Medieval Europe

It's Cultural Issues

Feudalism

During medieval times in Europe, people had different ways of life. When the Europeans followed feudalism, they had class systems that determined what your rights and responsibilities were. There were lords- landowners, who granted a piece of their land called a fief to a vassal. The next step beneath being a vassal was being a knight. Then, there were peasants and serfs. All of these people in these classes would then live on a manor together, which is otherwise known as the lord's estate. There was also one person who didn't live on a manor with the lower classes, the king. The king had their own castle and lived among whomever they invited.

The Role of a Knight

To become a knight, one must come from a wealthy family to afford all the equipment and training. Then at the age of seven, the boy must become a page, then at fourteen one would become a squire. Finally, after his training was complete the boy would become a knight at the age 21. Becoming a knight was a honor in this time period, so many men worked to make their boys become successful by making them knights. A knight would receive a fief from their lord as well in exchange for their military service. The code of chivalry was the guidelines to how a knight would live their life. This code demanded loyalty to their lord, defense of the weak, courtesy to all women, and serve God at all times. Although it seems like knights were what held an army together, eventually they will die out as a part of European battlefields. They will become out- of- date as new warfare technology displays the weaknesses of their armor suits. One major threat to knights on the battlefield becomes the long bow, and the pike.

The Role of the Catholic Church

The church also had its own ranks and statuses assigned to its people. The head of the church was the pope in Rome. The lower ranking religious officials were called the clergy, which were under his authority. Bishops supervised priests, which were the lowest ranked. Religion was used as a unifying power between people even when feudalism and the manor system caused separation. The church served as a safe place to look in the midst of political turmoil and warfare. Even though the church was stable, generally, a christians daily life was pretty rough. At one point the church had lost some of its power to political officials (king & nobles) and this upset the pope and clergy. The practice of lay investiture was then banned by Pope Gregory VII in 1075, to try and gain some power back.

Some problems that faced the church included three major issues. First, some priests had questionable morals. They would get married and have families on the side, which was against the church. Second, many bishops committed simony, the act of selling church positions. Lastly, lay investiture was a huge problem because the elected religious officials would only follow what the king demanded and not the church. Also, many members of the clergy became illiterate.

The Crusades

Pope Urban II declares a holy war in the hope of uniting Europe and converting Muslim turks. Another goal was to reclaim the holy land of Jerusalem. Some major effects of the crusades include the abandonment of the desire to become a part of the clergy to serve god, instead people joined just to get power. One positive effect of the crusades was the fact that it stimulated the economy. Many merchants made profits by selling goods to soldiers on their journey across various parts of Israel & Palestine. The crusades last from approximately 1095-1270.

Feudal Technology and Strategy in Warfare

Castles were the safest place to be during war in the medieval times. When defending a castle, there are many different systems built in that contribute to the safety of the inside. First of all, there are many slits in the castle walls that are angled so archers could stand along a spiral staircase and shoot at people attempting to attack. This was effective because the design of the slits made it hard for the people on the ground to shoot at them. Another defense mechanism castles had was the multiple layers of stone walls with courtyards in between. The highest ranking people such as the lord or even king would stay in the center of the castle where it is safest and then it trickles down to the peasants and serfs in the outer courtyard. Also, like shown in the picture above, moats were used along with drawbridges that would slow down or even stop the attacker. Castles were being built everywhere of importance during the middles ages because it was looked upon as an investment due to the constant warfare. When attacking a castle, there are few ways one could be successful. Occasionally one could get away with starving the inhabitants of a castle to the point of surrender. Also, sometimes attackers would pick a weak spot in the castle and dig underground tunnels to burn wood in and carry the fire into the castle and possibly make it collapse. Lastly, sometimes people inside the castle would turn and attack from the inside and let the attackers in.

Hundred Years War

First of all, the war was between France and England and took place about 1337-1453. It all started because Capetian dies without an heir to his French throne, so King Edward III from England claims the throne because he is the grandson of Philip IV, so he has French blood. This war lasted for so long that technology had many improvements in terms of warfare strategy and equipment. For example, in the Battle of Crecy it became apparent that English archers with longbows were superior to the crossbow. As a result of this new advancement, chivalry becomes kind of out- dated and slowly dissipates. In the end, the French won the war, even though England won many important battles. The effects of this hundred year war: many lives lost, the French monarchy gained power, England suffered from internal turmoil, but it strengthened the English parliament. Lastly, the concept of nationalism starts to develop.

England

The English king John wasn't favored by his people and taxed them greatly. This led to the people of England to create a document called the Magna Carta. This document limited the king's powers and protected the rights of certain classes of citizens. It basically ensured basic political rights that are still considered just that today in America. Another important political developmetnw as the parliament. This was a legislative group that is kind of similar to a house of representatives, in the sense that there were two indivuals picked by the king from each part of England. All in all these things helped balance power and take some from the leaders and give it to the people.