The studies of the Middle Ages generally refer to the history of Europe, in particular the western part. But it cannot generalize the historical aspects of a region to the rest of the planet, because each place has its specificities, its history.
Moreover, at this time when we are going to study, the world was not interconnected as today, the contacts between peoples and regions were very precarious and, in some cases, nonexistent.
The period of the Middle Ages was traditionally delimited with an emphasis on political events. Accordingly, it began with the disintegration of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century (476 AD) and ended with the end of the Eastern Roman Empire with the Fall of Constantinople in the fifteenth century (1453 AD). ), also called the Byzantine Empire and the arrival of Europeans in America.
Between these milestones, about a thousand years have passed. It was a time when Europeans lived, mostly in the countryside, restricted to properties that sought their self-sufficiency.
Society - very different from that of the Roman Empire - was rigidly hierarchical and marked by faith in God and the control of the Catholic Church, arguably the most powerful institution in the entire Middle Ages. Political power was decentralized, that is, it was in the hands of numerous landlords.
For all these characteristics, many scholars have called this moment the Dark Ages. They believed that the medieval world had buried the knowledge produced by the Greeks and Romans. The study of natural phenomena and social relations through observation, for example, would have been replaced by religious mysticism.
The truth is that during these thousand years European society built much of its cultural values, which would spread around the world from the fifteenth century, with the Great Navigations. Values that are, until today, fully perceivable.
The origin of the feudal world
For centuries, the Roman Empire dominated much of Europe. A powerful administrative structure, with armies and roads that interconnected the whole territory, enabled the Romans to impose the populations of this part of the continent their domain, their way of life and their customs.
From the third century onwards, this scenario would begin to change. With difficulties in protecting the borders, the Roman Empire was invaded by various peoples, especially those of Germanic origin, such as the Angles, Saxons, Franks, Lombards, Suevians, Burgundians, Vandals and Ostrogoths.
In the fourth century, the Huns, who inhabited central Asia, invaded Europe and made this situation worse. These warriors began to roam the territories occupied by the Germanic peoples, forcing them to seek refuge within the Roman borders.
The invasions and looting of cities then became constant. Many families began to search the countryside, considering it safer. This led to a process of ruralization throughout western Europe.
Over the years, farms have become more protected. Transformed into fortified nuclei, they were under the administration of an owner with almost absolute powers over the lands and their inhabitants.
The centralized power of the Roman Empire was thus beginning to fragment. In 476, the Heruli, people of Germanic origin, invaded Rome and, under Odoacer, overthrew the emperor Romulus Augustus. It was the final step towards the breakdown of the Western Roman Empire.
In its place, over time, several independent kingdoms emerged. Within them, feudal society would be formed from the mixture of Roman values and customs with those of the invading peoples. The main features of this new society would be ruralization, fragmented power and strong religiosity.
Dividing the feudal world
Many scholars often divide the history of feudal society into two distinct moments: the High Middle Ages and the low Middle Ages. The first moment, between the fifth and ninth century, is the consolidation of the feudal world, when the kingdoms are formed and the social organization is crystallized. In the next moment, between the tenth and fifteenth centuries, feudal society began to show signs of change, with the strengthening of cities and commerce.