Welcome to The Middle Ages

Lecture Notes
Welcome to The Middle Ages
Norman Conquest begins with Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066
a. Duke William of Normandy France invaded England- claimed the crown had
been promised to him
b. William wanted to rule, not eliminate, the Anglo-Saxons--their culture &
language remained--England became a mix of the two
c. Normans brought emphasis on law and order, cultural unity and
administrative ability
d. William inventoried every single piece of property in England in the
Domesday Book—for 1st time, people could be taxed on what they owned
e. Normans brought a new social system – feudalism.
Feudalism & Knighthood: Pyramid Power
a. Pyramid system based on religious concept of hierarchy -- kings appointed
vassals who appointed vassals and so on all the way down to landless knights
& serfs.
b. didn’t always work but we identify it strongly with Middle Ages – knights in
shining armor, chivalry, code of honor, loyalty.
c. boys often sent to another house at early age to be trained for knighthood.
A Terrible Worm in an Iron Cocoon
a. wore heavily padded undergarments of leather & a mail shirt—had to have
servants put it on and put them back on a horse if they fell off.
b. some suits of armor weighed 120 lbs.; knights also carried heavy weapons.
c. armor considered invulnerable until longbow & musket came along.
Women in Medieval Society:
a. no political rights since they weren’t soldiers.
b. husband’s/father’s social standing determined respect they’d get
Chivalry & Courtly Love:
a. Chivalry-system of ideals & social codes-bound knights & gentlewomenincluded oaths of loyalty, rules of warfare etc.
b. Courtly Love – idea that acting in the name of a lady would make knight
braver—lady remained pure and out of reach
The New City Classes:
a. population grew more and more in towns & cities-eventually feudalism
became obsolete
b. city classes – lower, middle, upper middle
c. merchants had $$ --could pay for art – “people’s art”—more common
The Crusades: 1095-1270
a. wars waged by European Christians against Muslims for Jerusalem & Holy
Land – Christians never held them
b. Europe benefited from the higher Middle Eastern civilization—math,
astronomy, architecture, crafts
The Martyrdom of Thomas a Becket
a. at the time, all Christians were Catholic and answered to Pope, including king
b. King Henry II appointed his friend Thomas the Archbishop of Canterbury,
making him head of Catholic Church in England
c. Thomas was independent and took church’s position against Henry so Henry
asked aloud if anyone would rid him of Thomas and four of his knights killed
him in his cathedral
d. the murder caused a backlash against Henry
e. the church continued to foster cultural unity
Magna Carta (Great Charter)
a. signed by King John in 1215 in Runnymede
b. supposed to curb the church’s power
c. it later became the basis for English constitutional law
Hundred Years War 1337-1453
a. England against France
b. 2 English kings claimed the French throne
c. it served to unite the British
d. small landowners (yeomen) with yard-long arrows became the dominant force
in the new society
Fleas, Money & Gunpowder (Or, What caused the end of the Middle Ages?
a. Crusades led to need for gold coins—peasants could earn $$-b. gunpowder—castles could be overtaken
c. fleas – spread bubonic plague
Black Death 1348-1349
a. spread by fleas from infected rats
b. killed 1/3 of the population—caused labor shortage-gave lower classes more
c. serfs gained freedom—knocked out feudalism