Middle Ages

The Middle Ages (adjectival forms: medieval, mediæval or mediaeval) is a historical period following the Iron Age, fully underway by the 5th century and lasting to the 15th century and preceding the early Modern Era. In Europe, the period saw large-scale European Migration and the fall of the Western Roman Empire. In South Asia, the middle kingdoms of India were the classical period of the region. The "Middle" period on the Indian subcontinent lasts for some 1,500 years, and ends in the 13th century. During the late Middle Ages, several Islamic empires were established in the Indian subcontinent. In East Asia, the Mid-Imperial China age begins with the reunification of China and ends with China conquered by the Mongol Empire. The Golden Horde invaded Asia and parts of eastern Europe in the 13th century and established and maintained their khanate until the end of the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages is the middle period in a three-period division of history: Classic, Medieval, and Modern.

The precise dates of the beginning, culmination, and end of the Middle Ages are more or less arbitrarily assumed according to the point of view adopted. The widest limits given, namely the irruption of the Visigoths over the boundaries of the Roman Empire, for the beginning, and the middle of the sixteenth century, for the close, may be taken as inclusively sufficient, and embrace, beyond dispute, every movement or phase of history that can be claimed as properly belonging to the Middle Ages.

The Early Middle Ages, starting around 300, saw the continuation of trends set up in ancient history (and, for Europe, late Antiquity). The period is usually considered to open with those migrations of Germanic peoples that led to the destruction of the Roman Empire in the West in 375, when the Huns fell upon the Gothic peoples north of the Black Sea and forced the Visigoths over the boundaries of the Roman Empire on the lower Danube. A later date, however, is sometimes assumed, namely when Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustulus, the last of the Roman Emperors of the West, in 476. Depopulation, deurbanization, and increased invasion were seen across the Old World. North Africa and the Middle East, once part of the Eastern Roman Empire, became Islamic. Later in European history, the establishment of the feudal system allowed a return to systemic agriculture. There was sustained urbanization in northern and western Europe.

During the High Middle Ages in Europe, Christian-oriented art and architecture flourished and Crusades were mounted. The influence of the emerging states in Europe was tempered by the ideal of an international Christendom. The codes of chivalry and courtly love set rules for proper European behavior, while the European Scholastic philosophers attempted to reconcile Christian faith and reason.

During the Late Middle Ages in Europe, the centuries of prosperity and growth came to a halt. The close of the Middle Ages is also variously fixed; some make it coincide with the rise of Humanism and the Renaissance in Italy, in the fourteenth century; with the Fall of Constantinople, in 1453; with the discovery of America by Columbus in 1492; or, again, with the great religious schism of the sixteenth century. A series of famines and plagues, such as the medieval Great Famine and the Black Death, reduced the population around half before the calamities in the late Middle Ages. Along with depopulation came social unrest and endemic warfare. Western Europe experienced serious peasant risings: the Jacquerie, the Peasants' Revolt, and the Hundred Years' War. To add to the many problems of the period, the unity of the Catholic Church was shattered by the Western Schism. Collectively the events are a crisis of the Late Middle Ages.

Epoch turning points in European history that occurred during the whole of the Middle Ages include:

  • Commencement of the Middle Ages (c. 395)
  • Western Roman Emperor Romulus Augustulus deposed by Odoacer (476)
  • Clovis, ruler of Gaul (509)
  • The Flight of Mahomet (622)
  • Charlemagne, Emperor of the West (800)
  • Treaty of Verdun (843)
  • The Crusades (1096 – 1291)
  • Employment of Cannon at Crécy (1346)

Outstanding achievement in this period includes the Code of Justinian, the mathematics of Fibonacci and Oresme, the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, the painting of Giotto, the poetry of Dante and Chaucer, the travels of Marco Polo, and the architecture of gothic cathedrals such as Chartres. In the Middle Ages, the opening years of the seventh century saw the death (609) of Venantius Fortunatus, the last representative of classic Latin literature.

Etymology and periodization

The term "Middle Ages" first appears in Latin in the 15th century and reflects the view that this period was a deviation from the path of classical learning, a path supposedly reconnected by Renaissance scholarship. The Middle Ages is one of the three major periods in the most enduring scheme for analyzing history: Antiquity (or classical civilization), the Middle Ages, and the modern period. It is "Middle" in the sense of being between the two other periods in time, ancient times and modern times. Humanist historians argued that Renaissance scholarship restored direct links to the classical period, thus bypassing the Medieval period. The term first appears in Latin in 1469 as media tempestas (middle times). In early usage, there were many variants, including medium aevum (Middle Age), first recorded in 1604, and media scecula (Middle Ages), first recorded in 1625. English is the only major language that retains the plural form.

Concept development

Medieval historians did not, of course, think of themselves as being in the middle of history. Instead, they wrote history from a universal and theological perspective. They divided history into periods such as the "Six Ages" or the "Four Empires", with the present period being the last before the end of the world. They considered the Roman period, especially the time of the Apostles, a historical peak, followed by a long slide toward the Apocalypse. In the 1330s, the humanist and poet Petrarch referred to pre-Christian times as antiqua (ancient) and to the Christian period as nova (new). While retaining the theme of decline from the apogee of ancient Rome, Petrarch's division was not based on theology, but on a perception of cultural and political decline, especially the idea that Medieval Latin was inferior to Classical Latin. From Petrarch's Italian perspective, this new period (which included his own time) was an age of national eclipse. Leonardo Bruni was the first historian to use tripartite periodization in his History of the Florentine People (1442). Bruni's first two periods were based on those of Petrarch, but he added a third period because he believed that Italy was no longer in a state of decline. Flavio Biondo used a similar framework in Decades of History from the Deterioration of the Roman Empire (1439–1453). Tripartite periodization became standard after the German historian Christoph Cellarius published Universal History Divided into an Ancient, Medieval, and New Period (1683).

Start and end dates

The most commonly given start date for the Middle Ages is 476, a date first given by Bruni. This was when Romulus Augustus, the last Roman emperor in the West, abdicated. The western empire had already lost its military power by this time and Romulus Augustus was only a puppet emperor, so many historians object that this convention ascribes undue significance to an arbitrary year. In contrast, Biondo used the sack of Rome in 410 by the Goths as the beginning of the period. In the history of Scandinavia, the Middle Ages followed prehistory during the 11th century, when the rulers converted to Christianity and substantial written records began to appear. A similar shift from prehistory to the Middle Ages occurred in Estonia and Latvia during the 13th century.

For Europe as a whole, the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453 is commonly used as the end date of the Middle Ages. Depending on the context, other events, such as the invention of the moveable type printing press by Johann Gutenberg c. 1455, the fall of Muslim Spain or Christopher Columbus's voyage to America (both 1492), can be used. For Italy, 1401, the year the contract was awarded to build the north doors of the Florence Baptistery, is often used. In contrast, English historians often use the Battle of Bosworth Field (1485) to mark the end of the period.For Spain, the death of King Ferdinand II (1516) is used.

Age division labels

Historians in the Romance languages tend to divide the Middle Ages into two parts: an earlier "High" and later "Low" period. English-speaking historians, following their German counterparts, generally subdivide the Middle Ages into three intervals: "Early", "High" and "Late". Belgian historian Henri Pirenne and Dutch historian Johan Huizinga popularized the following subdivisions in the early 20th century: the Early Middle Ages (476-1000), the High Middle Ages (1000–1300), and the Late Middle Ages (1300–1453). In the 19th century, the entire Middle Ages was often referred to as the "Dark Ages". But with the creation of these subdivisions use of this term was restricted to the Early Middle Ages, at least among historians.

Early Middle Ages

Late Roman Empire

The Roman empire reached its greatest territorial extent during the 2nd century. The following two centuries witnessed the slow decline of Roman control over its outlying territories. The Emperor Diocletian split the empire into separately administered eastern and western halves in 286 AD. The division between east and west was encouraged by Constantine, who refounded the city of Byzantium as the new capital, Constantinople, in 330.

Military expenses increased steadily during the 4th century, even as Rome's neighbours became restless and increasingly powerful. Tribes who previously had contact with the Romans as trading partners, rivals, or mercenaries had sought entrance to the empire and access to its wealth throughout the 4th century.

Diocletian's reforms had created a strong governmental bureaucracy, reformed taxation, and strengthened the army. These reforms bought the Empire time, but they demanded money. Roman power had been maintained by its well-trained and equipped armies. These armies, however, were a constant drain on the Empire's finances. As warfare became more dependent on heavy cavalry, the infantry-based Roman military started to lose its advantage against its rivals. The defeat in 378 at the Battle of Adrianople, at the hands of mounted Gothic lancers, destroyed much of the Roman army and left the western empire undefended. Without a strong army, the empire was forced to accommodate the large numbers of Germanic tribes who sought refuge within its frontiers.

Roman society collapse

The breakdown of Roman society was dramatic. The patchwork of petty rulers was incapable of supporting the depth of civic infrastructure required to maintain libraries, public baths, arenas, and major educational institutions. Any new building was on a far smaller scale than before. The social effects of the fracture of the Roman state were manifold. Cities and merchants lost the economic benefits of safe conditions for trade and manufacture, and intellectual development suffered from the loss of a unified cultural and educational milieu of far-ranging connections.

As it became unsafe to travel or carry goods over any distance, there was a collapse in trade and manufacture for export. The major industries that depended on long-distance trade, such as large-scale pottery manufacture, vanished almost overnight in places like Britain. Whereas sites like Tintagel in Cornwall (the extreme southwest of modern day England) had managed to obtain supplies of Mediterranean luxury goods well into the 6th century, this connection was now lost.

Roman landholders beyond the confines of city walls were also vulnerable to extreme changes, and they could not simply pack up their land and move elsewhere. Some were dispossessed and fled to Byzantine regions; others quickly pledged their allegiances to their new rulers. In areas like Spain and Italy, this often meant little more than acknowledging a new overlord, while Roman forms of law and religion could be maintained. In other areas, where there was a greater weight of population movement, it might be necessary to adopt new modes of dress, language, and custom.

As Roman authority disappeared in the west, cities, literacy, trading networks and urban infrastructure declined. Where civic functions and infrastructure were maintained, it was mainly by the Christian Church. Augustine of Hippo is an example of one bishop who became a capable civic administrator.

The East and the Balkans

Nomads and the Sassanid

The Scythians, referring to various peoples living in are known medieval times as Scythia (present-day Central Asia, Russia, and Ukraine), were a network of Eurasian nomadic peoples. The Hephthalites were a nomadic confederation of the 5th and 6th centuries whose precise origins and composition remain obscure. They displaced the Scythians and conquered Sogdiana and Khorasan before 425. After that, they crossed the Syr Darya (Jaxartes) River and invaded Persia. In Persia, they were initially held off but around 483–85, they succeeded in making Persia a tributary state. After a series of wars in 503-513, they were driven out of Persia and completely defeated in AD 557. Their polity thereafter came under the Göktürks.

The Sassanid Empire was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty. The Sassanid Empire was recognized as one of the two main powers in Western Asia and Europe, alongside the Roman Empire and its successor, the Byzantine Empire, for a period of more than 400 years. The Sassanid period witnessed the peak of ancient Persian civilization. The Sassanids' cultural influence extended far beyond the empire's territorial borders, reaching as far as Western Europe, Africa, China and India. It played a prominent role in the formation of both European and Asiatic medieval art.


The Eastern Roman Empire (conventionally referred to as the "Byzantine Empire" after the fall of its western counterpart) had little ability to assert control over the lost western territories. Even though Byzantine emperors maintained a claim over the territory, and no "barbarian" king dared to elevate himself to the position of Emperor of the west, Byzantine control of most of the West could not be sustained; the renovatio imperii ("imperial restoration", entailing reconquest of the Italian peninsula and Mediterranean periphery) by Justinian was the sole, and temporary, exception.

Byzantium under the Justinian dynasty saw a period of recovery of former territories. The period is marked with internal strife within the Empire, from Ostrogoths, and from the Persians. The strength of the dynasty was shown under Justinian I, in which the territorial borders of the Empire were expanded because of numerous campaigns by his favored general, Belisarius. The western conquests began with Justinian sending his general to reclaim the former province of Africa from the Vandals who had been in control with their capital at Carthage. Their success came with surprising ease, but the major local tribes were subdued. In Ostrogothic Italy, the deaths of Theodoric the Great, his nephew and heir, and his daughter had left her murderer Theodahad on the throne despite his weakened authority. A small Byzantine expedition to Sicily was met with easy success, but the Goths soon stiffened their resistance, and victory did not come until later, when Belisarius captured Ravenna, after successful sieges of Naples and Rome.

Also in this period, the Tribonian commission revised the ancient Roman legal code and created the new Codex Justinianus, a condensed version of previous legal texts. The Codex Justinianus was updated and reorganized into the system of law used for the rest of the Byzantine era. These legal reforms, along with the many other changes to the law became known as the Corpus Juris Civilis.

Bulgarian Empire

In the north-eastern Balkans, The Bulgarian Empire united with seven South Slavic tribes and were in contact, sometimes friendly and sometimes hostile, with the Byzantine Empire. At the height of its power it spread between Budapest and the Black Sea and from the Dnieper River in modern Ukraine to the Adriatic Sea. Bulgaria emerged as Byzantium's chief antagonist in the Balkans, resulting in several wars. After the Avar Period, the Bulgarians expanded their territory up to the Pannonian Plain. After the adoption of Christianity, it contributed the invention of the Cyrillic alphabet and produced Old Bulgarian literature.

North Europe

In North Europe, the Germanic Iron Age, following the Roman Iron Age, gave rise to the Germanic kingdoms. The late Germanic Iron Age is includes the Vendel era and the Merovinger (Merovingian) Age. During the fall of the Roman empire, an abundance of gold flowed into Scandinavia and there are excellent works in gold from this period. Gold was used to make scabbard mountings and bracteates.
The Viking Age spans the late 8th to 11th centuries. Norse Vikings explored Europe by its oceans and rivers through trade and warfare. The Vikings also reached Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland, and Anatolia. The Germanic Norsemen were a people identified by their use of the Norse language. The Norsemen established states and settlements in areas which today are part of the Faroe Islands, England, Scotland, Wales, Iceland, Finland, Ireland, Russia, Canada, Greenland, France, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Germany. Additionally, there is evidence to support the Vinland legend that Vikings reached farther south to the North American continent.


The Migration Period, or the Völkerwanderung ("wandering of the peoples") was a complicated and gradual process. Some of these peoples rejected the classical culture of Rome, while others admired and aspired to emulate it. In return for land to farm and, in some regions, the right to collect tax revenues for the state, federated tribes provided military support to the empire. Other incursions were small-scale military invasions of tribal groups assembled to gather plunder. The Huns, Bulgars, Avars, and Magyars all raided the Empire's territories and terrorised its inhabitants. Later, Slavic and Germanic peoples would settle the lands previously taken by these tribes. The most famous invasion culminated in the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in 410, the first time in almost 800 years that Rome had fallen to an enemy.

By the end of the 5th century, Roman institutions were crumbling. Some early historians have given this period of societal collapse the epithet of "Dark Ages" because of the contrast to earlier times, (however, the term is avoided by current historians). The last emperor of the west, Romulus Augustulus, was deposed by the barbarian king Odoacer in 476.

Between the 5th and 8th centuries, new peoples and powerful individuals filled the political void left by Roman centralized government. Germanic tribes established regional hegemonies within the former boundaries of the Empire, creating divided, decentralized kingdoms like those of the Ostrogoths in Italy, the Suevi in Gallaecia, the Visigoths in Hispania, the Franks and Burgundians in Gaul and western Germania, the Angles and the Saxons in Britain, and the Vandals in North Africa.

Most Germanic tribes were generally tolerant of the Nicene beliefs of their subjects. The Vandals, though, tried for several decades to force Arianism on their subjects, exiling Nicene clergy, dissolving monasteries, and exercising heavy pressure on non-conforming Christians. However, much of southeastern Europe and central Europe, including many of the Goths and Vandals respectively, had embraced Arianism, which led to Arianism being a religious factor in various wars in the Roman Empire. In the west, organized Arianism survived in North Africa, in Hispania, and parts of Italy until it was finally suppressed in the 6th and 7th centuries.

British Isle

Sub-Roman Britain, derived from an archaeological label for the material culture of Britain in Late Antiquity, is used to denote a period of history before the Middle Ages in the British Isles. Although the culture of Britain in the period was mainly derived from Roman and Celtic sources, there were also Saxons settled as foederati in the area, originally from Saxony in north-western Germany, although the term 'Saxon' was used by the British for all Germanic incomers. Gradually the latter assumed more control. The Picts, not part of Sub-Roman Britain label, were in northern Scotland.

Anglo-Saxon England refers to the period of the history of England that lasts from the end of Roman Britain and the establishment of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the 5th century. Anglo-Saxon is a general term that refers to the Germanic settlers who came to Britain during the 5th and 6th centuries, including Angles, Saxons, Frisians and Jutes.
Anglo-Saxon England until the 9th century was dominated by the Heptarchy. The Heptarchy, a collective name applied to the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of south, east, and central Great Britain during late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, conventionally are identified as seven:

  • Northumbria,
  • Mercia,
  • East Anglia,
  • Essex,
  • Kent,
  • Sussex and
  • Wessex.

These kingdoms were pagan during the early period, but were converted to Christianity during the 7th century. Paganism had a final stronghold in a period of Mercian hegemony during the 640s, ending with the death of King Penda in 655. The heptarchy did not consider any of the Sub-Roman Brythonic realms:

  • Elmet,
  • Rheged,
  • Strathclyde,
  • Ebrauc,
  • Bryneich and
  • Gododdin.

And the comparable petty kingdoms, during the same period, were also divided into:

  • Mide (High Kings, Ireland)
  • Picts (Scotland), and
  • Gwynedd / Powys / Deheubarth (Wales)

Facing the threat of Norther European invasions, the House of Wessex became dominant during the 9th century, under the rule of Alfred the Great. During the 10th century, the individual kingdoms unified under the rule of Wessex into the Kingdom of England, which stood opposed to the Danelaw, the Norther European kingdoms established from the 9th century in the North of England and the East Midlands. The Kingdom of England fell in the Norther European invasion from Denmark in 1013, and was ruled by the House of Denmark until 1042, when the Anglo-Saxon House of Wessex was restored. The last Anglo-Saxon king, Harold Godwinson, fell at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Italian peninsula

The Lombard kingdom was an early medieval state established by the Lombards on the Italian Peninsula between the invasion of Italy and the fall of the kingdom at the hands of the Franks led by Charlemagne. Effective control by the rulers of both the major areas that constituted the kingdom, Langobardia major in northern-central Italy and Langobardia Minor in the south, was not constant during the two centuries of life of the kingdom; from an initial phase of strong autonomy for the many duchies that constituted it, it developed over time an ever greater authority of the sovereign, even if the dukes' drive for autonomy was never fully harnessed and its Lombard character gradually evaporated and evolved into the Kingdom of Italy. The Lombards gradually adopted Roman titles, names, and traditions, and partially converted to orthodoxy, though not without a long series of religious and ethnic conflicts. By the time Paul the Deacon was writing in the 8th century, the Lombard language, dress and even hairstyles had all disappeared.

Middle East

Rise of Islam

The rise of Islam begins around the time Muhammad and his followers took flight, the Hijra, to the city of Medina. Muhammad spent his last ten years in a series of battles to conquer the Arabian region. From 622 to 632, Muhammad as the leader of a Muslim community in Medina was engaged in a state of war with the Meccans. In the proceeding decades, the area of Basra was conquered by the Muslims. During the reign of Umar, the Muslim army found it a suitable place to construct a base. Later the area was settled and a mosque was erected. Upon the conquest of Madyan, it was settled by Muslims. However, soon the environment was considered harsh and resettlement of settlers went to Kufa. During Umar's rule, he defeated the rebellion of several Arab tribes in a successful campaign, unifying the entire Arabian peninsula and giving it stability. Under Uthman's leadership, the empire expanded into Fars in 650, some areas of Khorasan in 651 and the conquest of Armenia was begun in the 640s. In this time, the Islamic empire extended over the whole Sassanid Persian Empire and more than two thirds of the Eastern Roman Empire. The First Fitna, or the First Islamic Civil War, lasted for the entirety of Ali ibn Abi Talib's reign. After the recorded peace treaty between with Hassan ibn Ali and the suppression of early Kharijites' disturbances, Muawiyah I accedes to the position of Caliph.

Islamic Expansion

The Muslim conquests of the Eastern Roman Empire and Arab wars occurred between 634 and 750. Starting in 633, Muslims conquered Iraq. The Muslim conquest of Syria would begin in 634 and would be complete by 638. The Muslim conquest of Egypt started in 639. Before the Muslim invasion of Egypt began, the Eastern Roman Empire Empire had already lost the Levant and its Arab ally, the Ghassanid Kingdom, to the Muslims. The Muslims would bring Alexandria under control and fall of Egypt would be complete by 642. Between 647 and 709, Muslims swept across North Africa and establish their authority over that region.

The Transoxiana region was conquered by Qutayba ibn Muslim between 706 and 715 and loosely held by the Umayyads from 715 to 738. This conquest was consolidated by Nasr ibn Sayyar between 738 and 740. It was under the Umayyads from 740-748; and under the Abbasids after 748. Sindh, attacked in 664, would be subjugated by 712. Sindh became the easternmost province of the Umayyad. The Umayyad conquest of Hispania (Visigothic Spain) would begin in 711 and end by 718. The Moors, under Al-Samh ibn Malik, sweeping up the Iberian peninsula, by 719 overran Septimania and the area would fall under their full control in 720. With the Islamic conquest of Persia, the Muslim subjugation of the Caucasus would take place between 711 and 750. The end of the sudden Islamic Caliphate expansion ended around this time. The final Islamic dominion eroded the areas of the Iron Age Roman Empire in the Middle East and controlled strategic areas of the Mediterranean.

At the end of the 8th century, the former Western Roman Empire was decentralized and overwhelmingly rural. The Islamic conquest and rule of Sicily and Malta was a process which started in the 9th century. Islamic rule over Sicily was effective from 902, and the complete rule of the island lasted from 965 until 1061. The Islamic presence on the Italian Peninsula was ephemeral and limited mostly to semi-permanent soldier camps.

Caliphs and empire

The Abbasid Caliphate, ruled by the Abbasid dynasty of caliphs, was the third of the Islamic caliphates. Under the Abbasids, the Islamic Golden Age philosophers, scientists and engineers of the Islamic world contributed enormously to technology, both by preserving earlier traditions and by adding their own inventions and innovations. Scientific and intellectual achievements blossomed in the period.

The Abbasids built their capital in Baghdad after replacing the Umayyad caliphs from all but the Iberian peninsula. The influence held by Muslim merchants over African-Arabian and Arabian-Asian trade routes was tremendous. As a result, Islamic civilization grew and expanded on the basis of its merchant economy, in contrast to their Christian, Indian and Chinese peers who built societies from an agricultural landholding nobility.

The Abbasids flourished for two centuries, but slowly went into decline with the rise to power of the Turkish army it had created, the Mamluks. Within 150 years of gaining control of Persia, the caliphs were forced to cede power to local dynastic emirs who only nominally acknowledged their authority. After the Abbasids lost their military dominance, the Samanids (or Samanid Empire) rose up in Central Asia. The Sunni Islam empire was a Tajik state and had a Zoroastrian theocratic nobility. It was the next native Persian dynasty after the collapse of the Sassanid Persian empire caused by the Arab conquest.

Iberian peninsula

The Visigothic Kingdom occupied southwestern France and the Iberian Peninsula from the 5th to 8th century AD. One of the Germanic successor states to the Western Roman Empire, it was originally created by the settlement of the Visigoths under King Wallia in the province of Aquitaine in south-west France by the Roman government and then extended by conquest over all of the Iberian peninsula.

The Kingdom maintained independence from the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire, the attempts of which to re-establish Roman authority in Iberia were only partially successful and short-lived. By the early 6th century, the Kingdom's territory in Gaul had been lost to the Franks, save the narrow coastal strip of Septimania, but the Visigoth control of Iberia was secured by the end of that century with the submission of the Suebi and the Basques. The Visigoths and their early kings were Arian Christians and came into conflict with the Catholic Church, but after they converted to Nicene Christianity, the Church exerted an enormous influence on secular affairs through the Councils of Toledo. The Visigoths also developed the most extensive secular legislation in Western Europe, the Liber Iudiciorum, which formed the basis for Spanish law throughout the Middle Ages.

The Islamic expansion in the Iberian Peninsula and Septimania commenced when the Moors (Berbers and Arabs) invaded under their Moorish leader, Tariq ibn Ziyad. They landed at Gibraltar on April 30 and worked their way northward. Tariq's forces were joined the next year by those of his superior, Musa bin Nusair. Most of the Visigothic Kingdom were conquered by Islamic troops from Morocco in 716 AD, only the northern reaches of Spain remaining in Christian hands. The eight-year campaign was brought Islamic rule — save for small areas in the northwest (Asturias) and largely Basque regions in the Pyrenees. These gave birth to the medieval Kingdom of Asturias when a local landlord called Pelayo, most likely of Gothic origin, was elected Princeps by the Astures.

This Iberian territory, under the Arab name Al-Andalus, became first an Emirate and then an independent Umayyad Caliphate, the Caliphate of Córdoba, after the overthrowing of the dynasty in Damascus by the Abbasids. When the Caliphate dissolved in 1031, the territory split into small Taifas, and gradually the Christian kingdoms started the Reconquest up to 1492, when Granada, the last kingdom of Al-Andalus fell under the Catholic Monarchs.

Central Europe

Originally the bishop and cathedral clergy formed the religious community, which, while not in the true sense a monastery, was nevertheless often called a monasterium, the word not having the restricted meaning which it afterwards acquired. Chrodegang compiled a code of rules, a modification of the Benedictine rule, for the clergy of the cathedral churches. The rule of Chrodegang was widely accepted in Germany and other parts of the continent, this gained little acceptance in England.

The Catholic Church, which means "universal church", was the major unifying European cultural influence. It preserved selections from Latin learning, maintained the art of writing, and provided centralized administration through its network of bishops. Some regions that were populated by Catholics were conquered by Arian rulers, which provoked much tension between Arian kings and the Catholic hierarchy. Clovis I of the Franks is a well-known example of a barbarian king who chose Catholic orthodoxy over Arianism. His conversion marked a turning point for the Frankish tribes of Gaul.

Bishops were central to European Middle Age society due to the literacy they possessed. As a result, they often played a significant role in governance. However, beyond the core areas of Western Europe, there remained many peoples with little or no contact with Christianity or with classical Roman culture. Martial societies such as the Avars and the Vikings were still capable of causing major disruption to the newly emerging societies of Western Europe.
The Early Middle Ages witnessed the rise of monasticism within the Western Europe. Although the impulse to withdraw from society to focus upon a spiritual life is experienced by people of all cultures, the shape of European monasticism was determined by traditions and ideas that originated in the deserts of Egypt and Syria. The style of monasticism that focuses on community experience of the spiritual life, called cenobitism, was pioneered by the saint Pachomius in the 4th century. Monastic ideals spread from Egypt to western Europe in the 5th and 6th centuries through hagiographical literature such as the Life of Saint Anthony.

In Europe, Saint Benedict wrote the definitive Rule for western monasticism during the 6th century, detailing the administrative and spiritual responsibilities of a community of monks led by an abbot. The style of monasticism based upon the Benedictine Rule spread widely rapidly across Europe, replacing small clusters of cenobites. Monks and monasteries had a deep effect upon the religious and political life of the Early Middle Ages, in various cases acting as land trusts for powerful families, centres of propaganda and royal support in newly conquered regions, bases for mission, and proselytization. In addition, they were the main and sometimes only outposts of education and literacy in a region.

Merovingians and Carolingians

Clovis, son of Childeric, extended his authority over the Frankish tribes and expanded their territorium south and west into Gaul. Clovis converted to Roman Catholicism and put himself on good terms with the powerful Church and with his Gallo-Roman subjects. In a thirty-year reign, he defeated the Roman general Syagrius and conquered the Roman enclave of Soissons, defeated the Alemanni (Tolbiac) and established Frankish hegemony over them, defeated the Visigoths (Vouillé) and conquered their entire kingdom (save Septimania) with its capital at Toulouse, and conquered the Bretons (according to Gregory of Tours) and made them vassals of Francia. He conquered most or all of the neighbouring Frankish tribes along the Rhine and incorporated them into his kingdom. He also incorporated the various Roman military settlements (laeti) scattered over Gaul: the Saxons of Bessin, the Britons and the Alans of Armorica and Loire valley or the Taifals of Poitou to name a few prominent ones. By the end of his life, he ruled all of Gaul save the Gothic province of Septimania and the Burgundian kingdom in the southeast. Upon his death,. Clovis' sons made their capitals near the Frankish heartland in northeastern Gaul.

In the next two centuries, a nucleus of power unfolded in a region of northern Gaul and developed into kingdoms called Austrasia and Neustria. These kingdoms were ruled for three centuries by a dynasty of kings called the Merovingians, after their mythical founder Merovech. The history of the Merovingian kingdoms is one of family politics that frequently erupted into civil warfare between the branches of the family. The legitimacy of the Merovingian throne was granted by a reverence for the bloodline, and, even after powerful members of the Austrasian court, the mayors of the palace, took de facto power during the 7th century, the Merovingians were kept as ceremonial figureheads. The Merovingians engaged in trade with northern Europe through Baltic trade routes known to historians as the Northern Arc trade, and they are known to have minted small-denomination silver pennies called sceattae for circulation. Aspects of Merovingian culture could be described as "Romanized", such as the high value placed on Roman coinage as a symbol of rulership and the patronage of monasteries and bishoprics. Some have hypothesized that the Merovingians were in contact with Byzantium. The Merovingians also buried the dead of their elite families in grave mounds and traced their lineage to a mythical sea beast called the Quinotaur.

The 7th century was a tumultuous period of civil wars between Austrasia and Neustria. Such warfare was exploited by the patriarch of a family line, Pippin of Landen, who curried favour with the Merovingians and had himself installed in the office of Mayor of the Palace at the service of the King. From this position of great influence, Pippin accrued wealth and supporters. Later members of his family line inherited the office, acting as advisors and regents. The dynasty took a new direction in 732, when Charles Martel won the Battle of Tours, halting the advance of Muslim armies across the Pyrenees.

The Carolingian dynasty, as the successors to Charles Martel are known, officially took control of the kingdoms of Austrasia and Neustria in a coup of 753 led by Pippin III. A contemporary chronicle claims that Pippin sought, and gained, authority for this coup from the Pope. Pippin's successful coup was reinforced with propaganda that portrayed the Merovingians as inept or cruel rulers and exalted the accomplishments of Charles Martel and circulated stories of the family's great piety. At the time of his death in 783, Pippin left his kingdoms in the hands of his two sons, Charles and Carloman. When Carloman died of natural causes, Charles blocked the succession of Carloman's minor son and installed himself as the king of the united Austrasia and Neustria. This Charles, known to his contemporaries as Charles the Great or Charlemagne, embarked in 774 upon a program of systematic expansion that would unify a large portion of Europe. In the wars that lasted just beyond 800, he rewarded loyal allies with war booty and command over parcels of land. Much of the nobility of the High Middle Ages was to claim its roots in the Carolingian nobility that was generated during this period of expansion.

The Imperial Coronation of Charlemagne on Christmas Day of 800 is frequently regarded as a turning-point in medieval history, because it filled a power vacancy that had existed since 476. It also marks a change in Charlemagne's leadership, which assumed a more imperial character and tackled difficult aspects of controlling an empire. He established a system of diplomats who possessed imperial authority, the missi, who in theory provided access to imperial justice in the farthest corners of the empire. He also sought to reform the Church in his domains, pushing for uniformity in liturgy and material culture.

Carolingian Renaissance

Charlemagne's court in Aachen was the centre of a cultural revival that is sometimes referred to as the "Carolingian Renaissance". This period witnessed an increase of literacy, developments in the arts, architecture, and jurisprudence, as well as liturgical and scriptural studies. The English monk Alcuin was invited to Aachen, and brought with him the precise classical Latin education that was available in the monasteries of Northumbria. The return of this Latin proficiency to the kingdom of the Franks is regarded as an important step in the development of medieval Latin. Charlemagne's chancery made use of a type of script currently known as Carolingian minuscule, providing a common writing style that allowed for communication across most of Europe. After the decline of the Carolingian dynasty, the rise of the Saxon Dynasty in Germany was accompanied by the Ottonian Renaissance.

Carolingian empire separation

While Charlemagne continued the Frankish tradition of dividing the regnum (kingdom) between all his heirs (at least those of age), the assumption of the imperium (imperial title) supplied a unifying force not available previously. Charlemagne was succeeded by his only legitimate son of adult age at his death, Louis the Pious.

Louis's long reign of 26 years was marked by numerous divisions of the empire among his sons and, after 829, numerous civil wars between various alliances of father and sons against other sons to determine a just division by battle. The final division was made at Crémieux in 838. The Emperor Louis recognized his eldest son Lothair I as emperor and confirmed him in the Regnum Italicum (Italy). He divided the rest of the empire between Lothair and Charles the Bald, his youngest son, giving Lothair the opportunity to choose his half. He chose East Francia, which comprised the empire on both banks of the Rhine and eastwards, leaving Charles West Francia, which comprised the empire to the west of the Rhineland and the Alps. Louis the German, the middle child, who had been rebellious to the last, was allowed to keep his subregnum of Bavaria under the suzerainty of his elder brother. The division was not undisputed. Pepin II of Aquitaine, the emperor's grandson, rebelled in a contest for Aquitaine, while Louis the German tried to annex all of East Francia. In two final campaigns, the emperor defeated both his rebellious descendants and vindicated the division of Crémieux before dying in 840.

A three-year civil war followed his death. At the end of the conflict, Louis the German was in control of East Francia and Lothair was confined to Italy. By the Treaty of Verdun (843), a kingdom of Middle Francia was created for Lothair in the Low Countries and Burgundy, and his imperial title was recognized. East Francia would eventually morph into the Kingdom of Germany and West Francia into the Kingdom of France, around both of which the history of Western Europe can largely be described as a contest for control of the middle kingdom. Charlemagne's grandsons and great-grandsons divided their kingdoms between their sons until all the various regna and the imperial title fell into the hands of Charles the Fat by 884. He was deposed in 887 and died in 888, to be replaced in all his kingdoms but two (Lotharingia and East Francia) by non-Carolingian "petty kings". The Carolingian Empire was destroyed, though the imperial tradition would eventually lead to the Holy Roman Empire in 962.

Carpathia and East Europe

Carpathian Basin

In Classical Antiquity, the Carpathian Basin was under into the influence of the Mediterranean, Greco-Roman civilization - town centers, paved roads, and written sources were all part of the advances to which the Migration of Peoples put an end. Hordes of equestrian On-Ogour nomads, a Magyar tribe in the Bulgar coalition, settled Pannonia. Gepids had a presence in the eastern part of the Carpathian Basin for about 100 years.

The Avar Khaganate maintained the region for more than two centuries and had the military power to launch attacks against all its neighbors. The Franks, under Charlemagne, defeated the Avars ending their 250-year rule. In the four centuries after their migration into the Carpathian Basin, the Magyars gradually developed from a confederation of tribes, the Seven chieftains of the Magyars. Arpad's Magyars settled here in the Great Plain first and then in Transylvania and Moldavian. This Confederation was led by the Árpád line of the Árpád Dynasty. The Magyars in the Carpathian Basin destroyed a Bavarian army in the Battle of Pressburg and laid the territories westward open to raids. Magyar expansion was checked at the Battle of Lechfeld. Although the battle stopped the raids against Western Europe, the raids on the Balkan Peninsula continued up to the end of the early Middle Ages.

Eastern Europe

The Sarmatians, Iranian people in Classical Antiquity, remained dominant until the Gothic ascendancy in the Black Sea area. Goths attacked Sarmatian tribes on the north of the Danube in Dacia. The Roman Emperor Constantine called Constantine II up from Galia to run a campaign north of the Danube. The emperor Constantine was subsequently attributed the title of Sarmaticus Maximus. In the 4th and 5th centuries, the Huns expanded and conquered both the Sarmatians and the Germanic Tribes living between the Black Sea and the borders of the Roman Empire.

In the Migration Period, the Bulgars lived in Eastern Europe during the Early Middle Ages. In the 7th century the Volga Tatars and Chuvash, Balkars and Bulgarians as the Danube Bulgar khanate established two states on the Pontic-Caspian steppe: Great Bulgaria (Caspian Sea and Black Sea) and Volga Bulgaria (Tatarstan and Chuvashia). The confederated Hunnic Empire, established by the Huns of Eurasian, appearing from beyond the Volga River some years after the middle of the 4th century, they first overran the Alani, who occupied the plains between the Volga river and the Don river, and then quickly overthrew the empire of the Ostrogoths between the Don and the Dniester. Deafeating the Romanian Visigoths they arrived at the Danubian frontier of the Roman Empire. Their mass migration into Europe, led by Attila the Hun, brought with it great ethnic and political upheaval.

Rus' Khaganate was a formative phase of Northwestern Russia, at the time a place of operations of the Varangian Norsemen under the rule of a monarch or monarchs using the Old Turkic title khagan. With the decline of the Viking Age, Varangians assimilated into the East Slav population by the late 11th century. Kievan Rus', a medieval polity, originated with the conquest of the East Slavic town of Kiev by "Rus'" Varangians. The early phase of the state is sometimes known as the "Rus Khaganate" would encompasse the territories stretching south to the Black Sea, east to Volga, and west to the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It was weakened by economic factors such as the collapse of Rus' commercial ties to Byzantium due to the decline of Constantinople and the falling off of trade routes, and it finally fell to the Mongol invasion in the High Middle Ages. East Slavic principalities were later united within the Russian Empire.

Indian Middle Kingdoms

After the decline of the Maurya Empire, Classical India spans the early and high periods of the Middle Ages, beginning in the 2nd century BC and ending in the 13th century. Indian Middle kingdoms begin with Satavahana dynasty, beginning with Simuka, from 230 BC. The "Middle" period is estimated to have had the largest economy of the world controlling between one third and one fourth of the world's wealth.

High Middle Ages

Middle East powers

The Arabo-Berber Shia caliphate, Fatimids (al-Fāṭimiyyūn), established the Tunisian city of Mahdia and made it their capital city, before conquering Egypt and building the city of Cairo in 969, which thereafter became their capital. The Fatimids constitutes a rare period in history in which the descendants of Ali and the Caliphate were united to any degree, excepting the final period of the Rashidun Caliphate under Ali himself. The caliphate was reputed to exercise a degree of religious tolerance towards non-Shia sects of Islam as well as towards Jews, Maltese Christians, and Coptic Christians. After the decay of the Fatimid political system, the Ayyubid Sultanate of Egypt and Syria rose to power.

The Kurdish Ayyubid dynasty, founded by Saladin and centered in Egypt, ruled during the 12th and 13th centuries. The Ayyubids ushered in an era of economic prosperity in the lands they ruled and the facilities and patronage provided by the Ayyubids led to a resurgence in intellectual activity in the Islamic world. This period was also marked by an Ayyubid process of vigorously strengthening Sunni Muslim dominance in the region by constructing numerous madrasas (schools) in their major cities. The Ayyubids launched conquests throughout the Middle East region and the territories under their control included Egypt, Syria, northern Mesopotamia, Hejaz, Yemen, and west portion of the North African coast. Most of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and beyond Jordan River fell to Saladin after his victory at the Battle of Hattin. However, the Crusaders regained control of Palestine's coastline shortly afterward. Toward the end of the high Middle Ages, Ayyubid unity was centered in Syria. By then, local Muslim dynasties had driven out the Ayyubids from Yemen, the Hejaz, and parts of Mesopotamia. After repelling a Crusader invasion of the Nile Delta, Mamluk generals overthrew Ayyubid rule, ending Ayyubid power in Egypt and a number of attempts by the rulers of Syria to recover it failed. The Mamluks, who forced out the Mongols after the destruction of the Ayyubid dynasty, maintained the Ayyubid principality of Hama until deposing its last ruler at the beginning of the late Middle Ages.

European urbanization

The High Middle Ages in Europe were characterized by urbanization, along with military expansion and intellectual revival, that historians identify between the 11th century and the end of the 13th century. This revival was aided by the conversion of the raiding Scandinavians and Hungarians to Christianity, by the assertion of power by Castellans to fill the power vacuum left by the Carolingian decline, and not least by the increased contact with Islamic civilization, which had preserved and elaborated all the classic Greek literature forgotten in Europe after the collapse of The Roman Empire. This was now retranslated into Latin, along with newer works of important advances in science and technology.

The High Middle Ages saw an explosion in population. This population flowed into towns, sought conquests abroad, or cleared land for cultivation. The cities of antiquity had been clustered around the Mediterranean. By 1200, the growing urban centres were in the centre of the continent, connected by roads or rivers. By the end of this period, Paris might have had as many as 200,000 inhabitants. In central and northern Italy and in Flanders, the rise of towns that were, to some degree, self-governing, stimulated the economy and created an environment for new types of religious and trade associations. Trading cities on the shores of the Baltic entered into agreements known as the Hanseatic League, and Italian city-states such as Venice, Genoa, and Pisa expanded their trade throughout the Mediterranean.

This period marks a formative one in the history of the western state as we know it, for kings in France, England, and Spain consolidated their power during this period, setting up lasting institutions to help them govern. Also new kingdoms like Hungary and Poland, after their sedentarization and conversion to Christianity, became Central-European powers. Hungary, especially, became the "Gate to Europe" from Asia, and bastion of Christianity against the invaders from the East until the 16th century and the onslaught by the Ottoman Empire. The Papacy, which had long since created an ideology of independence from the secular kings, first asserted its claims to temporal authority over the entire Christian world. The entity that historians call the Papal Monarchy reached its apogee in the early 13th century under the pontificate of Innocent III. Northern Crusades and the advance of Christian kingdoms and military orders into previously pagan regions in the Baltic and Finnic northeast brought the forced assimilation of numerous native peoples to the European identity. With the brief exception of the Kipchak and Mongol invasions, major barbarian incursions ceased.

East-West Schism

The East-West Schism of 1054 formally separated the Christian church into two parts. The Great Schism resulted from the relations between East and West which had long been embittered by political and ecclesiastical differences and theological disputes. Prominent among these were the issues of "filioque", whether leavened or unleavened bread should be used in the eucharist, the Pope's claim to universal jurisdiction, and the place of Constantinople in relation to the Pentarchy. Pope Leo IX and Patriarch Michael I excommunicated each other in the end over disputes as to the existence of papal authority over the four Eastern patriarchs.

After the Schism, Christianity was represented by Western Catholicism in Western Europe and Eastern Orthodoxy in the east. The Church split along doctrinal, theological, linguistic, political, and geographical lines, and the fundamental breach has never been healed, with each side accusing the other of having fallen into heresy and of having initiated the division. The Crusades, the Massacre of the Latins in 1182, the capture and sack of Constantinople in 1204, and the imposition of Latin Patriarchs made reconciliation more difficult. This included the taking of many precious religious artifacts and the destruction of the Library of Constantinople.

Early Holy Roman Empire

In the history of the Holy Roman Empire, Otto won a decisive victory over the Magyars in the Battle of Lechfeld (955). In 951, Otto came to the aid of Adelaide, the widowed queen of Italy, defeated her enemies, and married her taking control over Italy. In 962, Otto was crowned Emperor by the Pope. From then on, the affairs of the German kingdom were intertwined with that of Italy and the Papacy. Otto's coronation as Emperor made the German kings successors to Empire of Charlemagne, which through translatio imperii also made them successors to Ancient Rome. This also renewed the conflict with the Eastern Emperor in Constantinople, especially after Otto's son Otto II (r. 967–983) adopted the designation imperator Romanorum. Still, Otto formed marital ties with the east, when he married the Byzantine princess Theophanu. Their son focused his attention on Italy and Rome and employed widespread diplomacy but died young, to be succeeded by his cousin, who focused himself upon Germany.

During the high Middle Ages, the kingdom had no permanent capital city and the kings travelled from residence to residence (called Pfalz) to discharge affairs. However, each king preferred certain places, in Otto's case, the city of Magdeburg. Kingship continued to be transferred by election, but Kings often had their sons elected during their lifetime, enabling them to keep the crown for their families. This only changed after the end of the Salian dynasty in the 12th century.

Kings often employed bishops in administrative affairs and often determined who would be appointed to ecclesiastical offices. In the wake of the Cluniac Reforms, this involvement was increasingly seen as inappropriate by the Papacy. The reform-minded Pope Gregory VII was determined to oppose such practices, leading to the Investiture Controversy. An agreement with both the Pope and the bishops in the 1122 Concordat of Worms. The political power of the Empire was maintained but the conflict had demonstrated the limits of any ruler's power, especially in regard to the church, and robbed the king of the sacral status he had previously enjoyed. Both the Pope and the German princes had surfaced as major players in the political system of the Empire.

Also during the high Middle Ages, Hohenstaufen rulers increasingly lent land to ministerialia, formerly non-free service men, which Frederick hoped would be more reliable than dukes. Initially used mainly for war services, this new class of people would form the basis for the later knights, another basis of imperial power. An important event was the establishment of a new peace (Landfrieden) for all of the Empire, an attempt to (on the one hand) abolish private feuds not only between the many dukes, but on the other hand a means to tie the Emperor's subordinates to a legal system of jurisdiction and public prosecution of criminal acts - a predecessor of the modern concept of "rule of law". Another new concept of the time was the systematic foundation of new cities, both by the emperor and the local dukes. These were partly caused by the explosion in population. Another reason was to concentrate economic power at strategic locations, while formerly cities only existed in the shape of either old Roman foundations or older bishoprics. Imperial rights were referred to as regalia since the Investiture Controversy, but were enumerated during the high period. This comprehensive list included public roads, tariffs, coining, collecting punitive fees and the investiture, the seating and unseating of office holders. These rights were now explicitly rooted in Roman Law, a far-reaching constitutional act. Also in this period, the Teutonic Knights on invitation from the Holy Roman Empire went to Prussia to Christianise the Prussians. The monastic state of the Teutonic Order and its later German successor states of Prussia however never were part of the Holy Roman Empire.

As the age progressed, the Holy Roman Empire saw general structural changes in how land was administered, preparing the shift of political power towards the rising bourgeoisie at the expense of aristocratic feudalism that would characterize the Late Middle Ages. Instead of personal duties, money increasingly became the common means to represent economic value in agriculture. Peasants were increasingly required to pay tribute for their lands. The concept of "property" began to replace more ancient forms of jurisdiction, although they were still very much tied together. In the territories (not at the level of the Empire), power became increasingly bundled: Whoever owned the land had jurisdiction, from which other powers derived. It is important to note, however, that jurisdiction at this time did not include legislation, which virtually did not exist until well into the 15th century. Court practice heavily relied on traditional customs or rules described as customary. It is during this time that the territories began to transform themselves into predecessors of modern states. The process varied greatly among the various lands and was most advanced in those territories that were most identical to the lands of the old Germanic tribes, e.g. Bavaria. It was slower in those scattered territories that were founded through imperial privileges.

British Kindom

In the British Isles around the beginning of the high Middle Ages, William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, claimed the throne for Kingdom of England. William launched an invasion of England and landed in Sussex on 28 September 1066. At the Battle of Hastings (14 October 1066), the English army, or Fyrd, was defeated and William emerged as victor. William was then able to conquer the rest of England with little further opposition. He was not, however, planning to absorb the Kingdom into the Duchy of Normandy. As a mere Duke, William owed allegiance to Philip I of France, whereas in the independent Kingdom of England he could rule without interference. He was crowned King of England on 25 December 1066. The Kingdom of England and the Duchy of Normandy remained in personal union until 1204. Four generation after William, the continental possessions of the Duchy was lost to Philip II of France. A few remnants of Normandy, including the Channel Islands, remained in the possession of England, together with most of the Duchy of Aquitaine.

Up to the time of the Norman conquest of Anglo-Saxon England, Wales had remained for the most part independent. After the Norman conquest of England, some of the Norman lords began to attack Wales. They conquered parts of it, which they ruled, acknowledging the overlordship of the Norman kings of England, but with considerable local independence. Over many years these "Marcher Lords" conquered more and more of Wales, against considerable resistance led by various Welsh princes, who also often acknowledged the overlordship of the Norman kings of England.

Edward I of England effectively conquered Wales, in 1282, and created the title Prince of Wales for his eldest son Edward II in 1301. Edward's conquest was brutal and the subsequent repression considerable, as the magnificent Welsh castles such as Conwy, Harlech and Caernarfon attest; but this event re-united under a single ruler the lands of Roman Britain for the first time since the establishment of the kingdom of the Jutes in Kent in the 5th century AD, some 700 years before. Accordingly, this was a highly significant moment in the history of medieval England, as it re-established links with the pre-Saxon past. These links were exploited for political purposes to unite the peoples of the kingdom, including the Anglo-Normans, by popularising Welsh legends.

Trade and technology

In the High period, the Latin-speaking world regained access to lost classical literature and philosophy. Latin translations of the 12th century fed a passion for Aristotelian philosophy and Islamic science that is frequently referred to as the Renaissance of the 12th century. Meanwhile, trade grew throughout Europe as the dangers of travel were reduced, and steady economic growth resumed. Cathedral schools and monasteries ceased to be the sole sources of education in the 11th century when universities were established in major European cities. Literacy became available to a wider class of people, and there were major advances in art, sculpture, music, and architecture. Large cathedrals were built across Europe, first in the Romanesque, and later in the more decorative Gothic style.

The annual Champagne fairs were an cycle of trading fairs held in towns in the Champagne and Brie regions of France in the Middle Ages. From their origins in local agricultural and stock fairs, the Champagne fairs became an important engine in the reviving economic history of medieval Europe, "veritable nerve centers" serving as a premier market for textiles, leather, fur, and spices. At their height, in the late 12th and the 13th century, the fairs linked the cloth-producing cities of the Low Countries with the Italian dyeing and exporting centers, with Genoa in the lead. The fairs, which were already well-organized at the start of the century, were one of the earliest manifestations of a linked European economy, a characteristic of the High Middle Ages. From the later twelfth century the fairs, conveniently sited on ancient land routes and largely self-regulated through the development of the Lex mercatoria, the "merchant law", dominated the commercial and banking relations operating at the frontier region between the north and the Mediterranean.

During the 12th and 13th century in Europe, there was a radical change in the rate of new inventions, innovations in the ways of managing traditional means of production, and economic growth. The period saw major technological advances, including the invention of cannon, spectacles, and artesian wells, and the cross-cultural introduction of gunpowder, silk, the compass, and the astrolabe from the east. One major agricultural innovation during this period was the development of a 3-field rotation system for planting crops (as opposed the 2-field system that was being used). Further, the development of the heavy plow allowed for a rise in communal agriculture as most individuals could not afford to do it by themselves. As a result, medieval villages had formed a type of collective ownership and communal agriculture where the use of horses allowed villages to grow.

There were also great improvements to ships and the clock. The latter advances made possible the dawn of the Age of Exploration. At the same time, huge numbers of Greek and Arabic works on medicine and the sciences were translated and distributed throughout Europe. Aristotle especially became very important, his rational and logical approach to knowledge influencing the scholars at the newly forming universities which were absorbing and disseminating the new knowledge during the 12th century Renaissance.

Christian conflict and reform

Monastic reform became an important issue during the 11th century, when elites began to worry that monks were not adhering to their Rules with the discipline that was required for a good religious life. During this time, it was believed that monks were performing a very practical task by sending their prayers to God and inducing Him to make the world a better place for the virtuous. The time invested in this activity would be wasted, however, if the monks were not virtuous. The monastery of Cluny, founded in the Mâcon in 909, was founded as part of a larger movement of monastic reform in response to this fear. It was a reformed monastery that quickly established a reputation for austerity and rigour. Cluny sought to maintain the high quality of spiritual life by electing its own abbot from within the cloister, and maintained an economic and political independence from local lords by placing itself under the protection of the Pope. Cluny provided a popular solution to the problem of bad monastic codes, and in the 11th century its abbots were frequently called to participate in imperial politics as well as reform monasteries in France and Italy.

The monastic reform inspired change in the secular church, as well. The ideals that it was based upon were brought to the papacy by Pope Leo IX on his election in 1049, providing the ideology of clerical independence that fuelled the Investiture Controversy in the late 11th century. The Investiture Controversy involved Pope Gregory VII and Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor, who initially clashed over a specific bishop's appointment and turned into a battle over the ideas of investiture, clerical marriage, and simony. The Emperor, as a Christian ruler, saw the protection of the Church as one of his great rights and responsibilities. The Papacy, however, had begun insisting on its independence from secular lords. The open warfare ended with Henry IV's occupation of Rome in 1085 and the death of the Pope several months later, but the issues themselves remained unresolved even after the compromise of 1122 known as the Concordat of Worms. The conflict represents a significant stage in the creation of a papal monarchy separate from and equal to lay authorities. It also had the permanent consequence of empowering German princes at the expense of the German emperors.

The High Middle Ages in Europe was a period of great religious movements. Monastic reform was similarly a religious movement effected by monks and elites. Other groups sought to participate in new forms of religious life. Landed elites financed the construction of new parish churches in the European countryside, which increased the Church's impact upon the daily lives of peasants. Cathedral canons adopted monastic rules, groups of peasants and laypeople abandoned their possessions to live like the Apostles, and people formulated ideas about their religion that were deemed heretical. Although the success of the 12th century papacy in fashioning a Church that progressively affected the daily lives of everyday people cannot be denied, there are still indicators that the tail could wag the dog. The new religious groups called the Waldensians and the Humiliati were condemned for their refusal to accept a life of cloistered monasticism. In many aspects, however, they were not very different from the Franciscans and the Dominicans, who were approved by the papacy in the early 13th century (the Franciscan and the Dominican friars developed the popular sermon). The picture that modern historians of the religious life present is one of great religious zeal welling up from the peasantry during the High Middle Ages, with clerical elites striving, only sometimes successfully, to understand and channel this power into familiar paths.


List of Crusades
· First Crusade 1095–1099
· Second Crusade 1147–1149
· Third Crusade 1187–1192
· Fourth Crusade 1202–1204
· Albigensian Crusade
· Children's Crusade
· Fifth Crusade 1217–1221
· Sixth Crusade 1228–1229
· Seventh Crusade 1248–1254
· Eighth Crusade 1270
· Ninth Crusade 1271–1272
· Northern Crusades

The Crusades were holy wars or armed pilgrimages intended to liberate Jerusalem from Muslim control. Jerusalem was part of the Muslim possessions won during a rapid military expansion in the 7th century through the Near East, Northern Africa, and Anatolia (in modern Turkey). The first Crusade was preached by Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont in 1095 in response to a request from the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos for aid against further advancement. Urban promised indulgence to any Christian who took the Crusader vow and set off for Jerusalem. The resulting fervour that swept through Europe mobilized tens of thousands of people from all levels of society, and resulted in the capture of Jerusalem in 1099, as well as other regions. The movement found its primary support in the Franks; it is by no coincidence that the Arabs referred to Crusaders generically as "Franj". Although they were minorities within this region, the Crusaders tried to consolidate their conquests as a number of Crusader states – the Kingdom of Jerusalem, as well as the County of Edessa, the Principality of Antioch, and the County of Tripoli (collectively Outremer). During the 12th century and 13th century, there were a series of conflicts between these states and surrounding Islamic ones. Later Crusades were essentially resupply missions for these embattled kingdoms. Military orders such as the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller were formed to play an integral role in this support. The Kingdom of Jerusalem was effectively destroyed by Saladdin in 1187 and although a rump state persisted in the so-called Kingdom of Acre, the 13th century saw the Crusading movement lose its momentum and steadily decline.

Andrew II of Hungary assembled the biggest army in the history of the Crusades, and moved his troops as a leading figure in the Fifth Crusade, reaching Cyprus and later Lebanon, coming back home in 1218. Islamic counter-attacks had retaken all the Crusader possessions on the Asian mainland, leaving a de facto boundary between Islam and western Christianity that continued until modern times.

Northern Europe

The breakup of the Carolingian Empire was accompanied by the invasions, migrations, and raids of external foes as not seen since the Migration Period. The Atlantic and northern shores were harassed by the Vikings, who forced Charles the Bald to issue the Edict of Pistres against them and who besieged Paris in 885–886. The eastern frontiers, especially Germany and Italy, were under constant Magyar assault until their great defeat at the Battle of the Lechfeld in 955. The Saracens also managed to establish bases at Garigliano and Fraxinetum, to sack Rome in 846 and to conquer the islands of Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily, and their pirates raided the Mediterranean coasts, as did the Vikings. The Christianization of the pagan Vikings provided an end to that threat.

During the Christianization of Scandinavia, the Northern European realms established Archdioceses, responsible directly to the Pope, and began to establish a network of churches in the Viking homelands. A considerably long time occurred for actual Christian beliefs to establish themselves among the people. The old indigenous traditions were slowly replaced by Christian doctrine. The Northern Crusades were crusades undertaken by the Northern European Christian kings and their allies against the pagan peoples of the Viking North around the southern and eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. The east Baltic world was transformed by military conquest and underwent defeat, baptism, military occupation and sometimes extermination.

Slavic chronicles refer to Lithuania as one of the areas attacked by the Rus'. At first pagan Lithuanians paid tribute to Polotsk, but soon grew in strength and organized their own small-scale raids. At some point the situation began to change and the Lithuanians started to organize sustainable military raids on the Slavic provinces. The Livonian Order and Teutonic Knights, crusading military orders, were established in Riga and in Prussia. The Christian orders posed a significant threat to pagan Baltic tribes and further galvanized the formation of Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Iberia reclaimed

The formation of the Kingdom of Asturias under the Visigothic nobleman Pelagius and his victory over the Muslims at the Battle of Covadonga in 722 were major formative events in the reconquest of Iberia. Charlemagne reconquered the western Pyrenees and Septimania and formed a Marca Hispánica to defend the border between Francia and the Muslims.

Beginning in the mid-high Middle Ages, the Reconquista of Al-Andalus was undertaken in force. The reconquest of Iberia passed through major phases over the centuries before its completion. The Reconquista, being of such great duration, is much more complex than any simple account would allow. Christian and Muslim rulers commonly became divided among themselves and fought. Alliances across faith lines were not unusual. The fighting along the Christian–Muslim frontier was punctuated by periods of prolonged peace and truces. Blurring matters even further were the mercenaries who simply fought for whoever paid the most.

By the end of the Middle Ages, the Christian Crusaders had captured all the Islamic territories in modern Spain and Portugal. Reconquista was completed by 1249, after the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, when the sole remaining Muslim state in Iberia, the Emirate of Granada, became a vassal state of the Christian Crown of Castile. This arrangement lasted for 250 years until the Castilians launched the Granada War of 1492, which finally expelled all Muslim authority from Spain. The last Muslim ruler of Granada, Muhammad XII, better known as King Boabdil, surrendered his kingdom to Isabella I of Castile, who with her husband Ferdinand II of Aragon were known as the Catholic Monarchs.

The Balkans and Anatolia

Substantial areas of northern Europe also remained outside Christian influence until the 11th century or later; these areas also became crusading venues during the expansionist High Middle Ages. Throughout this period, the Byzantine Empire was in decline, having peaked in influence during the High Middle Ages. Beginning with the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, the empire underwent a cycle of decline and renewal, including the sacking of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204. Despite another short upswing following the recapture of Constantinople in 1261, the empire continued to deteriorate.

The Second Bulgarian Empire was the successor of the First Bulgarian Empire, reaching the peak of its power under Kaloyan and Ivan Asen II. The Byzantines were defeated in several major battles, and the newly-established Latin Empire was crushed in the battle of Adrianople. With the defeated the Despotate of Epiros and Bulgaria transformed into a regional power once again. However, in the late 13th century the Empire declined under the constant invasions of Tatars, Byzantines, Hungarians, Serbs, and internal instability and revolts. Gradually being conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the late 14th-early 15th century. It was succeeded by the Principality and later Kingdom of Bulgaria in 1878.

The Sublime Ottoman State, referred to as the Ottoman Empire, formed around the end of the High period of the Middle Ages. With the demise of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rūm, Turkish Anatolia was divided into a patchwork of independent states, the so-called Ghazi emirates. By 1300, a weakened Byzantine Empire had lost most of its Anatolian provinces to ten Ghazi principalities. One of the Ghazi emirates was led by Osman I (from which the name Ottoman is derived) in western Anatolia. Osman I extended the frontiers of Ottoman settlement toward the edge of the Byzantine Empire. In this period, a formal Ottoman government was created whose institutions would change drastically over the life of the empire. The government used the legal entity known as the millet, under which religious and ethnic minorities were allowed to manage their own affairs with substantial independence from central control. In the century after the death of Osman I, Ottoman rule began to extend over the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans. The important city of Thessaloniki was captured from the Venetians in 1387. The Turkish victory at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 effectively marked the end of Serbian power in the region, paving the way for Ottoman expansion into Europe.

Central Asia mid-age

Kings of Persia

The Persianate Sunni Muslim Kings of Khwarezmia (Khwārazm-Shāh dynasty), founded by a former slave of the Seljuq sultan, formed out the Turkic mamluk origins. They ruled Greater Iran in the High Middle Ages, first as vassals of the Seljuqs and Kara-Khitan. In high Middle Ages, they became independent rulers of the region until the Mongol invasions of the 13th century.

Mongol Empire

The Mongol Empire began at the end of the high Middle Ages and would be the largest contiguous empire in the history of the world. The Mongol Empire emerged from the unification of Mongol and Turkic tribes in the region of modern-day Mongolia under the leadership of Genghis Khan, who was proclaimed ruler of all Mongols in 1206. The Empire grew rapidly under his leadership and then that of his descendants, who sent invasions in every direction. The vast transcontinental empire which connected the east with the west would eventually function as a cultural "clearing house" for the Old World. Under the Mongols, new technologies, various commodities and ideologies were disseminated and exchanged across Eurasia; the exchanges ranged from cartography to printing, from agriculture to astronomy.

The Empire began to split as a result of wars over succession, with the Toluids prevailing after a bloody purge of Ogedeid and Chagataid factions. Disputes continued though even among the descendants of Tolui. Rival councils would simultaneously elect different Great Khans but also deal with challenges from descendants of other of Genghis's sons. Genghis's descendants would either challenge the decision of Great Khan, or assert independence in their own section of the Empire.

Kublai Khan would eventually take power, but civil war ensued, as Kublai sought, unsuccessfully, to regain control of the Chagatayid and Ogedeid families. By the time of Kublai's death, the Mongol Empire had fractured into four separate khanates or empires, each pursuing its own separate interests and objectives: the Golden Horde khanate, the Chagatai Khanate, the Ilkhanate, and the Yuan Dynasty. At the end of the high Middle Ages, all Mongol khans submitted to a single paramount sovereign for the first time since the wars over succession.

Mongol's European Invasion

The resumption of the Mongol invasion of Europe, during which the Mongols attacked the medieval powers of Poland, Kiev, Hungary, and miscellaneous tribes of less organized proto-Russian people was marked by the Mongol invasion of Rus'. The East European invasion, heralded by the Battle of the Kalka River, was fought between the scout forces of just the two Mongolian generals Subutai and Jebe, whose reconnaissance unit met in battle with the combined force of several Rus' princes. After fifteen years of peace, the Rus' invasion was followed by Batu Khan's full-scale invasion of Rus' and points east, which only ended with a Mongol succession crisis. The invasion, facilitated by the breakup of Kievan Rus' in the 12th century. Sarai were successively capital cities of the Mongol kingdom in the region.

Central Khanates

The Mongol army that invaded Asia and parts of eastern Europe, the Golden Horde, established and maintained Turco-Mongol khanate until the end of the Middle Ages. The Horde's military power peaked during the reign of Uzbeg, who adopted Islam. The territory of the Golden Horde at its peak included most of Eastern Europe from the Urals to the right banks of the Danube River, extending east deep into Siberia. The Crimean Khanate (Khanate of Crimea) of the Turkic khanates succeeded the empire of the Golden Horde. On the south, the Golden Horde's lands bordered on the Black Sea, the Caucasus Mountains, and the territories of the Mongol dynasty known as the Ilkhanate.
The Chagatai Khanate consisted of the lands ruled by Chagatai Khan, second son of the Great Khan Genghis Khan, and his descendents and successors. Initially it was considered a part of the Mongol Empire, but it later became fully independent. At its height in the late 13th century, the Khanate extended from the Amu Darya south of the Aral Sea to the Altai Mountains in the border of modern-day Mongolia and China. The western half of the khanate was lost to Tamerlane in the 1360s. The khanate lasted in one form or another till the end of the Middle Ages.

Far East mid-age

China mid-age

The Song Dynasty was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a permanent standing navy. The Song Dynasty is divided into two distinct periods: the Northern Song and Southern Song. During the Northern Song, the Song capital was in the northern city of Bianjing and the dynasty controlled most of inner China. The Southern Song refers to the period after the Song lost control of northern China to the Jin Dynasty. During this time, the Song court retreated south of the Yangtze River and established their capital at Lin'an. To repel the Jin, and later the Mongols, the Song developed revolutionary new military technology augmented by the use of gunpowder. Social life during the Song was vibrant; social elites gathered to view and trade precious Chinese artworks, the populace intermingled at public festivals and private clubs, and cities had lively entertainment quarters. The spread of literature and knowledge was enhanced by the earlier invention of woodblock printing and the 11th-century invention of movable type printing. Pre-modern technology, science, philosophy, mathematics, engineering, and other intellectual pursuits flourished over the course of the Song.

Japan mid-age

The governance by the first Kamakura Shogunate, Minamoto no Yoritomo, begins the Kamakura period. The Kamakura period marks the transition to land-based economies and a concentration of advanced military technologies in the hands of a specialized fighting class. Lords required the loyal services of vassals, who were rewarded with fiefs of their own. The fief holders exercised local military rule. The literature of the time reflected the unsettled nature of the period. The repulsions of two Mongol invasions were momentous events in Japanese history. With the destruction of the shogunate, the period ends with a short reestablishment of imperial rule under Emperor Go-Daigo by Ashikaga Takauji, Nitta Yoshisada, and Kusunoki Masashige.

Late Middle Ages

European turbulence

Creative social, economic and technological responses emerged in the late period in response to various upheavals in the region; these developments laid the groundwork for further significant change during the Early Modern Period. The Late Middle Ages was also a period when the Catholic Church was increasingly divided against itself. During the time of the Western Schism, the Church was led by as many as three popes at one time. The divisiveness of the Church undermined papal authority, and allowed the formation of national churches.

Popular revolts in late medieval Europe saw uprisings and rebellions by peasants in the countryside, or the bourgeois in towns, against nobles, abbots and kings during the upheavals of the 14th through early 16th centuries, part of a larger "Crisis of the Late Middle Ages". Although sometimes known as Peasant Revolts, the phenomenon of popular uprisings was of broad scope and not just restricted to peasants. In Central Europe and the Balkan region, these rebellions expressed, and helped cause, a political and social disunity paving the way for the expansion of the Ottoman Empire.

The Black Death

The Late Middle Ages were a period initiated by calamities and upheavals. During this time, agriculture was affected by a climate change that has been documented by climate historians, and was felt by contemporaries in the form of periodic famines, including the Great Famine of 1315-1317. Medieval Britain was afflicted by 95 famines, and France suffered the effects of 75 or more in the same period. The Black Death, a disease that spread among the populace like wildfire, killed as much as a third of the population in the mid-14th century. In some regions, the toll was higher than one half of the population. Towns were especially hard-hit because of the crowded conditions. Large areas of land were left sparsely inhabited, and in some places fields were left unworked. Because of the sudden decline in available labourers, the price of wages rose as landlords sought to entice workers to their fields. Workers also felt that they had a right to greater earnings, and popular uprisings broke out across Europe. Even the king Louis I of Hungary was forced to stop his long war against the Kingdom of Naples in 1347, because of the deaths in the Italian region. The Black Death soon took the life of Louis I's wife, Margaret, daughter of the German emperor Charles IV, and as well few Hungarians, although the negative consequences of this disease in the Kingdom of Hungary were relatively mild.

Medieval Inquisition

The Medieval Inquisition is a series of Inquisitions (Catholic Church bodies charged with suppressing heresy), including the Episcopal Inquisition and later the Papal Inquisition. It was in response to large popular movements throughout Europe considered apostate or heretical, in particular Catharism and Waldensians in southern France and northern Italy. These were the first inquisition movements of many that would follow.
The Medieval Inquisitions were in response to growing religious movements, in particular the Cathars, first noted in the 1140s in southern France, and the Waldensians, starting around 1170 in northern Italy. Individuals, such as Peter of Bruis, had often challenged the Church. However, the Cathars were the first mass heretical organization in the second millennium that posed a serious threat to the authority of the Church. The different phenomenon of the Spanish Inquisition, which was under the control of the Spanish monarchy, and the Portuguese Inquisition followed the same pattern. The Medieval Inquisition Inquisitions were prior to the Roman Inquisition.

State resurgence

The Late Middle Ages in Europe witnessed the rise of strong, royalty-based sovereign states, particularly the Kingdom of England, the Kingdom of France, and the Christian kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula (Aragon, Castile, Navarre, and Portugal). The long conflicts of this time, such as the Hundred Years' War fought between England and France, strengthened royal control over the kingdoms, even though they were extremely hard on the peasantry. Kings profited from warfare by gaining land.

France shows clear signs of a growth in sovereign royal power during the 14th century, from the active persecution of heretics and lepers, expulsion of the Jews, and the dissolution of the Knights Templar. In all of these cases, undertaken by Philip IV, the king confiscated land and wealth from these minority groups. The conflict between Philip and Pope Boniface VIII, a conflict which began over Philip's unauthorized taxation of clergy, ended with the violent death of Boniface and the installation of Pope Clement V, a weak, French-controlled pope, in Avignon. This action enhanced French prestige, at the expense of the papacy.

Both the Kings of France and the Kings of England of this period presided over effective states administered by literate bureaucrats, and sought baronial consent for their decisions through early versions of parliamentary systems, called the Estates General in France and the Parliament in England. Towns and merchants allied with kings during the 15th century, allowing the kings to distance themselves further from the territorial lords. As a result of the power gained during the 14th and 15th centuries, late medieval kings built truly sovereign states, which were able to impose taxes, declare war, and create and enforce laws, all by the will of the king. Kings encouraged cohesion in their administration by appointing ministers with broad ambitions and a loyalty to the state. By the last half of the 15th century, kings like Henry VII of England and Louis XI of France were able to rule without much baronial interference.

Louis the Great

In 1345, Louis the Great decided to capture the city of Zadar, on the Dalmatian coast. His soldiers however refused to take the field, since some Hungarian leaders had been corrupted by Venice before the battle. The Hungarian side eventually won only due to its numerical superiority, leaving some 7,000 casualies on the field. Zadar remained in Venetian hands. Louis embarked on an expedition against Naples in revenge of the murder of his younger brother. Having established himself in Naples with little difficulty, Louis was nevertheless forced to withdraw quickly by the arrival of the Black Death.

In the North, Louis's diplomacy, moreover, was materially assisted by his lifelong alliance with his uncle, King Casimir III of Poland, who had appointed him his successor. Louis waged successful wars against the pagan Lithuanians, Mongols, and against Bohemians. The young Louis had become very popular in Poland due to these campaigns. In Poland, Louis defeated Lithuanians (1350–1352) and the Mongols (Golden Horde), and conquered Galicia (Central-Eastern Europe). After the serials of victories over the Tatars, the Hungarian sphere of influence stretched eastward as far as the Dniester. In the wars between 1345–47, Louis defeated the Golden Horde.

Louis' campaigns in the Balkans were aimed not so much at conquest and subjugation as at drawing the Serbs, Bosnians, Wallachians and Bulgarians into the fold of the Roman Catholic faith and at forming a united front against the looming Turkish menace. The rulers of Serbia, Bosnia, Walachia, Moldavia, and Bulgaria became his vassals. They regarded powerful Hungary as a potential menace to their national identity. For this reason, Hungary could never regard the Serbs and Wallachians as reliable allies in her subsequent wars against the Turks. The Ottoman Turks confronted the southern vassal states in the Balkan region ever more often. However Louis defeated the Turks when Hungarian and Turkish troops clashed for the first time in history at Nicapoli in 1366. The Hungarian Chapel in the Cathedral at Aachen was built to commemorate this victory. He defeated the Turkish army in Wallachia in 1374.

East European Duchies

The Gediminids dynasty ruled Grand Duchy of Lithuania for several centuries, and Vytenis was the first ruler from the dynasty. At its height, a strong central government established an empire which later spread from the Black Sea to the Baltic Sea. Most of the principalities of Western Rus' were either vassaled or annexed by Lithuania. Lithuania inherited the western and the southern parts of Kievan Rus'. Kiev was captured by sending Stanislav, the last Rurikid to ever rule Kiev, into exile. While almost every other state around it had been plundered or defeated by the Mongols, their hordes stopped at the modern borders of Belarus and most of the territory of Grand Duchy of Lithuania was left untouched.

The medieval Russia polity centered on Moscow, the Grand Duchy of Moscow, was the predecessor state of the early modern Tsardom of Russia. The Grand Duchy originated with Moscow at the end of the high period. The power eclipsed and eventually absorbed its parent duchy of Vladimir-Suzdal in the beginning of the late Middle Ages. The power of Moscow expanded further, annexing the Novgorod Republic and the Grand Duchy of Tver. It remained tributary to the Golden Horde (the "Tatar Yoke") until near the end of the Middle Ages. Ivan III of Russia consolidated the state, campaigning against his major remaining rival power, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and had tripled the territory of Muscovy, adopting the title of tsar and "Ruler of all Rus'".

Northern Europe Union

The series of personal unions known as the Kalmar Union united the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden under a single monarch, though intermittently. The countries had not technically given up their sovereignty, nor their independence, but in practical terms, they were not autonomous, the common monarch. Diverging interests gave rise to a conflict that would hamper the union in several intervals until the union's breakup, however, Denmark–Norway continued under the Oldenburg dynasty for several centuries after the dissolution.

Hundred Years' War

The Hundred Years' War was a conflict between the Kingdom of France and the Kindom of England lasting 116 years, from 1337 to 1453. It was fought primarily over claims by the English kings to the French throne and was punctuated by several brief and two extended periods of peace before it finally ended in the expulsion of the English from France, except for the Calais Pale. This series of conflicts is commonly divided into three or four phases:

  1. the Edwardian War (1337–1360),
  2. the Caroline War (1369–1389),
  3. the Lancastrian War (1415–1429), and
  4. the Valoisian victory (1429–1453)

The last period saw the appearance of Joan of Arc. Though primarily a dynastic conflict, the war gave impetus to ideas of both French nationality and English nationality from the laws of the Monarch's subjects.
Militarily, the Hundred Years' War saw the introduction of new weapons and tactics, which eroded the older system of feudal armies dominated by heavy cavalry. The first standing armies in Western Europe since the time of the Western Roman Empire were introduced for the war, thus changing the role of the peasantry. For all this, as well as for its long duration, it is often viewed as one of the most significant conflicts in the history of medieval warfare.
After the advent of gunpowder artillery in the Middle Ages, the Battle of Crécy took place and was one of the most important battles of the Hundred Years' War. The combination of new weapons and tactics has caused many historians to consider this battle the beginning of the end of classic chivalry. "Ribaldis," which shot large arrows and simplistic grapeshot, were first mentioned in the English Privy Wardrobe accounts during preparations for the Battle. The Florentine Giovanni Villani recounts their destructiveness, indicating that by the end of the battle, "the whole plain was covered by men struck down by arrows and cannon balls." Similar cannon were also used at the Siege of Calais, in the same year, although it was not until the 1380s that the "ribaudekin" clearly became mounted on wheels.

Church schism and reform

The troubled 14th century saw both the Avignon Papacy of 1305–1378, also called the Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy (a reference to the Babylonian Captivity of the Jews), and the so-called Western Schism that lasted from 1378 to 1418. The practice of granting papal indulgences, fairly commonplace since the 11th century, was reformulated and explicitly monetized in the 14th century. Indulgences became an important source of revenue for the Church, revenue that filtered through parish churches to bishops and then to the pope himself. This was viewed by many as a corruption of the Church. In the early years of the 15th century, after a century of turmoil, ecclesiastical officials convened in Constance in 1417 to discuss a resolution to the Schism. Traditionally, councils needed to be called by the Pope, and none of the contenders were willing to call a council and risk being unseated. The act of convening a council without papal approval was justified by the argument that the Church was represented by the whole population of the faithful. The council deposed the warring popes and elected Martin V. The turmoil of the Church, and the perception that it was a corrupted institution, sapped the legitimacy of the papacy within Europe and fostered greater loyalty to regional or national churches. Martin Luther published objections to the Church. Although his disenchantment had long been forming, the denunciation of the Church was precipitated by the arrival of preachers raising money to rebuild the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome. Luther might have been silenced by the Church, but the death of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I brought the imperial succession to the forefront of concern. Lutherans' split with the Church in 1517, and the subsequent division of Catholicism into Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Anabaptism, put a definitive end to the unified Church built during the Middle Ages.

Middle East Sultans

Mamluk Sultanate

At the time of the fall of the Ayyubids, the Mamluk Sultanate rose to ruled Egypt. The Mamluks, Arabs and Kipchak Turks, were purchased but were not ordinary slaves. Mamluks were considered to be “true lords,” with social status above freeborn Egyptian Muslims. Mamluk regiments constituted the backbone of the late Ayyubid military. Each sultan and high-ranking amir had his private corps. The Bahri mamluks defeated the Louis IX's crusaders at the Battle of Al Mansurah. The Sultan proceeded to place his own entourage and Mu‘azzamis mamluks in authority to the detriment of Bahri interests. Shhortly thereafter, a group of Bahris assassinated the Sultan. Following the death of the Sultan, a decade of instability ensued as various factions competed for control. The Ottoman Sultan of the Ottoman Empire conquered Syria at the end of the Middle Ages after defeating the Mamlukes at the Battle of Marj Dabiq near Aleppo. The Ottoman’s campaign against the Mamlukes continued and they conquered Egypt following the Battle of Ridanieh, bringing an end to the Mamluk Sultanate.

The Sultanate of Rome

The Sultanate of Rûm followed the Great Seljuq Empire, with capitals first at İznik and then at Konya. At its height the sultanate stretched across central Anatolia from the Antalya-Alanya shoreline on the Mediterranean coast to the territory of Sinop on the Black Sea. In the east, the sultanate absorbed other states and reached Lake Van. Its westernmost limit around the gates of the Aegean basin. The sultanate prospered, particularly when it took from the Byzantines key ports on the Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts. The sultans successfully bore the brunt of the Crusades but succumbed to the Mongol invasion. In its final decades, the territory of the Seljuq Sultanate of Rûm saw the emergence of a number of beyliks, among which that of the Osmanoğlu, known later as the Ottomans, rose to dominance.

Ottomans and Europe

In the end of the 15th century the Ottoman Empire advanced all over East Europe conquering eventually the Byzantine Empire and extending their control on the slavish states of the Balkans. Hungary became eventually the last bastion of the Latin Christian world, and fought for the keeping its rule on his territories during two centuries. After the tragic death of the young King Vladislaus I of Hungary during the Battle of Varna in 1444 against the Ottomans, the Kingdom without monarch was placed in the hands of the count John Hunyadi, who became Hungary's regent-governor (1446–1453). Hunyadi was considered by the pope as one of the most relevant military figures of the 15th century (Pope Pius II awarded him with the title of Athleta Christi or Champion of Christ), because he was the only hope of keeping a resistance against the Ottomans in Central and West Europe.

Hunyadi succeeded during the Siege of Belgrade in 1456 against the Ottomans, which meant the biggest victory against that empire in decades. This battle became a real Crusade against the Muslims, as the peasants were motivated by the Franciscan monk Saint John of Capistrano, which came from Italy predicating the Holy War. The effect that it created in that time was one of the few main factors that helped achieving the victory. However the premature death of the Hungarian Lord left defenseless and in chaos that area of Europe. As an absolutely unusual event for the Middle Ages, Hunyadi's son, Matthias, was elected as King for Hungary by the nobility. For the first time, a member of an aristocratic family (and not from a royal family) was crowned.

The King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary (1458–1490) was one of the most prominent figures of this Age, as he directed campaigns to the west conquering Bohemia answering to the Pope's claim for help against the Hussite Protestants, and also for solving the political hostilities with the German emperor Frederick III of Habsburg he invaded his west domains. Matthew organized the Black Army, composed of mercenary soldiers that is considered until the date as the biggest army of its time. Using this powerful tool, the Hungarian king led wars against the Turkish armies and stopped the Ottomans during his reign. Though the Ottoman Empire grew in strength and, with end of the Black Army, Central Europe was defenseless after the death of Matthew. At the Battle of Mohács, the forces of the Ottoman Empire annihilated the Hungarian army, and in trying to escape Louis II of Hungary drowned in the Csele Creek. The leader of the Hungarian army, Pál Tomori, also died in the battle. This episode is considered to be one of the final ones of the Medieval Times.

Far East restoration

China restoration

The Mongol Great Yuan Empire, founded by Kublai Khan, existed between the high and late Middle Ages. A division of the Mongol Empire and a imperial dynasty of China, the Yuan followed the Song Dynasty and preceded the Ming Dynasty. During his rule, Kublai Khan claimed the title of Great Khan, supreme Khan over the other Mongol khanates. This claim was only truly recognized by the Il-Khanids, who were nevertheless essentially self-governing. Although later emperors of the Yuan Dynasty were recognized by the three virtually independent western khanates as their nominal suzerains, they each continued their own separate developments.

The Empire of the Great Ming rule began in China during the mid-late Middle Ages, following the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty. The Ming was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic Han Chinese. Ming rule saw the construction of a vast navy and army. Although private maritime trade and official tribute missions from China had taken place in previous dynasties, the tributary fleet under the Muslim eunuch admiral Zheng He surpassed all others in size. There were enormous construction projects, including the restoration of the Grand Canal of China and the Great Wall of China and the establishment of the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Society was fashioned to be self-sufficient rural communities in a rigid, immobile system that would have no need to engage with the commercial life and trade of urban centers. Rebuilding of China's agricultural base and strengthening of communication routes through the militarized courier system had the unintended effect of creating a vast agricultural surplus that could be sold at burgeoning markets located along courier routes.

Rural culture and commerce became influenced by urban trends. The upper echelons of society embodied in the scholarly gentry class were also affected by this new consumption-based culture. In a departure from tradition, merchant families began to produce examination candidates to become scholar-officials and adopted cultural traits and practices typical of the gentry. Parallel to this trend involving social class and commercial consumption were changes in social and political philosophy, bureaucracy and governmental institutions, and even arts and literature.

Japan restoration

The Kenmu restoration was a three year period of Japanese history between the Kamakura period and the Muromachi period. The political events included the restoration effort, but made with many and serious political errors, to bring the Imperial House and the nobility it represented back into power, thus restoring a civilian government after almost a century and a half of military rule. The attempted restoration ultimately failed and was replaced by the Ashikaga shogunate. This was to be the last time the Emperor had any power until the Meiji restoration in the modern era.

Beginning around the mid-late Middle Ages, the Muromachi period marks the governance of the Ashikaga shogunate. The first Muromachi shogun was established by Ashikaga Takauji, two years after the brief Kemmu restoration of imperial rule was brought to a close. The period ended with the last shogun, Ashikaga Yoshiaki, driven out of the capital in Kyoto by Oda Nobunaga. The early Muromachi period, or the Northern and Southern Court period, experienced continued resistance of the supporters of the Kemmu restoration. The end of the Muromachi period, or the Sengoku period, was a time of warring states. The Muromachi period has the two cultural phases, the medieval Kitayama and modern Higashiyama periods.

Medieval European culture

Medieval European demographics

Medieval demography in Europe during the Middle Ages saw changes which helped to shape and define the Middle Ages. Population trends in Europe before, during, and after the Middle Ages can be roughly categorized as the following:

Year Trend
150–400 population decline
400–1000 stable at a low level.
1000–1250 population boom and expansion.
1250–1350 stable at a high level (with the exception of the Great Famine)
1350–1420 steep decline
1420–1470 stable at a low level.
1470–1600 slow expansion, gaining momentum in the early 16th century.

Medieval European life

Communes in the Middle Ages had sworn allegiances of mutual defense (both physical defense and of traditional freedoms) among the citizens of a town or city. They took many forms, and varied widely in organization and makeup. Communes are first recorded in the late high Middle Ages, thereafter becoming a widespread phenomenon. They had the greater development in central-northern Italy, where they were real city-states based on partial democracy. Before that, European society generally existed as a feudal society.

European medieval cuisine includes the foods, eating habits, and cooking methods of various European cultures during the Middle Ages, a period roughly dating from the 5th to the 16th century. During this period, diets and cooking changed less across Europe than they did in the briefer early modern period that followed, when those changes helped lay the foundations for modern European cuisine. In the European region, Medieval gardening during the period had a primary purpose of providing food for households. European medieval gardening saw the cultivation of plants herbs, fruits, flowers, or vegetables.

Horses in the Middle Ages differed in size, build and breed from the modern horse, and were, on average, smaller. They were central to medieval society, unlike their contemporary counterparts, being essential for war, agriculture, and transport. Significant technological advances in equestrian equipment, often introduced from other cultures, allowed for significant changes in both warfare and agriculture.

Medieval hunting in Europe consisted of hunting wild animals. While game was at times an important source of food, it was rarely the principal source of nutrition. Hunting was engaged by all European classes, but by the High Middle Ages, the necessity of hunting was transformed into a stylized pastime of the Western aristocracy. More than a pastime, it was an important arena for social interaction, essential training for war, and a privilege and measurement of nobility. As with heraldry, too, the conventions and vocabulary of hunting were originally French in origin, via the transmission of Roman property laws through Frankish monarchs. There exists a rich corpus of Medieval poetry and literature, manuals, art and ceremonies surrounding the hunt, increasingly elaborated in the 14th and 15th centuries as part of the vocabulary of aristocratic bearing.

The European medieval household was, like contemporary western households, the center of the family for all classes of European society. Yet in contrast to the modern household, it consisted of many more individuals than the nuclear family. From the household of the king to the humblest peasant dwelling, more or less distant relatives and varying numbers of servants and dependents would cohabit with the master of the house and his immediate family. The structure of the medieval household was largely dissolved by the advent of privacy in early modern Europe. Variations were of course great, over an entire continent and a time span of about 1000 years. The classical model of the medieval household evolved in Carolingian France and from there spread over Europe.

Western feudal Society

The concept of European feudalism, in juxtaposition to the Far East's Wang peerage and Shogunate system, describes a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the European warrior nobility. Feudal relationships revolve around three key concepts:

  1. Lords (noble land-holders)
  2. Vassals (granted land possession) and
  3. Fiefs (Land).

In exchange for the use of the fief, and other obligations, and the protection of the lord, the vassal would provide service to the lord. There were many varieties of feudal land tenure, consisting of military and non-military service. To make that person a vassal, a formal and symbolic ceremony called a commendation ceremony was undertaken. It composed of the two-part act of homage (lord-vassal contract) and oath of fealty. Vassal's duty was to fight for the lord at his command, whilst the lord protected the vassal from external forces. Fealty explicitly reinforces the vassal's commitments. The vassal was responsible to answer to calls to service on behalf of the lord. This security of military help was the primary reason the lord entered into the feudal relationship.


In Medieval warfare, the medieval knight was usually a mounted and armoured soldier, often connected with nobility or royalty, although (especially in north-eastern Europe) knights could also come from the lower classes, and could even be unfree persons. The cost of their armor, horses, and weapons was great; this, among other things, helped gradually transform the knight, at least in western Europe, into a distinct social class separate from other warriors. During the crusades, holy orders of Knights fought in the Holy Land. Medieval tournaments in the feudal society, as described by Roger of Hoveden, were "military exercises carried out, not in the spirit of hostility (nullo interveniente odio), but solely for practice and the display of prowess (pro solo exercitio, atque ostentatione virium)."

Manorialism was the organizing principle of several rural western and central Europe economies that originated in the villa system of the Late Roman Empire. It eventually was replaced by money-based market economy and agrarian contracts. Manorialism was characterised by the vesting of legal and economic power in a lord, supported economically from his own direct landholding and from the obligatory contributions of a legally subject part of the peasant population under his jurisdiction. Manorialism was continued to be practiced later than feudalism and serfdom in the Middle Ages.

Medieval European art and buildings

Medieval art covers a vast scope of time and place, over 1000 years of European art history and includes major European art movements and periods, national and regional art, genres, revivals, the artists crafts, and the European artists themselves. Medieval literature, encompassing essentially all European written works available during the Middle Ages in the Old World, was composed of Christian religious writings as well as the West's secular works. Because of the wide range of time and place it is difficult to speak in general terms without oversimplification, and thus the literature is characterized by its place of origin and/or language, as well as its genre. Because most of what we have was written down by clerics, much of extant medieval poetry is religious.

European Medieval theatre is composed of a variety of genres because the time period covers approximately a thousand years of the art form and an entire continent. Most European medieval theatre is not well documented due to a lack of surviving records and texts, a low literacy rate of the general population in the Old World, and the opposition of the Christian clergy to some types of performance. European Medieval music was both sacred and secular. During the earlier medieval period, the liturgical genre, predominantly Gregorian chant, was monophonic. Polyphonic genres started to develop in Europe during the high medieval era, becoming prevalent by the later 13th and early 14th century. European medieval music was performed by a variety of Instruments which still exist, though in different forms.

Medieval architecture in Europe represent various forms of architecture. Ecclesiastical architecture of Christianity takes the Roman basilica as its primary model with subsequent developments. European military architecture served for defense. European castles and fortified walls provide the most notable remains. Civil architecture in Europe included manor houses.
Medieval architecture

Few large stone buildings were attempted between the Constantinian basilicas of the 4th century, and the 8th century. At this time, the establishment of churches and monasteries, and a comparative political stability, caused the development of a form of stone architecture loosely based upon Roman forms and hence later named Romanesque. Where available, Roman brick and stone buildings were recycled for their materials. From the fairly tentative beginnings known as the First Romanesque, the style flourished and spread across Europe in a remarkably homogeneous form. The features are massive stone walls, openings topped by semi-circular arches, small windows, and, particularly in France, arched stone vaults and arrows.

In the decorative arts, Celtic and Germanic barbarian forms were absorbed into Christian art, although the central impulse remained Roman and Byzantine. High quality jewellery and religious imagery were produced throughout Western Europe; Charlemagne and other monarchs provided patronage for religious artworks such as reliquaries and books. Some of the principal artworks of the age were the fabulous Illuminated manuscripts produced by monks on vellum, using gold, silver, and precious pigments to illustrate biblical narratives. Early examples include the Book of Kells and many Carolingian and Ottonian Frankish manuscripts.

Medieval guilds and associations

Medieval guilds were association of craftsmen in a particular trade. In the Early Middle Ages, most of the Roman craft organizations, originally formed as religious confraternities, had disappeared, with the apparent exceptions of stonecutters and perhaps glassmakers. By about 1100, European guilds and livery companies began their medieval progression into an approximate equivalent to modern-day business organizations such as institutes or consortia. The guild system reached a mature state in the late Middle Ages and held on in some regions till the late Modern Age, with some special privileges for certain occupations remaining today.

Medieval science and technology

Science in the Middle Ages in Europe consisted of the study of nature, mathematics and natural philosophy. Following the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the decline in knowledge of Greek, Christian Western Europe was cut off from an important source of ancient learning. Although a range of Christian clerics and scholars from Isidore and Bede to Buridan and Oresme maintained the spirit of rational inquiry, Western Europe would see during the early Middle Ages a period of intellectual stagnation.

During the same time in the Near East (the Islamic Golden Age), Islamic philosophy, science, and technology were more advanced than in Western Europe. Islamic scholars both preserved and built upon earlier Ancient Greek and Roman traditions and added their own inventions and innovations. Islamic al-Andalus passed much of this on to Europe. The replacement of Roman numerals with the decimal positional number system and the invention of algebra allowed more advanced mathematics.

During the High Middle Ages, the West begun to reorganize itself and was on its way to taking again the lead in scientific discovery. Roger Bacon is sometimes credited as one of the earliest European advocates of the modern scientific method inspired by the works of Aristotle.

Medieval thought and rationality

Medieval philosophy was composed of the process of rediscovering the ancient culture developed in Greece and Rome in the classical period, and partly by the need to address theological problems and to integrate sacred doctrine with secular learning. The European medieval period is frequently caricatured as supposedly a "time of ignorance and superstition" which placed "the word of religious authorities over personal experience and rational activity."

Actually, reason was generally held in high regard during the European Middle Ages. The historian of science Edward Grant, writes that "If revolutionary rational thoughts were expressed [in the 18th century], they were only made possible because of the long medieval tradition that established the use of reason as one of the most important of human activities". Also, contrary to common belief, David Lindberg says "the late medieval scholar rarely experienced the coercive power of the church and would have regarded himself as free (particularly in the natural sciences) to follow reason and observation wherever they led".

The caricature of the European period is also reflected in a number of more specific notions. For instance, a claim that was first propagated in the 19th century and is still very common in popular culture is the supposition that all European people in the Middle Ages believed that the Earth was flat. This claim is mistaken. In fact, lecturers in the medieval universities commonly advanced evidence in favor of the idea that the Earth was a sphere. Lindberg and Numbers write: "There was scarcely a Christian scholar of the Middle Ages who did not acknowledge [Earth's] sphericity and even know its approximate circumference".

Other misconceptions of the European people such as: "the Church prohibited autopsies and dissections during the Middle Ages", "the rise of Christianity killed off ancient science", and "the medieval Christian church suppressed the growth of natural philosophy", are all cited by Ronald Numbers as examples of widely popular myths that still pass as historical truth, although they are not supported by current historical research. They help maintain the idea of a "Dark Age" spanning through the European medieval period.

Further reading

  • Bjork, Robert E. ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages (4 vol. Oxford U.P. 2010)
  • Bishop, Morris. The Middle Ages (2001)
  • Cahill, Thomas How the Irish Saved Civilization (1995)
  • Cantor, Norman. The Civilization of the Middle Ages (1994)
  • Contamine, Philippe. War in the Middle Ages (1991)
  • Fossier, Robert. The Axe and the Oath: Ordinary Life in the Middle Ages (Princeton University Press; 2010)
  • Hanawalt, Barbara. The Middle Ages: An Illustrated History (1999)
  • Holmes, George, ed. The Oxford History of Medieval Europe (1992)
  • Jordan, William Chester, ed. The Middle Ages: An Encyclopedia for Students (4 vol 1996)
  • Keen, Maurice. The History of Medieval Europe (Penguin History) (1991)
  • Rosenwein, Barbara H. A Short History of the Middle Ages (3rd ed. 2009)
  • Southern, Richard W. The Making of the Middle Ages (1961)
  • Jordan, William Chester. Europe in the High Middle Ages (2004)
  • Strayer, Joseph R. Western Europe in the Middle Ages: A Short History (1955)
  • Strayer, Joseph R. (1989). Joseph R. Strayer. ed. Dictionary of the Middle Ages. 13 vol.. ISBN 0-684-19073-7.
  • Thompson, James Westfall. Economic and social history of the Middle Ages: 300-1300 (2 vol 1966)
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