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Summary of High Middle Ages Vs Dark Ages: Literatue, History and Education

Summary of High Middle Ages:

High Middle Ages History:

Summary of High MIddle Ages includes: The High Middle Ages were the time period between the 11th and 12th century known as the Greek Ages, Summary of High Middle Agesand was also referred to as the High Medieval Period. The High Middle Ages were before the Early Middle Ages, then the Late Middle Ages, which conventionally ended around the 15th century, some scholars have, however, declared that this period of the High Middle Ages extended as much as another 150 years. (Snell, 2016) Additionally, these ages have also been regarded as the dark ages, because of a supposed absence of cultural and technological advancement. A controversial aspect of this period is the significance of the archaeological evidence collected from (Greek Iron Age) sites, and diverse scholarly debates on the topic, to bring forward ideas to whether this time frame was indeed dark in the ancient Greek history, or whether it was shadowed, or better still, a period of enlightenment. Since, the High Middle Ages come with riveting tales and dramatic commentary from various historians; the Dark Ages provide fascinating opinions of the critical historical era that exist between the main glory of Rome and the onset of the Medieval era.

First, these ages experienced the spread of Christianity throughout Europe with rulers like Clovis and Charlemagne who converted many lands. As much as the period experienced increase in the propagation of Christianity, religious superstition was distributed at the time. These were period whereby the Catholic Church was extremely institutionalized, and usually negated the cultural and scientific advancement the Roman and Greek had pioneered. (Vallejo) Moreover, this was also a period the Catholic Church became a very powerful institution of the medieval period. Rulers at the time, including the Kings, queens, and many other leaders derived much of their power from the confederation of the Church. (“History.com”) For instance, Pope Leo III named the Frankish king Charlemagne, the “Emperor of the Romans,” which was the first since the empire fall for more than 300 years before the time. Over time, Charlemagne’s kingdom the Holy Roman Empire, a major political entity in Europe with basic interests having the tendency of aligning with those of the church. (“History.com) Furthermore, the belief of the church was based on the reform logic which proceeded to require the Pope being supremely recognized as the controller of the entire church through an influential administration in Rome. And the church in person of the Pope is provided with the freedom untrammeled by all elite laymen in any ecclesiastical matters. (“Sparknotes.com”) Basically, the Church started to demand that there shouldn’t be any secular political interference with respect to investiture of bishops or popes nomination. This policy then led to the Church finding itself in continuing disagreement with secular kings, especially the German monarchy. However, this desire against the Charlemagne who controlled the church led to an exacerbated desire to conflicts on the political and intellectual level, but also inspires the monarchs to assist both Christianization along the campaigns and margins against internal heretics. (“Sparknotes.com”) Thus, Christianity grew bigger, but had some myths which were believed at the time.

High Middle Ages Education:

Importance was laid on education during the High Middle Ages. Asides the fact that the Church was a true place for learning activities, where the curriculum of studies were organized, testing and marking system were developed and the students were guided through their studies, universities gradually emerged in larger cities, and this began to attract the attention of young nobles who chose to study and understand new ideas about the immediate world around them. Naturally, this implied that towns became equally more crowded than it used to be, and a bit noisier. But, students yearned to be students. Moreover, the impressive fact that the curriculum was strategically defined by the church provided the ability to mould the students to abide by its doctrine. At the time, Bishops in cathedrals, monks in monasteries, priest in churches were the teachers of most of the institutions established by the church. (“loskingdom.net”) Furthermore, education began from a very young age. The children of serf were taught the skills required to survive by their parents. In order for the boys to help their parents with easy tasks, they had to be taken out to the fields in order to observe the operations. Meanwhile, the girls would work with the animals, in the vegetable gardens, or watch their mothers weave. Thus, they gained experience and skills to cater for their living. (“loskingdom.net”) However, grammar schools were built close to many of the cathedrals or large churches, and what they really learnt more was Latin (reading and writing). Additionally, they were taught rhetoric – an art focused on public speaking and persuasion which was very useful for both the men and nobles alike. Also, monastic schools were established. These schools were similar to grammar schools and were known as “Scholae monasticae,” they were founded and run by the monks, but based on “loose control” of the Vatican. Many of these monks concentrated on studying and imitating the ancient Roman and Greek books, and they explored theories of Eratosthenes, Hippocrates, Plato, and Aristoteles. (“loskingdom.net”) More so, the university education was more of what more of what only the brightest and wealthiest could ever aspire. Since the advent of medieval universities, it had no real physical manifestation. The only common option at the time is for students and teachers to meet in churches or houses, and sometimes at public parks. Later, many of the universities began to rent, and of course in the case of many, construction of buildings were put into practices specifically for their purpose. Gradually, students began to attend these citadels, in which curriculum began to develop with the study of the seven liberal arts, including the trivium (rhetoric, logic, and grammar) and quadrivium (arithmetic, astronomy, music, and geometry) Upon graduation, students are usually awarded a baccalaureate degree similar to the Bachelor of Arts nowadays. (“Faculty.ucc.edu”)

High Middle Ages Politics:

Further, rulers became more important during this time period and were so powerful. According to Sedivy, (2002) there was political fragmentation at the time. And thus, too many leaders emerged. The kings had lesser power due to the division of countries into areas managed under the feudal lords. Various barbaric tribes began to surge up too. Also, German political traditions began to differ. People became loyal to one tribe, and not just to a country. Additionally, German legal traditions differed, in which there exists no laws for individual tribes, and there were no engrossed literature, and what was common for the monuments were runes. (Sedivy, 2002) Particularly, William the Conqueror, originally from France, was made King of England in 11066. He tried to bring together the British Isles’ Anglo-Saxons and the Normas of France in a united group of people, and still maintaining an attention with the traditions of both cultures. Finally, the Norman culture had a great impact on the Anglo-Saxons that a new culture had to be born: Anglo-Norman. (“High Middle Ages”) The Normans speak French, which then became the common language all the nobles speak, but the Church used Latin, and every other person spoke Old English, a totally different form of English than what we speak today. Moreover, after the reign of William, many kings came after him, not basically in England, but across Europe too. Each king put forward their own changes on how things were run – for the better, and other times for the worse. A particular king at the time named King John, around 1199 took the English throne and made his people as well as the clergy very angry over his unbearable demands for more taxes and his cruel punishments that even the people of England had to respond by creating a document they called Magna Carta, which spelt out the basic rights of the people. The people protested and said, “No more taxes for funding wars, until that document was signed.” However, King John had no choice and reluctantly signed the document, and that was how history was made. (“High Middle Ages”)

High Middle Ages Crusades:

These periods brought about the Crusades, in which the Church began to gain more power. According to “Stormthecastle.com,” Christianity rose to power during these dark ages and most of the warlords embraced it. Thus, leading to a unifying force placed on the entire European continent and despite the fact that there were many kingdoms, they all submitted ad swore allegiance under the pope. This led to an end to the internal conflict that existed for centuries and there was a solidification of this unification with the launching of the Crusade which began in 1095. Thereby, giving the warlords and kings a certain religious goal and an enemy or opposition they could unite together and concentrate on. The Crusades, as much as they were a failure in the most part, through their management of very little land which they attempted to conquer, but were one major significant factor in Europe’s rebirth and this led to Europe reuniting under a particular religion and the returning crusaders returned with them to Europe a wealth of fresh information in medicine, architecture, mathematics, architecture, and more areas. (“Stormthecastle”) Moreover, there was a total belief that Heaven and Hell exists, ad in fact, God existed too. And at the time, the people were made to understand that they could only get to Heaven only if the Roman Catholic Church let them in. (Trueman, 2015) This, of course, gave the church a total control. Peasants began to work on the Church land for free – a time they were supposed to work on their land for food. Also, they still had to pay 10% of their earnings (tithes) in a year to the Church. This tithe could either be paid as money or in goods, depending on what the peasants had. The Church became so wealthy, and Henry VIII was mean to reform the Church in order to get hold of the money. However, since the people were to scared not to pay their tithes despite the pending difficulties, they just had to keep paying. (Trueman, 2015)

The Medieval era witnessed millions of women being burned by the Inquisition as witches, and they made witches burnings a common occurrence during this time period. Indeed, the “Witch Craze” was not a medieval physical process at all. Its major heyday was in the 16th and 17th centuries, and was a nearly exclusively early Modern matter. (Neill, 2014) During this period, not only the fact that the Church were not bothered going after the so-called witches, but most of its teaching was invariably that witches never even existed. Upon the advent of the 14th century, was when the Church scolded those who believed in witches and refused to accept the whole thoughts as a silly peasant superstition. (Neill, 2014) Several Medieval law codes, including the canon and civil law, never declared witchcraft to be forbidden, however, they rather declared more belief in witches’ existence to be sinful and/or outlawed. The thought about witches started to change in the 14th century, especially during the emergence of the Black Death of 1347-1350, a period after which the Europeans became more fearful of conspiracies by maleficent underground troops, mostly imaginary. Aside from blaming the Jews and the fear of the heretics’ cells, the Church then took the idea of witches’ covens more seriously. Meanwhile in Protestant countries, witch-hunting occurred when the status quo was under great threat, or even in times when religious and social turmoil occurred. Despite the wildly exaggerated assertions of “millions of women” beings prosecuted for witchcraft, the present day scholars estimate the accurate death toll to be close to 60-100,000 people over many centuries, with only 20% of the men were victims. (Neill, 2014)

High Middle Ages Agriculture:

Historians have argued a myth that the society was cruel, and that the standard of living really sucked. According to Wsniewski, after Rome fell, the world tried to stand back to its feet in a figurative night that lasted for many years. This was a period that was termed as the Dark Ages, which were assumed darker than modern times. It was believed that the society was barely a thing, and the infrastructure practically never existed. The barbarians and warlords roamed the land, and every surface of the ground was filled with a layer of filth. As this went on, the church never stopped torturing people until they were converted, and still kept torturing many of them.  However, the reality of this fact is that the standard of living was reasonably decent, even the poor lived comfortably. In fact, humanity endeavored to hit new heights in health care, charity, and innovative philanthropy almost every day. Additionally, slavery was not in vogue during the Dark Ages. The improvements in the farming technology and the reasonably-bred draft animals forced the human labor to be less necessary as time went on. Instead, the classes that could possibly have found themselves in slavery were more of either free workers or, at worst cases, serfs. The serfs were still literally not free, because they must take permission from lord before they could leave the land. However, they enjoyed much greater freedom than ordinary slaves. (Wisniewski, 2013) Moreover, the rise of Christianity, with the fact that a lot of people were victims of being set on fire, also experienced dramatic increase in charities. After the church strongly achieved a foothold in Europe, they began introducing a widely circulated system of charity that food, money, and clothing were distributed to those in dying need. Maybe not by coincidence, the ideas of goodwill hospitals, hospices, and shelters for the poor were also created during the “dark” ages, giving way for the public health care system. (Wisniewski, 2013)


Conclusively, there had been declaration that the High Middle Ages were not dark with most of the above points that define the time period. According to Jamie Frater, (2008) he believes that this period was the most cancerous of all in man’s history. He opined that most laymen still refer to the Medieval era as the Dark Ages. To him, “the term “dark ages” is virtually as ancient as the period itself. He also points out that the ages had been officially known as the Early Middle Ages by the modern students of history – a name that does not have any connotations at all.  Therefore, in a plight to defend the fact that the dark ages were not dark, he highlighted reasons why the dark ages were a period of progress and light. First, universities were born, since Classical Education took stand in the Universities of the time, and they taught arts, theology, law, and medicine, and people appreciated the education at the time, then the Medieval era had great influences. Also, scientific foundations were laid. While scientific progress was slow, the progress was steady and was made of high quality. He proves that without the study of Science at the Medieval era, we would have lacked behind today. Also, the rise of Christianity at the time really cut off ancient sciences through suppressing the growth of natural sciences. They had this believe that the earth or the world was flat and thus they prohibited autopsies and dissections during the time. Furthermore, religious unity thrived. The Church in Europe was united, they agreed on the canon of the Bible, as well as the developed philosophical tradition, thus, bringing peace within the Western nations. However, Islam was not in strong agreement with the West based on their doctrines, much mutual sharing of information occurred and the Islamic contribution is still felt till today in the West. Moreover, algebra as taught during this period. The learning and understanding of the Islamic people in the East helped the world received its first major book on algebra. This book, which was titled ‘The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing’ was authored by Al-Khw?rizm? (790-849) The Arabic title of the book was the one that gave us the Algebra we know today. More so, art and architecture existed during this period. Architecture and art were diverse and fully innovative. The ideas of realistic images in art were explored and this laid the foundation work of the Romanesque period, which came in the High Middle Ages. (Jamie Frater, 2008)

Also study: Hellinistic Age Highlights

Work Citations:
  • Contributor, Q. (2015). Why Are the Middle Ages Often Characterized as Dark or Less Civilized? Retrieved April 08, 2016, from https://www.slate.com/blogs/quora/2015/01/15/medieval_history_why_are_the_middle_age_often_characterized_as_dark_or_less.html
  • Havlidis, D. (2015). Medieval Education in Europe: A force of freedom and submission. Retrieved April 8, 2016, from https://www.lostkingdom.net/medieval-education-in-europe/
  • Historyforkids. (n.d.). High Middle Ages for Kids. Retrieved April 08, 2016, from https://www.historyforkids.net/high-middle-ages.html
  • History.com Staff. (2010). Middle Ages. Retrieved April 08, 2016, from https://www.history.com/topics/middle-ages
  • Frater, J. (2008). Top 10 Reasons The Dark Ages Were Not Dark – Listverse. Retrieved April 08, 2016, from https://listverse.com/2008/06/09/top-10-reasons-the-dark-ages-were-not-dark/
  • Snell, M. (2016). The Early and High Middle Ages – Medieval History. Retrieved April 08, 2016, from https://historymedren.about.com/od/gettingstarted/a/definingb.htm
  • Sparknotes. (n.d.). High Middle Ages (1000-1200). Retrieved April 08, 2016, from https://www.sparknotes.com/history/european/middle2/context.html
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  • Stormthecastle. (n.d.). A look at the Dark Ages: A time when things were really Medieval. Retrieved April 08, 2016, from https://medieval.stormthecastle.com/essays/a-look-at-the-dark-ages-when-things-were-really-medieval.htm
  • The High Middle Ages 1100 – 1300. (n.d.). Retrieved April 08, 2016, from https://faculty.ucc.edu/egh-damerow/1100_-_1300.htm
  • Trueman, C. N. (2015). The Medieval Church – History Learning Site. Retrieved April 08, 2016, from https://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/medieval-england/the-medieval-church/
  • Vallejo, B., Dr. (n.d.). Was Medieval Europe Really Dark? There Was Nothing Dark About the Dark Ages. Retrieved April 8, 2016, from https://www.livingston.org/cms/lib9/NJ01000562/Centricity/Domain/569/Was Medieval Europe Dark READING.pdf
  • Neill, T. O. (2014). How the Middle Ages Really Were. Retrieved April 08, 2016, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/quora/how-the-middle-ages-reall_b_5767240.html

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