Teaching History is one of my biggest passion. Here I’ve written a short article to introduce the Middle Ages to Secondary Students in Argentina. I hope you like it !
Europe before the Age of the Enlightenment
At first making a connection between different people, living in different regions may seem difficult. But when we compare the variety of nationalities and creeds at that time we realize that those times were whole dynamic, turbulent and the restless desire of change was always present.
Rounding Africa and reaching America were very impressive for those folks and apart of being named the age of wisdom, incredulity and beliefs, ordinary people were preoccupied with the events of their own lives.
Throughout Europe, it was a period of high creativity and as Students of History we ought not to paint the past with a brush so board that all individual coloration could be lost.
After the bucolic plague, the erection of the new countries, the Turks who gave the name of “unwashed” to the Christians; the terrain of Europe was full of sensitivity and inventiveness.
Democracy was not the general state of Europe at that time; most of its rulers were kings and emperors and in some regions as France and Poland the land nobility and upper-middle classes kept a lot of power, and privileges to determine the direction of facts. Some countries follow peaceful relationships and other were not in contact at all. Peasants at that time faced illnesses and specially the bucolic pest. They also had the chance to develop the commerce and open the door for the Renaissance.
Some cases in detail:
- England was a prosperous kingdom, they had a conscious national feeling and they shared a common language. Henry VII supported the rising middle class and after the Carta Magna of 1215 restrictions were established to royal authority. Nevertheless Parliament was an institution.
- Spain under Ferdinand and Isabella were completing the consolidation of the national state out of the number of different kingdoms. After the expulsion of Jews and Moors, the Roman Catholic Church of Spain triumphed and an absolute monarchy developed. The middle classes and the courts lost their privileges. There existed a strong connection between the national identity and the Spanish Patriotism.
- The Holy-Roman Empire. There existed in Central Europe a large area composed of self-governing states ruled under an Emperor chosen by seven electors. There were duchies, countries, municipalities, ecclesiastical states ruled by bishops and abbots. Also there were city-states.
- The Habsburg Domains. Many little reigns took place in Austria, Hungary and Bohemia; and Italy itself was a geographic expression full of independent city-states and Papal States.
- Poland, Lithuania and Muscovy. Dominated by the land nobility, these regions were a true oligarchy. A dynastic marriage joining Catholic Poland and the newly converted Lithuania was frequently threatened by the militant Teutonic knights and Russia. The Mongols occupied and controlled most the Western Russia for more than two centuries. In the XIII Century Muscovy started to grow with autocratic power expending remarkably its territory. Ivan IV (named The Terrible) strengthened the Tsar’s power notoriously.
- The Ottoman Empire had taken the Balkan area by encroaching land of the Byzantine Empire until Constantinople fell in 1453.