After the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe's reversion to a basic economy limited the freedoms and economic potential of most of the population. Outright slavery declined but vulnerable people traded their land to local strongmen for protection. These people became tied to the land as serfs. It also paved the way for an emerging wealthy class to reap great benefits. The basic political, economic, and social unit became the manor system, and the majority of the population worked on land owned by the head of the manor. Weakened central governments depended on a system of allegiances based on promises of military service. In addition to childcare, weaving, spinning, and sewing duties, poor women worked the land alongside their families. Noblewomen were important as heiresses and candidates for marriage, as men sought to increase their wealth and power through marriage alliances. Women sometimes owned land and performed administrative duties, but most often a wife exercised control only during her husband's absences. After the fall of Rome, the Christian church was the one institution capable of countering European social stratification and political and economic fragmentation. By claiming spiritual jurisdiction and the loyalty of the European people, the church often dominated the legal, political, social, and economic life of Europe. There were challenges to church power, however. Differences in doctrine created schisms within the church, dividing its power among factions and regions. Challenges from other religions, particularly Islam, were very strong. Canon and secular law often collided, particularly after the rebirth of Roman law. Struggles between secular and church power were most notable during the reigns of strong-willed kings. Control of clerical appointments became an important issue. The church never entirely dominated European Civilization, and the division of church and state distinguished Western Europe from the Byzantine Empire and eastern Muslim states. To most of the public, they thought it was great since they were taking back the holy land. It was more important to Europe because, as previously stated, it helped in the dark ages. Italy managed to get Western Europe in a frenzy about take the holy land away from the infidels. The real reason they did so was to open up the area to trade, and get some of the goods that came on the silk rode. Europe won the first crusade, which allowed the Venetians in Italy to trade. This helped build up their wealth which eventually led to the Renaissance, which later spread over Europe. This allowed for the West to become more powerful, and eventually take over and pretty much rule the world. Another reason it was more important, was that it destroyed the Muslims for awhile. The Byzantine Empire counted on them to be the first line of defensive against the Mongols. This allowed them to further weaken the Byzantine Empire. This also helped spread the Bubonic Plague, which was spread by the Mongols on fleas and rats that traveled along the silk road, which ended in the Holy Land, where the Venetians and Italians were trading, and they brought it to Europe. The Bubonic Plague was the end of the Dark Ages,and the beginning of the High Middle Ages. In this period Europe went on to the Renaissance and Enlightenment period, where Europe became more technologically advance and powerful. In basic terms, it helped end Western Europe's isolation, and open it up to the world and to trading. This led to several developments and events that changed the course of history and helped the West become the dominate player in the world. -The revival of Latin cities and intellectual life came in large part through contact with these two great civilizations.
-The Byzantine and Muslim empires remained more advanced in many ways than the Latin West; however, the Latin West revived its civilization in large part through trade, the Crusades, and even through the remains of Muslim control of Spain.
-The importance of the Silk Road and other sea-based trade routes from the East cannot be overstated in bringing technology, commerce, products, and even epidemics to the Latin West.
-This Eastern-based commerce revived the urban economies of the Latin West. The Black Death, brought into Europe from China, also in the long run provided economic recovery and the decline of feudalism. In addition, the intellectual contributions of these empires were important to the growth of the Renaissance.
-Islamic science, medicine, astronomy, and botany as well as the preservation of classical texts were the foundation of the era's intellectual revival.
-There was a type of an "industrial revolution" which is a bit overstated; however, there was the growth of a number of new machines to make products and perform useful tasks.
-One indicator of an industrial transformation was the profusion of mills powered by both wind and water.
-Waterpower made possible the rapid expansion of iron making, including trip hammers, stamping mills, and bellows to shape and pour iron for a variety of new uses.
-Mills also processed other products such as paper, in addition to crushing olives, tanning leather, grinding grains, and sawing logs. Students should remark on the consequences of industrial growth as well.
-The European landscape was changed significantly by this growth.
The flow of rivers was changed by dams and canals, quarry pits and mines scarred the countryside, and dumping in the streams created polluted environments.
-Deforestation for building and fuel was a common problem as well. In response to these environmental problems, the first anti-pollution law was passed in England in 1388.
Initially the universal language of the Roman Empire, Latin was used in the church in the West for the transmission of ideas at a time when Christianity was spreading to people of diverse cultures and languages. In the medieval era, the church retained its records and literature in Latin, and as the church schools were the ones training young clergy and nobility, the continuation of Latin as the main language of instruction allowed a widespread sharing of knowledge and culture. Universities, derived from cathedral schools, also taught in Latin, regardless of whether they were located in Italian states, the Holy Roman Empire, or France. This allowed a degree of mobility among academics, who could travel to various locales to study what they found of interest, regardless of nationality or political orientation. However, with the growth of humanism and popular literature, the transmission of knowledge in regional languages also increased, such as Dante and Boccaccio writing in Italian or Chaucer writing in Middle English. Thus the Latin-educated elite were no longer the only ones with access to literature.