Bruce Morrison » The Formation of Western Europe, 800–1500

The Formation of Western Europe, 800–1500

Europeans embark on the Crusades, develop new commercial and political systems, and suffer through bubonic plague and the Hundred Years' War.


Section 1: Church Reform and the Crusades

Section 2: Changes in Medieval Society

Section 3: England and France Develop

Section 4: The Hundred Years’ War and the Plague


Section 1: Church Reform and the Crusades

The Catholic Church undergoes reform and launches Crusades against Muslims.


The Age of Faith


Spiritual Revival

  • Starting in 900s, monasteries help bring about a spiritual revival
  • Reformers help restore and expand Church power


Problems in the Church

  • Some Church officials marry even though the Church objects
  • Some officials practicesimony—selling religious offices
  • Kings use lay investiture to appoint bishops
  • Reformers believe only the Church should appoint bishops


Reform and Church Organization

  • Starting in 1100s, popes reorganize Church like a kingdom
  • Pope’s advisors make Church laws; diplomats travel throughout Europe
  • Church collectstithes; uses money to care for sick, poor


New Religious Orders

  • Dominican and Franciscan orders form
  • Friars in these orders vow poverty; travel and preach to the poor
  • Some new orders for women are founded


Cathedrals—Cities of God


Early Cathedrals

  • Between 800–1100, churches are built in Romanesque style
  • Style includes thick walls and pillars, small windows, round arches


A New Style of Church Architecture

  • Gothic style evolves around 1100; term from Germanic tribe, Goths
  • Gothic style has large, tall windows for more light; pointed arches
  • Churches have stained glass windows, many sculptures
  • About 500 Gothic churches are built from 1170 to 1270






The Crusades


The Beginning of the Crusades

  • In 1093, Byzantine emperor asks for help fighting the Turks
  • Pope Urban II issues a call for aCrusade—a “holy war”


Goals of the Crusades

  • Pope wants to reclaimJerusalemand reunite Christianity
  • Kings use the Crusades to send away knights who cause trouble
  • Younger sons hope to earn land or win glory by fighting
  • Later, merchants join Crusades to try to gain wealth through trade


The First and Second Crusades

  • Pope promises Crusaders who die a place in heaven
  • First Crusade: three armies gather at Constantinople in 1097
  • Crusaders capture Jerusalem in 1099
  • Captured lands along coast divided into four Crusader states
  • Muslims take back Edessa in 1144; Second Crusade fails to retake it
  • In 1187Saladin—Muslim leader and Kurdish warrior—retakes Jerusalem


The Third Crusade

  • Third Crusade led by three powerful rulers
  • One isRichard the Lion-Hearted—king of England
  • Phillip II of France abandons Crusade after arguing with Richard
  • Frederick I of Germany drowns during the journey
  • In 1192 Richard and Saladin make peace after many battles
  • Saladin keeps Jerusalem but allows Christian pilgrims to enter city


The Crusading Spirit Dwindles


Later Crusades

  • Fourth Crusade: Crusaders loot Constantinople in 1204
  • Two other Crusades strike Egypt, but fail to weaken Muslims


The Children’s Crusade

  • In 1212 thousands of children die or are enslaved in failed crusade


A Spanish Crusade

  • Most of Spain controlled by Moors, a Muslim people
  • Christians fightReconquista—drive Muslims from Spain, 1100 to 1492
  • Spain hasInquisition—court to suppress heresy; expels non-Christians


The Effects of the Crusades


The Crusades Change Life

  • Crusades show power of Church in convincing thousands to fight
  • Women who stay home manage the estate and business affairs
  • Merchants expand trade, bring back many goods from Southwest Asia
  • Failure of later crusades weakens pope and nobles, strengthens kings
  • Crusades create lasting bitterness between Muslims and Christians

Section 2: Changes in Medieval Society

The feudal system declines as agriculture, trade, finance, towns, and universities develop.


A Growing Food Supply


Changes in Agriculture

  • From 800 to 1200 the climate warms, opening more land to farming
  • Changes in technology result in more food production


Switch to Horsepower

  • Harnessed horses replace oxen in pulling plows and wagons
  • Horses plow three times as much a day, increasing food supply


The Three-Field System

  • Around 800three-field systemused—plant two fields, let one rest
  • This produces more food and leads to population increase


The Guilds


Development of Guilds

  • Guildsdevelop—organization of people in the same occupation
  • Merchant guilds begin first; they keep prices up, provide security
  • Skilled artisans, men and women, form craft guilds
  • Guilds set standards for quality, prices, wages, working conditions
  • Guilds supervise training of new members of their craft
  • The wealth of guilds influences government and economy


Commercial Revolution


Fairs and Trade

  • Europe seesCommercial Revolution—changes in business and trade
  • Trade fairs are held several times a year in towns
  • Trade routes open to Asia, North Africa, and Byzantine ports


Business and Banking

  • Merchants develop credit to avoid carrying large sums of money
  • Merchants take out loans to purchase goods, and banking grows


Society Changes

  • Economic changes lead to the growth of cities and of paying jobs


Urban Life Flourishes


Growing Urban Population

  • 1000–1150, Europe’s population rises from 30 million to 42 million
  • Most towns are small, but they help drive change


Trade and Towns Grow Together

  • Towns are uncomfortable: crowded, dirty, full of fire hazards
  • Serfs can become free by living in a town for a year and a day

Merchant Class Shifts the Social Order

  • Feudal lords tax and govern towns, causing resentment
  • Towns are taken over byburghers—town merchants


The Revival of Learning


The Muslim Connection

  • Christian scholars read translations of Greek works made by Muslims
  • Crusaders return with Muslim knowledge of navigation, ships, weapons


Scholars and the University

  • Groups of scholars gather to teach and learn; form universities
  • Written works not in Latin but invernacular—everyday language


Aquinas and Medieval Philosophy

  • Thomas Aquinas, a religious scholar, mixes Greek and Christian thought
  • He is ascholastic—university man; debates issues to increase knowledge


Section 3: England and France Develop

As the kingdoms of England and France begin to develop into nations, certain democratic traditions evolve.


England Absorbs Waves of Invaders


Early Invasions

  • Danish Vikings invade England throughout the 800s
  • Alfred the Great and his successors gradually unite England
  • Danish king Canute invades in 1016, uniting Vikings and Anglo-Saxons


The Norman Conquest

  • In 1066, England is invaded for last time by William the Conqueror
  • He defeats his rival for English crown, becomes king
  • William keeps one-fifth of land; hands out rest to supporters


England’s Evolving Government


King and Vassal

  • English rulers’ goal: to control lands in both England and France
  • Henry II—king of England—gains more French land through marriage
  • Henry is king in England and a vassal in France


Juries and Common Law

  • Henry sends judges to all parts of England and institutes juries
  • The judges’ decisions form Englishcommon law—unified body of laws
  • Common law forms the basis of law in many English-speaking countries


The Magna Carta

  • In 1215 English nobles force King John to sign Magna Carta
  • Magna Carta—limits king’s power and guarantees basic political rights
  • English people argue the rights are for all people, not just nobles

The Model Parliament

  • In 1295, Edward I summons wealthy townsmen and knights to raise taxes
  • Together with bishops and lords, they form aparliament—legislative body
  • Parliament has two houses: House of Lords, House of Commons


Capetian Dynasty Rules France


The End of the Carolingians

  • New French dynasty founded byHugh Capet—a duke from central France
  • TheCapetiansrule France from Paris from 987–1328


France Becomes a Separate Kingdom

  • Early Capetians are weak rulers; gradually kings become stronger


Philip II Expands His Power

  • Philip II—a powerful Capetian, rules 1180–1223
  • Philip expands land controlled by French king
  • He establishes bailiffs to collect taxes and run courts


Philip II’s Heirs

  • 1226 to 1270 grandson Louis IX strengthens the central government
  • 1285 to 1314 Philip IV rules; questions pope’s authority in France
  • Philip calls meeting of lords and bishops to support his policies
  • He decides to include commoners in the meeting



  • The meeting is called theEstates-General
  • Participants in the council come from France’s three Estates

-First Estate—Church leaders

-Second Estate—lords

-Third Estate—commoners, landholders, merchants


Beginnings of Democracy

  • England and France begin to establish a democratic tradition
  • A centralized government is created to rule widespread lands
  • Common law and court system support a central government
  • Commoners included in decision making


Section 4: The Hundred Years’ War and the Plague

In the 1300s, Europe was torn apart by religious strife, the bubonic plague, and the Hundred Years’ War.


A Church Divided


Pope and King Collide

  • In 1300, Pope Boniface VIII asserts authority over France’s Philip IV
  • Philip has him imprisoned; pope dies soon after




Avignon and the Great Schism

  • In 1305, French pope is chosen; moves toAvignon—city in France
  • In 1378, two popes chosen—one in Rome, one in Avignon
  • Each declares the other false, causing split calledGreat Schism
  • In 1417, Council of Constance ends schism, chooses Martin V as pope


Scholars Challenge Church Authority

  • EnglishmanJohn Wycliffeargues Jesus is head of the Church, not pope
  • Wycliffe preaches against wealth and worldliness of clergy
  • Wycliffe inspires English translation of New Testament
  • Jan Hus—Bohemian professor—teaches that Bible is final authority
  • Hus is excommunicated, tried as a heretic, burned at stake in 1415


The Bubonic Plague Strikes


Origins and Impact of the Plague

  • In 1300s, Europe suffersbubonic plague—extremely deadly disease
  • Begins in Asia; spreads to Italy and other countries over trade routes
  • About one-third of Europe’s population dies in the epidemic


Effects of the Plague

  • Town populations fall, trade declines, prices rise
  • Some serfs leave manors for paying work
  • Many Jews blamed and killed; Church suffers weakened stature


The Hundred Years’ War


England and France

  • Hundred Years’ War—lasts from 1337–1453, between England and France
  • English king Edward III claims French throne
  • War marks the end of medieval society; change in style of warfare


The Longbow Changes Warfare

  • In 1346, English army with longbows beats much larger French army
  • The English win other victories with longbows in 1356 and 1415
  • Victory of longbows signals end of reliance on knights


Joan of Arc

  • Joan of Arc—French peasant girl who believes in visions of saints
  • She leads French army to victory at Orléans; Charles VII crowned king
  • In 1430 England’s allies, the Burgundians, capture Joan in battle
  • The Church condemns Joan as a witch and heretic
  • On May 30, 1431, she is burned at the stake


The Impact of the Hundred Years’ War

  • Hundred Years’ War ends in 1453
  • France and England experience major changes

-rise in nationalistic feelings; king becomes national leader -power and prestige of French monarch increases -religious devotion and the code of chivalry crumbles

  • England begins period of turmoil, War of the Roses