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Middle Ages- Historical Context

A brief overview of the Middle Ages with an emphasis on how this time period impacted Literary works.

Amber Fisher-Brown

on 10 October 2012

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Transcript of Middle Ages- Historical Context

THE MIDDLE AGES 1066-1485 The Middle Ages: The Duke of Normandy William the Conqueror *Trained for military service to lords
* Boys ABOVE the serf class were able to be knights. They were often the sons of nobles.
* Education began at 7; included instruction in manners, social skills, singing, dancing and chess.
* At age 14, a boy became a squire or a personal assistant to knights.
* Only aristocratic knights could afford armor, warhorses, pack
*Once knighted, the youth became a man with the title of "Sir".
* Knighthood was grounded in the feudal ideal of loyalty which was based on a complex system of social codes. KNIGHTS The Rise of the City The Crusades, The Black Death, The Middle Class, a Murder in the Cathedral and the end of Feudalism *Born September 1028 in Normandy
*Illegitimate Son of Duke Robert the Devil
*Believed he was the 2nd Cousin of King Edward the Successor
*Invaded England in September 1066
* Crowned King on December 25, 1066 What Did He Do? Feudalism: a system that assigned an economic, political and social position to every individual at birth. It was based on the religious concept of rank, with God as the supreme overlord.
It was a:
* Caste System
* A Property System
* A Military System
For the 1st time in European history, taxes were based on what people owned!

The feudal system also carried a sense of form and manners that influenced every aspect of life.

http://ctg115.edu.glogster.com/middle-ages/ Even though he conquered England, He did not want to eliminate them, which is why England and the United States speak ENGLISH and not FRENCH!! The Domesday Book Chivalry: a system of ideals and social codes governing the behavior of knights and gentlewomen.
These rules included:
* taking an oath of loyalty
* observing certain rules of warfare
* adorning a particular lady (not necessarily the knight's wife)

Breaking ANY of these codes would undermine the knights position and the entire institution of knighthood. Courtly Love: An idea that adorning a lady would make a knight braver.
* The woman remained pure and out of reach
* Set above the knight/admirer What About the Women? *They had no political rights.
*They were subservient to men.
*Women of higher stations were able to manage the entire estates when men were away at war. BUT...as soon as the men returned, the women had to give up their power.
*Unlike the Anglo-Saxon time period, where women had control over the convents, the Church also reduced the status of women by reclaiming the convents and the monasteries that were founded and supported by noblewomen. Romance: Even though chivalry and courtly love idealized women, it did absolutely NOTHING to improve their status. It did bring about a new form of literature called the ROMANCE, which is "a term applied to verse narrative that traces the adventures of a brave knight or other hero who has to overcome danger for the love a noble lady or some other high ideal" (215). Taken from: The Medieval Woman: An Illuminated Calendar for 1993. New York: Workman Publishing As the medieval population grew, so did the population in towns and cities. These new population centers would eventually make the feudal system obsolete.

With the development of the city, so came city classes: lower, middle and upper middle. As we read The Canterbury Tales, notice how many of the characters make a living outside of the feudal system. The merchant class had the ability to like and pay for what IT wanted, regardless of what the nobles liked. These people were free. They were not bound by the codes of the chivalry, knighthood or even the land. The Crusades 1095-1270 The Crusades were a series of holy wars between European Christians and Muslims. In 1095, Pope Urban II said that it was their duty to wage war against Muslims who were occupying Jerusalem and other sites that were considered holy to Christians. It was a disastrous. The war lasted for two hundred years, killing thousands of Jews and Muslims.

Even though the Europeans failed to hold Jerusalem, Europe benefited from the exposure to Middle Eastern culture.
These include:


Because the knights had to travel between countries, the needed currency that was light, easily exchanged and already in use through the trade routes. Enter the gold coin. Peasants now had a way to earn gold for the exchange of goods and services AND they could save money. Prior to the use of coins, peasants used the barter system. The Black Death 1348-1349 Nearly a third of the nation's population died due to the bubonic plague, which was spread by the fleas of infected rats.

Even though the plague devastated the population, it benefited one group: the lower classes. Due to the labor shortage, these classes had more bargaining power. The serfs who were tied to the land they lived on, were now free. The Murder of Thomas a Becket c.1118-1170 Becket was a chancellor (prime minister) under his friend King Henry II. During this time period, ALL Christians were apart of the Catholic Church and the King was just another vassal to be ruled under the pope. King Henry believed that since he appointed his friend, he would have an advantage in disputes with the church. However, he was wrong. Becket was independent and sided with the church on a few occasions(the treatment of clergy for secular crimes).In 1170, in an act of anger, King Henry yelled, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" Four knights took him literally and murdered Becket in his own cathedral.

Public outrage led to the devotion of St. Thomas the Martyr and backlash against the throne and King Henry. This lead to unchecked corruption within the Church; kings lost their influence in this area and many clergymen took full advantage of it. Gunpowder= The End of Chivalry Chivalry governed the rules of hand to hand combat. All of this changed with the emergence of gunpowder. Introduced to English warfare in 1325 and discovered by the Chinese, gunpowder eliminated the need to use codes during war. In fact, the cannon made it possible to not only attack individuals, but entire castles as well. The Church, The Magna Carta & The Hundred Years' War The Church Even though the clergymen in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales reflected corruption seen in actual clergymen, there were positive effects from the medieval church:
* It fostered a sense of cultural unity that transcended the national cultures of Europe.
* It continued to be the center of learning
*Monasteries were the libraries and publishers of the era.
*Latin remained the international language of EDUCATED Europeans
*The Pope remained the "king of all kings and his kingdom had no boundaries"(126). The Magna Carta Signed by King John in 1215, the Magna Carta signaled a return to aristocratic rule and was the basis for English citizen rights.
The Magna Carta:
* Reduced the power of the King
* Allowed the Church to be free from royal interference
*Allowed for a trial by jury
King John was FORCED into signing it. The Hundred Years War (1337-1453) *Waged between England and France
*First national war
* Even though it was unsuccessful for the English, it gave way to the development of a British national consciousness.
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