Causes and Impacts of the European Age of Exploration

A time when Europe was swept up in the Renaissance and the Reformation, other major changes were taking place in the world. Introduction With today’s global positioning satellites, Internet maps, cell phones, and superfast travel, it is hard to imagine exactly how it might have felt to embark on a voyage across an unknown ocean.[…]

Raubritter: Medieval and Early Modern European Robber Barons

Medieval robber barons most often imposed high or unauthorized tolls on rivers or roads passing through their territory. Introduction A robber baron or robber knight (German: Raubritter) was an unscrupulous feudal landowner who, protected by his fief’s legal status, imposed high taxes and tolls out of keeping with the norm without authorization by some higher[…]

Visigoths: Establishing a European Identity in the Ancient World

The designation Visigothi seems to have appealed to the Visigoths themselves, and in time they came to apply it to themselves. Introduction The Visigoths were the western tribe of the Goths (a Germanic people) who settled west of the Black Sea sometime in the 3rd century CE. According to the scholar Herwig Wolfram, the Roman writer Cassiodorus (c. 485-585 CE)[…]

Newest Born of Nations: European Nationalism and the Confederacy

White southerners looked to contemporary European nationalist movements and compared the South to aspiring nations abroad. The Confederacy has exploded into the news once again, as protestors seeking justice for African-Americans topple Confederate statues and municipalities follow their lead in pledging to remove more.  These events have again been greeted by claims that the Confederacy was[…]

Ancient Roman Gaul: Cultural Annihilation and Replacement

The Gaulish language and cultural identity underwent a syncretism with the Roman culture of the new governing class. Introduction The Roman Republic’s influence began in southern Gaul. By the mid-2nd century BC, Rome was trading heavily with the Greek colony of Massilia (modern Marseille) and entered into an alliance with them, by which it agreed[…]

Music, Eurocentrism, and Identity: Myth of American ‘Discovery’ in Chile

Traditional narratives of Europe as the center of history and culture and myths of discovery are addressed in Chilean historical musicology. Abstract During the past century, Edmundo O’Gorman, Tzvetan Todorov, Enrique Dussel and other scholars pointed out the Eurocentric perspective implied in traditional narratives about the discovery of America, most of which intended to confirm[…]

Visions of Paradise: Manuscripts and Gems from Medieval India and Europe

Empires in the Indian subcontinent shared intertwined histories with principalities to the west such as the Greeks and Romans. Introduction The word “paradise” often describes an idyllic place of unmatched beauty, but it can also refer to a mindset of harmony and bliss. Several world religions share these conceptions of paradise, but the paths for[…]

The Migration Period in Ancient Europe, 300-568 CE

The migrants comprised war bands or tribes of 10,000 to 20,000 people during and after the decline of the Western Roman Empire. Introduction The Migration Period was a period that lasted from AD 375 (possibly as early as 300) to 568, during which there were widespread invasions of peoples within or into Europe, during and after[…]

Warfare in Medieval Europe

The Middle Ages saw the emergence of the castle in Europe, which then spread to Western Asia. Introduction Medieval warfare is the European warfare of the Middle Ages. Technological, cultural, and social developments had forced a severe transformation in the character of warfare from antiquity, changing military tactics and the role of cavalry and artillery.[…]

History and Institutions of the Holy Roman Empire in Medieval Europe

The Empire, for much of its history, can be seen as the Christian equivalent of the Muslim caliphate. Introduction The Holy Roman Empire was a mainly Germanic conglomeration of lands in Central Europe during the Middle Ages and the early modern period. It was also known as the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation[…]

A History of the Frankish Empire of Early Medieval Europe

The first time that Francia is named is in the Panegyrici Latini in the early third century. Introduction Francia or Frankia, later also called the Frankish Empire (Latin: imperium Francorum), was the territory inhabited and ruled by the Franks from the third to the tenth century. The Frankish realm was ruled as one polity subdivided[…]

China’s Ancient Silk Road

The Silk Road was a vast trade network connecting Eurasia and North Africa via land and sea routes. Introduction In the first century CE, during the reign of Emperor Tiberius, silk had become a big problem. The luxury fabric, imported at great cost from China, had become a symbol of decadence and excess among Romans.[…]

Medieval and Early Modern European Christianity and Slavery

The spread of Christianity in the Early Middle Ages (from the fifth to tenth centuries) marked the boundaries of slavery throughout Europe. Before New World expansion, concepts of race and racial hierarchies did not define who could and could not be enslaved in Western Europe. Instead, the spread of Christianity in the Early Middle Ages[…]

The Formation of NATO in 1949

In 1947–1948, a series of events caused the nations of Western Europe to become concerned about their physical and political security. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was created in 1949 by the United States, Canada, and several Western European nations to provide collective security against the Soviet Union. NATO was the first peacetime military alliance[…]

Batu Khan: Founder of the Mongol ‘Golden Horde’

Batu would serve as the kingmaker of the Mongol Empire. Introduction Batu Khan (l. 1205-1255 CE) was a grandson of Genghis Khan and the founder of the Golden Horde. Batu was a skilled Mongol military commander and won battles from China to Persia, although his most famous exploits involve the grand Mongol campaign into Europe[…]

An Introduction to the Northern Renaissance in the Fifteenth Century

Italian art and ideas migrated North from Italy. What Was the Renaissance and Where Did It Happen? The word Renaissance is generally defined as the rebirth of classical antiquity in Italy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.  Seems simple enough, but the word “Renaissance” is actually fraught with complexity. Scholars argue about exactly when the Renaissance[…]

Religion in Medieval Europe

Christianity did not immediately win the hearts and minds of the people of Europe. Introduction Religion in the Middle Ages, though dominated by the Catholic Church, was far more varied than only orthodox Christianity. In the Early Middle Ages (c. 476-1000 CE), long-established pagan beliefs and practices entwined with those of the new religion so[…]

Visigoths: Ancient Germanic Tribes of Western Europe

After Alaric I, the Visigoths migrated to Spain where they established themselves and assimilated with the Romans. Introduction The Visigoths were the western tribe of the Goths (a Germanic people) who settled west of the Black Sea sometime in the 3rd century CE. According to the scholar Herwig Wolfram, the Roman writer Cassiodorus (c. 485-585 CE) coined the term Visigothi to[…]

Ostrogoths: Ancient Germanic Tribes of Eastern Europe

The designation, Ostrogoth, taken to mean ‘Eastern Goth’, actually means ‘Goths glorified by the rising sun’. Introduction The Ostrogoths were the eastern tribe of the Goths (a Germanic people) who rose in power in the area north of the Black Sea. The designation, Ostrogoth, taken to mean ‘Eastern Goth’, actually means ‘Goths glorified by the rising sun’ and was[…]

The Early Modern European Palaces of the Qianlong Emperor

These works represent an artistic encounter between East and West. A Controversial Auction In 2009, two eighteenth-century Chinese bronze sculptures — one representing a rat’s head and the other a rabbit’s — sold at a Christie’s auction in Paris for $40.4 million. Soon afterwards, the art world watched, stunned, as the winning bidder, Cai Mingchao,[…]

Devil’s Bargain: The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact 80 Years Later

On August 23rd, 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union stunned the world by announcing a nonaggression pact. By David Carlin Joseph Stalin cracks a smile. The dictator’s cold eyes even appear to twinkle. Next to him, the Nazi foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, beams with smug satisfaction. That night, Stalin will toast Hitler’s health.[…]

Abraham Lincoln in European Popular Culture

Lincoln has generally been absent as a model in European social and public life, rarely emphasized as an essential part of education or in the public forum. By Dr. John DeanMaître de Conférences 9° of Cultural History and American StudiesUniversity of Versailles Saint-Quentin en Yvelines Introduction This article argues that Lincoln is not a universal[…]

Statues and Status: Lincoln in Europe

The exponential growth of his popularity built into a memorial crescendo. Lincoln’s ascension to the status of icon was not smooth and steady. Journalist Horace Greeley predicted in April of 1865 that the sixteenth President’s reputation would grow proportionate to the distance from his own era, and it grew steadily from his death in 1865,[…]

African Art and the Effects of European Contact and Colonization

African cultures never existed in isolation—there was always movement, trade, and the exchange of ideas. Introduction Early encounters with Europeans were often recorded in African art. Look closely at the top of the mask above (and detail, left). Do you see faces? These represent Portuguese explorers with beards and hats (flanked by mudfish) who visited[…]

Religious Wars in Early Modern Europe

The splintering of the medieval church ushered in a volatile new era of increased anxiety, tension, and religious fervor during. Introduction For nearly 150 years, the battle for “true” Christianity tore early modern Europe apart. The spiritual divisions created by the Protestant Reformation led to a series of international and domestic conflicts that caused incalculable destruction and[…]

The Dissolution of the Monasteries and the Democratization of Magic in Post-Reformation England

How monks, friars and monastic sites became associated with magic in popular tradition, resulting in a lasting stereotype of medieval monks and friars as the masters of occult knowledge. Abstract The dissolution of the monasteries in England (1536–1540) forced hundreds of former inmates of religious houses to seek livelihoods outside the cloister to supplement meagre[…]

Creating French Culture Since the 8th Century: Treasures from the Bibliothèque nationale de France

The relationship between power—or politics—and culture in French history is an ambivalent one, defined as much by conflict and censorship as by cooperation and patronage. Introduction Throughout French history the powerful have sought to harness culture to their own ends. They understood that the representation of power—what today we call “image”—is a form of power[…]

Wives and Wenches, Sinners and Saints: Women in Medieval Europe

What did medieval Christians believe about women’s nature and social roles? How did they express these beliefs in illustrations, poetry, and religious writings? Introduction The medieval period can seem very distant from our own time, and the study of medieval women may appear particularly elusive. But feminist historians have found medieval Europe a rich subject[…]