1.6 Developments in Europe from 1200-1450

7 min readmarch 16, 2023


William Dramby

Riya Patel

Riya Patel

AP World History: Modern 🌍

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Feudal Society

After the fall of Rome, Europe, specifically Western Europe, was dominated by smaller kingdoms and regional powers. Between 1200 and 1450, many of the modern states today were formed as powerful kingdoms replaced localism.
In places like France and England, the people were feudal. Feudalism was a social, economic, and political system that was prevalent in Europe during the Middle Ages. It was based on the holding of land in exchange for service or labor. Under feudalism, the king or monarch owned all the land in a country, and he granted parcels of land, known as fiefs, to nobles in exchange for their loyalty and military service. The nobles, in turn, granted smaller parcels of land to vassals in exchange for their service or labor. This system of granting land in exchange for service or labor was known as the feudal system. The feudal system was a hierarchical one, with the king or monarch at the top and peasants at the bottom. Feudalism began to decline in the 15th and 16th centuries and was replaced by more centralized forms of government.
At the top is the monarch, often a king. He basically “owned” all of the land and would grant land, called fiefs, to elites called lords. The lords would then grant some of their own land to other individuals. Those who were granted land were called vassals. Vassals owed food, labor, and military service to the lords above them. Many kings and lords, as well as the church, would hire knights to protect their wealth and power.  
Land was sometimes worked on by those who were not the lords to others. These serfs were not slaves but owned no land, thus were very tied to the lord who granted them permission to work the land. Serfs and the manors they worked on would practice the three-field system, where the farmers were careful to not overuse the soil by rotating wheat, beans, and/or let land lay fallow (unused) during the harvest.

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Regionalism to Kingdoms

Between 1200 and 1450, regional kingdoms of France, England, and the Holy Roman Empire became solidified. In the beginning, each power was tied to the Catholic Church and feudal. However, over time, the Catholic Church began to lose influence leading to the Reformation of the 1500s. Feudalism also weakened as monarchs like King Philip II of France created a larger bureaucracy that worked with a legislative body called the Estates-General.
The Holy Roman Empire was a European political structure that existed from the 10th to the 19th century. It was a loose federation of territories in central and western Europe, and it was ruled by an emperor who was elected by the princes of the various territories. The Holy Roman Empire was not a nation-state in the modern sense, but rather a political structure that brought together a number of different territories under a single ruler. The Holy Roman Empire was founded in 962 by the German king Otto I, who was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope. The Holy Roman Empire reached its peak of power in the 12th and 13th centuries, but it began to decline in the 14th century and was eventually dissolved in 1806. The Holy Roman Empire laid where modern day Germany is today.
Unlike France, regional kingdoms with powerful princes and the church had a lot of power versus the central government. The Concordat of Worms (Worms is a German city) allowed the Pope of the Catholic Church to appoint bishops in HRE but gave the king the ability to veto those choices. 
Unlike France, English kings were being checked by the nobility. King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta, giving the people more rights in trials and taxation. 
Magna Carta, also known as the Great Charter, is a document that was signed in 1215 by King John of England. It was an agreement between the king and his subjects that established certain rights and freedoms for the English people and limited the power of the monarchy. Magna Carta is considered one of the most important documents in the history of English and American constitutionalism, as it established the principle that the power of the monarchy was not absolute and that the king was subject to the law. Magna Carta contained 63 clauses that dealt with a wide range of issues, including the rights of the Church, the rights of the nobility, and the rights of ordinary people. The charter was reissued a number of times in the 13th and 14th centuries and served as a model for later constitutional documents, such as the English Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution.
The English Parliament will eventually form to be a strong legislative body.  Over time, the competition for trade, land, and resources led the English and French to war. The Hundred Years War is an example of this type of conflict. The Hundred Years' War was a series of conflicts fought between England and France from 1337 to 1453. It was a long and complex conflict that was fought over a number of issues, including control of the French throne, control of key territories in France and England, and the claim of the English kings to the French throne. The conflict was marked by a number of important battles, such as the Battle of Crécy and the Battle of Agincourt, and it had a significant impact on the political, economic, and cultural development of both England and France. The Hundred Years' War ended with the Treaty of Calais, which recognized French control over most of the territories in question and established the English Channel as the border between the two countries. Conflicts like this created a new spirit of nationalism and an end to feudalism.
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Religious Conflict

This era saw a lot of religious tension in Europe. The predominantly Christian Europe saw the spread of Islam up the Iberian peninsula as a threat. Charles The Hammer Martel stopped its advance at the Battle of Tours in southern France. By 1492, the Catholic Church had expelled the Muslims from Spain in the Reconquista
The Catholic Church started the Crusades in order to take the Holy Land back from the Muslims. The series of Crusades saw the Crusaders also attacking the Orthodox Christians in Constantinople. In the end, the Crusades failed to win back Jerusalem, rather it just weakened the Catholic Church and increased the power of regional monarchs. However, this cross-cultural contact did slowly awaken Europe to the science and mathematics that the Islamic world had been developing.  

The Renaissance

By 1450, Europe saw an increase in literacy, urbanization, and connection to the global community. At one time, the only literate people of Europe were monks and other men tied to the Catholic Church. 
Johannes Gutenberg's printing press was a revolutionary invention that revolutionized the way information was disseminated in Europe during the Renaissance. The printing press was a mechanical device that used movable metal type to print books, pamphlets, and other documents. Gutenberg's printing press was the first machine of its kind to be used on a large scale, and it greatly increased the speed and efficiency of the printing process. Prior to the printing press, books and other written materials had to be copied by hand, which was a slow and laborious process. The printing press made it possible to produce books and other written materials much more quickly and inexpensively, and it played a key role in the spread of knowledge and ideas during the Renaissance.
At one time, Europe was closed from trade with the rest of the world. The Crusades and Mediterranean trade will end this. This will see the beginning of the Renaissance.
The Renaissance was a cultural and intellectual movement that began in Italy in the 14th century and spread throughout Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Renaissance is known for its revival of classical learning and the emergence of a new way of thinking that placed a greater emphasis on the individual. During the Renaissance, people began to question traditional ways of thinking and to explore new ideas in art, science, literature, and philosophy. The Renaissance is often considered a bridge between the Middle Ages and the modern era, as it marks the transition from medieval to modern ways of thinking. It is also considered a period of great cultural and artistic achievement, and it is known for the contributions of figures such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and William Shakespeare. Some of the greatest authors, scientists and artists in human history thrived during this era, while global exploration opened up new lands and cultures to European commerce.

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