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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

Course No. 869
Professor Philip Daileader, Ph.D.
The College of William and Mary
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4.8 out of 5
91 Reviews
84% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 869
  • Audio or Video?
  • You should buy audio if you would enjoy the convenience of experiencing this course while driving, exercising, etc. While the video does contain visual elements, the professor presents the material in an engaging and clear manner, so the visuals are not necessary to understand the concepts. Additionally, the audio audience may refer to the accompanying course guidebook for names, works, and examples that are cited throughout the course.
  • You should buy video if you prefer learning visually and wish to take advantage of the visual elements featured in this course. The video version is well illustrated with than 250 visuals are featured, such as maps and portraits of key figures discussed in the course, including Francis of Assisi, Eleanor of Acquitaine, and Frederick II Hohenstaufen. There are also on-screen spellings and definitions of important terms, concepts, and dates to help reinforce material for visual learners.
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Course Overview

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."

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24 lectures
 |  31 minutes each
  • 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

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Your professor

Philip Daileader

About Your Professor

Philip Daileader, Ph.D.
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...
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High Middle Ages is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 91.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting content - a voice that grew on us! Although occasionally the professor did not seem passionate about the content, 90% of the time he was, and that was infectious.
Date published: 2017-05-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A good overview but not particularly deep Overall, this is a good course. The professor blends social history and political history in a generally even balance. While both are valid, I wish this course had more focus on the political history, which was given too little attention. My personal theory is that you can't understand the social issues without having a firm background in the broader political world. I don't consider this course perfect, but it was still worth my time, enjoyable, and informative.
Date published: 2017-02-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from High Middle Ages Bought all three: Early Middle Ages, High Middle Ages and Late Middle Ages. Great lecturer. Well organized and topically on target from a number of perspectives.
Date published: 2017-02-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Take the Sting Out os Errands I have almost finished all three courses in this series, and I've enjoyed every lecture. Some I already knew. Some is new to me. Some I knew once but have long forgotten. It all makes sense out of history, not an easy task.
Date published: 2017-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Middle of the Middle Ages video download version While Professor Daileader's "High Middle Ages" comes after his "Early Middle Ages" chronologically, this one was actually the first of his trilogy on the Middle Ages to be filmed. Unlike the mostly straight timeline approach he takes in his other two courses, this one is divided into three, logical societal sections. The first to be covered concerns society itself. The nobles, peasants and townspeople such as the merchants and artisans The second section examines the religious and intellectual portions of the High Middle Ages, while the third deals with the politics of the time.. Each of these divisions is treated more or less chronologically. Although some reviews have objected to this structure, I found it to be easy to follow and following, for example the history of the Kings and other nobles, along with the Norman Conquest and the and disintegration of the Holy Roman Empire easier to follow than if Francis of Assisi and others were thrown into the mix, disrupting the narrative flow. While Dr. Daileader does not cover every major player over the 300 years of the period, he does put together many of the main personalities and how they interacted. For me there was new insight into Frederick II and the Popes (notably Innocent III), as well as William the Conqueror, I loved the section on the rise of Scholasticism and the founding of universities, spiced with a fair bit of student, faculty and townspeople life. Further I was completely unaware of the status of some women in that society. And more, many more gems to be found. Highly recommended
Date published: 2016-07-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointing Professor Daileader's research is, in many cases, out of date. For example, recent research into the Inquisition by, for example, Edward Peters, blows long-standing legends out of the water. Similarly, I was surprised to hear Dailaeder quoting legends about the Crusades that research has also disproved. Daileader's treatment of the clergy and Crusaders also reveals a lack of understanding of the Medieval mindset regarding faith. For example, he doesn't appear to accept the possibility that a person of the period could have been motivated by religious reasons to enter a convent or monastery, or to fight to regain Jerusalem for the Christian world. He attributes it either to a desire for wealth, or "a challenge," or something resorted to by those lacking other options in life. Unlike today, faith was integral in medieval life and that era cannot be understood or taught about without an understanding and acceptance of that fact. I am aware that modern man does not look at the world through the eyes of faith and it does take some imagination to place ourselves in medieval shoes. But we can't get an accurate picture of the time period without doing so. It doesn't work to impose upon that time period the modern views of religion, culture and political correctness. I would recommend Professor Thomas Noble's courses on medieval history. He makes more of an attempt to present the medieval world in context.
Date published: 2016-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from High Medieval Social-Cultural-Political Dimensions The HIGH MIDDLE AGES (HMA 1000 – 1300) by Professor Philip Daileader offers chronological history, conceptual analysis, and research historiographies on this crucial period of Western history. Looking through SOCIAL, CULTURAL, and POLITICAL spectacles, the IDEA of the Middle Age(s) itself is sketched out and brought into sharper focus by Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, Romantic, and contemporary historians. The comprehensive explanations, deeper understandings, and evaluative conceptual constructions of the HMA are scholarly and artistically portrayed and point toward future areas of research. From 1000 to 1300, SOCIETAL institutions and processes undergo radical changes mainly from a rural to an URBANIZED orientation: DEMOGRAPHIC numbers and movements greatly increase; a re-urbanization of Europe accompanied with the rising of commercial towns and city life not seen since the fall of the Roman Empire; a process of DECLINE in landed feudalism, the warrior aristocracy, chivalric code of ethics, and agricultural serfdom; a process of GROWTH in urban communes and guilds accompanying the rise of a new middle class of numeric literate merchants and artisans altering the feudal model and mentality of the three estates and plant the seeds for the Renaissance vision of society. The CULTURAL changes during the HMA are equally radical in its RELIGIOUS and INTELLECTUAL dynamism: the monastic life of St. Benedict’s Rule is transformed through reform movements and the rise of the Franciscan friars and the Benedictine preaching MENDICANTS; religious doctrine and ritual becomes increasingly threatened with the growth of various movements and HERESIES generating the Episcopal and Papal INQUISITIONS; the rise of the scholastic method will shift the emphasis from monastic literary reflections on the Bible and the Church Fathers (Augustine) to argumentative disputations concerning the logical and philological analysis of apparent religious contradictions and re-discovered ARISTOTELIAN and pagan texts (Anselm, Averroes, Aquinas, Abelard, etc.); the rising university system is the new context of the medieval philosophy of faith seeking reason as the mission of SCHOLASTICISM. The POLITICAL dimensions of the HMA will dramatically change the internal composition of the city-states of Europe while its external expansion begins planting the seeds of Western civilization’s future colonial and imperial energies -- from prey to predator as some historians claim. The CRUSADES slowly transforms Europe while redirecting the aristocracies’ warrior destructiveness between European city-states, toward the BYZANTINE Empire, and against the ISLAMIC world which earlier transformed Roman Mediterranean civilization during the Early Middle Ages of late antiquity; CHIVALRY as a code of ethics re-channels the weakness of the internal truce and peace of God movements of the clerics as a restraint against warrior violence and re-directs its energies East; the NORMAN CONQUEST changes England’s orientation from northern Scandinavia toward the European continent; the MAGNA CARTA and the birth of PARLIAMENT changes the power relations between the monarchy and nobility; the INVESTITURE CONTROVERSY alters the relations between the Emperor and the Papacy while contributing to the decline of the Holy Roman Empire. In summary, the combined social, cultural, and political changes transformed Europe of the HMA onto the world stage of the Renaissance and toward the modern world. The HISTORIOGRAPHY from the professor’s Early and High Middle Ages courses are true treasures of the HISTORIAN’S CRAFT … Thanks to the professor and the TC for a first rate scholarly and artistic portrayal of the HMA. *** VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED ***
Date published: 2016-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Mid Point in Our Journey " Philip Daileader's Middle Ages Trilogy had been on my wishlist for over a year, but upon completing Dorsey Armstrong's courses on the Medieval World and the Medieval Mind, I bought this as soon as it was on sale. In total, Daileader's trilogy gives 72 lectures that bring European Civilization form the Late Antiquity Crisis and Transformation to the Dawn of the Renaissance. Part one covered the Dark Ages, a term that both Daileader and Armstrong protest vehemently. Part two, this part, is about what most people imagine when they think of the Middle Ages. It is here in part two that the greatest emphasis is given to medieval society. An unfortunate consequence of this is that far less information is given to the overall narrative of history during this time period. Though you may come away richer in knowledge about the people and customs of the time period, it is a little poorer than either part one or part two in the realm of political transitions. Nevertheless, what is taught is among the most fascinating - particularly the rise of France and the decline of Germany. The lecture on Frederick II Hohenstaufen to date remains my favorite lecture from any Medieval course. Where to go from here? I highly recommend completing Philip Daileader's trilogy. Assuming you've started from the beginning, there is just one more to go after this one. Once again, to provide a different perspective I would recommend Professor Armstrong's Medieval World course. Professor Harl's Era of the Crusades does a great deal to expand upon the crusades and its historical context, and as a consequence becomes another resource on the broader Medieval period. To take a diversion to the specific, Professor Paxton's Story of Medieval England is among the most well done I have listened to in years. All three of these courses should expand upon your understanding of the Middle Ages and expose you to alternative perspectives.
Date published: 2015-10-24
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