The history of medieval Europe began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire in around 476 AD. The medieval ages lasted until around the 15th century and the beginning of Renaissance.
During these ten centuries, Europe underwent a number of periods and many rapid transformations. This was a period marked by the birth of the Byzantine Empire, the beginnings of Islam and its consequent influence over Europe, the period of the Frankish and the later Holy Roman Empire.
The changes that Europe underwent during this period cemented many identities which continue to inform Europe's cultural heritage to this day.
The Vikings were a formidable and destructive fighting force that were known for their fierce and rapid inland raids, Vikings played an important role in the History of medieval Europe Read more about the Vikings >>
After the fall of Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, the Eastern Roman Empire continued to exist fairly intact. Christianity became a dominant influence in the Eastern Roman Empire, or the Byzantine Empire, beginning from the 4th century. The Byzantine Empire had Greek as its official language and Church authorities enjoyed a close relationship with the state authorities.
The Byzantine Empire reached its apex during the 6th century, regaining most of the territory formerly under the control of the Eastern Roman Empire. This marked a glorious period of the Empire which lasted until many vital provinces were lost to Muslims in the 7th century. From 11th century onwards, the Empire underwent decline, dividing into many states in the 13th and 14th centuries before finally falling to the Ottomans in the 15th century.
Following the rapid expansion of the Muslim conquests in the 7th century, Muslim Moors of Berber and Arab descent attacked and conquered a portion of the Iberian Peninsula. This was followed by the establishment of Al-Andalus, a Muslim territory encompassing modern-day Spain, Portugal and for a brief period, Sicily as well. The Moors remained at war with their Christian neighbours for the next few centuries. However, their era was marked by rapid advancements in science, culture, architecture, literature, music and other fields, advancements which were later critical in bringing about the end of the European Dark Ages. The Christian kingdoms of Europe continued to fight against the Muslim rule in the region and after a protracted conflict continuing from the 8th century to the 15th century, the Moorish rule finally came to an end.
Reconquista collectively refers to the long and protracted struggle undertaken by different Christian European kingdoms to expel the Moors from the Iberian Peninsula. The Reconquista began soon after the arrival of the Moors on the Iberian soil. Initial victories by Christian forces included the routing of Muslim forces in the 1732 Battle of Tours by Charles Martel. This effectively halted the Muslim expansion in Western Europe. The cause was later championed by later Frankish rulers, including Charlemagne, who continuously sought to diminish the Muslim influence in Iberia. The conflict continued for nearly 800 years, heavily influencing the culture of Spain, Portugal and the surrounding territories. Later, the Church became aligned with the efforts of Christian states and encouraged a collective effort against Muslim rule. Muslim rule was significantly weakened following the decisive defeat of Almohads in the 13th century. The Reconquista continued until 1492 when the last Muslim kingdom in the region, the Emirate of Granada, fell to the monarchs of Castile.
The Viking period began in the late 8th century and is generally considered to have continued until the early 11th century. In the late 8th century, Vikings began raiding the regions of England as well as coastal regions of Western Europe. In time, they carved settlements for them in England, France, Iceland and Greenland, among other regions. In France, they were effectively given the control of the Duchy of Normandy by the 10th century. In England, they were able to create many different settlements of their own. Before the Norman Conquest of England, the country had two Viking Kings. By the 11th century, the raiding Vikings had settled down in different regions, specifically in Denmark, Sweden and in Normandy. The descendants of these Vikings in Normandy later came to be called the Normans and ushered in the Norman period in the 11th century.
Norman period is specifically concerned with the medieval England. Until the Vikings began raiding English shores, England had been effectively ruled by Anglo-Saxon aristocracy and kings. The Vikings briefly altered this by ascending to the English throne in the first half of the 11th century. The second half of the century permanently cemented this change when the Normans from French Normandy effectively conquered England. The conquest was accomplished under William The Conqueror in 1066 and replaced the Anglo-Saxon nobility of the country with a Norman aristocracy. The period ushered in a warring phase during which Anglo-Saxon fought against the invaders, in vain. Normans confirmed their rule by building castles, a kind of structure which came to be their lasting legacy.
The Tudor period began in 1485 and ended in 1603, concerned specifically with the English and Welsh territories. It featured some of the most prominent English monarchs, hailing from the Tudor dynasty. These included Henry VI, Henry VII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I. The most notable developments during the Tudor period was a break with the Roman Papacy, the increasing influence of Protestantism in English territories and the beginning of the English Renaissance which coincided with the ascent of the Tudor dynasty. The Tudor period came to an end in 1603 when Elizabeth I died without an heir.
Holy Roman Empire Period
The Holy Roman Empire is considered to have begun with the coronation of the Frankish King Charlemagne. He was crowned Emperor by the Pope in 800. Although the Empire soon fell apart after Charlemagne, it was restored and further expanded during Otto I’s reign in the 10th century. The Empire lasted a long time, all the way until the 19th century. One of the most remarkable things about the Empire was the development of electors who would in turn choose the King, a concept which evolved in the Empire far before any other medieval European entity. At its peak, the Empire comprised of the kingdoms of Germany, Burgundy, Italy and Bohemia. The Empire came to an end in 1806, although little of its original glory remained by this time.