The medieval period was a period in European history that lasted from the end of the 5th century until the end of the 15th century. It started after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and ended with the start of the Renaissance.
The medieval period was often referred to as the period of ignorance because of the dominance of religious activities over rationalism. The Medieval Period is typically divided into three sub-periods: the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages. Following are some of the most important events of the period.
The decline of the Roman Empire began due to the failure of the empire to implement its rule. It began in 376 and continued till the end of the 4th century. Major territorial losses of the empire had begun in 376 with the invasion of Goths and other Germanic tribes.
The vast territories of the empire had to be subdivided and Roman Empire was unable to control its western provinces. Barbarians had gained power in most of Western Europe. Ultimately, a number of reasons contributed to the fall of the Western Roman Empire such as barbaric incursions, military rule, corruption, and economic problems.
On 30th April, 711, the conquest of Spain was launched by the Muslim General Tariq Bin Ziyad during the caliphate of Caliph Al Walid I. His army conquered most of the Iberian Peninsula which came under the rule of the Umayyad Caliphate.
The key battle of this campaign was the Battle of Guadalete where Rodrick, the last Visigoth king, was decisively defeated. Following the Muslim conquest, Spain reached its cultural peak. The era of Islamic rule contributed to society in the form of libraries, schools, laboratories, literature, astronomy, medicine, poetry, and architecture.
Charlemagne, or Charles the Great, ruled most of Western Europe from 768 to 814. He was crowned by Pope Leo III in 800 CE for his contribution to restoring the Roman Empire in the west.
The coronation restored the Roman Empire in the west after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century. Charlemagne contributed to the cultural revival in Europe.
Being a devoted Christian, he provided resources for the protection of the church and Papacy, also laying the foundations of the Holy Roman Empire. He promoted education and ushered in an era of economic as well as political stability.
The Great Schism, also known as East-West Schism, was the separation of Eastern Orthodox from the Western Catholic Church over theological and political differences.
The Great Schism was both a religious and political conflict. The political conflict was whether the pope had authority over the patriarchs or not. In 1053, Greek churches were forced to close in Southern Italy. In retaliation, orders were given by the patriarch of Constantinople Michael Celularius for the closure of Latin churches in Constantinople in 1054.
The Norman Conquest of England was the invasion and occupation of England in 1066 by the army of Normans, Breton, Flemish, and French. These forces were led by William the conqueror. The conquest was significant in the history of England because it connected England more closely to Europe.
It also brought an end to the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy that had reigned in Britain for centuries. As a result of this conquest, the English aristocracy was eliminated. Anglo-Saxon bishops were also replaced by Norman bishops. Land tenure and military service were introduced and natives were removed from high government positions.
In 1095, Pope Urban II called upon the Christians to wage war against Muslims and get back the Holy Land. The first crusade lasted from 1095 to 1099 and was launched by Western Europe under the command of Pope Urban II.
Its aims were to recapture most of the parts of Anatolia and free Jerusalem from Muslim rule. Seljuk Turks had taken control of parts of Anatolia and this crusade was fought to bring the holy land back under Christian control. The crusade recaptured Jerusalem as well as many parts of Anatolia and established Crusader states.
Magna Carta was a document drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury in order to make peace between the English king and rebels in 1215. It was originally issued by King John of England and stated that everyone including the king was subject to the law.
Some of the clauses of this document included protection of church rights, freedom of free trial and justice, declaration of human rights, and protection from illegal imprisonment. Though this document was reissued and rewritten repeatedly in modern times, it still remains as a foundation in the British constitution.
The Hundred Years’ War was a series of conflicts fought between the Kingdom of England and France from 1337 to 1453. Both sides had allies and five generations of kings fought for the thrones in the two kingdoms.
During these 116 years of war, many major battles were fought including the Battle of Crécy in 1346 and the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Overall, the English gained more decisive victories over the French during the war.
This war had disastrous outcomes including the decimation of populations, famine, and plague (Black Death).
The Black Death, also known as The Plague, was an epidemic that spread across Europe from 1346 to 1351. It eventually reached Russia as well.
In human history, it was the most devastating pandemic that resulted in the deaths of almost 75 to 200 million people across Europe. 30% to 60% of Europe’s population was killed because of the plague.
The Fall of Constantinople was the Conquest of Constantinople by Sultan Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire on May 29, 1453. With this victory, the Byzantine Empire came to an end. The Ottoman army invaded the city and breached the ancient land wall of Constantinople after besieging the city for 55 days.
The capture of the city ended the Roman Empire that had lasted for almost 1500 years. This invasion opened ways for the Ottoman army to expand into Eastern Europe. The capture of the city made the Ottomans an important power in Southeastern Europe and changed the geopolitical situation in the Mediterranean.