New Forces in Medieval Europe



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New Forces in Medieval Europe



By the middle of the eleventh century, Western Europe had entered a period of growing prosperity. Important changes in agriculture and trade were taking place. Along with these changes came the rebirth of towns and the rise of a middle class.

Economic change. The eleventh and twelfth centuries were a time of change and growth for Europe. New lands were cleared and settled, and new inventions greatly increased agricultural production. The result was a steady population growth. A larger population led to increased demand for goods and more trade. Towns grew up along trading routes and contributed to the decline of serfdom and the rise of a middle class. This new social class was made up of master artisans, merchants, and their families. These people owed nothing to a lord; their prosperity came from industry and trade. They took part in local government, and their business activities brought wealth to the town. In centuries to come, the middle class would bring about great economic, political, and intellectual changes in European life.

National unification. Economic and social change paved the way for political change. The growth of towns strengthened monarchies at the expense of local lords. England was unified soon after the Norman conquest in 1066. There lords remained powerful enough to check the power of the monarch through the Magna Carta and the growing importance of Parliament. In this way, the foundations were laid for limited monarchy – a government in which limits are set on the ruler’s powers. In France, on the other hand, unification took longer, but no checks on royal power developed. As a result, France moved toward absolute monarchy – government in which the ruler has complete power.

B. The role of the Church. The demands of the Roman Catholic Church for a role in European politics created disputes between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor and other monarchs. These disputes prevented the development of unified states in Germany and Italy. During the late Middle Ages, however, German states expanded their power eastward into the Baltic region. This expansion led to the spread of Christianity and Western culture and strengthened trade.

By the 900’s the Church faced many problems. It had lost control over the appointment of bishops, and rulers were able to control the churches and monasteries in their lands. Also, corruption and disunity in the Church led to new religious movements that went against Church teachings. The campaign against heresy (the holding of beliefs that the Church considered wrong) led to the establishment of the Inquisition – a Church court that searched for suspected heretics and put them on trial. Religious zeal also led to the establishment of the Franciscan and Dominican religious orders.

The Crusades. In 1095 Pope Urban II appealed to the lords and knights of Europe to go on a crusade to recapture the Holy Land (Palestine) from the Seljuk Turks. He hoped that this campaign would unite the Christians of Europe in a common cause and increase the area of Christian influence. A series of military campaigns, called the Crusades, followed over the next two centuries.

The Crusades ultimately failed since Palestine remained in Muslim hands. nevertheless, the Crusades had an enormous influence on life in Europe: The Crusades led to a reduction in the prestige of the Popes. They weakened feudalism as many nobles were killed in battle or lost their fortunes. Monarchs took advantage of the weakened nobility to add to their power. The Crusades also stimulated trade between Europe and the East.

Revival of learning. At the height of the Middle Ages, growing trade and town life led to a revival of interest in learning and artistic achievement. Contact with the Byzantine and Muslim civilizations gave Western scholars access to long-lost classical manuscripts. The prosperity of the middle class allowed the opening of schools and universities.

Medieval scholars depended on the Bible and Church doctrine for guidance in their studies. Some looked askance at those who studied Greek philosophy, which seemed to conflict with Christian teachings. The Scholastics, the most famous of which was Thomas Aquinas, believed that reason could be used to explain and defend Christian teachings and to reconcile them with the teachings of non-Christian thinkers.

Other medieval thinkers, influenced by Muslim advances in the sciences, took a new interest in studying nature. Medieval science was limited, however, in that its explanations included elements of superstition and folk legends.

Literature and the arts. During the late Middle Ages, a rich literature began to be written in the vernacular (local) languages. Old legends and tales of heroism were the basis for epic poems such as Beowulf. Troubadours in the courts of Europe wrote verse and songs about love. Such writers as Geoffrey Chaucer wrote of ordinary people.

The art of the Middle Ages was almost entirely religious in its themes. One of the main forms of art during this period was the cathedral. During the early Middle Ages, the main style of architecture was Romanesque, which was characterized by massive walls and rounded arches. In the late 1100’s, cathedrals began to be built in the Gothic style, which included high-arched ceilings, large windows, and soaring steeples.

Fourteenth-century crises. During the fourteenth century famine, plague, political unrest, and prolonged warfare created great changes in Europe. The power of monarchs increased, while the power and prestige of the papacy declined. Reformers called for fundamental changes in Church practices. These changes, combined with the continuing growth of towns and the emergence of the middle class, signaled that medieval times were coming to an end.

 

A

Ex. 1. Match the words on the left with their definitions on the right.

1) serfs a) to express or feel doubt about smb.
2) manor b) state of being economically successful
3) lot c) stealing or damaging of property, especially during a time of war or civil disorder
4) heir d) desire of customers for goods or services which they wish to buy or use
5) to question e) a person with the legal right to receive the thrown, property, a title when the owner dies
6) self-sufficient f) during the Middle Ages, peasants who farmed the lords' land
7) monarchy g) the estate of a medieval lord
8) to pillage and plunder h) person’s fortune, destiny or share
9) demand for i) system of government by a supreme ruler; king, queen, emperor or empress
10) prosperity j) able to fulfil one’s own needs without help from others

 

Ex. 2. Answer the questions.

1. Why are the Middle Ages sometimes called the Christian centuries?

2. What events caused widespread disorder in Medieval Europe?

3. What system of government and landholding developed during that time?

4. What was the basic economic unit during the Middle Ages? What elements did it comprise?

5. How did changes in agriculture contribute to the growth of trade and town life?

6. What new class was to bring about great economic, political and intellectual changes in European life? What people was this new social class made up of?

7. What were the conditions for the national unification in Medieval Europe?

B. Read the second part of the text and do the tasks that follow.

Ex. 1.Match the words on the left with their definitions on the right.

1) appointment a) fighting between nations or groups within a nation using military force
2) heresy b) in the end, finally
3) zeal c) very high or tall
4) ultimately d) extreme scarcity of food in a region
5) to look askanse at smb./smth. e) idea or belief held by many people for no good or logical reason
6) to reconcile smth. with smth. f) belief or opinion that is contrary to what is generally accepted, especially in religion
7) superstition g) the choice of smb. for a position of responsibility
8) soaring h) to look at smb./smth. with distrust or disapproval
9) famine i) intense energy or enthusiasm
10) warfare j) to make aims, statements, ideas etc., agree when they seem to conflict

 

Ex. 2. Answer the questions.

1. Whose demands created disputes between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor and other monarchs?

2. What process did these disputes prevent?

3. How did Christianity spread eastward?

4. What problems did Christianity face?

5. How did the Crusades influence life in Europe?

6. What processes led to a revival of interest in learning and artistic achievements?

7. What kind of literature began to appear during the late Middle Ages?

8. What changes indicated that the medieval period in Europe was coming to an end?

Ex. 3. Support each of the following statements with facts and details. Use the following cliches to begin with or connect several ideas:

The matter is debatable but there is much to be said for the view that …; according to the sources, research …; the point is that …; however; on the other land; furthermore; besides; let alone.

1. The primary period in the development of feudalism is known as the Middle Ages.

2. The second period in the history of the Middle Ages is synonymous with the epoch of feudal development.

3. Christianity in the Byzantine Empire developed differently from that in Western Europe.

4. The Byzantine culture blended acpects of other cultures.

5. The manor was the basic economic unit during the early Middle Ages.

6. New forces and economic changes in Medieval Europe.

7. National unificafication.

8. The Crusades influenced life in Europe.

9. The revival of learning was caused by growing trade and town life.

 



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