Medieval Geography and Politics
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The Medieval period, often called the Middles Ages, is the middle period of history between classical civilization and modern times. The early medieval centuries were a time of migration, warfare, social upheaval, and the cessation of learning. The later portion of the period saw advances in agriculture, a rebirth of learning, and sociopolitical changes that laid the foundation for the modern era.
The Medieval Era begins around 450 AD as the Western Roman Empire was collapsing.
- Rome fell in 476 AD, but its control was already minimal by 450 AD.
- In the east, the Byzantine Empire, comprised of Greece, the Balkans, and Rome's Asian possessions continued to thrive.
- With the fall of Rome, barbarian German tribes such as the Goths, Vandals, and Franks, accelerated their destruction and conquest of Roman territory.
- Angles, Saxons, and Jutes invaded England and conquered the native Celts.
- Around 500 AD, Clovis, the Frankish king established the Merovingian Dynasty in present day France
- A branch of the Goths established themselves in Spain.
- Italy and England deteriorated into groups of small states.
- The Church system provided some stability and structure, but priests were often illiterate and learning practically ceased.
In 687, Arab Muslims invaded Spain from Africa and destroyed the Visigothic kingdom there. Christianity and Western Europe were threatened, but a Frankish nobleman, Charles Martel, defeated the Arabs at Poitiers in 732 when they attempted to invade France. His grandson, Charlemagne, became the King of the Franks and was, arguably, the greatest ruler of the medieval period. Charlemagne conquered the Germans and converted them to Christianity while also extending his control to central Italy. Charlemagne also streamlined the government while encouraging learning. In 800, he was crowned Roman Emperor by the Pope. Unfortunately, his successors were less capable than he was, and his empire was divided into three parts, forming the basis of the modern nations of France, Italy, and Germany.
Shortly after Charlemagne's death, pagan Viking raiders from Scandinavia began pillaging the British Isles, France, and Northern Germany. They would remain an important force until about 1100. Descendants of some Vikings who settled in Normandy, in France, conquered England in 1066. Their leader, William the Conqueror, became King of England and introduced the French feudal system to the country. Between 1100 and 1200, agriculture underwent a revolution in Europe as crop rotation was introduced. The manufacturing of textiles, beer, and iron increased as well, greatly boosting Europe's economy. The economy continued to expand until 1347 when the Black Death, or Bubonic Plague, struck Europe.