople paid taxes in exchange for the right to make their
own rules regarding trade.
• The middle class grew
• Trade boomed- guilds were established
II. Guilds
• Trade encouraged manufacturing
• Craftspeople organized into guilds (like modern unions)
• Set standards for quality, pricing and new members.
• Took care of the widows and children of members who died
• Women took over for their husbands and developed skills of
their own
Process to Become a Craftsman
• Apprentice- at age 10 lived with a master craftsperson and
learned the trade for 5-7 years
• Journeyman: went on their own and worked for wages
• Master craftsman only after they produced a masterpiece
III. What Were Cities Like?
• Crowded with narrow streets
• Dirty and smelly
• Candles and fireplaces used for heat. Wooden houses could
catch fire easily.
• Waste dumped in the streets and rivers
• Sicknesses and disease spread (Black Death)