The High Middle Ages.

By John H Mundy

Printed: 1999

Publisher: The Folio Society. London

Edition: Second printing

Dimensions 18 × 23 × 5 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 18 x 23 x 5

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Green cloth binding with purple and gilt title on the spine. Gilt tree with purple fruit and gilt figures on the front board.

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A single volume uptake on the High Middle Ages

The High Middle Ages, or High Medieval Period, was the period of European history that lasted from around AD 1000 to 1250. The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and were followed by the Late Middle Ages, which ended around AD 1500 (by historiographical convention).

Key historical trends of the High Middle Ages include the rapidly increasing population of Europe, which brought about great social and political change from the preceding era, and the Renaissance of the 12th century, including the first developments of rural exodus and urbanization. By 1250, the robust population increase had greatly benefited the European economy, which reached levels that would not be seen again in some areas until the 19th century. That trend faltered during the Late Middle Ages because of a series of calamities, most notably the Black Death, but also numerous wars as well as economic stagnation.

From around 780, Europe saw the last of the barbarian invasions and became more socially and politically organized. The Carolingian Renaissance stimulated scientific and philosophical activity in Northern Europe. The first universities started operating in Bologna, Oxford, Paris, Salamanca, Cambridge and Modena. The Vikings settled in the British Isles, France and elsewhere, and Norse Christian kingdoms started developing in their Scandinavian homelands. The Magyars ceased their expansion in the 10th century, and by the year 1000, a Christian Kingdom of Hungary had become a recognized state in Central Europe that was forming alliances with regional powers. With the brief exception of the Mongol invasions in the 13th century, major nomadic incursions ceased. The powerful Byzantine Empire of the Macedonian and Komnenos dynasties gradually gave way to the resurrected Serbia and Bulgaria and to a successor crusader state (1204 to 1261), who continually fought each other until the end of the Latin Empire. The Byzantine Empire was re-established in 1261 with the recapture of Constantinople from the Latins, though it was no longer a major power and would continue to falter through the 14th century, with remnants lasting until the mid 15th century.

In the 11th century, populations north of the Alps began a more intensive settlement, targeting “new” lands, some of which areas had reverted to wilderness after the end of the Western Roman Empire. In what historian Charles Higounet called the “great clearances”, Europeans cleared and cultivated some of the vast forests and marshes that lay across much of the continent. At the same time, settlers moved beyond the traditional boundaries of the Frankish Empire to new frontiers beyond the Elbe River, which tripled the size of Germany in the process. The Catholic Church, which reached the peak of its political power around then, called armies from across Europe to a series of Crusades against the Seljuk Turks. The crusaders occupied the Holy Land and founded the Crusader States in the Levant. Other wars led to the Northern Crusades. The Christian kingdoms took much of the Iberian Peninsula from Muslim control, and the Normans conquered southern Italy, all part of the major population increases and the resettlement patterns of the era.

The High Middle Ages produced many different forms of intellectual, spiritual and artistic works. The age also saw the rise of ethnocentrism, which evolved later into modern national identities in most of Europe, the ascent of the great Italian city-states and the rise and fall of the Islamic civilization of Al-Andalus. The rediscovery of the works of Aristotle, at first indirectly through medieval Jewish and Islamic philosophy, led Maimonides, Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd, Thomas Aquinas and other thinkers of the period to expand Scholasticism, a combination of Judeo-Islamic and Catholic ideologies with the ancient philosophy. For much of this period, Constantinople remained Europe’s most populous city, and Byzantine art reached a peak in the 12th century. In architecture, many of the most notable Gothic cathedrals were built or completed around this period.

The Crisis of the Late Middle Ages began at the start of the 14th century and marked the end of the period.

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