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Beginning with the economy, several developments and new techniques occurred that greatly improved it. For example, farming in the early middle ages was very difficult. Forests were prominent and due to the idea that they were sacred, they were not cut down. However, in this time period, several forests were cleared, providing more land for farming. This enabled cultivation of land and an increased production of food. In essence, producing food is the primary necessity before anything else could occur.
Once this land was cultivable, several technological advancements improved conditions. The basis of many of these inventions was the use of iron. Iron enabled more weapons and armors, as well as new farming equipment, to develop. The most important was the plow, which was the carruca and the aratum. The carruca was enabled turning over of heavy soils and drainage; the aratum, although useful, could only break the top layer of soils. The plow was purchased by the community and the land was cultivated in long strips.
The use of horses was improved as well with horseshoes, enabling traction, a horse collar that distributed weight over the horse and allowed the attachment to other horses and the ability to pull a plow faster than oxen.
Water and wind
Another development was the power harnessed by water and wind, or the windmill and waterpower, which could replace jobs originally done by human, such as grinding grain into flower. Dams were constructed to increase the waterpower. The cam enabled millwrights to mechanize entire industries; waterpower eased cloth production and work with metals.
Agriculturally, farming was improved through the three-field system, which divided the land into three plots. The fields were planted with spring grains in one, fall grains in the other, and the last was left unplanted. Furthermore, they would rotate , preventing the exhaustion of soil. This was an improvement from the previous two-field system.
Why were these developments possible?
All of these developms were due to an increased security due to the lack of invasions. There were no more internal civil wars or invaders from outside, resulting in tranquility. Agriculture led to a surplus of food and thus a population increase.
Hierarchy and serfs
- Socially, there were improvements and new developments in both classes. The classes were divided into three. The very bottom contained the peasantry, the middle was a newly developed merchant class—the bourgeoisie, and at the top, the aristocrats.
- Serfs were converted to peasants as lords, due to food costing more, elased their demesne and collected rent. This was a positive improvement to the government because monarchical states were able to reclaim their powers.
Peasant Role and Christianity
- A new sense of organization also developed in the life of the peasant that enabled a transition to the High Middle Ages. Depending on the season, peasants had certain duties that kept the society going. They planted in one season, slaughtered livestock in another, etc.
- Christianity also played a major role in their lives. They celebrated feast days and major Church holidays, such as Easter and Pentecost. Furthermore, these feast days, masses, baptisms, marriages, funerals, etc. brought peasants into contact with the village church where they were instructed by a village priest.
Still, their households were not much of an improvement as the fortunate peasants contained two rooms. A hearth was in the main roof and the smoke went out of a hole on the roof. Furthermore, the wife took on a more important role as she was responsible for making clothes, gardening, and providing meals. Essentially, the sustenance on the family depended on her. In terms of food, bread was the main staple. Meat was saved for holidays and enormous amounts of ale were consumed, which proved negative due to fighting and accidents.
- While the peasantry was facing a rather difficult life, the aristocracy was expanding to include more than just the rich. It consisted of knights, nobles, and men of power. Although they were not on the same social status, eventually the term knight and noble became synonymous.
- These aristocrats were men of war who fought one another in tournaments and jousts. This was due to the fact that they thought themselves to be defenders of society, as well as the development of knighthood. This fighting one another, however, was negative, as it led to bloodshed. Eventually, a positive development came out of it as their warfare was directed to the Crusades. Another development from this was tournaments of knights fighting on horseback with blunted weapons. This diverted their warlike behavior from actually becoming damaging.
Castles/ Aristocratic Women
- Castles began to pop up in places as well, representing both the nobility’s household and a defensive fortification. This demonstrated the growing wealth of this period.
- Aristocratic women also improved their status. Although they were still under the father or husband’s rule, because the lord was frequently away, they had an important role in the household, supervising finances, overseeing the food supply, and making sure everything ran smoothly. One such woman who was very powerful was Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was married to, first, King Louis VII and later, Henry II of England. Later, she managed to get her sons to rebel against Henry, leading to her imprisonment. Still, she was very politically active. One reason for this change in women can be the church’s view, which resulted in better treatment. Such things as the Cult of the Virgin Mary in the 12th century were attempting to elevate the status of women.
- Merchant women helped their husband and supervised the household. They also developed their own trade or carried on their husband’s trade.
- Children also saw new standards. Because the young girls married young, they were sent to other castles to learn responsibilities, as well as the arts. Sons, were sent to a clerical school to pursue a religious career or to a castle to prepare for their life as a noble. They learned military skills, as well as reading and writing. When 21, they were knighted. However, afterwards, they were sent back to the household and were unable to marry until the father died due to their lack of property.
This idea of knighthood led to chivalry. This was a new development in the era that was a code of ethics invented due to the peace and tranquility as a result of no wars. Basically, courtly love was artificial and a justification for adultery. It was love from afar and basically stated that love exists not within, but outside of marriages. Chivalry also impacted knights’ relationships with one another. For example, they were not permitted to fight if the other did not have a weapon.
In terms of marriage, marriage was instituted primarily for alliances. The church managed to impact marriage by ending divorce and permitting annulment under only extreme situations.
Probably one of the more important developments that led to the revival of Europe was the new world of trade and cities. Trade, however, occurred gradually. After the decline in trade in western Europe, which was primarily agrarian, skilled people and necessary products for trade began to emerge. Not only htat, but the clearing of the Mediterranean through the Crusades and Europe’s reconquering of land enabled trade to take place. In fact, Italy led the revival. In the north, Flanders was benefiting from trade. To promote trade between the two leading cities, fairs were set up where the exchange of goods increased greatly. With this expansion of trade led to the monetary system regeneration. These all contributed to capital capitalism.
Analysis: Essentially, the __ revival is what contributed to the revival of __. This revival led to a __ as it transformed the class hierarchy and led to the growth of cities that were previously abandoned.
- social implication
Although it is controversial between trade or towns developed first, the growth of towns was caused with the settlement of merchants in old cities, which caused other skilled people to settle down, seeing it as opportunistic. Eventually, the cities were repopulated and surrounding areas had to be transformed into cities to accommodate the size. This led to the merchants and artisans receiving title bourgeoisie. Cities, however, were pretty small. The skyline was dominated by towers of castles, but mostly, cathedrals. Sections were partitioned for merchants and artisans.
Needs of the people
This establishment led to particular needs of the townspeople, such as mobility to trade. This led to them obtaining charters of liberties from their lords, granting them lords. As for the people who were refused, they formed communes and forcefully won their freedom, if successful.
City governments existed as citizens elected members of a city council that wre responsible for running affairs. Still, patricians (powerful families) managed to keep the power and began to undermine the power of the mayor, who eventually was only a figurehead. City governments watched over the activities of the community in terms of grain, water, crimes, and cleanliness. The physical environment was very dirty and water pollution was prominent.
Aside from the revival of cities, trade also led to the revival of industries that produced several goods. The merchants and artisans established themselves into guilds, which played a leading role in economics. People began to become apprentices, and after the production of a masterpiece, a master craftsman. While the guilds worked with local raw materials, raw materials from outside led to laborers working in their own home at different stages of production, collecting and selling the final product.
Intellectually, Europe saw a great revival of learning. The most obvious example of this revival is in the development of universities. Universities initially began as cathedral schools, where people were educated in preparation for the priesthood. Eventually, people were attracted to this setting, even though they did not want to join the priesthood. This led to the first university in Bologna with the reappearance of Justinian’s Corpus Iuris Civilis. To portect themselves, they formed a universitas, which was eventually recognized by the emperor Frederick Barbarosa and chartered in 1158. Several other universities began to pop up after this and receive charters.
Teaching and students
The teaching was done through lecture since books were too expensive; teachers’ commentaries were eventually added through their glosses. The curiiculm centered around the liberal arts. Because latin was the language used, it enabled communication and unity between a massive amount of people. The first degree attained was the bachelor of arts after an oral examination. Other people, however, went on to get their master of arts and their doctor’s degree in their late thirties, teaching while going to school. This enabled the study of law, medicine, or theology. Students were a polyglot of people from middle groups, lesser families, poor yet ambitious men.
Works of Greek and Romans
This new form of learning led to the revival of the works of the Greeks nad Romans. Several Greek scientific and philosophical works began to resurface due to contact with the Muslims, who managed to preserve it. Although the works of Hippocrates and Ptolemy resurfaced, it was Aristotle who was known as the master of those who knew. Aristotle was brought in through wandering scholars. One such man was Adelard of Bath, who translated Euclid’s Elements. Aside from the recovery of works, an adaption of Arabic works became available to the West in Latin translations. The west was also receptive to the works of Jewish scholars living in the Islamic world.
Faith vs. Reason
Although Aristotle was held in high esteem, there were questions arising pertaining to both reason and faith. This was called scholasticism and began with Abelard who furthered the new scholastic approach to theology. In his work Sic et Non, he listed contradictory passages in the works fo church fathers nad streesd the need of logic to reconcile the differences.
Separation of Theologians
Still, these conflicting views led to division between theologians and the development of two new schools—the Pro-Platonic realists and the Pro-Aristotle nominalists. The realists followed Plato and believed in the metaphysical and manifestations of universal ideas while the nominalists were followers of Aristotle’s ideas and believed in examination. This conflict went on until Aquinas, the man who married the two conflicting views together.
He stated that the natural mind could arrive at truths concerning the physical universe. But, without the help of God, unaided reason alone could not graps spiritual truths, such a the Trinity. He also wrote the Summa Theologica. This was an important development because it also caused Christianity to lose footing as doctrines were challenged.
Aside from religion, Roman law was also regenerated. Besides the rediscovery of the Corpus Iuris Civilis, “doctors of law” emerged, establishing commentaries and treatises on legal texts. This revival of Roman law stemmed from the fact that Europe was a mix of different laws; the need for organization was clear. Therefore, students were trained to be judges, lawyers, scribes, etc, enabling progress towards a better European legal system.
Literature also reached its high point. Latin poetry, poems, and literature were prominent. Literature was also being written in the vernacular, such as troubadour poetry, which focused on love, the chanson de geste, written for males, and courtly romance love poems.
One last development that contributed to the new era was in architecture. Buildings, scuh as castles and churches, were being built in numerous places, reflecting the basic preoccupations of warfare and god. The churches, however, were the most conspicuous. There was a shift in church structure, however. It went from the Romanesque (rectangular basilica shapewith a barrel vault and massive pillars and walls for sustenance) to the Gothic churches (ribbed vaults and pointed arches as well as the flying buttress). These innovations gave a sense of weightlessness and created a play on light that represented God.
Stain glass was also a contributor to the play on light as it symbolized God’s divine light. Proportions of the church also represented harmony of the world established by God. The first fully Gothic church was the abbey church of Saint-Denis near Paris, inspired by Suger. The Gothic cathedral were positive contributions to the society because it fostered faith as members of the society had to rely on one another, as well as the next generation to create a majestic Gothic church. It also provided a sense of unity through their cooperation.
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