The Middle Ages is a period of history that begins in the middle of the 5th century (AD 476), with the fall of the Western Roman Empire , and extends until the middle of the 15th century (AD 1453), when Constantinople is invaded by the Ottoman Turks. Middle Ages history summary
The Middle Ages was didactically divided into the High Middle Ages and the Low Middle Ages . In the first 500 years there was the rise of the predominant way of life in this period, while the final 500 years are marked by the beginning of the transformations that would lead to the end of this period and the beginning of the Modern Age.
Despite being considered the “dark ages” by intellectuals of the subsequent period due to the limited scientific and intellectual development of the time, the Middle Ages is an extensive period whose events shaped Western society today.
summary of the medieval era
To understand the beginning of the Middle Ages, it is necessary to remember what was happening in Europe before the 5th century. At that time, much of Europe and also parts of Asia and Africa were part of the Roman Empire . Middle Ages history summary
The Roman Empire began in 27 BC and became one of the greatest civilizations in history. For centuries, the Roman Empire exerted its power in the region, with a powerful administrative structure, armies and road structures that connected the territory.
From the 2nd century onwards, peoples called by the Romans “barbarians” began to invade Roman territory, occupy regions and establish their power. During the invasions, these people carried out looting in the cities, which caused fear in the population, which began to flee to the countryside.
This is how ruralization began , which would determine the feudal mode of production that was established during the Middle Ages. Middle Ages history summary
In 476 AD , the Heruli – of Germanic origin – invade Rome and depose the last Emperor, Romulus Augustus. This deposition marks the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the beginning of the High Middle Ages.
It is worth remembering that the Roman Empire had been divided into two: Western and Eastern. The beginning of the Middle Ages corresponds to the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Eastern Roman Empire maintains its power and will only fall at the end of the Middle Ages.
High Middle Ages
The High Middle Ages began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and lasted until the end of the 10th century . The beginning of the Middle Ages is marked by the return of people to the countryside, fleeing the barbarian invasions in Roman territories.
To protect themselves, people formed fortified nuclei around properties, where the owner exercised power and offered land in exchange for protection from invaders.
From this organization arise the fiefs and the feudal mode of production, which was predominant and reached its apex in the High Middle Ages. In feudalism , landowners offered part of the land to other nobles in exchange for services and protection. Middle Ages history summary
This system was known as suzerainty and vassalage , in which the suzerain was the one who offered land and the vassal the one who received it. In addition, there were serfs , who lived on the land and owed obligations, taxes and services to the feudal lord.
Within these properties, people lived in a subsistence mode , that is, they produced what they needed to live, in this way, the commercial activities that were already common in the Roman Empire, lost importance.
The feudal political organization was decentralized , this means that there was no king or emperor for an entire territorial extension. There were the landlords, who exercised power only within their territories, where they could collect fees and taxes.
The most powerful institution of the Middle Ages was the Catholic Church . Despite having emerged during the Roman Empire, it was in the medieval period that its power was consolidated and it was from this power that it would, centuries later, exercise power over much of the western world. Middle Ages history summary
late middle ages
From the 11th century onwards, however, some changes in European society will lead to the beginning of the crisis of the feudal system , which marks the beginning of the Late Middle Ages:
- The development of new agricultural techniques leads to increased agricultural production.
- Population growth, which led to population surplus.
At this time, the Catholic Church calls for the Crusades , which were expeditions organized by the Catholic Church with the declared aim of freeing the Holy Land from Muslim rule.
It is known, however, that there were other interests in carrying out the crusades. One was the displacement of Europe’s surplus population, as there was an imbalance between food production and population growth.
Another objective was also the conquest of lands in the east, especially by those nobles who had lost their lands in European territory. And finally, there were trade interests between West and East, what we call a commercial renaissance.
The products brought from the East were marketed in Europe and it was at this time that the fairs appeared, which were located especially in cities close to the Mediterranean Sea. Genoa and Venice were the cities that stood out in this type of trade.
With the strengthening of commerce, rural residents move to cities and form burgos. The boroughs are the beginning of reurbanization and it is from these places that, centuries later, the new social class called the bourgeoisie will emerge, composed of artisans, bankers and merchants. Middle Ages history summary
The Black Death and the Hundred Years War
In addition to all the changes that European society was going through at the end of the Middle Ages, other events rocked Europe in the last years of that period, especially the Black Death and the Hundred Years’ War.
The Black Death was a disease transmitted by rats that wiped out a third of the entire European population . The plague is believed to have been brought from Asia in 1331 on ships and spread across Europe after the ships arrived in ports.
The Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) was another episode of the late Middle Ages that caused much turmoil. This conflict was fought between France and England and had a high destructive power. In addition to many deaths, this war devastated the agricultural productions of France. Middle Ages history summary
end of the middle ages
All changes in the structures of European society weakened the feudal regime and paved the way for the next phase of history: the Modern Age.
The year 1453 is officially considered to be the end of the Middle Ages , when the Ottoman Turks conquer the city of Constantinople and overthrow the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire.
The Year 1492, with the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the American continent, is also considered a milestone for the end of the Middle Ages.
Age of darkness
The Middle Ages was considered by some intellectuals of the Modern Age as the “Dark Ages”, due to the decline in intellectual, artistic and scientific production in relation to the period of the Greeks and Romans. For Enlightenment and Renaissance thinkers, during the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church would have impeded the development of knowledge. Middle Ages history summary
Today, the denomination of the Dark Ages is understood as prejudiced , because during this long period important advances took place, especially in the development of agricultural production.
In addition, it is during the Middle Ages that the first universities appear and important artistic movements, such as Gothic and Romantic, are also developed.