Historical events and politics
Great Britain and Ireland
In England, the Norman Conquest of 1066 resulted in a kingdom ruled by a Francophone nobility. The Normans invaded Ireland by force in 1169 and soon established themselves throughout most of the country, although their stronghold was the southeast. Likewise, Scotland and Wales were subdued to vassalage at about the same time, though Scotland later asserted its independence and Wales remained largely under the rule of independent native princes until the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd in 1282. The Exchequer was founded in the 12th century under King Henry I, and the first parliaments were convened. In 1215, after the loss of Normandy, King John signed the Magna Carta into law, which limited the power of English monarchs.
Spain and Italy
Much of the Iberian peninsula had been occupied by the Moors after 711, although the northernmost portion was divided between several Christian states. In the 11th century, and again in the thirteenth, the Christian kingdoms of the north gradually drove the Muslims from central and most of southern Iberia.
In Italy, independent city states grew affluent on eastern maritime trade. These were in particular the thalassocracies of Pisa, Amalfi, Genoa and Venice.
From the mid-tenth to the mid-11th centuries, the Scandinavian kingdoms were unified and Christianized, resulting in an end of Viking raids, and greater involvement in European politics. King Cnut of Denmark ruled over both England and Norway. After Cnut's death in 1035, England and Norway were lost, and with the defeat of Valdemar II in 1227, Danish predominance in the region came to an end. Meanwhile, Norway extended its Atlantic possessions, ranging from Greenland to the Isle of Man, while Sweden, under Birger Jarl, built up a power-base in the Baltic Sea. However, the Norwegian influence started to decline already in the same period, marked by the Treaty of Perth of 1266. Also, civil wars raged in Norway between 1130 and 1240.
France and Germany
By the time of the High Middle Ages, the Carolingian Empire had been divided and replaced by separate successor kingdoms called France and Germany, although not with their modern boundaries. Germany was under the banner of the Holy Roman Empire, which reached its high-water mark of unity and political power.
During the successful reign of King David IV of Georgia (1089–1125), Kingdom of Georgia grew in strength and expelled the Seljuk Empire from its lands. David's decisive victory in the Battle of Didgori (1121) against the Seljuk Turks, as a result of which Georgia recaptured its lost capital Tbilisi, marked the beginning of the Georgian Golden Age. David's granddaughter Queen Tamar continued the upward rise, successfully neutralizing internal opposition and embarking on an energetic foreign policy aided by further decline of the hostile Seljuk Turks. Relying on a powerful military élite, Tamar was able to build on the successes of her predecessors to consolidate an empire which dominated vast lands spanning from present-day southern Russia on the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea. Georgia remained a leading regional power until its collapse under the Mongol attacks within two decades after Tamar's death.
In the High Middle Ages, the Kingdom of Hungary (founded in 1000), became one of the most powerful medieval states in central Europe and Western Europe. King Saint Stephen I of Hungary introduced Christianity to the region; he was remembered by the contemporary chroniclers as a very religious monarch, with wide knowledge in Latin grammar, strict with his own people but kind to the foreigners. He eradicated the remnants of the tribal organisation in the Kingdom and forced the people to sedentarize and adopt the Christian religion, ethics, way of life and founded the Hungarian medieval state, organising it politically in counties using the Germanic system as a model.
The following monarchs usually kept a close relationship with Rome like Saint Ladislaus I of Hungary, and a tolerant attitude with the pagans that escaped to the Kingdom searching for sanctuary (for example Cumans in the 13th century), which eventually created certain discomfort for some Popes. With entering in Personal union with the Kingdom of Croatia and annexation of other small states, Hungary became a small empire that extended its control over the Balkans and all the Carpathian region. The Hungarian royal house was the one that gave the most saints to the Catholic Church during medieval times.
Poland and Lithuania
During the High Middle Ages Poland emerged as a kingdom. It decided to bond itself with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, confirmed by the Union of Krewo and later treaties, leading to a personal union in 1569.
- Main articles: Byzantine Empire, Second Bulgarian Empire, Serbian Grand Principality, Principality of Arbanon, Banate of Bosnia, and Kingdom of Croatia
The High Middle Ages saw the height and decline of the Slavic state of Kievan Rus' and emergence of Cumania. Later, the Mongol invasion in the 13th century had great impact on the east of Europe, as many countries of the region were invaded, pillaged, conquered and/or vassalized.
During the first half of this period (c. 1025—1185) the Byzantine Empire dominated the Balkans, and under the Komnenian emperors there was a revival of prosperity and urbanization; however, their domination of Southeastern Europe came to an end with a successful Vlach-Bulgarian rebellion in 1185, and henceforth the region was divided between the Byzantines in Greece, some parts of Macedonia, and Thrace, the Bulgarians in Moesia and most of Thrace and Macedonia, and the Serbs to the northwest. Eastern and Western churches had formally split in the 11th century, and despite occasional periods of co-operation during the 12th century, in 1204 the Fourth Crusade treacherously captured Constantinople. This severely damaged the Byzantines, and their power was ultimately weakened by the Seljuks and the rising Ottoman Empire in the 14–15th century. The power of the Latin Empire, however, was short lived after the Crusader army was routed by Bulgarian Emperor Kaloyan in the Battle of Adrianople (1205).
Climate and agriculture
The Medieval Warm Period, the period from 10th century to about the 14th century in Europe, was a relatively warm and gentle interval ended by the generally colder Little Ice Age. Farmers grew wheat well north into Scandinavia, and wine grapes in northern England, although the maximum expansion of vineyards appears to occur within the Little Ice Age period. During this time, a high demand for wine and steady volume of alcohol consumption inspired a viticulture revolution of progress. This protection from famine allowed Europe's population to increase, despite the famine in 1315 that killed 1.5 million people. This increased population contributed to the founding of new towns and an increase in industrial and economic activity during the period. They also established trade and a comprehensive production of alcohol. Food production also increased during this time as new ways of farming were introduced, including the use of a heavier plow, horses instead of oxen, and a three-field system that allowed the cultivation of a greater variety of crops than the earlier two-field system—notably legumes, the growth of which prevented the depletion of important nitrogen from the soil.
The rise of chivalry
Household heavy cavalry (knights) became common in the 11th century across Europe, and tournaments were invented. Although the heavy capital investment in horse and armor was a barrier to entry, knighthood became known as a way for serfs to earn their freedom. In the 12th century, the Cluny monks promoted ethical warfare and inspired the formation of orders of chivalry, such as the Templar Knights. Inherited titles of nobility were established during this period. In 13th-century Germany, knighthood became another inheritable title, although one of the less prestigious, and the trend spread to other countries.