The History of Medieval Europe

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There are aslo instructions and tips on how to use the database search form. There are five large data sets, three pertaining to currency exchanges and two pertaining to prices. Even if familiar with medieval European currencies, it behooves visitors to read the introduction before conducting a search of its extensive records. The Murthy Hours The Murthy Hours was written and illuminated in Paris in the s and is was one of the most richly decorated manuscripts in medieval Scotland.

Courtesy of the National Library of Scotland you can view every page of the document in full-colour and read an accompanying background essay. Spartacus Internet Encyclopedia This encyclopedia-style resource concentrates on British history from the medieval era on. Contains overviews, essays, images, on topics such as Medieval World and British History. Medieval England This History Learning web site features a series of essays on dozens of Medieval era topics, including the Battle of Hastings, the Bayeux Tapestry, castles, feudalism, the lifestyle of the medieval peasant, the Domesday Book, the medieval church, the Magna Carta, the Black Death, the Crusades, and much more.

Useful general introduction, but obtrusive advertisements are a distraction. Major topics include the Domesday Book, an important historical resource from the time of William the Conqueror. There are also three lessons:. What was Chertsey like in the Middle Ages?

Maps provided by the UK National Archives help students learn about Chertsey, an old medieval town that is mentioned in the Domesday Book. It details an exercise whereby students decode a cartoon that reveals attitudes towards Jews in medieval England in the13th century. What can we learn about England in the 11th century? In this lesson students examine the Domesday Book, the oldest government record held in The National Archives, and answer a series of related questions. This is a subscription-based service, but one many teachers is worth the expense.

There are also links to multiple K12 lesson plans and activities. There are four periods to explore. The Plantagenets and the Houses of Lancaster and York are featured in the first period, the Tudors and Stuarts in the second, and the House of Hanover in the third. The timeline concludes with the Windsors. BBC History: Build a Medieval Arch animation Play the animation to find out how medieval masons built cathedral arches — without the benefits of modern technology. Norman Conquest School Site This site has worksheets, quizzes, and activities for the students.

GCSE History Pages Main features of this site include interactive tests and quizzes, revision tips, practice GCSE exam papers with mark-schemes for self assessment, revision notes and structured lessons. Course Models: Medieval Europe Part of the California History-Social Science content standards and annotated course which include: background information, focus questions, pupil activities and handouts, assessment, and references to books, articles, web sites, literature, audio-video programs, and historic site.

Grade 7.

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The Medieval Arms Race A PBS Nova site, it describes and illustrates some of the major weapons and strategies used in what became a medieval arms race. Clear, easy to follow, and appropriate for young students. Destroy the Castle This Nova Science challenges students to engineer a trebuchet that can knock down a castle wall.

Fun and engaging.

Middle Ages

The plague was spread by these trading and pilgrim routes, as travelers went from town to town. Find out about the plague during modern times and during the Middle Ages. Use your journal to keep track of what you find out along the way.


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People threw their waste including human waste out of their windows to the street below. In many streets an open sewer flowed down the middle. Conditions were thus appallingly unhealthy. Disease was a constant threat. Houses were made of flimsy, flammable materials and danger of fire was never far away. Crime in medieval towns was far higher than in modern inner cities. All told, the death rate was frighteningly high.

Medieval Studies

There were two kinds of clergy: secular and regular. Broadly speaking, the secular clergy were the priests who served in the churches and cathedrals in towns and villages; the regular clergy were the monks, nuns and lay brothers and sisters who lived in monasteries or belonged to religious orders of wandering friars.

Whether secular or regular, from the 11th century onwards all clergy were required to live celibate lives, taking no wives and having no children. It was believed that only in this way could they be free from the cares and snares of the world, and able to serve God most effectively. The clergy were the most educated members of society — in the early Middle Ages, well-nigh the only educated members. Their status varied enormously, from the village priest, barely able to read and write and hardly better-off than his parishioners, to men who lived in palaces, were surrounded by large retinues, and enjoyed the wealth and status on a par with the greatest in the land.

Indeed, one of their number, the pope , held an office at least as respected as that kings and emperors. Another group of people who could be seen in many towns but seldom in the countryside across Europe were Jews, who had spread around Europe since Roman times. The reason why they were mostly confined to towns and cities was that in most places they were not allowed to own or rent land. In the urban economy, however, the Jews played a key role. Lending money for profit was forbidden to Christians by the Church; however, Jews were allowed by their own religion to lend on interest to non-Jews.

In the early part of the Middle Ages, therefore, moneylending became a near-monopoly for them. Some Jews became very rich — and as such, of course, attracted widespread envy. In fact, Jews came to be seen as extortionate moneylenders, and this, added to the fact that they were a group of outsiders who had not integrated with the rest of society, led to their being the object of widespread fear and distrust. They were easy targets when things went wrong — in time of plague, for example, Jews were often accused of poisoning wells and other crimes, and anti-Jewish pogroms could all too easily occur.

Also, when rulers found themselves in dire need of money as medieval kings did frequently one of their common expedients was to squeeze the Jewish community. The rest of society could mostly be relied on to stand by when this happened. On several occasions all Jews were expelled from various kingdoms — England in , France in and Spain in Every medieval community had its paupers and beggars.

These were often people unable to work through physical or mental disability, or widows and orphans left without any means of support. In villages, they were cared for by the other villagers, by the parish priest and the lord of the manor. In towns this responsibility fell to the monasteries, which not only functioned as places of prayer and worship but as sources of welfare and healthcare.

For all people, there was nothing like the same privacy that we have come to expect in our own lives. Poorer families would live and eat together in single-room cottages, at night all sleeping in the one bed. In wealthier families, the owners of a house would share their house with servants and workers.

Medieval Times – History of Europe

Even in aristocratic households, the family itself might only have a few rooms to itself, with the main sections of the house shared with a host of retainers and servants. For the majority of people, including young children, hours were long — all the hours of daylight were barely enough to get though the tasks needing doing to ensure survival. They did not have the labour-saving devices that we have today; almost everything had to be done by muscle power human or animal.

Women were legally subject to men though one would not necessarily have believed that from the work of medieval writers such as Boccaccio and Chaucer, who give pen portraits of assertive and powerful women. In poorer families, they worked alongside their menfolk in field and workshop, as well as doing household chores — cooking, washing, cleaning, making clothes, grinding corn, making beer and so on.

In fact, economic and household work was not demarcated as it is today, as all tasks were to do with ensuring they and their families were properly fed, watered and clothed. In aristocratic circles the women wove, spun, and managed the domestic side of the household. In circumstances where the men were away or otherwise unable to manage affairs, the lady of the household took charge of everything — including, on more than one occasion, leading the defence of a castle against attack. Nuns of course lived lived lives largely free from male domination, and could rise to be Abbesses of their communities, holding positions of wide respect and great responsibility.

Children took on adult roles at a young age. If the family could afford to send them to school this too began at seven. Sons of craftsmen and merchants were sent to another household to be apprenticed to another master for seven years, learning how to follow in their trade. In aristocratic households, boys were sent to another household to be trained in military skills. They earned their keep by acting as servants in this household. Girls of all classes were trained in weaving, needlework, and all the household chores they would need when they had their own households to manage.

The majority of the population were completely illiterate.

European Middle Ages: feudalism and serfdom

Even aristocrats were mostly unable to read and write until the later Middle Ages. Literacy was not regarded as a particularly valuable accomplishment for a gentleman, as he could delegate tasks involving reading and writing to clerks. This reflects the fact that, in medieval England and other northern European countries, the only people who were expected to be able to read and write were men and women of the church.

Literacy was seen as a purely practical skill which clerics needed to have in order to do their work. Boys intended for a career in the church would be taught the rudiments of reading and writing by a local priest, before being sent to a monastery to progress their education. Here they would follow a curriculum known as the trivium, which consisted of grammar, rhetoric and logic.

Education was always more widespread in southern Europe, where urban life continued, albeit in a shrunken form, from Roman times and where education was never the exclusive preserve of the clergy. In later medieval times, education became more widespread in northern countries as well. Schools began to appear in towns, at first attached to cathedrals and large churches, later maintained by guilds or town councils but still taught mostly by clergy and with a curriculum still focussed on grammar — hence the label grammar schools.

As society became more complex, more people had to learn to read and write. Administration and law increasingly involved written documents, so that anyone who managed manors or was involved in courts or administration needed to be able to read. The growth of long-distance business networks made letter-writing and account-keeping a necessity for merchants and their agents.

Right at the end of the Middle Ages, the coming of printing allowed books to become much cheaper. Upper class people, both men and women, took to reading for pleasure. Education became the mark of a gentleman or gentlewomen. From the late 11th century, a new kind of educational institution appeared, the university. The first of these was at Bologna, in northern Italy, but other universities soon appeared in Paris, Oxford, Cambridge and other places. In origin, they were communities of teachers all clergymen who banded together in a loose association to study and teach. By the 14th century some of these universities had acquired such an outstanding reputation that scholars came from all over Europe to study and to teach in them.


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  7. These great centres of learning spread an international academic culture which has endured in Europe, the West up to the present day, and has now spread around the world. At first, the students who attended these universities were all intended for the church; however, others soon followed, especially the sons of noblemen and wealthy merchants who wished to study law. The walls would usually be made of wattle and daub, and the roof of thatch. Larger town houses had two or more stories.

    But here too the walls would mostly be made of wattle and daub plastered on to a timber frame, with the roof thatched, slated or tiled.


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    Only the wealthiest merchants would live in stone- or brick-built mansions. For the aristocracy, massive stone castles housed powerful nobles, along with their families, retainers and domestic servants. These building complexes would be structured around a great hall in which the noblemen met with other nobles or with royal officials; and where great feasts were held on regular occasions. Manor houses were smaller versions of castles, also built around a large hall. Read more on castles here. Churches were to be found in most villages, and the smallest town would have several churches.

    These were by far the most common public edifices. Most towns would also have had at least one monastery within it or nearby. Medieval cities were noted for the marvellous cathedrals that they boasted — the crowning architectural glories of the age. This was a powerful testimony to the importance of the Church in the life of a place, and in fact, the community surrounding the cathedral, with its bishop and his household, senior church officials, attendant monastery and nunnery with their monks and nuns, cloisters, dormitories and so on, and all the other hangers-on who served their needs, formed the prime economic element in all but the most dynamic commercial centres.

    Shoes were made from the leather of slaughtered animals. Poor townsfolk dressed in much the same way, but wealthier townsmen would have brightly dyed cloaks and gowns to wear, with linen or, for the wealthiest, silk undergarments next to their skin. Their womenfolk, likewise, would have various layers of garments, and also brightly coloured cloaks. King Lothair I is shown in a cloak fastened on one shoulder worn over a long-sleeved tunic and cross-gartered hose.

    Monks wore habits — plain, woollen garments, often with a hood. The habit reached to their feet. The top of their heads was shaven. The year was punctuated by many religious festivals, which were times for communal fun and games. Villages and towns or their guilds organised their own games, such as an early version of football, which were often rough and could be violent.

    Towns and villages had many inns, and drink flowed freely. In southern Europe, bull fighting. There were also plays, put on in the market place by local people, or by troops of travelling actors. Jugglers and acrobats also performed in the streets. The aristocratic also enjoyed feasting, which took place in the great halls of their castles and manor houses. They also enjoyed a form of entertainment called the tournament. Originally, this was more or less a mock battle between two sides of knights, and could be almost as dangerous as the real thing.

    Later they became much more formalised, with jousts between two knights. With the body armour of the contestants covering the face, their identity had to be proclaimed by unique patterns of symbols on their shields and banners. This practice gave rise to heraldry, by which family descent was represented symbolically by these patterns. This in term led to aristocratic families being demarcated from the rest of the population by heraldic coats of arms though which their families could be traced for generations.

    In medieval Europe, law was a hotch-potch of local custom, feudal practice, Roman law and Church law. These, together with laws issues by kings and parliaments, gradually became more important as time went by. These courts were presided over by the lord of the manor, or by his official usually a villager who had the respect of his peers. The towns had their own courts, presided over by magistrates. More serious crimes were tried in the courts of magnates or in royal courts.

    Medieval Times History

    These latter tended to become more used as time went by. A professional body of royal judges grew up who had the expertise to try cases more professionally than in the feudal courts. In most of western Europe they drew more and more on Roman law, while in England they were based on a growing body of common law. The professionalisation of law was also apparent in the emergence of lawyers as a distinct profession. It includes a chronology, a glossary, and further reading by subject.

    Ordinarily, a book that was originally published half a century ago would hold no interest for anyone but those most curious about the evolution of medieval studies. However, Davis was certainly ahead of his time when he first wrote this clear, well-structured overview, and Moore retains the thrust of the original in this judicious update. Postscripts addressing the latest scholarship in the subject have been added, and chronologies and updated reading lists for each chapter increase the book's value as an introduction.

    It also includes photos, illustrations, and maps. Highly enjoyable reading for the history enthusiast. This thorough introduction from one of the 20th century's foremost authorities on the medieval era intensively covers the fourth through the fifteenth centuries. It's somewhat dense for younger readers, but authoritative and deservedly popular. In addition to an extensive bibliography and a list of Cantor's ten favorite medieval films, it includes a short list of 14 in-print, affordable books to expand your medieval knowledge.

    This book includes biographical essays , chronologies, essays on society and culture, and maps. Frankforter's style is never intrusive and he manages to pull together disparate information on an extensive topic without losing his focus.