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The Middle Ages: Myth and Reality

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1 The Middle Ages: Myth and Reality

2 The Middle Ages: The Myth
We think of knights in shining armor, lavish banquets, wandering minstrels, kings, queens, bishops, monks, pilgrims, and glorious pageantry. In film and in literature, medieval life seems heroic, entertaining, and romantic.

3 The Middle Ages: The Reality
In reality, life in the Middle Ages, a period that extended from approximately the 5th century to the 15th century in Western Europe, could also be harsh, uncertain, and dangerous.

4 The Lord of the Manor For safety and defense, people in the Middle Ages formed small communities around a central lord or master.

5 The Manor Most people lived on a manor, which consisted of the castle (or manor house), the church, the village, and the surrounding farm land.

6 The Feudal System Under the feudal system, the king awarded land grants or fiefs to his most important nobles, barons, and bishops, in return for their contribution of soldiers for the king's armies.

7 Nobles and Vassals Nobles divided their land among the lesser nobility, who became their vassals. Many of these vassals became so powerful that the kings had difficulty controlling them.

8 The Peasants At the lowest level of society were the peasants, also called serfs or villeins. The lord offered his peasants protection in exchange for living and working on his land.

9 Hard Work & High Taxes Peasants worked hard to cultivate the land and produce the goods that the lord and his manor needed. They were heavily taxed and were required to relinquish much of what they harvested.

10 Bound by law and custom…
It is the custom in England, as with other countries, for the nobility to have great power over the common people, who are serfs. This means that they are bound by law and custom to plough the field of their masters, harvest the corn, gather it into barns, and thresh and winnow the grain; they must also mow and carry home the hay, cut and collect wood, and perform all manner of tasks of this kind Jean Froissart, 1395 

11 MEDIEVAL LIFE Cooperation and Mutual Obligations
FEUDALISM: POLITICAL SYSTEM Decentralized, local government Dependent upon the relationship between members of the nobility Lord and his vassals administered justice and were the highest authority in their land MANORIALISM: ECONOMIC SYSTEM Agriculture the basis for wealth Lands divided up into self-sufficient manors Peasants (serfs) worked the land and paid rent In exchange for protection Barter the usual form of exchange KING LORDS (VASSALS TO KING) KNIGHTS (VASSALS TO LORDS) Fief and Peasants Military Aid Food Protection Shelter Food Protection Shelter PEASANTS (SERFS) Pay Rent Farm the Land Homage Military Service Loyalty

12 Women: Household Chores
Whether they were nobles or peasants, women held a difficult position in society. They were largely confined to household tasks such as cooking, baking bread, sewing, weaving, and spinning.

13 Hunting & Fighting However, they also hunted for food and fought in battles, learning to use weapons to defend their homes and castles.

14 Other Occupations Some medieval women held other occupations. There were women blacksmiths, merchants, and apothecaries.

15 Midwives, Farmers, & Artists
Others were midwives, worked in the fields, or were engaged in creative endeavors such as writing, playing musical instruments, dancing, and painting.

16 Witches & Nuns Some women were known as witches, capable of sorcery and healing. Others became nuns and devoted their lives to God and spiritual matters.

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

18 Pilgrimages Pilgrimages were an important part of religious life in the Middle Ages. Many people took journeys to visit holy shrines such the Canterbury Cathedral in England and sites in Jerusalem and Rome.

19 Homes Most medieval homes were cold, damp, and dark. Sometimes it was warmer and lighter outside the home than within its walls.

20 Windows For security purposes, windows, when they were present, were very small openings with wooden shutters that were closed at night or in bad weather. The small size of the windows allowed those inside to see out, but kept outsiders from looking in.

21 Peasants Homes Many peasant families ate, slept, and spent time together in very small quarters, rarely more than one or two rooms. The houses had thatched roofs and were easily destroyed.

22 Homes of the Wealthy The homes of the rich were more elaborate than the peasants' homes. Their floors were paved, as opposed to being strewn with rushes and herbs, and sometimes decorated with tiles. Tapestries were hung on the walls, providing not only decoration but also an extra layer of warmth.

23 Fenestral Windows Fenestral windows, with lattice frames that were covered in a fabric soaked in resin and tallow, allowed in light, kept out drafts, and could be removed in good weather. Only the wealthy could afford panes of glass; sometimes only churches and royal residences had glass windows.

24 Health & Hygiene As the populations of medieval towns and cities increased, hygienic conditions worsened, leading to a vast array of health problems.

25 Medicine Medical knowledge was limited and, despite the efforts of medical practitioners and public and religious institutions to institute regulations, medieval Europe did not have an adequate health care system. Antibiotics weren't invented until the 1800s and it was almost impossible to cure diseases without them.

26 Myths and Superstitions
There were many myths and superstitions about health and hygiene as there still are today. People believed, for example, that disease was spread by bad odors. It was also assumed that diseases of the body resulted from sins of the soul. Many people sought relief from their ills through meditation, prayer, pilgrimages, and other nonmedical methods.

27 Bloodletting Medicine was often a risky business. Bloodletting was a popular method of restoring a patient's health and "humors." Early surgery, often done by barbers without anesthesia, must have been excruciating.

28 Medical Treatment Medical treatment was available mainly to the wealthy, and those living in villages rarely had the help of doctors, who practiced mostly in the cities and courts. Remedies were often herbal in nature, but also included ground earthworms, urine, and animal excrement.

29 Tradesmen With the advent of trade and commerce, feudal life declined. As the tradesmen became wealthier, they resented having to give their profits to their lords.

30 The Merchant Class The new merchant class included artisans, masons, armorers, bakers, shoemakers, ropemakers, dyers, and other skilled workers.

31 Battle of Agincourt, 15th century
The Late Middle Ages 1300–1500 War Black Death The late Middle Ages was a time of human misery and disaster. The population of Europe suffered greatly from both the Hundred Years’ War and the Black Death, which both occurred during this time period. Battle of Agincourt, 15th century

32 The Hundred Years’ War: Causes
Struggles between French and English royal families over who would rule either country Conflicts over territory, trade The Hundred Years’ War was a consequence of the growth of medieval France and England. When William the Conqueror became king of England, he tied the nobility of France to the nobility of England. As a result, tensions mounted over the years regarding who had the right to rule either country. The English and French had also become competitors in many economic pursuits, in particular the wool trade and control of Flemish towns vital to the wool trade. Trouble began when the English claimed Aquitaine, a region in the south of France. In 1329, Edward III of England paid homage—a fee—for Aquitaine to the king of France. When Philip VI took over Aquitaine in 1337, however, Edward responded by invading France, thus beginning a series of intermittent wars that would last for 116 years. English ruler Edward III

33 The Hundred Years’ War: Battles
England had early victories The French eventually expelled the British from mainland Europe English military innovation: the archer The Hundred Years’ War started with several English victories. Many historians divide the Hundred Years’ War into four phases: two phases featured English success, each followed by the French rallying to push the English out of their lands. The war ended in 1453 when the French finally expelled the English from mainland Europe. The English use of skilled archers during the war proved to be influential to technology of the time. It was highly effective when used against knights, whose slow, bulky armor couldn’t provide sufficient defense in the face of a multiple arrow attack. The Battle of Crecy, the first major battle of the Hundred Years’ War

34 Joan of Arc being burned at the stake
Heroine of the war Had visions that told her to free France Fought with the army Captured, burned at the stake One of the French heroines of the Hundred Years’ War was Joan of Arc. The daughter of peasants, she claimed that she heard voices that told her to expel the English from France. She managed to persuade the king that she should be allowed to fight alongside the men in the war due to her passion and faith. She became a successful soldier and her will and strength inspired the French to several victories. She was eventually captured by the English and shipped to England to face trial for heresy. Found guilty, she was burned at the stake. Joan of Arc being burned at the stake

35 The Plague During the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, the bubonic plague—commonly referred to as the “Black Death”—ravaged the population of Europe. It was transmitted to humans by fleas that had bitten infected rats. The disease caused very painful swollen lymph nodes called buboes. The name “Black Death” came from the dried blood which would often form under the skin and cause black spots.

36 Spread of the Plague Started in China
Reached Europe in via a merchant ship on the island of Sicily 1347–48: southern Europe 1349–50: central Europe and the British Isles The plague started in China and killed millions of people in mainland Asia. Due to its highly communicable nature, it spread very quickly. It first reached Europe in Sicily in 1347, when a merchant ship returning from China landed carrying rats with infected fleas. Trade and travel helped spread the plague to mainland Europe. By 1348, it had ravaged southern Europe. By 1350, it had hit central Europe and the British Isles. The plague spread for several reasons, including the outbreak of war (the Hundred Years’ War was fought while the plague affected Europe) and the fact that many infected people often brought the disease to new locations by trying to escape the horrors of the disease.

37 Popular Medical “Cures” for the Plague
Doctors wore strange costumes Bathing in human urine Wearing excrement Placing dead animals in homes Wearing leeches Drinking molten gold and powdered emeralds Burning incense to get rid of the smell of the dead At the time, the field of medicine did not understand what caused the Black Death—or how to cure it. Doctors wore strange costumes and used folk cures to deal with the disease. Among the more absurd remedies: Bathing in human urine Wearing excrement Placing dead animals in homes Wearing leeches Drinking molten gold and powdered emeralds Burning incense to get rid of the smell of the dead Not surprisingly, these “cures” did little to address the real problems of the plague and many even made the disease worse. A costume worn by doctors to ward off the Plague

38 Effects of the Plague Killed 25–30 million Europeans
Undermined faith in religion Economy Culture influenced The most obvious effect of the plague was the number of people it killed—an estimated 25 to 30 million Europeans, or roughly one-third of the population. The plague also shook many people’s faith in religion. Though many religious leaders blamed the plague on sin, piety and prayer offered no protection against the disease and members of the clergy were as likely to become afflicted as anyone else. In the face of all this, the numbers of those willing to devote their life to the church dramatically declined. The population decrease caused by the plague led to an economic downturn; both the number of available laborers and consumers declined sharply. Merchants and tradespeople had fewer people to whom they could sell their wares. Products therefore accumulated, and the merchants and those who dealt with them—bankers, suppliers, and shippers—all lost revenue. In addition, peasants often left their land in an attempt to escape the disease. The plague also influenced many of the artists of the time; works from this period often had very dark themes and tones.

39 Legacy of the Medieval Era
Transitional period New kingdoms evolved The Church became a dominant force Modern institutions originated The medieval era is considered a transitional period between the ancient classical world and the Renaissance. Immediately after the fall of Rome, Europe disintegrated into a number of small kingdoms and states. Throughout the period, however, new kingdoms gradually evolved into states—England, France, and Spain, for example. The Catholic Church expanded its influence throughout western Europe, with little to challenge its dominance, although issues such as the Inquisition and the Crusades may have diminished its prestige. Despite the popular view of medieval Europe as the “Dark Ages,” many modern institutions originated during this time, including universities, the parliamentary form of government, and banks. What historians often refer to as “modern Europe” was beginning to take shape by the end of the 15th century. The emergence of modern Europe would be shaped by other factors as well—the Renaissance, the Reformation, and global exploration over the next two centuries.

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