Social and Cultural Changes During the Medieval Period Europe

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

The medieval time period was a time of significant achievements as shown through the social and cultural developments in society, however, the political unrest caused by a large number of conflicts ensured it was difficult to create change in a significant way. Firstly, there were numerous important individuals who brought forward social change and reforms during the medieval period. Furthermore, the cultural contributions that took place during this time are still evident in today’s society. Alternatively, whilst these developments were influential, achievements were limited by the ongoing political interferences that took place. Thus, the medieval period brought about rapid growth with some interferences that prevented change.

Social change was encouraged by progressive individuals who were proactive leaders in medieval society. Charlemagne was an important king in medieval Europe and brought in many social reforms which influence modern society. “The influence of Christianity across Europe increased under the rule of Charlemagne…He supported missionaries that traveled across Europe converting the people who were not Christians. He…made constant efforts to improve the religious life across his realm.”(Easton, Saldais, Smith & Dumovic, 2018) He helped to ensure that religion, more specifically Christianity, was a key aspect of society.

Furthermore, he was also an avid supporter of education, “The intellectual traditions and educational institutions supported by Charlemagne greatly influenced the development of Western culture. Charlemagne expanded the number of schools, and the quality of education was greatly improved.” (‘Charlemagne Biography – life, childhood, parents, death, school, son, information, born, time, achievements’, 2019) This made for a fairer society as peasants could now be educated alongside noblemen significantly improving their lives. Likewise, Joan of Arc was equally as influential in creating social change. Being inspired by visions from God, she was the first woman to fight in an army and demonstrated great bravery and leadership. “Her conviction and faith inspired many nobles and common people.” “ She helped lead the French to victory.”(Easton, Saldais, Smith & Dumovic, 2018) Joan of Arc’s achievements are still admired today as an impressive and defiant female during the medieval period. Therefore these significant individuals brought much change into the medieval society during their time.

Moreover, contributions to architecture, music, literature and law and order improved the culture of medieval society. The “gothic” style of architecture which is a “building and construction style [that] was used during the period of 1200 – 1500 A. D.” (Newman, 2019) is still commonly seen in many European towns and villages. “Gothic arch structures were light and spacious and they helped in creating airy high structures with proper light.” This style is still seen today in many cathedrals around the world. Most European towns and cities which settled during the medieval period still have buildings that date back almost 1000 years.

In addition, the law and order improved significantly through the Middle Ages through the creation of the Magna Carta it “is seen as one of the first steps towards the development of legal and political rights…and the start of modern democracy.” (Easton, Saldais, Smith & Demonic, 2018) The life of many people improved with the Magna Carta, as “The Magna Carta also abolished trial by ordeal. No more could people be condemned, tortured or killed on the grounds of suspicion or rumour.” (Easton, Saldais, Smith & Dumovic, 2018) This was a significant step towards a more civilised world. Thus, these medieval cultural changes have influenced the culture of modern society.

Conversely, the constant political unrest caused by a large number of conflicts ensured many of the changes were over shadowed. “The crusades were motivated by a desire for wealth and fame.” (Cartwright, 2019) The constant waring between the Christians and the Muslims resulted in many casualties in the medieval world and therefore had a negative impact on the change. In the crusades, “some were killed in battle for the Holy Land, while others died of disease or injuries.”(Easton et al. 2018) “There was also an increase in xenophobia and intolerance between Christians and Muslims, and between Christians and Jews, heretics and pagans.” (‘The Crusades – Revision 1 – KS3 History – BBC Bitesize’, 2019)

At the beginning of the crusades there were many people involved but as they released how brutal the crusades were, people lost interest realising that they would not win until only the peasants fought in the battles. The crusades were brutal, with thousands killed. A Christian source from the time claimed that: “The slaughter was so great that our men waded in blood up to their ankle” (Foucher de Chartres, n.d.) Although the crusades were cruel and did not improve the relationship of the two religions, “People’s lives improved. New trade and opportunities often meant greater wealth, and with this wealth came better living standards, health and access to education and work” (Easton, et al. 2018). Whilst the conflicts never really finished, change did occur ensuring that the medieval period was meaningful.

The medieval period brought about new social and cultural changes in society. Powerful people were influential, meaning that thousands of years later we still discuss their achievements, whilst cultural changes, such as the Magna Carta, have shaped the world we live in today. Political conflicts may have stalled the progression of ideas, but ultimately, the medieval period was progressive leading to many developments in society and achievements.


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