*** medieval chronologies specific centuries

Chronology of Medieval Europe: Specific Centuries

medieval centuries
Figure 1.--Bottecelli's work shows the contiunuing hold of the Church on the art of the late Medieval period as the refinements of the Renaissance was beginning to change Italy and soon all of Europe.

The medieval era is generally defined as the period of European history from the fall of Rome (5th century) to the Renaissance (15th century). The Medieval era is often given only limited attentioin in histories of the West. In fact, the Medieval era by far is the longest period of European history--spanning a millenia. The impact on the Western mind and our modern society was enormous. Modern scholarship is increasingly focusing on the so-called Dark Ages which, as a result, has received an historical reappraisal. Many authors object to the term as misleading. Other scholars increasingly see in the so called Dark Ages the foundation for many of the basic beliefs and social institutions of the West. While the era is generally treated as a single era, this millennium long era was extremely diverse. The pace of social change begn to quicken in the 12h century. The Christian Church which dominated the Medieval era was, after the fall of Rome, the major force for cultural unty of the West. One notable trend was the endurance of fashion. Before the mass marketing of our modern age, fashions endured for decades if not centuries. Changes in fashion were glacial compared to the coming and going of modern fashions.

The 5th Century

Rome unified Europe as never before or since. The 5th and 6th centuries witnessed the successive migratioins of Germanic tribles which slowly overwealmed the Western Empire. Tribe after tribe renetrated the Roman frontier defenses and eventually reached Rome itself. The end of classical antiquity is generally seen as the collapse of the Western Roman Empire the sacking of Rome. Rome had been in decline for some time, but in 410 AD the culminating event, that shattered the Rome's imperial pretentions was the pillaging of Rome by the Visigothic chief, Alaric. Other barbarians including the Alans, Huns, Goths, Ostrogoths, Vandals, and Visagoths swept Imperial armies aside. The Barbarian invasions are probably a misnomer. The Brbarians did not precusly invade Rome. They were less interested in destoying Rome than simply being part of it. Many had been romamized to vary extents and were open to prostelization by Christain priests. Conversions were to come in many ways, unlike the Arabs which introduced Islam by conquest, the victorious barabarian invaders were to accep the faith of the Empire which they destroyed. The historyb of conversion varies: missionary zeal, princely fiat, election, shamanistic vision, and other processes. Many of the invading barbarians were displaced farmers fleeing more warlike tribes from the east pushing west. One historians describes the barbarians as "seeping" into the Empire rather than invading it. Roman culture and learning as well as Roman fashion did not disappear at once, but this mark the beginning of Europe's descent to what some have termed the Dark Ages, although some historians object to the negative connotations. In fact, the fall of Rome was not a catacylsmic event, but rather a gradual event that occurred over centuries. [Brown] There are many indicators by the 3rd centuray and more pronounced indications by the 4th century that Roman civilization is declining. By the 5th century it is patently obvious, Almost all of the monumental structures are from an early period. The quality of workmanship begins to decline, not only in archetecture, but metelurgy, glass blowing, jewlery, art, and many other areas. The Roman legions gby the 5th century no longer as well equipped as they have been. The process of decline is not simple to follow, nor is it well recorded in the limited available written texts. Walpole complained of getting bogged down in Gibbon's account of the 5th and 6th centuries. Much of the process of a declining Rome can only be surmised from the expanding archeolgical evidence. What was shattered in the 5th century was the Pax Romana only to be gradually replaced by the common Christain values of the developing medieval Europe. Europe by the 15th century was clearlt changing. By th 16th century, the Renaissance had opened the eyes of Medieval Europeans and Columbus had completed his voyages opening the new World and the era of discoveries.

The 6th Century

The major poweers in the 6th century were Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium), Sassanid Persia, Gupta India, and Sui China. Western scholars generally mark the 6th century as the end of Classical Antiquity and the beginning of the European Medieval era. The early medieval period is often referred as the Dark Ages, dark of course compared to the glories of Rome and dark with the extinction of learning and formalized education. Rome did not disappear in an instant. By the mid 6th centurty, however, those in the West with personal memories of Rome were gone. Few outside the Church were now literate--even the aristocratic classes. The quality of life also declined with Roman learning and security. Life in the Dark Ages in Hobbes noted description was nasty, brutish, and short. Even so, the Dark Ages in recent years have been the subject of an historical reappraisal. Many authors object to the term as misleading. Other scholars increasingly see in the so called Dark Ages the foundation for many of the basic beliefs and social institutions of the West. [Brown] Justinian the Great ruled the Eastern Roman emperor (527-65). He attempted to restablish the Roman Empire by retaking lands in the West, especilly Italy-- the renovatio imperii or restoration of the Empire. [Barker] Justinian ultimstly failed in his grandiose ambitions, but left Byzantium as the amjor power of Christendom. Plague seems to have been a major factor in his failure. The collapse of the Western Roman Empire resulted in Europe being fractured into small kingdoms governed Germanic tribal chiefs compdeting for poweer and land. Out of this casuleron, the Franks rose to prominence in the est. They established their dominance over what is now modern France and Germany. The huge 8 x 11 km Ilopango caldera is now one of El Salvador's largest lakes is located east of San Salvador. It has been the scene of massive eruptions. The latest was the massive Tierra Blanca Joven (TBJ) eruption produced widespread pyroclastic flows and devastated early Mayan cities (536) Some 100,000 peoople nmay haver been killed. It had severe weather impacts around the globe, killing many more as agriculture was adversely imoscted. Pope Gregory the Great (540-604) played a major role in establishing the authority of the papacy his writings, especialy the Rule for Bishops established the basic role of church prelates. Ireland was a major center of Christainity in the 6th century. Columba introduced Christianity to Northumbria (northern England) from Ireland in the 6th century. Columba was exiled from Ireland and landed in Scotland in 563 to found a monastery at Iona. A school founded at Iona was one of the earliest in Britain and helped to educate a generation of monks and priests which played an important role in the conversion of Britain. Columa and his followers proceeded to spread the faith throughout Scotland and northern England at the same time Roman Christianity was advancing in southern England. Children through the Medieval era were dressed in miniature if simplified versions of their parents clothing. Except for infants we do not know of any clothing styles specifically designed for children. This was true in the 6th century at the beginning of the Medieval era and was true in the 15th century at the end of the era. For most Europeans throughout the Medieval period, wool and to a much lesser extent more expensive linnen. were the only fabrics available. Silk was an enormously expensive import from the East and cotton was virtually unknown.

The 7th Century

There were fundamentalm political changes during the 7th century. Byzantium, Persia, the Sui dynasty in China, and Persia were the dominnt powers at the beginning of the century. Harsha united most Northern India, conqueruing the many small that had emerged from the collapse of the Gupta Empire (Late-6th century). Perhaps the most monumental change was the rise of the Islamic Caliphate which seized much of the Byzantine Empire and conuered Persia. The Tang dynasty rose in China and controlled an empire streching from Korea to Central Asia. China began to reach unprecented heights. Europe was still rather unimprtant in globasl trrms. The Germanic tribes by 600 were in possession of almost all of the Western Roman Empire. The Franks were becoming dominanty, but the Lombards controlled Italy and the Visigoths Spain. Northumbria in England prevalid over Mercia. The economy of Western Europe had by the 7th century fragmented like that of the political structure of Rome. Some scholars have argued that the Barbarian invasions of the 5th and 6th centuries had not disrupted trade and commerce in the Mediterranean World. Modern archeological evidence, however, suggest that the economy of the Roman world had colapsed and was in a state of 'involution'. [Brown] Gradually during the 7th and 8th centuries the Roman and local populations amalgamated with the Germanic invaders. The Church was a poweful political and cultural force in the 7th century. The Church at the time was fragmented without a clear dominant center. Irish monks did not look toward Rime to dertermine doctrinal questions, but rather studied the Bible and the writings of Church fathers for spiritual guidance. It was the insubstantial but very powerful bonds of the Christain faith that helped restablish a kind of cultural unity that the Roman Empire had once provided Europe. Even so in the 7th century there were what amounted to many 'Micro-Christendoms' rather one all-embracing Christaian Church. [Brown] The Roman Church struggled with the Arian heresy. Major Church councils would decided Church dictrine, many held in Toledo. Monks from Iona founded Lindisfarne, another austere monestary that played a key role in the conversion of Britain. The most famous Englishman in the century was a prelate--Cuthbert (??-687) rather than a king. A rare source on the early-medieval era comes to us from the writing and historical accounts of the Venerable Bede who lived in England during the late-7th and early-8th centuries. He launched the Arthurian legend that distorted early English history. In the East, Arab nommads emerged out of the desset with a passionate new faith -- Islam. Mohammed succed in unifying the waring Arab tribes (622). He died (632), but his followers raoidly expanded beyond the Arabian Peninsula establisjing the Rashidun Caliphate (632–661) and the Umayyad Caliphate (661–750). The Muslim conquest of Persia in the 7th century led to the downfall of the Sasanian Empire. Islamic armies seized much of the Byzantine Empire and eventually Western Christendom as well. . .

The 8th Century

The new European kings were not just warlords, but rulers annoited by God a responsible for preserving the Faith as well as the security of his subjects. The dual role invested the king with political, religious, and culture responsibilities. The Christinization of the British isles was achieved. Scotland was emerging in the north and the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were well established in the south. Pope Gregory authorized Boniface's quest to convert the Germans west of the Rhine (718). The process of assisimilation of Germanic conquers and Roman and other local populations was underway. Meamwhile Muslim armies threaten Christendom in the east and West. General Leo the Isaurian holds off a Muslim army attacking Constaninople by land and sea (718). The Byzantine Empire will continue as a citidel protecting the Christin Balkans from Islamic invaders. Leo becomes Leo III and begins a campaign against Icons, believing he can convert Jews and Muskims. The Arabs and Islam also swept west through Berber North Africa and cross the Straits of Gibralter to conquer almost all of Spain (711). Muslim armies cross the Pyranees and occupy Nimes in France, but are stopped at Tours by Charles the Hammar (732). Although not a huge battle, few military engagements had such profojnd conseuences. The fighting that becomes known as the Reconquista began on the Iberian Peninsula and will last for centuries. This end the period of major Muslin advances in the West. Major changes occur beyond Europe. The great Mesoamerivcan city of Teotihuacan (Teotihuac�n) in Mexico is destroyed and left in ruins (around 750). The Mayan civilization to the south also declines. The Umayyad caliphs lost power in Bagdad. Thdey are overthrown by an army of mixed nationalities from Khurasan (east of Persia). The new caliph is Abu-Abbas al-Sarahbegins the rule of the Abbasid caliphs has begun. Pepin the Short, the son of Charles Martel, founds the Carolingians dynasty. The saga of Beowulf was probably first written (8th century). The famed Book of Kells was made at the Kells monastery in Ireland (late-8th or early-9th century). Important technical inovations were reorted in agriculture. The heavy plow was developed in the Rhine valley. The horsecollar, never adopted by the Romans, appeared in northern Europe probably adopted from Asia (during the 8th or 9th century). We notice some schools organized by the Franks (8th century).

The 9th Century

The Viking attacks on Western Europe begin in the 9th century. They sack the famed monestary at Iona in 802. The famous Oseberg ship was buried in the 9th century. The schism between eastern and western Christain Churches occur (863-879). The Carloingian Renaissance in many ways signaled the end of the Dark Ages and ended four centuries of fragmentatin that had followed the fall of Rome. Europe was nore united in the 9th century than any other time since the fall of Rome in the 5th century. The Carolingian Empire according to one historian produced modern Europe's first technocrats. [Brown]. Charlemagne in France dominated Western Europe. Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III in Rome during 800. He defeats the Moors and takes Barcelona in 801. Nicephorus I of Byzantium and Charlemagne agree to the boundaries between their empires. The Byzantines recognizes the independence of Venice. Alfred the Great (849-900) in England save the Anglon Saxons from complete domination by the Vikings (Danes). While the Norwegians and danes turn west, the Swedes turn east. The Swedish Rus (Vikings) by the mid 9th century are becoming dominant along the Volga trade routes. Nearly a millennium after the Chinese invented crank handles for turning wheels , they appear in Europe. The first images of a rotary grindstone is noted in Europe. Suleiman travels to China and publishes an account, centuries before Marco Polo describes China to Chritain Europe. At the end of the century the Magyars arrive in Carpathian Basin. Clothing in the 9th century was was little changed from earlier centuries. People wore very simple, plain garments. The basic garment was a sack-like tunic. There were no special styles for children. Women and girls, but not men, wore a a kind of supertunic and modestly covered their hair with long veils. Homes were cold and drafty during the winter. Clothes were often wrinkled up into cosy folds. Out doors both gender wore wool cloaks to keep warm. [Crush]

The 10th Century

With the disolution of Charlemagne's empire and the development of petty states throughout Europe the Church rises in prestige and importance. From the 10th to the 13th century, the Church enjoys a prestige and influencec that it never before had or was to every again enjoy. The Church diminated Medieval European history, its authority, influence, wealth, and prestige was unchallenged. Churchmen dominated virtaally every important field of European life. The Church to some extent filled the vacuume created by lack of strong centalized political control. But the Church could not play the military role of Charlemagne's empire. This meant that the small principalities as well as local rulers had to defend themselves. Thus these local rulers rose in importance. Many built castles or fortifiedc keeps as needed protection in a very dangerous world. It is at this time that the Norsemen or Vikings appear in WWester Europe, For two centuries they are the scourge of Europe. They were not just confined to Scandinavia and pillage. The Norsemen virtually created Russia and made major contributions to the evolving English and French nations. England in the 10th century was a fractured nation composed of Wessex, Mercia, East Anglia, and Northumbria subjected to raids from King Macbeth in Scotland and Danish Vikings who were bought off with bribes called Danegeld. Archbishop Wulfstan in York helped codify law for the usurper King Canute of Denmark. The first Hapsburg, a minor count appears for the first time in the historical record. In the east Prince Mieszko of Poland was nverted by Jordan, the chaplain of his Bohemian wife, Dobrawa. Thus although Greek Orthodox arrived in Poland first, Poland became a Roman Catholic country. By the end of the century the German king Otto the Great managed to recreate much of Charlemagne's empire and for tyhe next three centuries, Otto's Holy Roman Empire was atv least nominally the most important power in Europe.

The 11th Century

The Eastern and Western Churches for centuries had been moving apart it was in the 11th Century that the Great Schism occurred (1052-54) Newly crowned English King Harold, son of Godwin and Edward the Confessor's successor, in 1066 rushed north to put down a rebellion by his brother backed by an army of Norwegian Vikings. Harold virtually anialates the Norwegians, at Stamford Bridge. Meanwhile William of Normandy, who had assembled an invasion force, had been waiting imaptiently. Suddenly the winds shift and he crosses the Channel to invade Sussex. Harold rushed his battered force south rather than waiting to rest his men and gather additional forces. The two armies met at Hastings. Norman calvary and longbows prove decissive. The Normans within two decaded disposses England's Anglos-Saxon aristocracy and began the formation of modern England. It was at this time that Leif Ericson reportedly reaced North America. The crusades began in the 11th century. Henry IV, the Emperor of Germany was humiliated by Pope Gregory VII at Canossa in 1077 as monarchs and popes struggled over their temoral and secular authorities. Henry was forced to dress as a pentinent and stand barefoot in the snow for 3 days outside the Castle of Canossa where Pope Gregory was quartered. Women are of little consequence. Few are describe to many extent in the historical record. One historian writes, "marriage, let there be no misunderstanding about it, was a business for the two families concerned". [Fletcher] The merchant guilds began to become important in the 11th century. The Papacy launches the Crusades at the end of the 11th century. The Crusades are to have a profound cultural and economic influence in Europe. One opart of this is to inroduce Western Europe to luxury goods like silk and cotton. Men and boys by the 11th century had begun to wear supertunics. Men and boys wore rather loose, floppy "braies" which were often covered with bandages. Noblemen commonly wore these bandages criss-crossed. Some men wore a pointed cap, but most went without ant head covering. Women still veiled their hair, but girls were allowed to leave their hair uncovered. Babies were normally tightly swaddled, a practice that persists some time in Europe. [Crush]

The 12th Century

The pace of change in Europe begins to quicken in the 12th century. King Henry I (1100-35) is crowned king of England and control Normandy. He uses the length of his own arm [fingertip to nose] and decrees it to be the true measure of a yard in England. Frederick I (Barbarossa) comes to dominate much of Germany and invades Italy and Poland. Controling much of Italy, he forces the Pope to crown him Holy Roman Emperor (1155). (The NAZIs named their 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa, in his honor.) Northern Italy's Lombard League defeats defeats Barbarossa ar Leganno. He later drowns in Asia Minor, in the Third Crusade (1190). Louis VII of France annuls his marriage to Eleanor of Acquitaine (who marries England's Henry Plantagent). Henry II (Henry Plantagenet) is crowned King of England (1154). He centralizes royal authority and marries Eleanor of Acquitaine with her Continentaldomains. He appoints a friend Thomas a Becket as Arch Bishop to help gain control of the English Church, but later has him murdered. Mongol tribes of central Asia are consolidated by Temujin (about 1190). Temujin takes the title Genghis Khan (1206), and directs his hordes west to conquer and much of eastern Europe. The Germanic Teutonic Knights are founded in the 1190s. France banishes the Jews several centuries before the Spanish (1182), but are allowed to return after only a few years. The Abbe Suger begins building the church of St. Denis which will be the first important Gothic church complete with flying butresses. The Cathedral of Notre Dame was constructede in Paris (1163-1235). A university, the University of Bologna is founded in Italy (1158). The University of Paris is founded in France (before 1170). Carvings show that Europeans have begun to use ship rudders in the 12th century. A paper mill is known to have operated in Herault, France (1189), perhaps the first in Europe. Reference appear to a magnetic compass at the end of the century. Thomas Becket was murdered by the King's men in canterbury Cathedral. St. Francis breathed newclife into the Church. The 12th century is the era in which Ivanhoe is set, making it the era in which most people like as the medieval era. It was in fact the beginning of the closing era before gun powder and the Renaissance were to remake Europe. One HBC reader reports that ordinary men and boys would have typically worn "breeches" made out of wool and maybe a "jerkin" made out of wool as well. Craft guilds acieved considerable importance in the 12th century. The apprentice system became generally accepted throughout Europe. Belts and girdles become popular in the 12th century. Women and girls adopt a new style of slinky tunics which were called kirtles. Hangimg sleeves on supertunics become fashionable. Those of nobel ladies might even touch the ground. Women's hair was often done in plaits. Girls from affluent families might cover their plaits with silk sheaths that were called fouriaux. Men increasingly wore hats or hoods men under which they wore small close fitting caps called coifs--the origin of the modern word meaning strangely a woman's fancy hair style. [Crush]

The 13th Century

The 13th and 14th centuries were periods of accelerating intellectual activity, marked bu the foundation if universities and the increasingly skeptical revaluation of traditionalm conceopts. Arab and classical worls on medecine are translated. The modern vernacular languages develop and are increasingly used a factor in the increasing importance of nationalist sentiment. Comercial centers develop into increasingly important cities. The Mongols burst out of the Asian steppe in the 13th century when Temujin united the various klans and was proclaimed Genghis Khan or Very Mighty King (1206). Francis of Assisi fonded the Order of Friars Minor, the Franciscans (1210). Genghis Khan invades China (1211) and takes the imperial capital Bejing (1214). The Children'd Crusades in France and Germany occur (1212). King John of England at Runnymede signed the Magna Charter, the first written document, limiting royal authority (1215). St Dominic founded the Dominicans (1216). Another religious counsil, the Fourth Lateran Council recognised the doctrine of transubstantiation (the view that the bread and wine used in communion are seen as Christ's flesh and blood) (1215). This is the basic Catholic doctrine today. The Fifth Crusade was launched against Egypt (1217). St. Thomas Aquinas (1224-73) becomes the most important Catholic theologian. leaving his major work Summa Theologica unfinished at his death. The Sixth Crusade was launched (1228). Pope Gregory IX begins his quarel with the Emperor Frederic (1227) and founds the Holy Office of the Inquisition (1231). Genghis Khan after defeating the Russians and Poles was about to move further into Western Europe when he died (1227). The Muslims retake Jerusalem (1244). The Seventh Crusade is launched (1248). The English found Oxford University (1249). The Eighth and final Crusade was launched (1270). The first Hapsburg, Rudolf I, was elected Holy Roman Emperor in Germany (1273). The Hapsburgs would dominate the Empire and Germany until the Empire was abolished by Napoleon at the beginning of the 19th century. The Crusades end in the late 12th century (1270), but the imapact on Europe was enormous. Marco Polo departs Venice and follows the Silk Road to China (1271). He lives there for 17 years and becomes wealthy. He eturnds to Venice wih his accounts of the East and dies in Venice (1323). The accounts help to create a desir to establish direct trade contacts with China. The University of Cambridge was founded (1284). The English expell the Jews (1290). Economic developments included the issuance of the flioria gold coin in Florence. It would become the first international currency. The glassmaking industry was founded in Italy (1295). There were also important technological developments. The Chinese invented the gun (1250). Eyeglasses in the later part of the century. The first mechanical clocks were made (1280). The wundmill was invented (1290). Some clothing developments have been noted. Buttons appeared on clothing for the first time, but as decoration rather than fastners. It is in the 13th century that spinning wheels are first noted in Europe, presumably an import from China along the Silk Road.

The 14th Century

Although generally classified by most scholars as the last century of the medieval era, the 14th century is generally seen as the beginning of the Renaissance and the beginning of a modern state of mind. The precise time is difficlt to set and of course varied accross Europe. The Renaissance began at Firenze around 1300 and gradually spread north. Even so, the indicators that constitute the Renaissance did not reach other areas of Europe 1-2 centuries. Chaucer wrote his Canterbury Tales in England. The bubonic plague first appeared in Sicily and Europe and spread like wild fire, wihin a year it had reached England. Within 5 years a third of Europeans were dead asa result of the Black Death. The social, politicl, and economic consequences were immeasurable. Not by accident, the Renaissance like the plague also first appeared in Italy and gradually spread north to the other states of Western Europe. Germany wa not only devestated by the Plague, but also the Hundred Years War. The Crusades played an important role in expanding the vision of Medieval Europe leading to the Renaissance. Crusading knights brought with them back to Europe new fabrics, especially silk. This was to fuel the European desire to establish direct trade contacts with China. After the Plague, Europe slowly recovers, As the pace of life quickens in Europe with new ideas and and an expanding economy, so does the pace of fashion change gather speed. Earlier whole centuries went by with virtually no change in fashion. By the 14th centuries there are noticeable change even between decades--although still nothing like moder fashion shifts. Men whon could afford it dressed in coloful, gay clothing. They wore stockings (hose) that were commonly different colors. The edges of their upper garments might be cut into fancy patterns. Many men wore hoods like the ones today worn by frairs. Boys clothing was not differentthan men's clothing only smaller. Many could not afford to adequanrly clothe their children so they would more commonly be barefoot and go without stockings. Women still covered their hair, most commonly with netted frets. Military styles affected fashions, Women adoopted the surcote which Crusaders wore over their armor. The hoods worn by men gradually changed during the century. By the 1360s fashion was becoming increasingly excessive, in part a sign of economic affluence. Hoods (the liripipe) were becoming longer and notably pointed, some worn by nobels and affluent merchants might nearly touch the ground. The stickings or hose underwent a similar change. The feet of the hose worn by stylish gentklemen were extended to exagerated lengths. Women wore surcotes with the sides cut to show off the kirtles they wore underneath. The fashiins excesses such as bright colors and extended hoods and stickings were a matter of concern. In part this was a matter of affluent commonors such as merchants with the money to dress as well as the nobility. In some countries such as Engand, laws were passed regulate fashion. [Crush]

The 15th Century

The 15th century in many ways is when Europe began to make the transition from the Medieval to the modern world. The Renaissance became established outside of Italy by the 15th century. The Renaissance had a profound affect on Europe. The vernacular languages become increasingly important and the modern forms of European languages begin to appear. Perhaps most important, modern English appears out of Middle English. This trend is so pronounced that by the 16th century we can read English authors with considerable ease. The Great Schism between the Eastern and Western Church becomes permanent (1417). In part because of the twin impacts of the Schism with the Eastern Church and the Renaissance, there is increased Church concern with heresy. The Church supresses Lollardy in England. John Badby becomes the first individual burnt at the stake for heresy in England. John Huss is burned at the stake in Germany. Henry V decimates the French nobility at the Battle of Agincourt (1415). A peasant girl, Jeanne d'Arc appears in France and leads French forces to a victory against the English (1429). She is burned at the stake, but she sets in motion th expulsion of the English from France and a French victory in the he Hundred Years' War. The modern states of France and England develop. Henry VII in England founds the Tudor dynasty. The Byzatine Empire had been reduced to Constantinople which fell to the Ottoman Empire (1453). The Ottomans begin to turn their attention west to Europe. At the same time, it was in the 15th century that Europe exploded outward accross the globe. First it was the Portuguese voyages of discovery around Africa and on to Asia. The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama reaches India (1498). Columbus discovered the Americas in his efforts to reach the East (1492). While it is the European voyages that are most heavily reported during the 15th century, a much larger operation at the time was Chinese eunuch Admiral Zheng He's voyage with an emense fleet to South-East Asia, India, and East Africa. Also in 1492 Granada fell and the Moors were finally expelled from the Iberian Peninsula. Isabela and Ferdinand in an effort to "purify" Spain even futher also in 1492 expell the Jews, who had been tolerated by the Moors. To accomplish this the Spanish Inquisition begins its work. In many ways it will succeed, but one impact of the Inquisition is to initiate a decline in the Spanish economy and culture that even the flow of riches from the Americas will be unable to reverse. Just as the Renaissance sets mens' minds on radical new intellectal quests, a German Johann Gutenberg invents movable print making possible printing and bringing books into the reach of vastly more people in Europe. One of the most important books of the century is Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince. Douublet and hose were worn by men during the Renaissance. Boys after breeching would generally wear the styles worn by their fathers. A doublet was close-fitting jacket, both sleeved and sleeveless, sometimes with a short attached skirt. One report indicates that doublet and hose were initially undergarments and only the well to do could afford them. As a result, they became a status symbol and people began wearing them as outer garments. Belts in the 15th century become a symbol of manhood. Boys often did not wear them and they became seen as a transition to adult manhood. It became disgrace for a man to have his belt taken from him. Both men and women began wearing formal high-necked gowns called houppelande. These gowns might have trailing sleeves. Many great universities were founded are became established in the 15th century. The influence of 15th century garments can be seen in the academic gowns that teachers at English public (exclusive private) schools still wore in the early 20th century and are still worn by university dons for ceremonial purposes. People in the 15th century also wore gowns with a more casual low-necked cotehardie. Women and girls wore their hair in padded head-rolls (chaplets). [Crush]

The 16th Century

HBC defines the modern era as beginning in the 16th century, the 1500s. Information is thus available in the modern era section. The 16th century is after the Renaissance had opened the eyes of Medieval Europeans and Columbus had completed his voyages opening the new World and the era of discoveries. These and other developments were to lead to a European intellectual, economic, and military expansion that was to create our modern world. At the time the gold and silver that flowed into Spain from its American colonies were seen as the basis of national power. In the long run, the most significant item obtained by the Soanish in the Americas may have been the humble potato. Europeans at mid-millennium had no concept of childhood as a distinct stage of development. Children were expected to assume adult roles at an early age. This was reflected in the lack of any specific styles of clothing designed to meet the needs of children. After breaching, children were dressed in essentially adult clothes scale down to fit there small frames. Modern concepts of childhood and the family did not begin to form until the 18th Century and are in many ways largely formulated in the 19th Century Victorian era. For many, their concepts of clothing during this century is largely set by Shakesperian plays that they have seen.

Clothing Trends

It is possible to discuss the chronological of medieval Europe with a fair degree of accuracy. There are a wide variety of avalble sources. Information on clothing is a different matter. A real problem when talking about medieval chronology is this: the Renaissance began at Firenze around 1300. At that period France, England and Germany were still for two centuries in the Middle Ages.

History Sources

Brown, Peter. The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity, A.D. 200-1000 2nd editioin (Blackwell paperback: 2003), 625p.

Fletcher, Richard. Bloodfeud: Muder and Revenge in Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford Universuty Press, 2003), 231p.

Menocal, Maria Rosa. The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Toleration un Midieval Spain (Little Brown).

Clothing Sources

Here are some excellent books addressing medieval childhood, although treatment of clothing is uneven.

Alexandre-Bidon, Daniele and Didier Lett. Children in the Middle Ages: Fifth-Fifteenth Centuries. Trans. Jody Gladding. Notre Dame: U of Notre Dame P, 1999.

Barker, John W. Justinian and the Later Roman Empire (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1966).

Crawford, Sally. Childhood in Anglo-Saxon England. Sutton, 1999.

Cressy, David. Birth, Marriage, and Death: Ritual, Religion, and the Life Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England. Oxford: OUP, 1997.

Crush, Margaret. Piccolo Book of Costume (Pan Books: London, 1973). The book has vert nicely done illustrations by Faith Jaques.

Jorgenson Itnyre, Cathy ed. Medieval Family Roles: A Book of Essays. New York: Garland, 1996.

Kline, Dan. University of Alaska Anchorage (is working on a book about medieval children).

Lewis, Katherine J., Noel James Menuge, and Kim M. Phillips, eds. Young Medieval Women. New York: St. Martin's, 1999.


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Created: May 12, 2000
Last updated: 8:45 AM 1/27/2011