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Unit 5 - Development of Western Europe 

  • Unit Question - How do economic needs and wants affect decisions of individuals, groups, and institutions (political and social)? 
  • Historical Context - Feudalism and the Medieval Age, the Dark Ages, the Silk Road, the Formation of the Modern State
  • Final Assessment – Silk Road Business Plan Presentation (TBD)
Feudalism and the Medieval Ages

For safety and for defense, people in the Middle Ages formed small communities around a central lord or master. Most people lived on a manor, which consisted of the castle, the church, the village, and the surrounding farm land. These manors were isolated, with occasional visits from peddlers, pilgrims on their way to the Crusades, or soldiers from other fiefdoms.  In this "feudal" system, the king awarded land grants or "fiefs" to his most important nobles, his barons, and his bishops, in return for their contribution of soldiers for the king's armies. At the lowest echelon of society were the peasants, also called "serfs" or "villeins." In exchange for living and working on his land, known as the "demesne," the lord offered his peasants protection.  Read more:  Learner.org: Fedual Life?


Read p.640-645 & 652-671 in your My World History textbook and answer the Feudalism and the Medieval Ages questions in your COMP books:  


  1. What was a manor?  Identify some ways in which feudalism and the manor system affected the lives of the nobility (rich)?
  2. Did serfs or vassals have more power in medieval Europe?
  3. What groups of invaders threatened Europe between 800 and 1000 C.E.?
  4. How did the concept of chivalry affect knights?
  5. Critical Thinking:  How did feudalism shape medieval Europe?
  6. What was the connection between ancient Rome and the Holy Roman Empire?  NOTE:  Start reading from page 652
  7. How did the popes try to control monarchs (kings) in Europe?
  8. What is the Magna Carta?  What is habeas corpus?  How did the Magna Carta lay the foundation of democracy?
  9. Why did Pope Urban II call for a crusade?
  10. Why did the Second Crusade fail?
  11. What were some of the economic effects of the Crusades?

The Dark Ages & The Silk Road

By the 5th century, the Roman Empire had conquered a stunning expanse of territories and people throughout Europe. After the empire crumbled from within, unable to sustain its own borders, a power vacuum was left in its wake. With no unified power source to claim these lands, chaos abounded as roaming warlords and violent bands of warriors circulated throughout Europe. 
No longer organized around a unified empire, territory was up for grabs, and power was often seizes by despotic rulers and their armies. This downshift in progress left Europeans more susceptible than ever to the ravages of natural disaster and disease. Waves of warfare together with famine, plague, erratic weather patterns and persecution led to a centuries-long era of economic, political, and cultural decline.  By the 5th century, the Roman Empire had conquered a stunning expanse of territories and people throughout Europe. After the empire crumbled from within, unable to sustain its own borders, a power vacuum was left in its wake. With no unified power source to claim these lands, chaos abounded as roaming warlords and violent bands of warriors circulated throughout Europe. No longer organized around a unified empire, territory was up for grabs, and power was often seizes by despotic rulers and their armies. This downshift in progress left Europeans more susceptible than ever to the ravages of natural disaster and disease. Waves of warfare together with famine, plague, erratic weather patterns and persecution led to a centuries-long era of Dark Ages, the early medieval period of western European history. Specifically, the term refers to the time (476–800 B.C.) when there was no Roman (or Holy Roman) emperor in the West; or, more generally, to the period between about 500 and 1000, which was marked by frequent warfare and a virtual disappearance of urban life. It is now rarely used by historians because of the value judgment it implies. Though sometimes taken to derive its meaning from the fact that little was then known about the period, the term’s more usual and pejorative sense is of a period of intellectual darkness and barbarity.
Read p.696-699 & 528-529 in your My World History textbook and answer The Dark Ages & The Silk Road questions in your COMP books:

  1. What caused the Middle Ages to fall into a period of darkness (The Dark Ages)?
  2. What were some disasters that shook Europe in the 1300s?
  3. What role did Joan of Arc play in the Hundred Year's War?
  4. Where did the Black Death (Plague) originate?
  5. How did the Black Death help put an end to the feudalism/manor system (manorialism)?
  6. Why might the Black Death have shaken people's confidence in the Church?
  7. What is a nomad?  HINT:  Start reading p. 528
  8. Who were the Mongols?
  9. Why did trade flourish along the Silk Road?
  10. In addition to goods, what else traveled along trade routes such as the Silk Road?

The Dark Ages & The Silk Road Resources: