3.1 The Dark Ages - T -

   Age 3 : The age of Monks and Knights

3.1 The Dark Ages

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   Age 3 : The age of Monks and Knights

3.1 The Dark Ages


Slide 1 - Tekstslide

500 - 1000 AD

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AGE 3: the Time of Monks and Knights
500 - 1000 AD
Typical Aspects:
  1. the spread of Christianity in Europe
  2. the rise and spread of Islam
  3. the Manorial system and serfs
  4. the Feudal system
AKA: Early Middle Ages / Dark Ages

Slide 3 - Tekstslide

What is this lesson about?
Local Germanic rulers came to power after the fall of the Roman Empire. They had a warrior culture that focused on the bond between lords and their vassals. From the sixth century the Franks established an empire that controlled large parts of Europe.

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What you can explain /  do after this lesson
- Who were the Franks?
- How did the Franks establish a new empire?
- How did the system of lords and vassals work?
- how was exchanging gifts a way to form and maintain friendly alliances.
- Who was Charlemagne?
- Why was Charlemagne such an important ruler and innovator?

Slide 5 - Tekstslide

Important dates in this lesson:

476: Fall of the Western Roman Empire
486: Clovis united all the Franks under his rule
508: Clovis baptised as a Christian
720: Charles Martel conquers Frisia
732: Battle of Poitiers
800: Charlemagne crowned emperor by the pope

Slide 6 - Tekstslide

Word Duty

Franks - most powerful of the Germanic tribes
Warrior culture - culture in which fights and battles are ways to achieve honour and power
Lord - medieval word for rulers, such as kings
Vassals - follower of a lord with special rights
Hall - room to accomodate a large group. It was used to make important decisions
Hereditary: going from father to son(s).
Frisians - people who lived in the northern and western parts of the Netherlands and along the river delta in the middle of the Netherlands.
Charlemagne - also known as Charles the Great, was king of the Franks. He united most of Western Europe into one empire.
Saxons - Germanic tribe, they invaded England
Barrows - large mounds used as graves

Slide 7 - Tekstslide

In this lesson:

  • After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Germanic peoples, including the Franks, ruled Europe.
  • The Franks were the strongest. They had a "warrior culture".
  • Frankish local rulers were called "lord" His followers were "vassals".
  • By giving gifts to his followers, a lord could guarantee their loyalty to him.
  • The Frankish empire started to expand under king Clovis in the 5th century. 
  • In the 8th century Charles Martel added Frisia to the Frankish empire.
  • Frankish kings centralised their power. (= more power for the king, less for the lords)
  • The most important Frankish king was Charlemagne.
  • he was crowned "emperor" by the pope in 800 AD.

Slide 8 - Tekstslide

After the fall of the Roman Empire, land fell into the hands of local rulers. They gathered followers around them. How did those rulers make sure that their followers remained loyal to them?
source 3.1.1
Painting by Jules Laure, 1837.
Charlemagne surrounded by his chief officers, received Alcuin, who introduced manuscripts, a work of his monks, in 781. 

Slide 9 - Tekstslide

Local Rulers

The fall of the Roman Empire had huge consequences for the whole society. The Empire had been run centrally from Rome. A professional army secured its protection and local government had been in the hands of city officials. This system of government ended with the fall of the Empire.
The Germanic peoples, including the Franks, had a different kind of society. They had no cities, did not know how to write and they did not have one, but several rulers. 
source 2.8.4
The Pont du Gard is a famous Roman Aquaduct in the south of France, The Roman baths in Bath, in the south of present-day England, were constructed in the 2nd century AD. First elements (temple) were created between 60 and 70 AD.
Europe at the beginning of the Time of Monks and Knights

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The Frankish Empire

One of the local leaders who had served under the Romans, was the Frank Childeric (c. 440-482). He was not himself leader of all the Franks, but the Frankish Empire was established from the area he controlled around Tournai (Belgium). His son Clovis (c. 466-511) was able to unite all the Franks under his rule by killing other leaders. Among them were several of his relatives. He saw them as competitors for his position. In addition, he conquered other areas to extend his territory. Although many battles for power would follow, the Frankish Empire was from then on the most powerful empire of Western Europe.
The Franks had a warrior culture: it was common to fight. In combats and battles they could earn honor and booty. The amount of victories that a lord had on the battlefield and the way he showed bravery and - to our eyes - cruelty, provided him with power. 
source 3.1.2
Frankish warriors. Modern illustration

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What is?
continuity and discontinuity (in history lessons)?

Continuity: this means that somethings continues, or "keeps going on" . 
For example: After the fall of the western Roman empire Christianity continued as an important religion.

Discontinuity: this means that something ends and is replaced by something different (it does NOT continue)
For example: When the Roman monarchy ended and Rome became a Republic.
A system of government was replaced by a very different system. So this is "discontinuity".

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What is?
centralisation and decentralisation ?

Centralisation: this means that a country / empire is ruled from 1 place (the centre) and by one ruler (king / emperor)
For example: The whole Roman empire was ruled from 1 place (Rome). Everywhere within the empire there were the same laws, rules, money, taxes. Everything was decided from Rome (the centre)

Decentralisation: this means that a country does not have one central point from where all the laws are made, but the country is divided into many different regions, each with its own ruler, laws, money, taxes, etc.
For example: Ancient Greece was a decentralised country because every city state had its own laws, rulers, money etc.

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The Frankish Empire

Lord is the term used in the Early Middle Ages for rulers, such as kings. In Germanic society, the bond between a lord and his followers, vassals, was very important. It was a personal bond based on mutual benefits. The benefits for the lord were that vassals fought for him and gave him respect. The lord’s power was demonstrated by the number of his followers. A powerful lord offered his followers protection, shelter and income.

The bonds between lords and their vassals were strengthened in the hall: a building that could accommodate a large group of people. In the hall people ate and drank, made music and listened to stories together. Important decisions were made here, about starting a war or forming alliances, for example. Visitors such as traders came to the hall to offer their goods. In the hall, the lord also gave gifts.
source 3.1.3
Archaeologists get a better understanding of how a building such as a hall looked like by making reconstructions: this hall is in West Stow (England).

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Golden gifts

A good lord had to be a generous one. Giving and receiving gifts contributed to a lord’s status and power. By giving gifts to his followers, a lord could guarantee their loyalty to him. Exchanging gifts with other lords was used to form or maintain friendly alliances. The gifts were luxury items, such as richly decorated weapons or golden jewels and coins.
The exchange of unique objects was limited to royal families. But vassals also gave gifts to their own followers who gave gifts to them in return as well. The lower the social position, the simpler the given objects became. The lord and his followers stood at the top of society. Below them was a group of merchants and craftsmen. Farmers and other workers formed the bottom social layer.
source 3.1.4
Fibula (cloak pin) from the 7th century, found in Wijnaldum, Friesland. Was it war booty or a gift for or from a Frisian lord?

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Franks and Frisians

The expansion of the Frankish Empire had started in the end of the fifth century, in the time of King Clovis. The expansion often came to a standstill in the centuries that followed. The weakness of the Empire was that it was personal property of the King. When he died, the land was divided among his sons. They fought each other to get their hands on more territory.
Lords at the borders paid little attention to the Frankish kings. This also applied to the Frisian lords at the northern border of the Frankish Empire. The Frisians were a people that lived in the coastal areas of the northern and western Netherlands and along the river delta in the middle of the Netherlands. The area inhabited by the Frisians around 700 AD is therefore different from the present province of Friesland.
In the first half of the eighth century, the Franks started the political centralisation of their Empire. They removed the power of local rulers to increase the influence of the Frankish kings. The military leader Charles Martel (r. 718-741) managed to defeat the Frisians and gain possession of their lands.
source 3.1.5
During the 6th and 7th century, North-western Europe was inhabitant by a number of Germanic tribes.

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The Frankish Empire was at its largest during the rule of Charlemagne (r. 768-814). He managed to defeat the Saxons and other peoples. He also conquered parts of Italy. Besides fighting, Charlemagne focused on improvements in his kingdom.
He appointed a body of officials and made sure that laws were written down. Furthermore he greatly encouraged education and science. He even interfered with the administration of other rulers, such as the kings of England. His authority was so great, it was reminiscent of the power of the Roman emperors. He was even crowned Emperor by the Pope in 800 AD.
source 3.1.7
Pope Leo III, crowning Charlemagne, painted in the 14th century.
source 3.1.6
A denarius of Charlemagne dated c. 812–814 with the inscription KAROLVS IMP AVG (Karolus Imperator Augustus) (in Latin)
source 3.1.8
Imperial Coronation of Charlemagne, by Friedrich Kaulbach, 1861

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Summary 3.1

Fill in the gaps to make a summary

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Finished with the summary?
Now make a printscreen of the finished summary
and upload it here.

Slide 19 - Open vraag

You have finished with this lesson, meaning:
- You have read the texts
- You have made the summary
- You have done the practise questions.
Are you well prepared for a quiz / test or do you need extra help?

If you still need help, if something is not clear, you can ask your question here.

Slide 20 - Open vraag


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