A General History of the Middle Ages.


Between 733 and 843 the people of Europe developed a society that was distinctly their own. Many historians mark these years as the beginning of the Middle Ages. This society was bolstered by the crowning of Charlemagne as King of the Franks by Pope Leo III on christmas day, 800. Charlemagne was instrumental in uniting western Europe under a single government, allied with the catholic church, for the first time since the fall of the Roman Empire. Under Charlemagne, the manoralism that had been prevalent before him was codified into what would become fuedalism and laws were created and enforced that enabled the people of western Europe to travel safely and engage in trade. Thus people moved from the manor, where farming was the only form of making a living to towns where people could engage in other forms of employment. Even though King Charlemagne could not read, he was a great supporter of education and helped to establish centers of learning. With the help of the church he also established monastaries and Abbys where scholars spent long hours studying and copying scrolls and manuscripts that had survived from the Roman Empire. The revival of study and learning under Charlemagne is sometimes called the Carolingian Renaissance.

The church was very important at this time. People were extremely religious and concerned for the salvation of their souls. They believed that only through the catholic church could such salvation come. This gave the church a great deal of power over the people. If someone did something that the church didn't like, whether what they did was related to religion or not, the church could excommunicate them. Excommunication means that a person cannot receive the sacraments and anyone who gives them food or shelter can also be excommunicated. In an Interdict, all the people living in a certain area can't receive the sacraments. Interdiction was used by the church to force nobles and governers to do what the church wanted. Interdictions usually led to a revolt by the peasantry if it went on for a long time. Both Excommunication and Interdiction could be lifted by the church if the persons involved repented their earlier actions and promised to behave the way the church wanted.

The feudal system set up by Charlemagne dominated the life of Europe for the next thousand years. Under feudalism the king owned all the land in the kingdom, which he gave to his Dukes, Barons and other nobles who gave him fealty as fiefs. The nobility was owed fealty of all the people who lived on the land of his fief. Some of these people were free townsmen, traders and skilled workers, others were serfs, who worked on farms growing food.

Hopefully this has given you some understanding of the beginning of Medieval Age and how the events begun with Charlemagne lead to a society that dominated Europe for over a thousand years. Should you wish to learn more of Medieval Life, please see the links page for other sites dedicated to this period of history

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