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Medieval Europe, 1000 – 1300: Faith and Power

30 Credits

The middle ages were one of the most dynamic periods in European history. In the year 1000 much of Western Europe had been divided into numerous petty fiefdoms, united only by vague notions of loyalty to weak kings and the shared culture of the Christian Church. Over the next three hundred years it saw the establishment of strong and intensive monarchical government, laying the foundation for modern nation states. Externally it was a period of expansion, in which Western European knights established new kingdoms in England and Ireland, Jerusalem and Spain. Internally it saw the growth of urban life, the establishment of the first European universities and a flowering of religious devotion, as people sought new ways to accommodate their faith to the changing times. In this course we explore the roots of the dynamic growth of European culture in this period and the way in which it shaped the future of Europe.

This course investigates the way in which Europe changed in this period and seeks to answer why. It looks in particular at the transformation of politics and government and the dynamic developments in religious life. The course finishes with a more in-depth look at the changing world of aristocratic men and women, and at the growth of lay spirituality and the way it found expression in both crusades and private devotion, confession and asceticism. We will also investigate the development of courtesy, courtly love and the cult of chivalry against the background of a more commercial economy.