History is the continuous record of public events and the study of nations. Mediaeval history bridges the classical and the modern and is that period from the end of the Roman Empire, through Charlemagne's Holy Roman Empire to the Renaissance. This neatly spans the European gaps in learning and stable government. Rome meant peace and security to Europeans and men tried to recreate that happy golden age. (Regrettably for the Europeans, Charlemagne was followed by more Dark Ages.) In this definition, family interests lean to an emphasis of the later mediaeval time-frame. The following is intended to give some baseline against which to note family motives, decisions and events.
By far the most significant event during this period was the empowerment of the Roman Catholic Church. The concept of Christendom is important to the understanding of subsequent events. By the act of personally crowning Charlemagne as the Holy Roman Emperor in 800 Pope Leo III had gained temporal power. Since the Pope created Charlemagne Emperor, he made the Church's support conditional upon the emperor's defence of the Church. Thus the Holy Roman Empire was built to define the limits of European Christianity. The Saxons were won to Christianity because Charlemagne gave them a choice - convert or the sword! The Church had had five equal patriarchies, but by 700 there were only two left with significance: Rome and Constantinople. (Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem had faded badly.) Given Pope Leo's coup with Charlemagne, the remaining Greek Patriarch was doomed to lose an unequal power struggle to an increasingly powerful European Pope.
Charlemagne is important because he revived secure empire, learning, and law. The great thinkers and scholars were all churchmen and included St Thomas Aquinas, Alcuin of York, Peter Lombard, Duns Scotus, and William of Occam. Learning was an important issue, because European knowledge had only just survived and only amongst remote religious centres, for example with the Irish monks. The pagan Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain undid much of Britain's Roman culture and Christianity, which later returned via Ireland and France. The Merovingian King Clovis and 3,000 Franks were baptised Christians in 496 at Reims. Because Charlemagne was a traditional Frank, on his death that empire was divided by Frankish custom amongst his three grandsons in the 843 'Partition of Verdun'. That partition ended centralised imperial civilisation, but more importantly it separated France from the Osterreich (Germany and modern Austria), with Italy and the Low Countries in the middle kingdom. The result has been historical European conflict.
However, despite this split of state, the church had been established as the heart of God's kingdom on earth. In recollection of earlier beliefs in pagan gods, men took religion seriously. Pope Gregory revived popular church music and is recalled in the Gregorian chant. Most Europeans did not understand it, but they accepted the Catholic Church as infallible and ceded literacy and education to the abbeys and monasteries for the next five hundred years. This breadth of power explains the success in raising the Crusades and in controlling European kings. In a sense, the same depth of religious passion explains historical Mackenzie-support of the Catholic Jacobites against the Protestant English.
Muhammed inspired rapid Arab expansion in the Middle East, Asia, North Africa, and Spain during the period 632 to 732 and the Moors set in motion a perceived need for Europe to defend itself. Charles Martel stopped the invasion on October 732 at the Battle of Tours, by defeating an army of the Umayyad Caliphate led by ‘Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi, Governor-general of al-Andalus. But the real European strong man was Charlemagne a descendant of Martel whose Christian empire became a bulwark against the Moors and Arabs.
Just prior to Charlemagne's coronation in 800 AD, the Chinese invention of printing had increased interest in paper making, which in turn spread to Europe. Alcuin of York organised an education system at Tours and initiated a Carolingian renaissance. In 911 the Abbey of Cluny was founded. Europe was filled with powerful forces of change; the Viking raids had just begun, the Moors and Arabs were challenging in the Mediterranean, and the Magyars would sweep into soft Europe from the east in another one hundred years. In 911 the Viking Rollo was granted the Duchy of Normandy and in 929 the Muslim Caliphate of Córdoba was created. After Charlemagne the Frankish empire declined and the Germans had proved their discipline, Otto I was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 926 in Rome to fill the vacuum.
The eighth and ninth century barbarian raiders were after the spoils of the Carolingian, and former Roman empires, wealthy abbeys and cities alike were vulnerable. Many churches held valuable gifts from former patrons,collected over the centuries: they were the immediate targets of pagan pillage. Since churches were usually populated by unarmed clergy that added to their vulnerability. The Vikings and Mongols were more feared than the Muslim Arabs.
The Danes and Norwegian Vikings were expert slave traders. The Viking slave trade was driven by the development of Afghani gold mines by the Caliph's Muslims. The Arab's new-found wealth was a perfect solution for Scandinavian fur-traders, who soon discovered a market for white slaves from Europe. The Danes, Norwegians and Swedes were known by a variety of names to their multi-lingual customers. Vikings were called: Northmen, or Normans in much of Europe; Varangians by the Greek Byzantines, and also Rhos/Rus. The name Rus, like the Finnish name for Sweden, is perhaps derived from an Old Norse term for men who row (rods-) as rowing was the main method of navigating the Russian rivers. Rus may be also linked to the Swedish province of Roslagen (Rus-law) or Roden, from which most Varangians came. Rus might then have the same origin as the Finnish and Estonian names for Swedes: Ruotsi and Rootsi.
Central authority crumbled and European society was changed forever. These attacks were repelled by the organised Byzantines in the Mediterranean and fought by the Germans and English, but French and Russian resistance evaporated. By the twelfth century feudalism was established to provide protection and freemen were widely replaced by bound serfs. Christian Europe had evolved by 1600 while Islam expanded through northern Africa and across the southern half of Asia to the edge of China and the Malay States.
With the German repulse of the Magyars in 955 a slow economic recovery began in Europe. During the period from 950 to 1100, the Christian churches, abbeys and monasteries gained tremendous wealth and became a political battleground for power. European monarchs and the Pope fought to control the bishops. German kings appointed bishops as instruments of government. This monarchical assumption of divine right derived from the Roman Emperors adoption of Christianity as a state religion and their assumed dual functions of Emperor and Pontius Maximus. A series of Church Synods was held to develop tactics and enable the Papal crusades.
The period was marked by great religious fervour and the construction of perhaps two thousand cathedrals and abbeys in one hundred years. Chartres was built by 15,000 people in one generation! England, Hungary, France, and the Slavic nations began to form during the second half of the tenth century. In this unsettled period, feudalism grew into the glue which held nations and alliances together against the powerful threatening forces of the raiders. In 969 Cairo was founded as a city, while Islam continued to expand. The Byzantine Empire was forced to act to defend itself against its neighbours and annexed Bulgaria in 1018 for one hundred and fifty years. In c1000, the Vikings colonised Greenland and tried to establish a colony in Newfoundland. (Viking maps were extraordinarily accurate and may have encorporated Chinese cartographic details. The disputed authenticity of the Vineland Map has been confirmed as having being made in 1420-1440 and is owned by Yale University.) In c950, Normans began to fight in Sicily and near Sorrento, Italy, and they began to plan their advance on England in 1002, with the marriage of King Ethelred II to Emma of Normandy. There was a Christian crisis in 1054 as the Latin and Greek churches struggled for power, which led to the later Crusades.
In 1066, William the Conqueror led his Normans in the conquest of England, and was a friend of our first direct British ancestor Sir Other FitzOthoere, and in 1078 William built the tower in his new capital in London. In 1030 a Norman was created Lord of Aversa, near Naples, Italy. Some of the south-eastern territory of Spoleto, namely Abruzzo, became part of the Norman Kingdom of Naples in the first half of the twelfth Century. The Turks took Baghdad and defeated the Byzantines, and the Moors ruled in Spain. Gregory VII was elected Pope and saw the danger to Christianity in both the kings who fought each other and wanted to control his Church, and the outside invaders. Without hesitation he chose to challenge the kings for power and control of the bishops. In 1096, responding to Pope Urban II's challenge, the Normans and French invaded Turkey and Syria and established the Crusader states. In c1100 the first major universities were established at Salerno, Bologna and Paris, and Chartres cathedral, completed in 1221, spread Gothic architecture.
In 1125, Germans pushed eastward and in 1154 Henry II became King of England and established the Angevin Empire in France and England. In 1171 Saladin conquered Egypt and then the Crusader kingdom in 1188. Religious rebellion was challenged in a French crusade against Albigensian heresy (derived from the Persian Mani c250 AD), of celibacy and dualism. The Manichean concept travelled with the Moors to Spain and southern France and non-spiritual aspects were deemed evil. Albigensians were the early Protestants.
While the Crusades continued, Europeans began to develop poetry and Batu Khan's Mongols began to move in Europe and Hülegü Khan conquered much of Asia. In 1215, the Magna Carta forced English King John to share power with his barons. This led directly to hereditary monarchies in Europe and the evolution of the feudal system, which gradually reserved felony law to the king. During the next fifty years, Thomas de Boulton was appointed sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1263, while the Mongols conquered China, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Bohemia and Persia, and Alexander Nievskiy fought off the German Teutonic Knights. Marco Polo visited Khubilai Khan's China, arriving in 1275, spectacles were invented in Italy and Switzerland came into being.
The struggle for power between the Italian City States and the Pope was then at its height. Continuing the monarchical fight for power with the popes, King Philip II of France hounded the wealthy Templars out of existence. Philip then established Clement V as Pope in a failed attempt to control him, while the Papacy moved to Avignon in 1309. In 1314, The Bruce defeated the English at Bannockburn and Ivan I began to re-establish Moscow and built the Kremlin. The English struggle in France began the Hundred Years War in 1337 and then the Black death ravaged Europe, killing one-third and remembered in the macabre children's rhyme:
around the Rosie, a pocket full of posie
The Plantagenets of England claimed to be the rightful kings of both France and England. The Plantagenets, also known as the House of Anjou, had their roots in the French regions of Anjou and Normandy. French armies fought on both sides, with Burgundy and Aquitaine providing notable support for the Plantagenets. The War actually lasted about 81 years, but was fought over a period of 116 years. The English lost all but the area of Calais. The War devastated France as a land, but it also awakened French nationalism. The Hundred Years' War accelerated the evolution of France from a feudal monarchy to a centralised state.
Marco Polo had visited China one hundred years earlier and brought back fabulous stories. In 1386, the Poles and Lithuanians united and the Lithuanians converted to Christianity. Ten years later the Scandinavians were united under the Union of Kalmar. Tamerlane invaded India, the Ottomans gained the Balkans, and then Tamerlane defeated the Ottomans in Anatolia. Chaucer, the first English poet died in 1400. While the Chinese began to navigate the Indian Ocean, the Poles defeated the Teutonic Knights at the Battle of Tannenberg in 1410 and Henry V of England beat the French at the Battle of Angincourt. Jeanne d'Arc led the French revival in 1428, Johannes Gutenberg printed the first book in 1445. England lost most of her continental lands in 1453, the same year that the Turks ended the Byzantine Empire. In 1478, Tsar Ivan III captured Novgorod and finally expelled the Mongols. This improved Baltic Hanseatic League trade which, despite poor European roads, led to economic and population growth. The principal European cities, except Paris, were then all in the south at Naples, Venice, Milan and Constantinople.
Monarchical recovery was under way in Spain with El Cid the repulse of the Arabs in Córdoba in 1236 and Cádiz in 1262, from the new kingdoms of Castille and Aragon. In 1492 Granada fell ending Muslim rule in Spain. This initiated the Inquisition, marked the Jewish expulsion, began Spanish attacks on North Africa and of course marked Columbus' daring voyage to America and heralded John Cabot's arrival in Nova Scotia. The Spanish and Portuguese divided the world between them in 1493 leading to the Spanish Americas and Portuguese colonies in Brazil, East Africa and Asia, while Habsburgs struggled with France for European hegemony.
The evolution of a powerful France, the growth of the middle class and peace created a great wealth to exploit new learning and artistic techniques. The era exploded in a frenzy of construction and expanded into the Renaissance. By this time a quiet revolution in technology had been completed. During the fifteenth century Europeans profited from their cumulative inheritance from the Crusades, including knowledge of other peoples and customs, ideas and education, travel, art and construction, new wealth and new social classes. Perhaps most importantly Europeans gained a sense of national identity. These factors propelled thinking forward to challenge: "...Beyond this place there be dragons..." Why should there be a limit to the world? Why should man not sail west? Navigation skills and new technologies developed, fundamentally changing the world after 1500.
The Italian Renaissance began in 1500 encouraging artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael and thinkers like Machiavelli. Modern diplomacy evolved to aid in the development of political relationships amongst the Italian City States. The slave trade began to bring cheap labour to develop America and the Caribbean, where the natives were decimated by European disease. Ten years later Martin Luther initiated the reformation of the Roman Catholic Church and changed Western faith. While Magellan explored the Pacific, Ottoman Turks and Suleiman the Magnificent reached their peak of power in capturing Belgrade in 1521.
For the next three hundred years Europeans were secure and imposed European culture and values on the world. England, soon to be called Britain, was well placed to exploit the opportunities. In 1500, the Spanish settled Hispaniola and thereby created a slave labour market. The newly arrived Spaniards - and other Europeans - killing off 90% of the local natives, who died from their exposure to European diseases.
The largest and wealthiest country was Ming China with 100 million people, Islam the fastest expanding religion. The area physically occupied by major civilisations was small, limited to plough cultivation; and three quarters of the world was inhabited by hunter-gatherers or hand cultivators. By 1800 all that had changed forever, with new European empires and Christianity spread (initially by the Portuguese and Spanish) around the globe. This European spread led to the migration of animals, like horses and sheep, and food. The plough was very productive and European food production increases led to modern population growths. Grain became a global staple; American tobacco, cotton and the rapidly growing sugar cane crops all led to world trade.
The age of exploration was rooted in new technologies and ideas growing out of the Renaissance. These included advances in cartography, navigation, firepower and shipbuilding. Many people wanted to find a route to Asia through the west of Europe. The most important development was the invention of first the carrack and then caravel in Portugal. These vessels evolved from mediaeval European designs with a fruitful combination of Mediterranean and North Sea designs and the addition of some Arabic elements. They were the first ships that could leave the relatively placid and calm Mediterranean and sail safely on the open Atlantic.
It was not until the carrack and then the caravel were developed in Iberia that European thoughts turned to the fabled East. The European economy was dependent on gold and silver currency, but low domestic supplies had plunged much of Europe into a recession. Another factor was the centuries long conflict between the Iberians and the Muslims to the south. The eastern trade routes were controlled by the Ottoman Empire after the Turks took control of Constantinople in 1453, and they barred Europeans from those trade routes. The ability to outflank the Muslim states of North Africa was seen as crucial to their survival. At the same time, the Iberians learnt much from their Arab neighbours. The carrack and caravel both incorporated the Arab lateen sail that made ships far more maneuverable. It was also through the Arabs that Ancient Greek geography was rediscovered, for the first time giving European sailors some idea of the shape of Africa and Asia.
The first great wave of expeditions was launched by Portugal under Prince Henry the Navigator. Sailing out into the open Atlantic the Madeira Islands were discovered in 1419, and in 1427 the Azores, both becoming Portuguese colonies. Henry's main project was exploration of the West Coast of Africa. For centuries the only trade routes linking West Africa with the Mediterranean world were over the Sahara Desert. These routes bringing slaves and gold were controlled by the Muslims of North Africa, long rivals to Portugal and Spain. It was the Portuguese hope that the Islamic nations could be bypassed by trading directly with West Africa by sea.
A series of bold discoverers joined Christopher Columbus in exploring the world: Vasco da Gama, John Cabot, Jacques Cartier, Francis Drake, Ferdinand de Magellan, John Davis and James Cook amongst many others. Exploration in the New World led to more slavery to work the new lands and the cross migration of animals and plants. The South American potato was introduced to Europe in 1525, while the Europeans introduced new diseases to the natives, killing off tens of millions. Cortés and Pizarro conquered the Aztec and Inca Empires and caused a river of silver and gold to flow to Spain.
The Tudors of England broke feudalism and also in 1534, Roman control of Catholicism. John Calvin initiated a reform church in Geneva seven years later. Ivan IV expanded Russian Muscovy into the Volga River basin, accelerated one hundred and fifty years later by Peter the Great. Religious wars, lasting thirty-six years, began in France while tobacco was introduced to Europe. Spain broke Turkish sea power in the Mediterranean in 1571, and the Dutch revolted against Spanish rule and gained independence in 1609. The English, led by Sir Francis Drake, defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588, no doubt with Divine assistance, since the wind was an English ally.
As early as 1510 slaves were brought to America to replace the natives, as many as 90% of whom were killed by diseases brought by Spanish Conquistadors. The majority of the slaves came from West Africa, tied and branded like cattle, by a sea voyage that was truly traumatic. Ship holds were described as slaughterhouses and slaves might not see daylight for one month. They were destined to work until dead. Although the Arabs initiated slavery in the eighth century, this forced migration was terrifying as most Africans had never seen the sea, came from advanced inland political and social cultures, and were brutally handled. Tribal African chiefs sold most slaves and the Portuguese had an initial trade monopoly over the Atlantic slave trade. Other slaves believed the white men were cannibals. They were not far wrong!
In 1600, both the Dutch and English East India Companies formed and in 1607 the first settlers arrived in Jamestown, Virginia; and the next year French colonists and Jésuit missionaries arrived in Québec. About 1610, a scientific revolution began in Europe with men like Kepler, Bacon, Galileo and Descartes. Shakespeare died in 1616 two years before the start of the Thirty Years War, which was ended by the Peace of Westphalia and the invention of the concepts of 'nation and state'.
The Puritans landed in Massachusetts in 1620, as newspapers began in Amsterdam. Five years later, the Dutch arrived in New Amsterdam, later called New York. Russia expanded to reach the Pacific in 1638 and four years later the English Civil War began. Dutch perfection in art was achieved with Rembrant, Vermeer and Rubens, when Harvard was founded in 1636. The Taj Mahal and St Peter's were finished 20 years later.
Empires and Republics
In the 1650s, the Anglo-Dutch wars broke Dutch power; and Poland lost the Ukraine to Russia, while Swedish power was at its height. Classical French culture began as the Sun King, Louis XIV expanded French power while fighting with England and Austria and then a 1689 coalition of states. The Turks arrived at the doors of Vienna in 1683 and Sir Issac Newton wrote his scientific Principia in 1687, the year before Constitutional Monarchy was instituted in England. With Polish help, the Habsburgs recovered Vienna and Hungary from the Turks. English and Scottish Union became law, Peter the Great founded St. Petersburg and defeated the Swedes and the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht ended Marlborough's Wars of Spanish Succession using Scots in the British army for the first time. All of this floated in Europe on the baroque music of Handel and Bach.
Renewal of fighting in Ohio in 1754 began the final hegemonic struggle between Britain and France of the Seven Years' War. This resulted in the wide-spread British victories at Québec, in the Caribbean at the Windward Islands, and in India at Plassey and Pondicherry. The Treaty of Paris signalled the French defeat in 1763 removing a unifying threat to colonial America. The French Period of Enlightenment began in parallel. Captain James Cook explored the Pacific and the Ottoman Empire declined leaving the insatiable Russia to annex the Crimea. Science advanced with Watt's steam engine, and Lavoisier's and Priestley's theories. Despite the advice of men like Sir William Johnson, British insensitivities and growing colonial independence led to the American Revolution and the War of Independence in 1775. Britain recognised American Independence in the Treaty of Paris of 1783 and six years later George Washington became the first President of the new United States of America. Unlike the old European states, this new state was based upon a constitution, which incorporated idealism and a series of fundamental 'Rights of Man'.
Publication of powerful theses, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Common Sense by Tom Paine, and Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant gave impetus to new ideas; and in 1789, the French Revolution began and Europe was changed forever. The feudal system was formally abolished and the rights of man enshrined as the French Republic was proclaimed in 1792. Napoleon seized power in 1799 and the Napoleonic Wars began in earnest in 1805 with his defeat of Austria and then Prussia, although Admiral Nelson won a reprieve for Britain at the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar.
With Napoleon defeated at Waterloo in 1815, the Congress of Vienna determined the future of France and the changed Europe. Castlereigh and Metternich proposed their separate agendas (to balance power in Europe, and to maintain the European monarchies) The Louisiana Purchase (not in the current state boundaries, but essentially all of Western America) doubled America in size. This land was bought from the desperate French who needed the money to prop up their state.
Pressed by the Napoleonic Wars, Britain ignored Tom Paine's advice of citizen rights, pushed parochial hegemony, snubbed American trade and made the tranquil Jefferson and the Americans cry for the War of 1812. The French and American republican experiences led to the beginning of the end of old European ways and the 1848 European Revolutions in Bismarck's Germany and Garibaldi's Italy - amongst others.
3 Modern Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country, with a 2008 population of ~235 million, of whom ~200 million are Muslims. The global total number of Muslims in 2008 was estimated at 1.6 billion.
4 The initial objection to the map's authenticity was in a flawed assessment that the ink used was not historically then available. This has since been refuted. The parchment has been the basis of confirmation of the map's age. The remaining objection appears to rest on the necessary prior circumnavigation of Greenland. It has been confirmed that the Chinese mapped the Ellesmere Island and Greenland passage by a Chinese squadron of Admiral Zhou Wen's circumnavigation of Greenland in c 1423. See Gavin Menzies 1421, pp. 345-357. It will be noted that while northern Greenland is today locked in ice, there has been confirmation that the summers of 1422-1428 were exceptionally warm prior to the mini ice age.See Menzies' op. cit. pp. 479-480. The Chinese claimed access to the area and DNA evidence confirms historical Chinese inter-marriage with the local natives.
13 Columbus' 1492 voyage coincides with the Inquisition, perhaps most popular in Catholic Spain where the Jews were persecuted, and the Sephardic Jewish arrival in north Africa and Turkey. The astrolabe was a key example of technological development and Sieur de Champlain's astrolabe was discovered near Ottawa.
14 Sir Francis Drake may have reached Vancouver Island in 1579, inspiring Cook and Vancouver's later voyages. Cook is notable for the health of his crews, who were free from potentially fatal scurvy, or vitamin C deficiency. He maintained stern discipline, and good nutrition and cleanliness. (See Chistopher Bayly, Atlas of the British Empire, p. 59.) By 1795, British sailors were issued with oranges, lemons and limes, from which they earned the label 'Limies'.
17 See CV Wedgewood, The Thirty Years War, p. 375. Charlemagne had created the Counts Palatine with a specific task to care for his palaces and castles used when the Holy Roman Emperor was travelling.
19 Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, the Struggle for Power and Peace, p. 192. He quotes verbatim Czar Nicholas I who telegraphed his cousin George V of Great Britain and asked for help to "...maintain the balance of power..." He also quoted Prime Minister Churchill at p. 196-197. Here, in 1936, Churchill explained to the Conservative Committee on Foreign Affairs: "...For four hundred years the foreign policy of England has been to oppose the strongest, most aggressive, most dominating power on the continent...[taking] no account of which nation... seeks the overlordship of Europe."
21 Russia's Czar Alexander I, the Austrian Prince Metternich and the English Lord Castlereagh were defeated in their attempt to reverse the republican liberal ideal and Benedetto Croce (amongst others) termed the Congress of Vienna era 'a victory over absolutism'. See Croce, History of Europe in the Nineteenth Century, p. 58. The title Czar is the Russian for Caesar.
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