Chapter 9: Section #2 Notes
The End of the Carolingian Empire
After Charlemagne’s death, a lack of a strong leader weakened the empire. New invaders began to enter Europe and influence its culture.
After Charlemagne died, his empire was divided amongst his grandsons into three major sections: the west Frankish lands, the eastern Frankish lands, and the Middle Kingdom. Local nobles gained power as the grandsons fought each other. While the fighting occurred, outside invaders began to enter Europe.
During the 9th and 10th centuries, Western Europe was invaded by outsiders. Muslims attacked southern coasts of Europe including southern France. People from Asia called Magyars moved into what is now Hungry and invaded westward.
The Vikings, also known as the Norsemen or Northmen of Scandinavia, invaded multiple areas Europe. Vikings would come and destroy villages, towns, churches and small local armies. The Vikings were not only strong soldiers. Vikings were fantastic ship builders. Their ships were long and narrow with beautifully carved out of wood. These ships usually carried 50 men. These ships allowed them to sail European rivers and attack places far inland. By mid-9th century, Vikings began to settle in Europe. In 911, the ruler of west Frankish lands, gave one group of Vikings the land at the mouth of the Seine River. This section of land became known as Normandy. The Franks would give land to the Vikings and attempt to convert them to Christianity. By converting the Vikings became part of the European Civilization.
The Development of Feudalism
Rulers found it difficult to remain safe with all of the different invaders coming to Europe. Soon the Carolingian Empire was torn apart. People were looking to others for safety. They wanted a powerful lord who would offer protection in return for service. This led to the new political and social order called feudalism.
Knights and Vassals
Vassalage: the idea that warriors swore an oath of loyalty to their leaders and fought battles for them. The leaders in turn would take care of the warriors needs. A man who served a lord in military was known as a vassal.
During this time, warriors were armored in coats of mail (armor made of metal links or plates). They had long lances (think of a sharp pole) that could be used as a battering ram, and rode on large horses. For almost 500 years, these warriors that dominated battle and were known as knights. The lords, who owned large amount of land, would ask warriors to defend their lands. In return, the lords would give these warriors each land in return for their services.
The Feudal Contract
The land given by a lord to a vassal was known as a fief. The vassal, who now owned the fief, had complete political control over the land. Over time Feudalism became more complex and confusing. Vassals, who were hired by lords to protect the land, hired their own vassals who would help to protect the land. In return these vassals would get a piece of the land. A vassal had to perform about 40 years of service to pay the lord back for the land given. These unwritten rules became known as the feudal contract.
Noble and Chivalry
During the Middle Ages the main concern was warfare. Great lords and knights formed a common group. They were all warriors, and the institution of knighthood united them all. During the 12th century tournaments were created. Knights would show off their fighting skills against each other (knight vs. knight). By the late 12th century, the joust was the main part of the tournament. These tournaments became an excellent way to train for war.
With the help of the Catholic Church the idea of a more civilized behavior came to the Middle Ages. This was called chivalry. This was a code of ethics that the knights were to follow. Besides defending the church, their lands and lords, knights were to treat captives as honored guests. Knights fought for glory and not material gains. Women were also put on a pedestal and treated with class during this time.
Aristocratic Women’s Role
Although women could own property, they were still under the control of men. Still they had many opportunities to play important roles. Because the lord was often away at war, the lady of the castle had to manage the estate. This included making sure the servants were working and there was enough food for the entire household.
Women were expected to be subservient (obedient) to their husbands, but there were many strong women who advised and even dominated their husbands. The most famous was Eleanor of Aquitaine. She was married at age 15 to Louis VII which ended shortly when he had the marriage annulled. She married again 8 weeks later to Duke Henry of Normandy, who soon became the king of England. This was a difficult relationship and she spent most of her time in her native country, where she created a brilliant court dedicated to cultural activities. She had 8 children with Henry, two become king in England. She died in her 80’s.
Social structure of the Middle Ages.
Chart is on slide #2
Chapter 9: Section #2
Directions: Answer the following questions with complete sentences and detail.
1. What factors helped the Vikings invade Europe successfully?
2. What is a vassal?
3. What is a knight?
4. What is a fief?
5. Why was the land the most important gift a lord could give a vassal?
6. What began in the 12th century that is still currently used today in sports?
7. What is chivalry?
8. Who was Eleanor of Aquitaine?