1. After the fall of Rome, Feudalism took hold as the new form of political organization instead of kings and local nobility. As a result, there was no longer a strong government to maintain the quality and safety of roads and bridges for public use and ravel became dangerous and even more difficult. The lords who stood at the top of the Feudalism hierarchy did not need trade to run their manors as most were self-sustaining, so none tried to improve the traveling situation. This caused traveling among the general populous to decrease, and in turn, trading decreased.
2. The first “Holy Roman Emperor” was Charlemagne although he was originally crowned as “Emperor of the Romans” before the Roman Empire fell. He was dubbed “Holy Roman Emperor” after the Holy Roman Empire rose. The Roman Catholic Church was one of the sole central and unifying establishments in the Roman Empire and later in the Holy Roman Empire. This allowed The Church to establish authority over all the earthly political figures. Charlemagne was titled “Holy Roman Emperor” because Pope Leo III, a member of the Roman Catholic Church, had crowned him.
3. As opposed to the Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire was neither Roman, holy nor an empire. It was actually a federation of German tribal states. The Roman Empire had a strong central government while the Holy Roman Empire had weak kings and strong lords that ruled independently from each other. Economically and socially, the Roman Empire thrived with education and trade in its golden years. Reversely, The Holy Roman Empire saw a decrease in trade, travel and learning.
4. The Holy Roman Empire was essentially controlled by the Church. The Roman Catholic Church claimed authority over political figures under the guise of heaven being superior to earth. It remained a unifying institute both politically and socially in the Empire. The Pope held the position of Emperor, local parish priests attended to local communities, bishops became archbishops and the College of Cardinals eventually held a legislative position equal to that of the Roman Senate. Furtherly, the church had its own law, court and Cardinals elected new Popes while the general populous attended the Church.
5. Feudalism was the new form of political, social and economic organization after the fall of the Roman Empire. The organization was based on several connecting relationships. At the top of the power flow, Kings gave land to lords, known as vassals, who had knights. In return, lords and their knights would grant military aid or another service to the king. Knights were sometimes given land, but only serfs did the hard labor. Serfs were almost slaves as they included prisoners of war, but there was also a group of free people who made up the middle class and held artisan, craftsmen and merchant professions.
6. Strong kings and central government were generally missing due in large part to feudalism. This new political organization led to the development of self-sustaining manors that resembled small towns all ruled by different lords. Manors competed with each other. There were so many lords and none of them wanted to risk losing power by listening to the king and due to the constant in-fighting, the manors were hard to control. The Church also controlled politics and they risked losing power if a strong king was crowned, so many forces actively worked against central government.
7. The benefit of feudalism was the protection granted by the king in exchange for services as traveling around was very dangerous. However, servicing the king was a longtime commitment and people became bound to the king, almost as slaves. It was very hard to rise socially in feudalism; people were born as what they would be for the rest of their lives. The poor and unhealthy were given menial jobs while lords and nobles benefited the most from feudalism.
8. The Church was the only place of knowledge at a time in the Dark Ages in which education was rare. It was a religious learning center that allowed people to become scholars and preserve history and philosophy, one of the only places in which someone could rise in social status. Christian religion and church was also a link to God. The seven sacraments provided codes to live by and it brought people together under common beliefs. The church could punish those who did not abide by the rules, so God was always a prominent figure in day to day life.
9. When most of the general population went to church, they were linked to God and were expected to follow God’s rules. Those who received the seven sacraments and did good things both in and out of church kept them constantly connected to God in hopes of getting into heaven after death. Those who wished to rise socially also had to do it through God. In addition, the social pressures of Church kept people devoted to it so they would not be abandoned by friends and family.
10. The Church used excommunication to ensure that people received the seven sacraments and followed doctrine unless they wanted to be cut off from the church. They also used interdiction on a larger scale. The Church could punish entire areas by withholding and barring sacraments from being performed. Doctrine said that one must have the seven sacraments or they would not go to heaven, so excommunication and interdiction were very effective in keeping people in line through fear.
11. During the Dark Ages, no government was in place to sponsor education. The education, learning and knowledge of Europe was preserved by the Roman Catholic Church. Monasteries were the only places that preserved ancient writings and the history of Rome and Greece. People went to monasteries to become monks and to become scholars. As there was no other place to do this, the Church was the sole institution in which knowledge and philosophy thrived.
12. The dominant philosophy of the late Middle Ages was scholasticism. It’s most outstanding spokesman was St. Thomas Aquinas. Scholasticism attempted to balance new knowledge and religion. However, under this philosophy, if new knowledge and religion contradicted each other, religion was always correct because religious knowledge was considered to never be incorrect. This philosophy perpetuated the religiously-centered life and culture of the Middle Ages even as it attempted to bring science into the mix. 3. The estates of Medieval Europe were called the First Estate, the Second Estate and the Third Estate. The First Estate is comprised of ordained officers of the church and it started a separate class by claiming authority from God while the Second Estate was comprised of warriors who were part of the nobility The Third Estate was comprised of everyone else, mostly the poor, who had no power. However, after a new economy rose, members of the Third Estate became more wealthy and more powerful than the nobility in the Second Estate.
In modern society, there are classes that people can move up from through hard work, but estates did not allow individuals to rise in wealth or status. 14. The guild system was developed by traders and merchants to keep the quality and cost of services and goods and allow craftsmen and merchants to run their own businesses and control trade. Under guilds, someone started a new practice out of the existing guilds as an Apprentice, being taught the craft under a master. After years of work, Apprentices became Journeymen and then Journeymen can apply to become a guild master and open his own business.
This led to a rigid class structure and eventually formed a growing “middle class” that did not belong in the old estates. The guild system caused an economic shift that the current political and social organizations were not made to handle. 15. Guilds improved the lives of freeman by giving them a community and structure for business practices where they could work for a higher standard of living as opposed to endless manual labor on manors. Guilds improved business and trade by having a rigid hierarchy. Trade was more reliable and the good were higher quality so more people bought the goods.
Guilds also restricted business growth by having a strict social class. People could not start their own businesses until they met certain criteria and years of experience, so not many businesses existed. 16. The bourgeoisie were the growing “middle class” that did not fit into the estate system. The bourgeoisie were also called burghers or burgesses. The merchants and craftsmen that set up and participated in the guild system laid the foundation this new class. It soon included free men who elevated their class by entering practices and no longer fit into the rigid, unmoving restrictions of the feudal system.
17. At the end of the Middle Ages, the Crusades had killed many lords and so more land was given to fewer people. More cities and towns relied on the King for protection in exchange for paying higher taxes. Merchants also supported kings for protection and trade enterprises that would make trade more fruitful and simple. The King now had more money and influence to regulate the remaining lords who once ignored his authority. Kings used this power and control to create modern armies to protect commerce, once again establishing a strong central government that protected everyone under its rule.