Medieval Europe: Social Systems The

Medieval Europe:
Social Systems
The “Dark” Ages
• After the fall of the
western Roman Empire,
Europe entered a
period of political and
social turmoil popularly
called the Dark Ages
(“dark” as in “not
• But were the Dark Ages
really all that “dark”?
The Franks
• Germanic invaders
• In 486 AD, Clovis, first
king of the Franks,
conquered the Roman
province of Gaul
(France) and converted
to Christianity as a way
to unite his people
under his rule
Battle of Tours
• In 732 AD, Frankish king
Charles “the Hammer”
Martel led his Christian
Franks to a victory over
Muslim invaders at
Tours, France, stopping
Islam’s advance into
Europe (although Spain
remained under Muslim
rule for the next 750
• Frankish King Charlemagne
(or “Charles the Great”)
– Rewarded by the pope (head
of the Christian church) for
his loyalty to the Church with
the title “King of the Romans”
– Tried to establish a united
Christian empire across
Western Europe, but it did
not survive his death
– Valued education and did
much to revive formal
learning in Europe
– Laid the foundation for the
European feudal system that
dominated the Middle Ages
Threats to Europe
• Outside invaders:
– Muslims periodically tried
to invade Europe from the
south and east from the
700s to the 1600s
– Magyars & Mongols
invaded from the east from
the 900s to the late 1300s
– Vikings threatened from
the north between 790s to
1070s AD
European Feudalism
• Kings in Europe were too weak
to fight off invaders without
• To get help, they gave control of
local areas to nobles who
agreed to provide king taxes
and soldiers
• These nobles gave control of
smaller localized areas to lesser
lords who agreed to serve them
• The lesser lords then hired
knights to serve as warriors in
their service
• The lesser lords also used the
knights to oversee the local
peasants, towns, and villages
The Nobility
• Nobles & knights
– Lived in castles or
fortified keeps
– Marriages were
arranged within their
social station
– Were expected to follow
a code of conduct,
known as chivalry,
which emphasized honor
and duty
The Peasants
• Were serfs, which means they
were bound to the land they
worked – they could not leave
their assigned land without
permission, but also could not
be bought and sold like slaves
• Had to work the lord’s land
and provide payments at
certain times of the year and
on certain occasions
• In return, it was expected that
the lord would protect them
from invaders
Rise of Towns
• Usually began as small
temporary markets or
fairs at major crossroads
• As demand for goods
grew, these markets
became permanent
• Walled for protection
• Very crowded, dirty, &
Economic Changes
Agricultural Revolution
– Yoke & iron plow invented
– Crop rotation practiced
– More trade along the Silk Road
– Cities become larger as more
traders and artisans settle
Commercial Revolution
– Merchants began to work in
partnerships to sell more goods
– Banks introduced to Europe
– Merchants and artisans living in
towns become a new “middle”
• Associations of merchants
and artisans, which set the
rules for membership in a
trade and fixed prices for
their products
– to join a guild, you had to
start as an unpaid
“apprentice” while still a child
– after 7 years as an apprentice
you were promoted to a
“journeyman” who could
then work in the trade for pay
– Once you were able to open
your own shop, you became a
“master” and could join the
The Medieval Church
• During Middle Ages,
nearly all of western
Europe becomes Christian
• Each feudal manor would
have its own parish priest
– Performed all baptisms,
marriages, funerals
– Led Sunday worship
– Helped the sick and needy
– Collected the tithe (10%
“tax” on everyone’s
Monks & Nuns
• Monks and Nuns – men and
women who withdrew from
worldly life to work for God
– Took three vows
• Vow of obedience to the
Church’s hierarchy
• A vow of poverty to hold no
material wealth
• A vow of chastity to never
marry or have sex
– Performed manual labor
through farming, making the
things they needed
– Hand copied and illustrated
the Bible as well as old Greek
and Roman texts
Papal Supremacy
• The pope, or head of the
Church, became
extremely powerful
– Popes claimed that they
had authority over even
– The Church owned large
tracts of land, including
entire regions in Italy
governed directly by the
Pope himself
– The Church had its own
laws and courts which
could prosecute anyone
Eastern Orthodoxy
Byzantine emperor Justinian
refused to recognize the Pope’s
authority, instead taking personal
control of the Eastern Church
– Byzantine priests were allowed
to marry
– Byzantine priests used Greek
instead of Latin
– placed greater emphasis on
Easter than Christmas
– All art should be religious
These differences led to a schism
(or break) within the church
– In 1054, Christianity formally
split into the Eastern Orthodox
(east) and Catholic (west)
European Jews
• Large numbers lived in Spain
under Muslim protection
• Elsewhere, they were increasingly
persecuted, mocked, &
• Were not allowed to own land or
hold certain jobs
• Forced to live in specific
neighborhoods, known as
ghettos, within towns and cities
• Occasionally, whole communities
were killed or run off
• Tolerated only because they could
serve as bankers, a profession
forbidden to Christians
The Crusades
• In 1095: Pope Urban II called
on European nobles to free
the Holy Land (specifically
Jerusalem) which was under
Muslim control
• Thousands of knights
responded to launch the First
– Why?
• Religious zeal
• hoped to win wealth
• hoped to carve out new
• some were criminals
fleeing trouble at home
The Crusades
Early Crusades
The First Crusade: 1096-1099
– Christian knights captured
Jerusalem, massacred all
Muslims and Jews in the city
The Second Crusade: 1147-48
– More Christians arrived to fend
off attacks by Muslims on the
Kingdom of Jerusalem
The Third Crusade: 1189-92
– Muslim general Salah al-Din
retook Jerusalem, but spared all
the Christians living there
– New crusade was launched, led
by kings of France, England, the
Holy Roman Empire, but failed
Later Crusades
The Fourth Crusade
– Crusaders never reach the Holy Land
and instead sack Constantinople, a
Christian city!
The Fifth Crusade
– Christians tried to invade through Egypt,
defeated easily by Muslims
The Sixth Crusade
– Frederick II wins access for Christians to
Holy sites through diplomacy
The Seventh Crusade
– Louis IX leads a failed attack
The Eighth Crusade
– Louis IX tries again – this time he dies
on the way there
The Ninth Crusade
– The English fail to free Jerusalem
By 1300, all Christian holdings in the Holy
Land were back under Islamic control
The Reconquista
• Spain had been controlled
by Muslims since the 700s
• Beginning in 1085,
Christians slowly began to
push Muslims out
• 1492: a united Spain
under King Ferdinand and
Queen Isabella forced last
Muslims to abandon
Spain to Christian rule
Medieval Europe:
Rise of Nation
• Had been part of the
Roman Empire
• Population was a mix
of Angles, Saxons,
and Vikings who had
each invaded the
island over the
centuries of the early
Middle Ages
The Norman Conquest
• In 1066, King Edward the
Confessor died with no heir
– two rival claims were
made to the throne by
Harold (Edward’s brotherin-law) and by William of
Normandy (Normandy is in
• William raised a French
army and won the backing
of the Pope; at the Battle of
Hastings, he defeated
Harold and became king
William the Conqueror
• William of Normandy
became known as “William
the Conqueror” and his
victory is known as the
“Norman Conquest”
• 1086: William had a census
taken which listed every
castle and field (along with
who owned it) – this
census is called the
“Domesday Book” and
allowed William to
accurately tax his people
English Legal Reform
• King Henry II in 1150s
wanted to strengthen
law enforcement
– sent out traveling
justices to enforce law
– expanded royal law to all
of England and did away
with feudal courts and
church courts
– first to use juries to
decide trials
Church Opposition
• But, Henry got in a fight
with the church over who
should try priests accused
of crimes
– opposed by his good friend
Bishop Thomas Becket
– some of Henry’s knights
think that they are doing
him a favor and kill Becket
– Horrified at what had
happened, Henry backed
off and allowed church to
try their own officials
King John (Bad King!)
• Henry II’s son
• Lost a war against King Philip II
of France; Philip took control
of Normandy
• Challenged authority of Pope
Innocent III ; pope forced John
to accept Pope as superior to
kings by threatening to
excommunicate John
(excommunicate = kick him
out of the church, condemn to
• English nobles, angered over
high taxes, forced John to sign
the Magna Carta
Magna Carta
• Protected the privileges of
the nobility, townspeople,
and the Church
• Created “due process” –
protection from arrest and
imprisonment without cause
• Protected people from
“taxation without
representation” by requiring
the king to consult the Great
Council before raising taxes
• King must obey his own laws
The Great Council
• Now known as Parliament
• In 1295, King Edward I had
representatives of the common
people join with the nobles and
clergy already on the Council
• later evolved into a two-house
– the House of Lords (nobles
and clergy)
– the House of Commons
(knights and townspeople)
• Parliament’s power comes from
its ability to control taxes
• The Carolingian Dynasty
(founded by Charles “the
Hammer” Martel) failed
• Around 987 the Capetian
Dynasty, founded by King
Hugh Capet took power
• The Capetian kings
started off weak – little
power and little wealth but slowly built up both
and grew into a strong
monarchy over the next
300 years
King Philip II
• Seized Normandy from
England’s King John
• Built Europe’s first standing
army of professional
• Won the approval of the
pope for crushing heretical
groups (heresy is any
religious teaching not in line
with the official church
• By his death in 1223, he was
the most powerful king in
King Louis IX
• Deeply religious
• Persecuted heretics &
Jews, fought Muslims
• Brought justice to
France by centralizing
the legal system,
sending out royal
justices, and freeing
French serfs
King Philip IV
• Facing mounting debts, Philip
confiscated Jewish property,
destroyed the Knights Templar
(whom he owed money ) and
even tried to tax the church to
raise money
• Pope refused to pay taxes
• Philip sent troops to arrest the
pope, but pope was
mistreated and died from
• Philip appointed a new
FRENCH pope and moves the
Papal Seat from Rome to
Avignon, France
The Holy Roman Empire
• The part of
empire that is
today mostly
Germany &
King Otto I
• In 936, Otto I became first King
of Germany
• For helping the Pope put down
rebellions, Otto was honored
with the title “Holy Roman
– “Holy” = crowned by the Pope
– “Roman” = considered to be
the heir of the Roman
• Unfortunately, Otto didn’t
have a lot of real power
because the feudal lords in
Germany were too strong and
the church held too much
Pope Gregory VII
• wanted the Church to have
power independent of kings
• stopped allowing kings to
appoint the bishops (church
officials) within their own
realms; previously, kings
could decide who became
bishops and often used the
position as a reward for
their friends
• This made the various
European kings angry and
Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV
• Challenged Pope
Gregory VII on these
issues, but was
undermined by German
nobles who supported
the Church
• Gregory
excommunicated Henry,
forcing him to apologize
and beg for forgiveness
Papal Power
• Various European kings
and the Church also
clashed over control of
Italy. In the end, no one
could control Italy and the
entire area remained
broken up into tiny
independent city-states
• Popes remained incredibly
powerful until Philip IV of
France broke that power
by moving the papacy to
France and placing it under
his control
The Byzantine Empire
• After Constantinople was
sacked during the 4th
Crusade by Catholic
knights, the Empire went
into serious decline
• Empire fell to the Muslim
Ottoman Turks in 1453;
Constantinople renamed
Istanbul and made capital
of the Ottoman Empire
Kievan Rus
• City of Kiev
– Developed as a trading
center between Byzantines
to the south and the
Vikings to the north
– Developed the Cyrillic
– Prince Vladimir forced his
people to convert to
– City declined in 1100s as
trade decreased
The Mongols in Russia
• In mid-1200s, Batu
Khan, grandson of
Genghis Khan, burned
Kiev and conquered
• Mongols ruled Russia
for 240 years, but
actually continued to let
the Russian princes
govern their city-states
Rise of Moscow
• Under Mongol rule, Moscow
became the most powerful
city in Russia – both the
political capital and the
headquarters of the Russian
Orthodox branch of
• In 1380, Moscow led the
overthrow of the Mongols,
freeing Russia from foreign
• Ivan III (or Ivan the Great)
united Russia into one nation
between 1462 and 1505 and
took the title “Czar”
Ivan IV (the Terrible)
• Grandson of Ivan III
• At the same time much of
Western Europe was getting
rid of feudalism, Ivan
introduced it to Russia
• Was unstable; killed his own
son and grandchild in a fit of
• Had secret agents called
oprichniki who roamed the
countryside, killing the
czar’s enemies
• After his death in 1584,
Russia fell into chaos
Medieval Europe:
Moving Towards
Medieval Universities
• By the 1100s, schools had
arisen around the great
cathedrals to train clergy
• Quickly became a status
symbol for European
• Women were not allowed
to attend university
• Knowledge of classical
Greece, which had been
preserved by Muslim
scholars, returned to
Europe during Crusades
University Life
6 days a week
5 AM: attend prayers
5 – 10 AM: attend classes
lessons were in Latin, students
sat for hours on hard wooden
benches, expected to
memorize what they heard,
students paid teacher for each
10 AM: first meal of day
11 AM – 5 PM: attend classes
5 PM: last meal of day
after dinner, studied until bed
all exams were oral
A Medieval Classroom
St. Thomas Aquinas
• Aquinas used logic and
reason to defend Christian
teachings – united Christian
faith with Greek philosophy
to argue that God rules over
an orderly universe and that
the laws of nature prove
intelligent design
• Marks the return of logic
and reason to European
thinking and a move away
from emotional superstition
Science and Math
• Little truly “European”
development, but
returning Crusaders
brought back:
– Arabic numbers which
replaced outdated
Roman numerals
– Scientific knowledge of
the classical Greeks + the
scientific achievements
of Islamic scholars (like
Medieval Literature
• Heroic epics
– France’s Song of Roland
– Spain’s Cantar de Mio
• Dante’s Divine Comedy,
including its most
famous book, The
Inferno (from Italy)
• Chaucer’s Canterbury
Tales (from England)
Gothic Cathedrals
• Massive churches which
major cities constructed
as a sign of their wealth
• Defining features:
– flying buttresses (to carry
weight of stone)
– stained glass windows, bas
relief door panels (to
illustrate Bible stories for
the illiterate)
– built in the shape of a cross
– gargoyles (scared away evil
spirits, helped with water
drainage from roof)
Notre Dame Cathedral
The Black Death
• Plague began in China, killing
35 million there
• Plague spread across Asia,
carried by fleas on Mongol
caravans, killing millions
more at a rate of about 7000
per day
• Rats carrying plague arrived
in Italy via merchant ships in
• By 1348, plague had spread
from Italy to Spain and
France; over the next few
years it reached all corners of
Plague & The Silk Roads
Consequences of Plague
• Caused a collapse of
social systems
– many lost faith in the
– many blamed the Jews,
deepening religious
– many abandoned their
families to flee plague
– too many workers died,
damaging the economy
• As many as 50% of
Europeans may have died
A Weakened Church
• Papal seat had been moved
to Avignon, France
• The French popes were
largely corrupt and favored
French interests
• Angered, some bishops
elected a new pope in Rome
in 1378; until 1417 there
were two popes, each
claiming authority over the
Catholic Church
• Eventually the Papal seat
returned to Rome, but power
of the pope had been badly
damaged by the infighting
The Hundred Years War
• 1337-1453 (really, that’s
116 years)
• Fought mainly between
England and France in
French territory
• First European war to
see the use of guns and
cannons thanks to
introduction of Chinese
Joan of Arc
• In 1429, 17 year old Joan of
Arc (a girl) convinced King
Charles VII of France that God
had sent her a vision telling
her to lead his army to victory
• She led French to numerous
victories for the next year, but
then was captured by the
English and burned at the
stake for witchcraft
• The angry French considered
Joan a martyr (someone who
dies for their beliefs) and
rallied to drive the English out
of France
Consequences of War
• Temporarily broke English
power and allowed
France to dominate
• Cannons made knights
and castles obsolete
because they could not
stand up to them
• Since knights no longer
afforded protection to the
serfs from cannons, the
feudal system in Europe
began to fail