Feudalism and Crusades - European History for AP World History
Feudalism and Crusades: 900-1400
Feudalism developed in Western Europe at around 800 C.E. from the remnants of the Western Roman Empire. As a result of central authority being unable to perform its functions and prevent the rise of local powers, this decentralized organization formed. It is believed by some historians that the system was first initiated in France by the Normans from the time they first settled there. Many remarkable things were still accomplished during this era. For example, Monk Missionaries converted the Europeans and united Europe into Christendom, giving the region a common religion. This allowed for the Pope to become a political power. Also, Charlemagne introduced the importance of education. This is significant because it provided Europe with a common language: Latin. Together, these two things began to re-civilize Europe.
The System of Feudalism
When the Western Roman Empire fell in 476 C.E., a state of chaos encompassed Western Europe for many centuries. Essentially, the people of Western Europe needed some form of a political system to defend themselves. Thus, feudalism developed. The system literally accounted for all aspects of a society, aside from religion. Firstly, the King was in complete control. He owned a large land mass and leased it to trustworthy men called Vassals. The catch was that they had to swear an oath to remain faithful to the King at all times. The Vassals were wealthy, powerful, and had complete control of their land, called a manor. They had to provide lodging and food for the King and his court when they traveled around the country. They established their own system of justice, minted their own money, and set their own taxes. However, the Vassals had to serve on the royal council, pay rent, and provide the King with military service when he demanded it. The Barons did this by leasing their land out to knights, who would fight for him, and thus, the king. Although not as rich as the Vassals, Knights were quite wealthy. The Knights kept as much of the land as they wished for their own personal use and distributed the rest to serfs. Serfs had to provide the Knight with free labor, food, and service whenever it was demanded. Serfs had no rights, were never allowed to leave the Manor, and had to ask their Lord's permission before they could marry. Serfs were the majority of people, and their lives were wretched. Feudalism was a social hierarchy, a political system, and an economic system, all in one. The beauty of the system is that it achieved self-sufficiency. It was the giving up of freedom in exchange for protection. However, there was absolutely no mobility, no time for learning, and no intellectual advancements. Because people constantly feared for their lives, there wasn’t any leisure time; society couldn’t grow.
Feudalism and the spread of Christianity
In 687 C.E., Pepin of Heristal, a Merovingian ruler, united the Frankish territories and centered his kingdom in Belgium and other Rhine regions. His son, Charles Martel, took over after he died and formed an alliance with the Church which helped the Merovingian Dynasty (and Christianity) to expand into Germany. Pepin the Short succeeded him and strengthened the alliance between Benedictine missionaries and Frankish expansion. Benedictine missionaries completed the conversion of England begun by St. Gregory the Great. Also, Irish monks established early-medieval art. The greatest surviving creation of these monks is the Book of Kells, a Gospel book of decorative art. It marks one of the lowest points in Europe’s history, leading all the way up until the Renaissance in the 14th century. Its demise was triggered by the Crusades because the Crusades called for people to leave their homes and fight. Since Feudalism was based on non-movement, it collapsed. Knights, soldiers, peasants, and pilgrims left their homes and migrated along European roads and trails, bringing back with them stories of differing cultures. They began to implement their architecture and advances in medicine.
Feudalism and the Catholic Church
The only force that was powerful enough to unite an extremely disorganized group of people was the Roman Catholic Church. For the time being, religion was very important. From birth to death, whether one was a peasant, a serf, a noble, a lord, or a King, life was all about church. Various religious institutions became important, rich, and powerful. This is because life sucked during the Middle Ages. Times were tough, and they looked toward God to make it better. Because of this, society basically attempted to structure itself politically on a religious basis. Often times, religion in government is effective, but if it’s the only thing, it won’t work well. The proof is in the Middle Ages. Religion in government is nice because it promotes morality. It, moreover, tells the people which is right and which is wrong. Religion is used as means for control. But when one begins to think for him/herself, all of the sudden, religion isn’t as effective. When people began to think about themselves and the amount of potential they had, society changed for the better. This idea, known as humanism, was the basis of the Renaissance. Moving back, after the Roman Empire dissipated, the idea of Europe as one large church-state arose, called Christendom. Christendom consisted of two distinct groups of representatives: the sacerdotium (ecclesiastical hierarchy) and the imperium (secular leaders). Supposedly, these two groups were complements of each other, attending to people's spiritual and temporal needs, respectively. The Pope was considered higher in status than the emperor in those two areas. But, the emperors often attempted to regulate the Church. The church, in turn, not only owned cities and armies but also attempted to regulate the matters of the government as well.
Pepin's son, Carolus Magnus (Charlemagne), succeeded his father to become one of the most important rulers in medieval history. His empire was known as the Carolingian dynasty, and it included the greater section of central Europe, northern Italy, and central Italy, in addition to realms already conquered by Frankish rule. Charlemagne's ingenious system of government divided the vast realm into different regions, ruled by local rulers, who were overseen by representatives of Charlemagne's own court. In addition, to aid expansion and management of this vast kingdom, Charlemagne promoted, what was later called, the "Carolingian Renaissance." Prior to this revival of learning, practically the entire region (excluding England) was illiterate due to the fall of the Roman Empire. The sub-director of this "Renaissance" was Anglo-Saxon Benedictine Alcuin, who received his learning from a student of Bede. Alcuin set up schools, made sure that classical Latin texts were copied, and developed a new handwriting. On Christmas Day, Charlemagne was crowned emperor by the Pope in Rome. This event showed independence in Western culture that was based upon Western Christianity and Latin linguistics. Charlemagne established schools and monasteries everywhere. This had an enormous impact and probably would have altered history forever had he left competent successors to continue on his legacy. His sole surviving son, Louis the Pious, divided his new kingdom between his own three sons, who engaged in civil war. Charlemagne's united realm was invaded by Scandinavian Vikings, Hungarians, and Muslims during these civil wars.
Background to the Feudal Age
Central Europe Overview 500- 1450
The Rise of the Franks
The Merovingian Family controls France
450 – 687CE
The Carolingian Dynasty takes over
687 – c. 875
A Beautiful Love Story: Pepin and Berthe
Charles the Great "Charlemagne“ 768‑814.
Charlemagne & Education
Charlemagne Lasting impact
gold and silver sculpture
Intricate designs common
The Rise of Feudalism
Practices of Feudalism
The Three Estates
The Church = 1st Estate
The Nobility = 2nd Estate
The Peasants = 3rd Estate
Military Aspects of Feudalism
BASICS OF Battle of HASTINGS
First Crusade (1095-1099)