The period of 1000-1300 is known in the history as the High Middle Ages. During that time, Europe experienced a lot of changes. It became closer to the rest of the world due to the trade, underwent political and social changes and waged war against the Islamic empire.
During that period, the trade routes began to expand, especially the sea ones. The modernization of ships, the invention of the needle compass and the improvement of mapmaking promoted the development of the sea trade. This type of trade gave opportunities to carry more goods for lower price and it made it possible to reach practically every country. Many trade routes were located in Europe. A lot of trade centers appeared near them and became the places where the merchants brought various goods from the distant countries. In this way, Europe became closer to other cultures. Europeans bought silks from China, perfumes and gemstones from India, books from Arabic countries, kola nuts, malaguetta peppers, salt and gold from Sub-Saharan Africa. Thus the trade became the crucial factor in promoting the integration of the world (Tignor et al., 2010).
After the fall of the Roman and Charlemagne’s empires Europe was extremely decentralized politically. There was not a strong man who would have enough power, money and army to unite it and to govern the lands successfully. Consequently, the Vikings began to attack Europe. Moreover, there was no central authority to defend the peasantry against the local warlords. These warlords began to govern the society. They carried guns, forced the peasants to work all day long and collected high taxes. Within this period of warrior aristocracy, northern France became the leading country. Not so long time ago, the rich peasants had carried the weapons themselves and now they were deprived of that right. They were no longer free. Each peasant had to work hard under control of his/her lords. This situation was the introduction of the system of feudalism. This system meant that monarchs and lords gave land to loyal liegemen (vassals). In return, the latter ensured that their lands would be governed well, the law would be obeyed, the land would be cultivated and peasants would work hard. As a rule, the vassals divided their territory into the smaller units and appointed people they could trust and who coped with work quite well. In this way, feudalism became the main political system of that time. The vassals turned into aristocratic class. At the top of the feudal system was the monarch. Below the monarch were the mighty aristocrats (or the nobles) and below them were lesser aristocrats. The nobles’ task was to maintain the political leadership because they were connected to the monarch on the basis of landownership. The feudal aristocracy also played a crucial role in a military sphere because they recruited the simple peasants to the army. Besides, they became the part of the armored cavalry (knights) themselves. Only few could afford to become a knight because the weapons and the training were very expensive. They had their own rules. According to them, a knight had to be a Catholic warrior, to be loyal to his lord and to treat the lower class with respect and justice. In reality, that code was broken very often and the knights behaved not in a decent manner (“State and Society in the High Middle Ages”, n.d.).
The peasants were the biggest part of the feudal system. They were called serves. Theoretically, the peasants were not slaves but still they did not have freedom and they had a lot of duties and inhibitions. They were not allowed to change their work or place of living without the lord’s permission. Besides, most of their time they had to work for the lord and not for themselves. They had to give to the lord a huge part of their cattle and harvest. Moreover, the peasants had to pay fees for using the landlord’s equipment. All the time, they had to be ready that they could be sent to the army. Consequently, the peasants’ life was very difficult at that time (Gale, 2008).
During that period, northern Europe witnessed the agrarian development. New tools like plows and axes were introduced. As a result, the territories from England to Poland became well-developed. Concerning the Eastern Europe, a lot of farmers from northern Germany, Flanders and Holland emigrated here because it promised vast lands and freedom from feudal lords. The elites of the Eastern Europe – the aristocracy of Bohemia, Poland, Baltic, and Hungary, wanted to have a better life and correspond to the French. That intention could be fulfilled only if they had enough labor power, so they began to offer better conditions to farmers from the Northern Europe for them to move to their territories (Tignor et al., 2010).
In 1000-1300, Christianity became the major thing that united the whole Europe. The churches and monasteries began to be built everywhere. Religion pervaded each sphere of life. The different cultures felt the sense of unity due to the common religion and began to consider themselves as Europeans. But Catholicism was not a tolerant religion and it treated adherents of other religions, especially Jews and Muslims, with hatred and atrocity (Kidner et al., 2014).
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As for the Russian lands, they became the border between Asia and Europe. Many trade routes were located there. At that times, a country called Kievan Rus was located there and its main city Kyiv became very large and famous. In the religious life, these lands tended to Byzantium. After schism they adhered to the Orthodox religion, which took a model of the Byzantine religious traditions and the majority of their churches were built in the “Byzantine” style (Tignor et al., 2010).
During the period of 1000-1300, some important events took place. Among them were the Crusades. The reason for the First Crusade was that the Byzantine Empire asked Pope Urban II for help in struggle against the Islamic Empire, which had captured Jerusalem. The Byzantine Emperor began to spread gossips about the Turkish barbarities and cruelties in the Holy Land. As a result, Pope Urban II appealed to the knights and asked them to protect Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the invaders. Recently, the war had been a sin, and now the clergy turned it into a good thing and told the knights that the war would clear the sins of those who waged it. The First Crusade began in 1095. In 1096, a huge army covered a large distance from northwest of Europe to Jerusalem. In 1099, it reached Jerusalem and came into the city. The soldiers were very atrocious and slaughtered all the Muslims and Jews. This event is considered to be one of the cruelest episodes in the world history. After the First Crusade, only a small amount of people stayed in Jerusalem to defend the city while the rest returned home. All in all, there were five Crusades during the two centuries. Each of them was an answer to a successful Muslim campaign. After 1200, the Crusades began to suffer defeats. In 1291, the European army left its last outpost (Acre) in the Middle East (Kidner et al., 2014).
The Crusades did not always pursue the religious purpose. They were organized to expand the territory because the population growth made it difficult to feed everyone. Besides, the feudal lords wanted to obtain lands free from the monarch’s authority. The peasants participated in the Crusades to escape the villeinage. Evidently, the religious reason of the Crusades was only the concealment of real intentions (The Crusades, n.d.).
In summary, during the High Middle Ages, many things occurred in Europe. The new feudal system was established and new tools that promoted the agrarian development were invented. Due to this development, Europe managed to established trade contacts with other cultures. Besides, religion began to play a great role in daily life and became the key reason for the war against the Islamic empire.