The surprisingly modern Middle Ages (2023)

In the popular imagination, that era is a time when the classical world had vanished, but the modern world had yet to get going; when people (supposedly) believed that the world was flat and that water was poisonous; when God was in charge of everything; and when everyone was either a knight, a priest or a peasant.

Listen: Dan Jones explores the similarities and differences between the medieval experience and our lives today, on this episode of the HistoryExtra podcast:

Politicians and newspaper journalists often use the word 'medieval' to characterise something that is bad, backward, stupid, cruel, violent or hopelessly outdated. This can get historians quite worked up; some have even tried to jettison the term 'Middle Ages', instead preferring to refer to the 'Middle Millennium'. Needless to say, this hasn’t caught on – yet.

But if we look a little more closely at the medieval world, there is plenty to see that we may recognise in our own times. Because although there are profound differences between life today and life in the Middle Ages, there is also much that connects us. Our modern world is built on medieval foundations, and many of the anxieties and issues that concern us today were shared, in only slightly altered form, by medieval people. As the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes says: “There is nothing new under the sun”, as these five examples demonstrate...

1

Climate crisis

From the late summer of 1314, a hard rain began to fall across north-west Europe. It pelted down. Temperatures plummeted. Rivers burst their banks and fields flooded. For months, the weather was abysmal – not only through the winter, but into the next spring, summer and beyond. In the following years, harvest after harvest failed.

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People starved in their hundreds of thousands. Animals died of hunger and widespread disease. “A great famine appeared,” wrote one chronicler. “Such a scarcity has not been seen in our time... nor heard of for a hundred years.”

Hard times were not unknown in the medieval world, where life for most people was precarious and tied to the skies, but the start of the 14th century was different. This was not just an unlucky streak of bad weather, but the start of a major shift in the climate, since dubbed the Little Ice Age, which lasted several hundred years, radically affecting everyday life. A sharp fall in temperatures, felt acutely across western Europe and beyond, brought much harsher winters and tougher farming conditions.

  • Read more | Frozen: Britain’s Little Ice Age

Extending from the 14th to the 19th century, the Little Ice Age witnessed population collapse, economic stagnation, widespread political instability and some of the worst human and animal plagues in recorded history. Not all of these were directly caused by the change in Europe’s climate – but neither were they entirely coincidental.

(Video) What If You Lived During the Middle Ages?

Nor was this unique. The Middle Ages were bookended by climate change. The era began with cooling at the end of the so-called Roman Warm Period (when several centuries of consistently warm, wet weather had allowed the Roman empire to flourish). Once these conditions worsened, Rome’s emperors found it harder to cope with rebellions and invasions. Rome’s collapse ushered in the Middle Ages.

By contrast, the greatest period of medieval innovation occurred during a climate phase known as the Medieval Warm Period, which began about AD 950 and ended around 1250. During this spell, the power, wealth and regional influence of European kingdoms grew, fuelled by a surge in farming yields, population growth and exploration.

It was probably no coincidence that it was around this time that Vikings struck out far and wide from Scandinavia, navigating northern seas – temporarily much less icy than they had been – to reach Iceland, Greenland and even North America.

  • Read more | Vikings in America: the Europeans who arrived 500 years before Columbus

It is often said that the most pressing global concern in the 21st century is climate change. Some scientists argue that we are living through an epoch – the Anthropocene – in which human-induced climate change is altering the very fabric of the Earth. Just as shifting global temperatures constitute (in the words of the UN) “an existential threat” and a “crisis multiplier” for us today, so they did for our ancestors in the Middle Ages.

2

Fear among some of foreigners

A group of English craftspeople delivered a petition to King Edward IV in c1463, complaining about foreigners taking their jobs. There were too many “aliens” in the country, moaned the petitioners, and their presence meant that “the king’s subjects [are] greatly impoverished and not at work”.

This was a familiar lament in medieval England. Throughout the Middle Ages, there always seemed to be bands of outsiders arriving. After the departure of the Romans from Britain in the fifth century AD, waves of Germanic and Scandinavian peoples appeared: Angles, Saxons and Jutes were followed somewhat later by Vikings and then Normans.

By the 14th and 15th centuries, invasion-led immigration had given way to what we’d now call “economic migration” as foreign workers, often highly skilled, came to English cities to ply their trades. In a broad sense, migration was good for England: it boosted the economy, expanded the gene pool and enriched the culture. But it also made people uncomfortable, unsettled and sometimes violently angry. Attacks on 'foreigners' were common during times of political unease – most notoriously in 1381 when dozens of Flemish workers in London were hunted down and murdered by roving gangs of rebels during the Peasants’ Revolt.

  • Read more | The true identity of the rebels of the Peasants’ Revolt

So migration, with all its benefits and its problems, was an important historical force in the Middle Ages, just as it is in our own time. Indeed, some of the most famous episodes in medieval history can be seen as stories about migration.

The fall of the western Roman empire in the fifth century, considered to mark the beginning of the Middle Ages, was sparked by a global migration crisis. It began in eastern Europe where bands of nomadic Huns, fleeing a severe drought, migrated west and displaced tribes known as the Goths. The Goths then tried to move into the Roman empire in the late fourth century, and the strains that placed on the imperial system eventually helped bring about its collapse.

In a broad sense, migration was good for England: it boosted the economy, expanded the gene pool and enriched the culture. But it also made people uncomfortable, unsettled and sometimes violently angry

(Video) Did medieval peasants travel?

Later, great early medieval kingdoms were built by migrant peoples: France and Germany by the Franks; Burgundy by the Burgundians; England by the Angles and Saxons; and so on. Viking emigrants left their Scandinavian homelands, turning up everywhere from Constantinople to the Americas. In the seventh and eighth centuries, Arabic-speaking converts to a new religion, Islam, swept out of the Middle East to settle and conquer lands stretching from central Asia in the east to the Iberian peninsula in the west. Then there were the crusades, when migrant Europeans founded settler kingdoms in Palestine and Syria.

Finally, at the end of the Middle Ages, came perhaps the most significant migrant story of them all: Europeans striking out from the Old World, colonising the Americas (including the Caribbean) and forcibly transporting enslaved Africans to their new territories. We are still coming to terms with the legacy of that episode today.

3

Pandemics and social unrest

A curious sight greeted London-based clerk Robert of Avesbury in September 1349: a parade of “flagellants” marching through the streets chanting prayers and whipping one another with scourges until blood flowed down their backs. It was a grisly procession, but it had a positive purpose. These adherents of a penitent sect were trying to persuade God to ease the grip of a pandemic that had seized every city in Europe – the first wave of the Black Death.

This outbreak of plague, which began in Asia and swept into Europe through the cities of northern Italy, went on to kill between 40 and 60 per cent of the continent’s population.

Today we do not recommend scourging parties as a cure for pandemic disease. (In fact, they would probably be called super-spreader events.) Most of us put our faith in science, not God, and in social distancing and vaccination rather than prayer and penance. Yet recent experience has shown that humans are still highly vulnerable to rapidly transmissible illness, just as we were in the Middle Ages.

  • Read more | Black Death quarantine: how did we try to contain the most deadly disease in history?

The first pandemic in recorded history occurred at the start of the Middle Ages. The Plague of Justinian, which began in AD 541, killed millions in regions stretching from eastern Africa to Germany and Britain. “It left neither island nor cave nor mountain ridge which had human inhabitants,” wrote the Byzantine historian Procopius. In the great city of Constantinople, tens of thousands died each week, despite lockdowns during which shops were shuttered and people hid indoors. The economic and psychological effects of the pandemic lasted for years afterwards.

The same was true in the 14th century. The impact of the Black Death was not limited to the enormous death toll. As wave after wave of disease rolled in, serious popular (and populist) upheaval occurred in almost every major European country. The region was shaken to its core by the shock of the pandemic, and movements promoting social justice proliferated.

The most concentrated period of unrest came between 1378 and 1382, shortly after a third wave of the Black Death had ripped through Europe. There were protests and riots in Florence in 1378, in southern France in 1379, and in northern France in 1380. In summer 1381, the Peasants’ Revolt nearly brought down the government in England. In 1382, Paris was in uproar.

From the perspective of the 21st century, this may not seem surprising. We have seen in our own times the close links between disease, economic disruption and social protest movements. In that sense, we are not so different from our medieval predecessors.

4

Globalisation

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In 1245, an Italian friar called Giovanni da Pian del Carpine set out from the papal court to visit Mongolia. The Mongols were then a world superpower, and the khans’ armies were well on their way to establishing the biggest empire since Rome’s heyday. Del Carpine walked and rode for more than a year to reach the Mongols’ royal court at Karakorum, where he witnessed the installation of a new ruler, Güyük Khan.

There, Carpine delivered a message from Pope Innocent IV, inviting Güyük to accept baptism and suggesting a military alliance against Muslims in the Holy Land. Güyük was unimpressed, and sent Carpine home with a reply ordering the pope to accept Mongol overlordship or suffer unpleasant consequences. It was not exactly the outcome Carpine had hoped for, but he had established links between the far east and western Christendom that would endure for generations.

Around AD 1000, it would have been theoretically possible for goods to move between every continent in the world but Antarctica

The medieval world was always, in a sense, 'globalised'. Trade along the Silk Road moved Chinese and Indian cloth and spices west. Gold mined in sub-Saharan Africa found its way to the Mediterranean. Slaves were traded widely long before the Atlantic crossings. For a brief moment around AD 1000, when a handful of Vikings settled in North America, it would have been theoretically possible for goods to move between every continent except Antarctica.

The late Middle Ages was a period of exceptionally busy growth in global trade. First, the Mongol conquests of the 13th century allowed travellers such as del Carpine and the Venetian explorer Marco Polo to forge direct links between the thriving trade cities of China and the western mercantile hubs of northern Italy and the Black Sea.

In the 15th century, the expansion of the Islamic Ottoman empire made trade more difficult for Christians in the eastern Mediterranean – and the response was another wave of globalisation, albeit in a different direction.

  • Read more | Winds of change: how the discovery of trade winds powered Europe’s empires

Explorers including Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama and John Cabot, sponsored by monarchs in the soon-to-be imperial powers of Spain, Portugal and England, headed out in search of new routes to the east. They opened up global sea networks in two directions: west toward the Americas, and south and east around the southern tip of Africa into the Indian Ocean. This age of New World exploration marked the end of the Middle Ages. It brought enormous prosperity for some, abject misery for others, and a revolution in the way that people everywhere viewed the world.

In the 11th century, a physically disabled and extremely learned German monk called Hermann the Lame worked out how to build an astrolabe – a sophisticated piece of technology, since dubbed the “medieval iPhone”, that was invaluable for timekeeping and navigation. It had been invented by the ancient Greeks, but in the first half of the Middle Ages its secrets were understood only by the Byzantines and Arabs.

From Hermann’s time, however, Europeans began to study and build astrolabes, part of a revolution in learning and information exchange culminating in what is sometimes called the “12th-century renaissance”.

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This influx of new learning into Europe was driven by scholars who spent many hours translating ancient scientific and philosophical texts that had been preserved only in Arabic in the great libraries of the Islamic world. It transformed the intellectual landscape of the west.

Huge strides were made in astronomy, engineering, medicine and natural science, and major technological advances occurred as a result. Windmills harnessed 'renewable energy' to grind grain into flour. New clocks, powered by water or weights, revolutionised timekeeping. Recipes for gunpowder started to change the nature of warfare. And institutions for teaching and research – the great universities – were founded.

  • Read more | The genius of medieval science: from medicine to mechanical clocks

This was an exciting age of change, but it was only one of several medieval information revolutions. The first took place from the late eighth century under the Frankish emperor Charlemagne, who sponsored large-scale manuscript production and preservation in monasteries. The last started in the 1450s when Johannes Gutenburg invented the moveable-type printing press – an innovation that made it cheap and easy to produce books, tracts, newsletters, pamphlets and any other sort of text.

The cultural effects of printing were as dramatic as the changes brought about by the rise of the smartphone. An explosion in publishing led to a swing towards new forms of protest and 'culture wars'. The Protestant Reformation was printed into existence with the publication of the works of Martin Luther in the early 16th century, and the vicious arguments it produced on the page were soon translated into real battles between partisans of the old ways and the new.

The Reformation brought down the curtain on the Middle Ages, but it was the product of a very medieval revolution. It is easy to believe that we are living today through a comparable reformation of social and cultural norms, underpinned – as then – by communication technology.

Dan Jones is a historian, TV presenter and journalist. His new book is Powers & Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages (Apollo, 2021)

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This article was first published in the October 2021 issue of BBC History Magazine

FAQs

How did the Middle Ages affect the modern world? ›

Transition to the Modern World

The transition from the medieval to the modern world was foreshadowed by economic expansion, political centralization, and secularization. A money economy weakened serfdom, and an inquiring spirit stimulated the age of exploration.

What was one of the most important developments in the Middle Ages? ›

One of the most important developments in the Middle Ages was the experimentation and developments in iron production. As noted by Bert Hall in his essay, "Iron is one of the most useful metals ever discovered, but it is also one of the more difficult metals to understand in history, especially in medieval history.

What was the role of music in the daily life of a person living in the Middle Ages? ›

Medieval music was an integral part of everyday life for the people of that time period. Music of the Middle Ages was especially popular during times of celebration and festivities. Music was often played during holidays and special parties. During weddings and birthdays, the music was especially uplifting.

Should the Middle Ages be called the Dark Ages? ›

As the accomplishments of the era came to be better understood in the 19th and the 20th centuries, scholars began restricting the Dark Ages appellation to the Early Middle Ages ( c. 5th–10th century), and today's scholars also reject its usage for the period.

Why is the Middle Ages so important? ›

The geographical boundaries for European countries today were established during the Middle Ages. This was a period that heralded the formation and rise of universities, the establishment of the rule of law, numerous periods of ecclesiastical reform and the birth of the tourism industry.

What are the Middle Ages best known for? ›

Medieval civilization reached its apex in the 13th century with the emergence of Gothic architecture, the appearance of new religious orders, and the expansion of learning and the university.

What was the biggest influence in the Middle Ages? ›

The Catholic Church in the Middle Ages

Instead, the Catholic Church became the most powerful institution of the medieval period. Kings, queens and other leaders derived much of their power from their alliances with and protection of the Church.

Why is it called the Middle Ages? ›

This period of time is called the 'Middle Ages' because it took place between the fall of Imperial Rome and the beginning of early modern Europe. It is often separated into the Early Middle Ages, the High Middle Ages, and the Late Middle Ages.

What did people in the Middle Ages do for fun? ›

Songs and stories were very popular during The Middle Ages. People would entertain themselves with song, dance, music and stories. Wandering entertainers, called minstrels or troubadours, would travel from village to village providing such entertainment – particularly music – for the local people.

What are the characteristics of middle ages music? ›

Middle ages music originally had no rhythmic structure, but as the music became more complex, a need for rhythmic unity emerged. With this complexity came rhythmic notation. In the early middle ages, music was monophonic, meaning a single voice or melody line. As time passed, polyphony developed (multiple melodies).

What instruments were used in the Middle Ages? ›

Instruments, such as the vielle, harp, psaltery, flute, shawm, bagpipe, and drums were all used during the Middle Ages to accompany dances and singing. Trumpets and horns were used by nobility, and organs, both portative (movable) and positive (stationary), appeared in the larger churches.

When was the last Dark Age? ›

Migration period, also called Dark Ages or Early Middle Ages, the early medieval period of western European history—specifically, the time (476–800 ce) when there was no Roman (or Holy Roman) emperor in the West or, more generally, the period between about 500 and 1000, which was marked by frequent warfare and a ...

What ended the Dark Ages? ›

The fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire, in 1453 CE, marks the end of the dark ages. The Middle Ages time period took place from 500 CE to 1500 CE in Europe. This was a time in history that fell between the end of the Roman Empire and the modern format of European lands.

What was the language in the Middle Ages? ›

Three main languages were in use in England in the later medieval period – Middle English, Anglo-Norman (or French) and Latin.

How did the Middle Ages impact society? ›

In the central, or high, Middle Ages, even more dramatic growth occurred. The period was marked by economic and territorial expansion, demographic and urban growth, the emergence of national identity, and the restructuring of secular and ecclesiastical institutions.

What are 3 facts about the Middle Ages? ›

Interesting Facts about Daily Life in the Middle Ages
  • The bread eaten by people of the Middle Ages was gritty from the millstones used to grind the grain. ...
  • Peasants were not allowed to hunt on the lord's land. ...
  • Medicine was very primitive at the time. ...
  • People mostly drank ale or wine.

What is the way of life in the Middle Ages? ›

Most people in medieval society lived in villages, there were few large towns. The majority of people were peasants, who worked on the land. There were a range of jobs and trades in towns and villages, some quite similar to those people might have today.

What is a short summary of the Middle Ages? ›

The Middle Ages was the period in European history from the collapse of Roman civilization in the 5th century CE to the period of the Renaissance (variously interpreted as beginning in the 13th, 14th, or 15th century, depending on the region of Europe and other factors).

Who were important people during the Middle Ages? ›

Famous Figures of the Middle Ages & Renaissance include figures of 21 key people from the period, including Justinian I, Theodora, Charlemagne, Leif Eriksson, William the Conqueror, Richard the Lionheart, Genghis Khan, Francis of Assisi, Marco Polo, Suleiman the Magnificent, Joan of Arc, Johannes Gutenberg, Christopher ...

Why did the Middle Ages start? ›

The medieval era, often called The Middle Ages or the Dark Ages, began around 476 A.D. following a great loss of power throughout Europe by the Roman Emperor.

Who was the most important person in the Middle Ages? ›

Charles the Great, or Charlemagne, is remembered as one of the most important people in European history, even being called the “Father of Europe”.

Who was the most powerful person during the Middle Ages? ›

Europe's medieval period lasted from the fall of Rome in the 5th century to the spread of the Renaissance in the 15th century. In this time, the pope (the head of the Catholic Church) became one of the most powerful figures in Europe.

Who was powerful in the Middle Ages? ›

List of medieval great powers
  • China (throughout)
  • Persia (Sasanians, 500–600; Samanids, 900–950; Timurids, 1400–1450)
  • Byzantine Empire (500–1050)
  • Göktürk Khaganate (550–600)
  • Tibetan Empire (650–1250)
  • The Caliphate (650–850)
  • Carolingian Empire (751–843)
  • Turks (Onoq, 650; Seljuks, 1050–1100; Ottomans, 1450–1500)

How did the Middle Ages end? ›

History of End of the Middle Ages Day

Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, fell to the hands of the invading Ottoman Empire on May 29, 1453. This day, many believe, marks the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the 15th-century Renaissance.

What is the middle era called? ›

In European history, the Middle Ages or the medieval period refers to the era between the collapse of the Roman empire in the 5th century and the beginning of the Renaissance.

What 3 things ended the Middle Ages? ›

  • 4 Reasons for the end of the middle ages in Europe. ◦Failure lessened the power of the Pope. ...
  • Crusades. ◦Collapse of manorial system as productivity ends and serfs leave in search of work; peasant rebellions grow in response to nobles' refusal to increase wages. ...
  • Black Death. ...
  • Hundred Years War. ...
  • Great Schism.

What did girls do in the Middle Ages? ›

The two main alternatives for a medieval woman were to marry, or to 'take the veil' and become a nun. Almost all female orders required women to live behind the walls of a monastery or within an individual cell, living a life of contemplation, prayer and work.

What was the main job in the Middle Ages? ›

Typical jobs during the Medieval Age included blacksmiths, stone masons, armorers, millers, carpenter, minstrel, weaver, winemaker, farmer, watchman, shoemaker and roofer.

What foods were eaten in the Middle Ages? ›

Everyday food for the poor in the Middle Ages consisted of cabbage, beans, eggs, oats and brown bread. Sometimes, as a specialty, they would have cheese, bacon or poultry. All classes commonly drank ale or beer. Milk was also available, but usually reserved for younger people.

What were some of the main characteristics of Middle Ages art? ›

Early Medieval Art

Artists were commissioned for works featuring Biblical tales and classical themes for churches, while interiors were elaborately decorated with Roman mosaics, ornate paintings, and marble incrustations.

Was music important in the Middle Ages? ›

The traditions of Western music can be traced back to the social and religious developments that took place in Europe during the Middle Ages, the years roughly spanning from about 500 to 1400 A.D. Because of the domination of the early Christian Church during this period, sacred music was the most prevalent.

What is music from the Middle Ages called? ›

This somber sacred music called plainchant or plainsong, became a dominant song form in Middle Ages music. Gregorian chant was born from this medieval monophonic music.

Who were the most important musicians in the Middle Ages? ›

Answer and Explanation: The most important musicians of the Middle Ages were the troubadours. Troubadours were very popular from the 11th to the 13th centuries in mainly France and Spain. They were perform at noble courts and sing their songs.

What was the most popular instrument in the Middle Ages? ›

1. Vielle. This bowed string instrument was one of the most popular instruments of the medieval period, often used by troubadours and jongleurs from the 13th through the 15th century.

What are the two types of medieval music? ›

MEDIEVAL MUSIC: There were two main types of music - secular and religious. Secular music was made up of folk songs and ballads, many of which were sung by wandering musicians called troubadours.

What broke the Roman Empire? ›

Invasions by Barbarian tribes

The most straightforward theory for Western Rome's collapse pins the fall on a string of military losses sustained against outside forces. Rome had tangled with Germanic tribes for centuries, but by the 300s “barbarian” groups like the Goths had encroached beyond the Empire's borders.

What came before the Dark Ages? ›

Answer and Explanation: The Classical era preceded the Dark Ages. The Classical era includes the histories of ancient Greece and Rome. The beginning of this era dates back to Archaic period of ancient Greece, which began in the 8th century BC.

What is Earth's dark age? ›

What happened during Earth's “dark age” (the first 500 million years)? It is now believed that during Earth's forma- tion, a Mars-sized planet collided with it, creating a huge cloud of debris that became Earth's Moon and releasing so much heat that the entire planet melted.

How long did Middle Ages lose? ›

In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the late 5th to the late 15th centuries, similar to the post-classical period of global history. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and transitioned into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery.

What was invented at the end of the Middle Ages? ›

A number of very important inventions were made in medieval times such as the Spinning Wheel, Stirrups, Astrolabe, Eyeglasses, Compass, Tidal Mills, Gunpowder and Printing Press.

Did the Dark Ages last 400 years? ›

The Dark Ages ran for about 400 years, from around the fall of the Roman Empire, in the middle of the 6th century, to around the 10th or 11th centuries.

How was religion in the Middle Ages? ›

The Middle Ages: Religion. he Catholic Church was the only church in Europe during the Middle Ages, and it had its own laws and large coffers. Church leaders such as bishops and archbishops sat on the king's council and played leading roles in government.

Why is it called Middle English? ›

Middle English (abbreviated to ME) is a form of the English language that was spoken after the Norman conquest (1066) until the late 15th century. The English language underwent distinct variations and developments following the Old English period.

How did people communicate in Middle Ages? ›

Methods of communication during the medieval period were very limited. Without the use of television, telephone, radio, Internet or the postal service, correspondence took place in the form of letters delivered by private messengers.

What were the effects of the Middle Ages? ›

Europe became mostly rural. Decline of learning: Germanic invaders could not read or write. Learning became less important as people moved to rural areas. Loss of a common language: Latin changed as Germanic people mixed with Roman population.

What contributions did the medieval era have on our modern world? ›

The period saw major technological advances, including the adoption of gunpowder, the invention of vertical windmills, spectacles, mechanical clocks, and greatly improved water mills, building techniques (Gothic architecture, medieval castles), and agriculture in general (three-field crop rotation).

How did the High Middle Ages contribute in the development of the modern ages? ›

This increased population contributed to the founding of new towns and an increase in industrial and economic activity during the period. They also established trade and a comprehensive production of alcohol.

How did people survive in the Middle Ages? ›

The majority of people living during the Middle Ages lived in the country and worked as farmers. Usually there was a local lord who lived in a large house called a manor or a castle. Local peasants would work the land for the lord. The peasants were called the lord's "villeins", which was like a servant.

What moment had the biggest impact on the Middle Ages? ›

At the Battle of Hastings, Duke William of Normandy defeats Harold Godwinson and establishes his rule over England. A meeting between Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII, considered one of the most dramatic moments in the Middle Ages and in relations between church and state.

What event caused the Middle Ages? ›

The Middle Ages formally began with the collapse of unified Roman imperial authority in Western Europe in 476.

How long did the Middle Ages last? ›

The medieval era, often called The Middle Ages or the Dark Ages, began around 476 A.D. following a great loss of power throughout Europe by the Roman Emperor. The Middle Ages span roughly 1,000 years, ending between 1400 and 1450.

Who was the most important in the Middle Ages? ›

Charles the Great, or Charlemagne, is remembered as one of the most important people in European history, even being called the “Father of Europe”.

What do you mean by modern and medieval period? ›

Medieval History

Modern History. Timeline. This period extends for a total of 5000 years, beginning from 6,000 BCE to 650 CE. This period lasted from the 5th century to the 15th century. Modern age history begins from the 15th century and extends till the late 18th century.

What were the most important events in the Middle Ages? ›

This was a time of castles and peasants, guilds and monasteries, cathedrals and crusades. Great leaders such as Joan of Arc and Charlemagne were part of the Middle Ages as well as major events such as the Black Plague and the rise of Islam.

What factors of the Middle Ages contributed to the growth and development of a modern economy? ›

Developments such as population growth, improvements in banking, expanding trade routes, and new manufacturing systems led to an overall increase in commercial activity. Feudalism*, which had been widespread in the Middle Ages, gradually disappeared, and early forms of capitalism* emerged.

What cultures influenced the Middle Ages? ›

Overview
  • During the Middle Ages, classical civilization was transformed by contact with three cultures: Germanic invaders, Christianity, and Islam.
  • The Western values of individualism, consensual government, and a recognition of religious differences began to emerge during the Middle Ages.

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