Medieval europe

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Chapter 14


Europe is the second smallest continent.

Borders – North: Arctic Ocean

South: Mediterranean Sea

East: Ural Mountains

West: Atlantic Ocean

Land Regions: 1. Northwest Mountains – Its thin

soil and steep slopes makes it

poor for farming

2. North European Plain – (part of

the Great European Plain) The

flat and rolling land includes

some of the world’s most

fertile farmland.

3. Central Uplands – low

mountains, high plateaus &

forests - Much of the land is

rocky, but some is suitable for


4. Alpine Mountain System –

includes the Alps & the

Carpathian Mountains – Lower

mountain slopes and wide

valleys provide good farmland.

Heavy forests cover many of the

higher slopes.

Rivers: The many navigable rivers of Europe

serve as major transportation routes.

Longest river – Volga River

Second longest river – Danube River

Backbone of the busiest inland system of

waterways – Rhine River

Climate: Europe generally has milder weather than parts of Asia and North America at the same latitude. This is due to the winds warmed by the Gulf Stream.
Economy: Farming, Fishing & Trading


The Domesday Book was written to help the rulers keep track of people in England during the Middle Ages. The rulers used this information for tax purposes. Similar to the census in our country taken every ten years.

Charlemagne – crowned emperor by the pope in

A.D. 800

He gave large areas of land to loyal

nobles in return for their loyalty.

Much of Europe was united under

his rule. Despite his efforts, the

kingdom fell apart after his death

and the empire was invaded by the


Vikings (from Scandinavia) – invaded empire, looted and killed many people.

William the Conqueror – leader of the Normans (group of Vikings) that settled in northern France (present day Normandy). Under his leadership, his rule extended to England and southern Italy.
King John – governed around A. D. 1200

ruled with more force than previous

rulers forced into signing the Magna

Carta by the lords

The Magna Carta limited the powers

of the king.

The Magna Carta was used as a model

for our Constitution.

The Church was the center of life in the Middle Ages. In order to show their devotion to the church, they built beautiful cathedrals. Entire town worked on the project of building the cathedral.
Monks studied, prayed & lived in communities called monasteries. These monasteries, like the manors, were self-sufficient (provided everything they needed themselves). Some monks spent their time copying the Bible and other manuscripts. (Remember: There were no copiers). Thanks to them we have the writings of Plato and other classics. Nuns lived in similar communities called convents.
Feudalism was a political, social and economic system. It provided needed protection for the people from the invading Vikings. Life revolved around the manor or fief. They were self-sustaining (able to provide for all they needed). If there was a surplus, it was sold in the local towns. People very rarely ventured outside the manor. However, as the number of raids from the northern invaders began to decrease, people started to venture outside the manor and into the towns. Gradually towns and cities began to grow.
A guild was a group of people united by a common interest. The guild bought large quantities of goods cheaply and to control the market (supply and demand). Also guilds set quality standards for different crafts.
Feudalism started to decline as a result of the Crusades and the Plague. SEE THE SECTION ON THE CRUSADES AND THE PLAGUE.

In the mid-1000’s the Muslim Seljuk Turks took control of the Holy Land. Pope Urban II called for Christian knights and other able Christians to become crusaders and take back the

holy land from the Muslims. Christians set out on this “sacred” mission. However, along the way they looted and killed Muslims they encountered. This was not very Christian.

Many of the crusaders fought for themselves. They sought to increase their power,

territory, and riches. After the Crusades, the wealthy lords became independent of the monarch.

They began to pay in money rather than military support. The framework of feudalism was starting to collapse.

The Crusades exposed the people from the East and the West to goods from other regions. These contacts led to additional trade. In addition to trade, the Crusades brought about the spread of religions, ideas, and diseases.

As the demand for goods that were not available on the manor grew and the decrease of invasions by the Vikings continued, towns and cities grew and trade flourished with the East.

A network of European trade routes developed to supply the town fairs where people shopped.

One of these trade routes was the Silk Road. Gold, ivory and precious stones went to the East.

Furs, silks, ceramics, jade, bronze objects, lacquer, and iron came from the East to Europe.

Marco Polo was an Italian merchant from Venice who traveled the Silk Road to China, stayed in China for 17 years and wrote about his experiences. He was responsible for introducing the Chinese noodle to Italy. It later developed into spaghetti.
The bacteria that triggered this bubonic plague was carried by rodents. Fleas transferred the bacteria from rodents to humans through a bite. Some historians believe that the plague began in Central Asia and spread to Europe via the Silk Road. Rodent infested cargo ships would also travel from port to port spreading the rodents carrying the deathly bacteria.

The plague killed close to one third the population of Europe.

Effects of the Plague

  • One third of the population dies in Europe

  • Businesses go bankrupt

  • Deaths cause labor shortages – serfs become more valuable to the lords on the manor

  • Trade declines and towns disappear

  • Construction and building projects stop

  • Food supply decreases and people starve

All of the above reasons contributed to the decline of feudalism.

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