The Middle Ages were an extraordinary time period in our history. After the collapse of the Roman Empire when the Romans left Britain, the dark ages descended. Most of the written records disappeared along with them, and the Britons didn’t seem to bother recording much in the way of events. So exactly what went on in the middle ages, isn’t all that clear, which may explain why this particular time period is known as the dark ages! But from what was recorded, the Saxons, Angles and Jutes invaded England, while local tribes formed in Scotland and the rest of the British Isles, and early medieval people began to move, migrate, and populate across the land. The Middle Ages are sometimes called the Medieval Period or the Medieval Age.
The Middle Ages Timeline
The Middle Ages – Early
In the early Middle Ages, Britain was roughly divided between the Picts of the north, Celts of the west and Anglo-Saxons of the east. Local leaders tussled with each other to control land and people, whilst continually fighting off raiders arriving in long boats from the sea! Soon the strongest leaders of the Middle Ages emerged and new kingdoms were formed, the greatest and most notable of the early leaders was of course, Alfred the Great. Order took hold, large armies were assembled and civilised skills like reading and writing began again. But the persistent, sea-faring invaders, the Vikings, were here to stay. Where the Vikings eventually settled, would be known as Danelaw and the ‘English’ would battle the Danelaw for generations, until eventually the Vikings absorbed into the local culture.
The Middle Ages – High and Late
The High and Late Middle Ages were shrouded in more darkness, with wide spread famine, disease, and war ravishing through the kingdoms. The plague itself destroyed a third of the population of Europe. Norman France had invaded England, in 1066, forever binding France and England together. Feudalism, where knights and nobles owed military service to their overlords, in return for rights to rent lands and great manor houses, began to spread. Peasants would start paying rent to nobles while attending churches, where Christianity was replacing the old Pagan religion, pushed by Crusades across Europe and the Middle East. The Church began to suffer controversy and heresy, paralleled with the conflict, civil unrest, and peasant revolts that occurred everywhere.
English struggles to contain Scotland, more war with France and the English Civil War, all scarred the green and pleasant lands of Britain in the middle ages. However, through advances in technology, agricultural methods and cultural changes, the middle ages eventually transformed Europe into a thriving a bustling modern society. One thing is for sure, the middle ages were not a quiet period in our colourful history!
Life in the Middle Ages
Life in the Middle Ages was very different today. Class systems were quickly established, where Kings, Barons and Nobles ruled, and lived the luxurious life; while Peasants and Serfs worked the land, begged and survived as best they could. Such class systems would be frowned upon in today’s society. Read more about life in the Middle Ages here.
Peasants in the Middle Ages
Peasants in the Middle Ages were people who struggled in almost every aspect of Medieval life. But they were resourceful, tactile and political and would rise up against the great rules if they had to.
Knights in the Middle Ages
Knights in the Middle Ages were the nobles and barons of the land. Agreeing to honour their pacts with the King, through a political system called Feudalism, they would provide military service in return for land and titles.
Castles in the Middle Ages
Castles in the Middle Ages were the strongholds of the Kingdom. Impenetrable power houses built for defence against invaders and rebels alike, and to show off the power and wealth of the owner. Kings worked tirelessly to build these across the realm, and many still stand magnificently today. You can find out more about Castles in the Middle Ages here.
The Middle Ages
So long as I have lived I have striven to live worthily. I desire to leave the me who come after me a remembrance in good works.
Alfred the Great.