Middle Ages

This is the page about the middle ages.

Middle Ages

The Roman empire in 476 AD, chaos reigned, tribal chiefs and kings took control most of population was illiterate. This was also called the dark ages, the feudal system was instituted with a well defined systems of levels in society. They thought if everyone knew their place, there would be no conflict. They had kings, lords, knights, and peasants. This period was also called the dark ages because literature and architecture no longer flourished.

During this period, a social order known as the feudal system was instituted. This system was comprised of different levels:

  • King
  • Lords
  • Lesser lords
  • Knights
  • Peasants

This list is in order from highest ranking person to the lowest ranking person, i.e. the kings were the highest in the social order and the peasants were least important people in the social order. The peasants made up ninety percent of the population. The lord was responsible to the king and managed the land that the peasants worked. People known as knights protected the peasants and followed an honor code known as chivalry, a combination of bravery and Christian values.

In the thirteenth century battles were being fought in England. The Vikings had invaded and needed to be conquered and ongoing conflicts with the Roman church kept England in constant turmoil. A split between the church and the government finally divided England when Henry II and Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, argued over whether the church or the king should have ultimate authority. Henry II's son John tried to settle the controversy make the barons of  England pay taxes to the church. When the barons complained, the Magna Carta was written to protect the rights of the barons and limit the power of the monarchy.

The feudal system was very weak, famine ensued. In the fourteenth century, a terrifying disease called the black plague hit this weakened population. This disease was carried by the flea infested rats in the area, this was also called the black death. Bad sewage systems contributed to this situation and one third of the population of Europe was killed. Western Europe took more than 100 years to recover.

The Renaissance

The next great period of time is called the Renaissance, a French word meaning rebirth. This period revitalized all of Europe. Wealthy people supported French and Italian artists. Michelangelo created the sculpture of David; Leonardo da Vinci painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. One the most important inventions of all time, the printing press, was invented. This was invented by the German engraver Johannes Gutenberg.

America is discovered

In 1492, Spain was under the rule of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella and the Italian navigator Christopher Columbus received permission to find a faster route to china and the East Indies. He believed that sailing south was a longer route than he head directly west. It was this mistaken idea that created his historic route that ultimately led him to discover America. This is easily remembered by the poem "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue".

The Reformation

Shortly after this time in 1517, the Catholic Church suffered a great upheaval when the German monk named Martin Luther complained against the church. The Catholic Church then split into two factions:

  • The old Catholic Church
  • The Protestant Church

There was discontent because renaissance scholars disagreed over the church doctrine. They began a movement called the Protestant Reformation led by Martin Luther against the corruption of the roman Catholic Church. Luther later went on to translate the bible into German and and downplayed the doctrine of transubstantiation, clerical celibacy and papal supremacy. Because of the newly invented printing press, his ideas spread through Europe like wildfire. Sweden, Denmark and parts of Germany had broken into Catholic Church of England. At that time, England was ruled by  Henry VIII, in Switzerland, Protestantism became dominant under John Calvin whose doctrine known as Calvinism spread to western Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Scotland, the Catholic Church then started a reform movement known as the Counter Reformation, this counter movement was led by the religious order called the society of Jesus or Jesuits. The division caused many wars to ensue. In France, a civil war between Protestants and Catholics led to religious tolerance via a document called the Edict of Nantes of 1598.

However Phillip II of Spain sought to restore Catholicism in Europe by force and a struggle erupted between the Protestants and the Spanish forces ending in 1609 when the dutch freed themselves from Spanish Catholic rule the thirty years war (1618 to 1648) began  between the Protestant German princes and the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor. This brought the end to the counter reformation. The Christian Muslim conflict continued.


  • The History of the World in Bite-Sized Chunks. Marriott, Emma. MJF Books. New York. 2012. ISBN-13: 978-1-60671-187-3