Europe in the Middle Ages


The years after the Fall of Rome were called the Middle Ages.  The Middle Ages lasted about 1,000 years.  They ended about year 1500.  Life in western Europe was different after the Fall of Rome.  The once strong government of Rome disappeared.  Europe was invaded again and again by barbarians.  The barbarians destroyed many cities and killed many people.  Because of these barbarians, roads were not safe for traveling.

In the early Middle Ages, there were few schools in Europe.  Most people could not read or write. There was little trade because of wars and dangerous roads.  Without trade, towns and cities disappeared.  People who lived in towns and cities began farming.  Most people tried to make or grow almost everything they needed.

During this time the Roman Catholic Church became very important in western Europe.  People were united by their belief in the Christian religion.  The Church tried to encourage learning.  The Church also collected taxes and made laws.  The Roman Catholic Church grew rich and powerful. 

The Franks were one group of barbarians.  They conquered the land we now call France.  In 768 a man named Charlemagne became the king of the Franks.  Charlemagne conquered and ruled most of western Europe.  He became the emperor of most of Europe by the year 800.

Charlemagne tried to make life better for the people he ruled.  His army kept invaders out of Europe.  He started many schools.  He made many good laws and encouraged trade,  Charlemagne spread Christianity throughout his empire.  He also helped to increase the power of the church.

After Charlemagne died, his sons became the rulers of the empire.  They were weak rulers.  They began to fight with each other to try to rule more land.  Then Charlemagne's empire fell apart.  Europe was divided into many kingdoms.

Europe was not safe after Charlemagne died.  Barbarians began to invade Europe again.  Rulers fought wars with each other.  The kings of Europe did not have enough soldiers to protect their lands and people.  Once again it was not safe to travel.  It was not safe to live in cities.  As people moved away from cities during the Middle Ages, a new way of living developed.  It was called feudalism.

Feudalism was a system that helped the kings keep their lands and people safe.  How did the feudal system work? A king gave large pieces of land to rich nobles.  In return for the land, the nobles paid taxes to their king.  The nobles also promised to fight for their king.  Every noble had many soldiers.  These soldiers were called knights.  The knights worked to keep the land safe.

The nobles ruled the land that the king gave them.  The land a noble ruled was called a manor. Sometimes a noble ruled many manors.  The manor had farms, a church and a village.  Everything the people needed was made on the manor.  Many people lived their whole lives on one manor.  They had no reason to leave the manor.  Many people left the cities of Europe and went to live on manors.  Feudalism grew.  It lasted for about 700 years.

Peasants were the largest part of the feudal system.  Peasants were poor people. They lived on manors.  They did the farm work.  Peasants did all the hard work on the manor.  They paid taxes to the noble who owned the manor.  In return the noble protected the peasants and gave them small homes.

Nobles lived in large houses on the manor.  Some nobles lived in castles.  To keep safe, nobles built walls around their castles.  The walls around the castles kept out invaders.  If the manor was attacked, everyone would go into the castle to be safe.

Feudalism helped Europe become safer.  There was less fighting.  The feudal system gave the kings strong armies to protect their lands and people.  The armies kept out the barbarian invaders.  Roads were safer for travel.  Soon people began moving into towns and cities again.  By the 1200s feudalism was starting to become less important.




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