The bubonic plague that first struck Europe in 1347. It spread either in the bubonic form by flea bites or in the pneumonic form directly from the breath of one person to another. In less virulent forms, the disease reappeared many times until 1701.
A church, headed by a bishop, which forms the administrative center of a diocese. From the Greek term kathedra, meaning 'seat,' since the cathedral housed the throne of the bishop.
A code of conduct that governed the conduct of a knight, characterized by the virtues of bravery, generosity, honor, graciousness, mercy, and gallantry toward women.
A university was made up of a collection of these privately endowed residences for the lodging of poor students.
The transformation of the economic structure of Europe, beginning in the eleventh century, from a rural, manorial society to a more complex mercantile society.
A law that originated in, and was applied by, the king's court.
Associations of artisans and craftsmen organized to regulate the quality, quantity, and price of the goods produced as well as the number of affiliated apprentices and journeymen.
Holy wars sponsored by the papacy for the recovery of the Holy Land from the Muslims in the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries.
A record of a survey ordered by William the Conqueror to determine how much wealth there was in his new kingdom, who held what land, and what land had been disputed among his vassals; it is an invaluable source of social and economic information.
A medieval European political system that defines the military obligations and relations between a lord, his vassals, and the granting of fiefs.
A portion of land, the use of which was given by a lord to a vassal in exchange for the latter's oath of loyalty.
The term for the architectural and artistic style that prevailed in Europe from the mid-twelfth to the sixteenth century.
The period during which the Church had two popes, one in Rome and one in Avignon; it caused the ultimate division between the Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Roman) churches.
A mercantile association of towns that allowed for mutual protection and security.
A massive uprising by French peasants in 1358 protesting heavy taxation.
In William the Conqueror's reign, a priest and six local people who swore an oath to answer truthfully all questions about their wealth.
The selection and appointment of church officials by secular authorities.
The estate that most European peasants, free or unfree, lived on.
The economic system that governed rural life in medieval Europe in which the landed estates of a lord were worked by the peasants under his jurisdiction in exchange for his protection.
Communal enterprises, people commonly linked by similar occupations as united enterprise provided them with greater security and less risk of losses than did individual action.
A fourteenth-century term used to describe the Christian crusade to wrest Spain back from the Muslims; clerics believed it was a sacred and patriotic mission.
Individuals that had lived particularly holy lives, and were consequently accorded great honor by medieval Christians. Saints were believed to possess the power to work miracles and were frequently invoked for healing and protection.
Medieval professors who developed a method of thinking, reasoning, and writing in which questions were raised and authorities cited on both sides of a question.
A peasant who has lost his freedom and become permanently bound to the landed estate of a lord.
Medieval poets in southern Europe who wrote and sang lyrical verses devoted to the themes of love, desire, beauty, and gallantry.
A knight who has sworn loyalty to a particular lord. Vassal is derived from a Celtic word meaning 'servant.'
"Inhabitants of small villages" or English serfs.
provided Western Europe with its first real unity since the collapse of Rome, the division of his empire following his death introduced a renewed decentralization. The lack of a centralized authority made Europe an easy target for invaders. Vikings from Scandinavia extended their influence from Russia to the coasts of North America. Magyars moved into Europe from the east.
Authority became increasingly localized in the hands of aristocratic families. Societal structure was feudal and manorialism was the dominant economic system throughout the Middle Ages.
a renewal of ecclesiastic influence. Monasteries, religious orders, and the Papacy itself were reformed. This renewal of Christian enthusiasm, however, relied heavily on the emergence of a powerful common enemy: Islam. A papal call to retake the city of Jerusalem led to the Crusades, and nearly two centuries of warfare between Christians and Muslims. The Crusades initially met with success, and a number of small, Christian kingdoms were established in Muslim territory. These, however, were short-lived, and the sacking of Constantinople by the Crusaders led to long-term animosity between the eastern and western branches of Christianity.
The middle ages
The Middle Ages also saw a rise in movement toward the cities and the emergence of powerful merchant classes throughout Europe. Merchants tended to consolidate and protect their interests through the establishment of guilds. As an indicator to this economic growth, there was a significant increase in both the number and the size of churches and cathedrals that were built. Universities emerged in many major cities, which tended to focus on theological, medical, and legal courses of study. Classes were conducted in Latin and were limited to men. Vernacular literature also flourished, with many songs, poems, and stories written down in local dialects. The troubadours of southern France, with their love songs and ballads emerged as vehicles of popular culture.
The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries
witnessed a downturn in the fortunes of Europe as climate variations brought a series of poor harvests, which led to economic depression and disease. Beyond the tremendous loss of life created by the Black Death, there were social, psychological and economic consequences that would impact European society for centuries. This and other factors engendered the Hundred Years' War, which devastated France and brought economic disaster on England.