Middle AGES: Europe AFTER THE FALL OF ROME
About 500 CE, much of western Europe was left without a strong centralized government due to the breakdown of the Roman Empire. With little organized resistance, Germanic invaders raided western European cities and monasteries. Because kings were often too weak to repel the invaders, many city dwellers moved into the countryside in hopes of greater safety. As a result of the invasions, and a weak central government, a new social and political system known as feudalism developed. Strong local lords formed a strict code of behavior and allegiances which became the foundation of feudal life.
history social science content standards:
7.6.3 Understand the spread of feudalism, its role in the medieval European economy, the way in which it was influenced by physical geography (the role of the manor and the growth of towns), and how feudal relationships provided the foundation of political order.
7.6.4 Demonstrate an understanding of the conflict and cooperation between the Papacy and European monarchs (e.g., Charlemagne, Gregory VII, Emperor Henry IV).
7.6.6 Discuss the causes and course of the religious Crusades and their effects on the Christian, Muslim and Jewish populations in Europe, with emphasis on the increasing contact by Europeans with cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean world.
7.6.5 Know the significance of developments in medieval English legal and constitutional practices and their importance in the rise of modern democratic thought and representative institutions (e.g., Magna Carta, parliament, development of habeas corpus, an independent judiciary in England).
7.6.8 Understand the importance of the Catholic Church as a political, intellectual, and aesthetic institution (e.g., founding of universities, political and spiritual roles of the clergy, creation of a monastic and mendicant religious orders, preservation of the Latin language and religious texts, St. Thomas Aquinas’s synthesis of classical philosophy with Christian theology, and the concept of “natural law”).
What's in the library?
The Midwife's Apprentice
The Sign of the Chrysanthemum
What will you learn in this unit?
To understand what was distinctive about European culture during this period, students should compare Western Europe with Japan during the High Middle Ages. They will see that the two cultures had aspects in common: a feudal, lord-vassal system, with military leaders (shogun), great lords (daimyo), and knights (samurai). Both feudal societies emphasized personal loyalty to the lord, military skills, a strict code of honor, self-discipline, and fearlessness in battle.
Students will also see striking differences in cultural values, religious beliefs, and social customs, including differences in women’s roles. Japanese Haiku poetry and European epic poetry, such as Beowulf, provide an interesting contrast. By seeing that some cultural traditions have survived since the Middle Ages, including the importance that Japanese place on family loyalty and ceremonial rituals, students should better understand the meaning of historical continuity. They also should appreciate the significance of change by seeing how much both cultures have been transformed by forces of modernization while retaining aspects of their cultural heritage.
Another aspect of medieval societies that students should understand was the continuing persecution of the Jewish minority; the massacre of Jews by the Crusaders; and the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290, from France in 1306 and 1394, and from many German cities during the time of the Black Death. Students should learn of the conflicts between Christians and Muslims in Spain, beginning in 1085, and the plight of the Jews caught between the warring faiths. Examination of the Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions, during which people were tortured and burned at the stake, should demonstrate the lengths to which religious authorities went to force conversions and to destroy as heretics those who continued in their Judaic faith. The expulsion of the Jews and Muslims from Spain in 1492 should be noted.