History of the Ancient and Medieval World - Vol. 10

History of the Ancient and Medieval World - Vol. 10

History of the Ancient and Medieval World - Vol. 10

History of the Ancient and Medieval World - Vol. 10


Beginning with prehistory and continuing to the brink of the European Renaissance, this reference set offers readers comprehensive coverage of a diversity of ancient and medieval civilizations and cultures. In addition to the Greeks and Romans, it introduces readers to the Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Phoenicians, Jews, Hittites, among many others.


During the late Middle Ages in Europe the feudal system began to give way to large governments under stronger monarchs. Technology improved agriculture, cloth manufacture, and international trade. the economy was based on money rather than land, and the mercantile class thrived. Peasants bought independence from less wealthy lords. Growing cities throughout Europe were granted a measure of self-government and independence from feudal lords.

Kings increased control by taking the cities under their protection, as in France during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. in Italy, on the other hand, the cities of the north became independent states and formed an alliance against the German emperor and the pope. the mercantile cities of Germany also formed strong alliances. the Hanseatic League colonized much of the eastern Baltic coast and monopolized trade in the Baltic until the fifteenth century, bringing wealth to Scandinavia as well as conflict with the Scandinavian kings. Meanwhile, the princes of the smaller German states retained their power and were responsible for electing an emperor dependent upon their support.

The popes of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries unified the western church and encouraged Crusades to win the Holy Land back from the Muslims. Monasteries increased, and in the thirteenth century new religious movements focused on cities and the conquest of the Holy Land, with Franciscans and Dominicans preaching in cities. in the Holy Land, knights dedicated to the protection of Crusaders and Pilgrims formed the orders of the Hospitalers and the Templars, major political forces in the west. Popes opposed emperors, and two, sometimes three different popes were elected, leaving western Christendom without a clear leader. England had unified in the eleventh century under Edward the Confessor, with the Norman Conquest of 1066 tying England to territories in France. in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries conflict broke out several times between England and France for control of these regions. the devastating Hundred Years' War ended in the fifteenth century with France gaining control over most of the territories.

The fourteenth century saw famine and the Black Plague, often seen as divine punishment for the inability of Christianity to unite and control the Holy Land. Jews, who had frequently suffered the wrath of overzealous Christians during the Crusades, were accused of poisoning wells and were banished from parts of Europe.

By the end of the fourteenth century, the borders of the early modern period had been drawn. the new kingdom of Burgundy, incorporating much of the Netherlands, was a center of culture. Northern Italian cities fostered learning and the arts. Monarchs ruled welldefined territories, codifying laws that applied over the entire realm and creating centralized governments. Throughout Europe a renewed interest in classical learning and a humanistic focus in the arts led to the Renaissance, while continued dissent within the Church would lead to the Reformation and religious wars in the north.

Ellen M. Shortell, Assistant Professor of Art History Department of Critical Studies Massachusetts College of Art, Boston . . .

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