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High Middle Ages

High Middle Ages

Professor Philip Daileader Ph.D.
The College of William and Mary

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High Middle Ages

High Middle Ages

Professor Philip Daileader Ph.D.
The College of William and Mary
Course No.  869
Course No.  869
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Course Overview

About This Course

24 lectures  |  31 minutes per lecture

As the last millennium dawned, Europe didn't amount to much. Illiteracy, starvation, and disease were the norm. In fact, Europe in the year 1000 was one of the world's more stagnant regions—an economically undeveloped, intellectually derivative, and geopolitically passive backwater. Three short centuries later, all this had changed dramatically. A newly invigorated cluster of European societies revived city life, spawned new spiritual and intellectual movements and educational institutions, and began, for reasons both sacred and profane, to expand at the expense of neighbors who traditionally had expanded at Europe's expense.

The Revival of Europe
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As the last millennium dawned, Europe didn't amount to much. Illiteracy, starvation, and disease were the norm. In fact, Europe in the year 1000 was one of the world's more stagnant regions—an economically undeveloped, intellectually derivative, and geopolitically passive backwater. Three short centuries later, all this had changed dramatically. A newly invigorated cluster of European societies revived city life, spawned new spiritual and intellectual movements and educational institutions, and began, for reasons both sacred and profane, to expand at the expense of neighbors who traditionally had expanded at Europe's expense.

The Revival of Europe

In this course you examine how and why Europeans achieved this stunning turnaround. By its conclusion, you will be able to describe and analyze the social, intellectual, religious, and political transformations that underlay this midsummer epoch of the medieval world.

But why were "the Middle Ages"—the period from 1000 to 1300—so designated?

Petrarch, writing in the 1300s, defined the period of "literary and artistic rot" in Europe after the sack of Rome in A.D. 410 as an Age of Darkness. The idea of the Middle Ages originates with Petrarch's concept, even though he did not use the term himself. The Latin term "medium aevum" (the Middle Age) first appeared in the 15th century.

Themes and Topics You'll Cover

The first eight lectures treat medieval society: the warrior aristocracy of knights, castellans, counts, and dukes; the free and unfree peasants whose work in the fields made the existence of medieval society possible; and the townspeople, the artisans and merchants who represented the newest arrivals on the medieval scene.

Lectures 9–16 examine the intellectual and religious history of high medieval Europe. You study monks and the monastic life, charismatic preachers such as Francis of Assisi, and theologians such as Thomas Aquinas. You examine the lives of those who found themselves outside the religious mainstream, especially the heretics and Jews of high medieval Europe.

The final eight lectures discuss the major political developments and events between 1000 and 1300, including the First Crusade, the Norman Conquest of England, and the granting of Magna Carta.

The key events, entities, and personalities you will learn about include:

  • The demographic, climatic, and technological changes that set the stage for Europe's resurgence
  • The three groups—"those who work, those who fight, and those who pray"—who formed the backbone of medieval society
  • An in-depth look at the renewed world of cities, artisans, merchants, and commercial exchange that shaped the high-medieval scene in crucial ways
  • The ongoing struggles between popes and emperors
  • The significance of figures as diverse as William the Conqueror, Pope Gregory VII, Abelard, Emperor Frederick II, King Philip II Augustus of France, Saint Benedict, Bernard of Clairvaux and Hildegard of Bingen
  • The institutions of knighthood, feudalism, the church and monasticism, the Scholastic university, and the urban guild
  • The situations of marginalized groups such as peasants, urban workingfolk, women, Jews, and heretics.

Attention to Detail Makes the Difference

Professor Philip Daileader's course is filled with memorable details as he unfolds this story. For example:

Europe's population doubled between 1000 and 1300. Life expectancies were probably not much higher than age 25 around 1000, but closer to 35 by 1300. In addition to the unexplained disappearance of bubonic plague and dry, warm climatic conditions known as the "little optimum," the most important factors in this growth spurt were simple farming implements—the newly introduced heavy plow and the horse collar. This allowed a growing population to have enough to eat for the first time ever.

The aristocracy's violence, especially its private wars and robbery and treatment of peasantry, was one of the great social problems of the High Middle Ages. To tame and civilize the warrior aristocracy, medieval clergy devised various methods such as the Peace and Truce of God movements, that granted immunity from nobles' violence to certain defenseless groups. Such movements were generally ineffective because clerics had to rely on religious sanctions and, ultimately, the nobles' own consciences—pledges for good behavior were generally forgotten almost immediately.

Around the year 1000, to become a knight one merely had to secure the necessary equipment. The original tournaments for knights were nothing but huge and deadly free-for-alls held in open areas with no regard for any nearby personal property. Chivalry was invented to diminish this violence. By 1300, the European nobility was a largely hereditary class with specific legal privileges. Nobles proudly proclaimed their bloodlines through coats of arms and family names (which had not existed in 1000). Knighthood was restricted to those who had undergone a specific dubbing ceremony.

The first books for manners were called "courtesy books" and written by clergy trying to curb the nobility's revolting table manners. Unfortunately, hardly anyone the books were meant for could read, so they were a complete failure.

Professor Daileader comments on the question: "Why study medieval history?"

"This question might be, and has been, answered in many ways. Let me suggest just one:

"To understand what is truly distinctive about the world in which we live, you need to know what came before.

"The modern world is the product of the medieval world. ... It is impossible to understand the thoughts and actions of Luther, Galileo, or Voltaire, for example, without understanding that in the Middle Ages all were very conscious of medieval history, and the medieval period informed what they wrote and did.

"Likewise, in order to understand such important modern events as the French Revolution or the 19th-century unifications of Germany and Italy, one must understand the Middle Ages as well, because these events were informed by the medieval past and were attempts to deal with its legacy.

"Most importantly, I hope that by the end of this course, you will share my own desire to learn and understand more about the Middle Ages, and that you will use this course as a springboard from which to launch your own deeper investigations into medieval history."

Harold McFarland, editor of Readers Preference Reviews, writes: "In a series of 24 well-crafted lectures, Philip Daileader, a professor at the College of William and Mary, leads the listener on a fascinating trip through the facts and fables of the history of the High Middle Ages. An excellent lecturer whose knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject shows through at all times, it was a pleasure to listen to the lectures."

View Less
24 Lectures
  • 1
    Why the Middle Ages?
    Europeans living between 1000 and 1300 would have been shocked to hear that they were living in the "Middle" Ages. So where does the term come from? What does it tell us about the topic of this course? x
  • 2
    Demography and the Commercial Revolution
    One of history's most potent forces is demography. In the Middle Ages, when the line between sufficiency and dearth was so thin, small innovations and events could and did have huge effects. x
  • 3
    Those Who Fought—The Nobles
    Perched atop the society of high medieval Europe was a group of mounted, armored warriors who came to form a hereditary aristocracy with unique legal privileges. x
  • 4
    The Chivalric Code
    When clerics sought to refine rough-hewn knights with literature, the result was the emergence of new genres such as the chivalric romance. How far did such books go to change actual behavior? x
  • 5
    Few words are so closely associated with the Middle Ages as "feudalism." Yet historians have argued ceaselessly over its meaning. So what is "feudalism," and how can we use the term to further our understanding? x
  • 6
    Those Who Worked—The Peasants
    Although most medieval people were peasants, a lack of written records makes them hard to study. It seems clear that the rights of lords weighed upon peasants, though less so in 1300 than in 1000. x
  • 7
    Those Who Worked—The Townspeople
    Revived urban life made townspeople a prominent part of medieval society. But was their outlook "bourgeois," or still characteristically "feudal"? x
  • 8
    Women in Medieval Society
    Long marginalized by political and military history, women's history and gender history have become two of the fastest growing fields in medieval studies. x
  • 9
    Those Who Prayed—The Monks
    Monks formed a spiritual elite, living lives of work, study, and prayer under the Rule of Saint Benedict. The High Middle Ages saw a number of monastic reform movements, including the Cluniac and the Cistercian. x
  • 10
    Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan Movement
    How did this Italian merchant's son create a new religious order that mixed monastic elements with his own ministry of itinerant preaching, evangelical poverty, and a mixed critique and affirmation of urban spirituality? x
  • 11
    Heretics and Heresy
    During the High Middle Ages, heresy and heretical movements spread across much of Europe. Why did this happen? How did authorities respond? x
  • 12
    The Medieval Inquisitions
    What were the various "Inquisitions" that existed in medieval and early modern Europe? What did they actually do? This lecture separates legend from documented historical fact. x
  • 13
    Jews and Christians
    Jews were the largest religious minority in high medieval Europe. Curiously, despite the relative prosperity of the times, the treatment of Jews became noticeably harsher. Why? x
  • 14
    The Origins of Scholasticism
    Explore the bold and innovative intellectual methods of the Scholastics, and meet a key early figure in this pioneering movement in European thought. x
  • 15
    Aquinas and the Problem of Aristotle
    What was the project of Aquinas and his fellow Scholastics, and what made their work a focus of controversy amid their contemporaries? x
  • 16
    The First Universities
    The High Middle Ages gave birth to a new educational institution: the university. Of all the institutions to which high medieval Europe gave rise, the university is the most vibrant today. x
  • 17
    The People's Crusade
    The First Crusade, which ended with the capture of Jerusalem in 1099, demonstrated the rising power of Europe. How did this combination of holy war and pilgrimage begin? x
  • 18
    The Conquest of Jerusalem
    Despite internecine quarrels, crusading barons took Jerusalem in 1099 and carved out "crusader states" in Syria and Palestine that would last for nearly 200 years. x
  • 19
    The Norman Conquest
    Broad, impersonal forces may shape history, but contingencies play a role as well. The conquest of Saxon England by Gallicized Norsemen on 1066 offers an excellent example. x
  • 20
    Philip II of France
    The French monarchy is one of the era's great comeback stories. The king most responsible for this turnaround was Philip II Augustus (1180-1223). A combat-averse hypochondriac, he outwitted rivals and laid the basis for French greatness. x
  • 21
    Magna Carta
    Having early developed a powerful monarchy, the English also early developed instruments for restraining it. The Great Charter was such a tool, and its long-range consequences would be considerable indeed. x
  • 22
    Empire versus Papacy
    The conflict between the Holy Roman Empire and the Church that is known as the Investiture Controversy would last two generations and leave imperial authority weakened for good. x
  • 23
    Emperor Frederick II
    Nicknamed stupor mundi, or "the wonder of the world," Frederick II Hohenstaufen (1211-50) was one of the most controversial figures of his age. Yet even he could not reverse the fragmentation of the Holy Roman Empire. x
  • 24
    Looking Back, Looking Forward
    By 1300, Europe had assumed an economic and political importance that would have been unimaginable in 1000. Although much of the world was as yet untouched, the European hand had begun to stretch forth. x

Lecture Titles

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Philip Daileader
Ph.D. Philip Daileader
The College of William and Mary
Dr. Philip Daileader is Associate Professor of History at The College of William and Mary. He earned his B.A. in History from Johns Hopkins University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from Harvard University. Before taking his position at William and Mary, he taught at the University of Alabama and the State University of New York at New Paltz. Professor Daileader received William and Mary's 2004 Alumni Fellowship Award for excellence in teaching. As a graduate student, he was a four-time winner of the Harvard University Certificate of Distinction in Teaching. Dr. Daileader is the author of True Citizens: Violence, Memory, and Identity in the Medieval Community of Perpignan, 1162ñ1397. His research focuses on the social, cultural, and religious history of Mediterranean Europe.
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Rated 4.8 out of 5 by 76 reviewers.
Rated 5 out of 5 by Middle - Middle ages This is the second course I have heard of Professor Daileader’s Trilogy on the Medieval era, the first being “Early Middle Ages”. It covers the period from the beginning of the 11th century CE to the end of the 14th century. Unlike the first course which was primarily narrative in nature, this course is more thematic and analytical; though it does discuss some of the narratives of this era. One aspect that marks out the High Middle ages, is that unlike the Early and Late Medieval periods, this period experienced unusually high demographic growth and as a direct consequence, growth in many other respects as well. Professor Daileader tells us that there three distinct classes of people in the era: those who worked, those who fought and those who prayed. Those who fought were the nobility. There was a vassal system in which a lower ranking noble (a knight) would get land from a higher ranking noble, and he would be allowed to live off the land (using peasants – not physically working it of course), in return for his rendering of services to his lord in fighting adversaries and in counsel. We are told that the knights did not formally own the land, but in fact they were the side with the stronger position in this symbiosis because they physically held the land. Usually, it did end up being passed to their offspring - although this was not formally part of the deal. At some stage, there was diminishing demand for fighting, and the knights who thought it below their dignity to work, used their military skills to raid and rob other knights and peasants. This is known as the noble violence. The Chivalric codes of the knights were created to syphon those destructive energies to good uses, or at least less destructive ones. We are told the rather odd and almost comic aspects of the Chivalric knight codes of the era: how the knights were supposed to be of great military prowess on the one hand while being great humanitarians and protectors of the weak on the other. Particularly, it was their duty to protect Christianity against outside assaults – particularly in Crusades. The workers were mostly peasants with a relatively small minority of urban artisans. Unlike the classical era in which most of the agricultural work was carried out by slaves, in this era slavery is less prevalent and the institution of serfdom is its replacement. Under this new deal, the peasants are not slaves but they are not exactly free either. They are better off in the sense that unlike in the slave regimes they live in family cells and live in private houses instead of communal sleeping quarters, and they cannot be sold as property. However, their status is still inherited by their offspring and they are not free to leave the land. Another negative aspect is that they have to provide free labor and part of their yields to their lords. They are still highly dependent on the lords in matters of marriage. So it is a bit of an improvement. Not all of the peasants were serfs. Some were free; but we are told that sometimes free peasants elected to become serfs again so as to gain protection of their lords. Serfdom was much less prevalent towards the end of the period than it was at the beginning, and there was a trend towards free peasants. The third class were those who prayed: in the High Middle age era it was considered quite prestigious to be a monk and many made this rigorous way of life their choice. The era saw a few monastic movements such as the Clunaic, Cistercian, and Franciscan movements. These movements had similar cycles: they would start out by leading an extremely austere prescription on how daily life should be run. This usually included extreme material poverty, celibacy and as little food as possible. The more extreme they were, the more popular with the public, and the ones that were most popular usually received huge donations that made them rich. In almost all cases, this material wealth corrupted them, and brought down the level of their self-prescribed austerity. Similar to the monastic movements, there were also heretical movements. These were religious movements that did not get the consent of the pope. Practicing heresy became a hazardous business during the High middle Ages, because it was in this era that the papal inquisition first appeared. The role of the inquisition was to insure that nobody practiced heresy, and they had very extensive authorization from the pope to carry this out. We are told, however, that it was probably much less of a terror regime than we imagine it today. The Church is in a very, very strong position politically during this period, and the Crusades are prescribed for the first time in the 11th century in order to help the Byzantine Empire with its problems with the Turks. It is in fact in such a strong position that a lot of friction is generated between popes and secular leaders, sometimes erupting into conflict. We have two big historical events during this era that will effect history four centuries: the first is the writing of the Magna Carta by Richard the third. Many consider it to be the first document that deals with human rights, though at the time it did not presume at all to be as humanistic and was designed to insure certain rights of nobles relative to the King. The second is the Norman invasion of England by William of Normandy - which is to change the British population mix forever, as with William came to the British Island many Normans that later Assimilated with the English. Professor Daileader did a fantastic job in presenting this era. The lectures were clear, interesting and entertaining. His subtle tinge of ironic humor did much animate the lectures. Overall a very interesting course - well worthwhile and fun to listen to. October 29, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Excellent course I have bought all three of Professor Daileader's 'Middle Ages' courses. He is a passionate and engaging lecturer, who occasionally inserts humour into his presentation. While I bought these courses some years ago, I have just watched them all for the third time. I learn something new each time I watch them. January 20, 2015
Rated 5 out of 5 by Middle Ages Set Just finished watching the whole series that Professor Daileader has created (The Early, High and Late Middle Ages). Wow! I highly recommend all three to anyone who is interested in this period. They are detailed, highly interesting and well balanced. The arc of history that this period represents is presented in the context of prevailing scholarly opinion and covers social, economic and theological thinking and historical events in a sweeping narrative. Professor Daileader has a rather sly wit which shows up at various times during the lectures and never fails to keep one's attention. After watching these 72 lectures, I am hopeful he will devise and record more courses. November 6, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by A Riviting Presentation This review will cover the audio CD version, This is my second course by Dr. Daileader. Several years back, I completed his course on the Early Middle Ages. Here are my observations about this course: 1) The manner of presenting the material is excellent. First of all, an overview of medieval society is presented, by examining various groups: Lords, Knights, Peasants, Townspeople, and Monks. The middle section of the course gives an intellectual and religious history of medieval Europe from about 100o to 1300. The course concludes with an examination and evaluation of key developments and events during this time period, such as The People's Crusade, The Norman Conquest of 1066, and Magna Carta. 2# Dr. Daileader is an excellent teacher. Other reviewers have commented on his speech habits, however, I found that this did not hinder my progress in any way at all. I feel that this halting way of speaking is due to the fact that his mind is running in overdrive, as he carefully chooses his words and phrases. He does have a sly sense of humor. One example of this is found in the lecture on the University. At one point, he is comparing medieval student behavior to now. He makes the comment, that I found quite amusing: " If this sort of thing were practiced today, no 7-11 would be safe, after college students got finished with it." The professor also spends the beginning few minutes of each lesson with a quick review of the prior lecture. This is great, for listeners, like me, that might not have listened for a few days. Also, at the end of each lecture, he also spends a few minutes drawing conclusions, and preparing what will be coming in the next lecture. 3) The last lecture really helps one to put everything into historical context. As another reviewer mentioned, I also enjoyed hearing about the preparation that one has to go through, if choosing a career in medieval history. I always thought that being able to read texts in foreign languages was essential, but the professor describes just how essential, and involved this really is. 3) The material presented here fits in nicely as a complement, and supplement, to other TTC courses on the medieval world. I have recently listened to the lectures on "1066," and "Turning Points in Medieval History" and found that, all together, I learned a great deal. The TTC course on "A History of Science, Antiquity to 1700," also has a section within it, that covers the medieval period from 100 to 1300. I found that much of that particular material is also a good review for Dr. Daileader's course. In conclusion, if one is looking to enrich understanding during this time frame, there is much to be gleaned here. I look forward to taking the last course in this trilogy, "The Late Middle Ages" #I" have previously written a review for the Early Middle Ages: course# May 4, 2014
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