The Umayyad Dynasty of the Middle East, 661-749 CE

The glory of the Umayyads was not to last. Introduction The Dome of the Rock. The Great Mosque in Damascus. The Great Mosque in Córdoba. These remarkable architectural and artistic achievements are associated with the Umayyads, “first” dynasty of the Islamic World. After the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 C.E., there was a[…]

A Brief Biography of William the Conqueror

An accomplished diplomat, gifted military commander, and ruthless overlord. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction William the Conqueror (c. 1027-1087 CE), also known as William, Duke of Normandy and William the Bastard, led the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 CE when he defeated and killed his rival Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings. Crowned King[…]

Why Medieval Weapons Are Popular Among American Collectors

The medieval period is often described as the “time of ignorance and superstition”. The king, his knights, and people were very superstitious. Anything out of the ordinary would draw superstition. While superstition played a major role in the people’s lives of the medieval period, safety was always a concern. Only the soldiers, archers, and knights[…]

The Medieval Garden of the Humble Administrator in Suzhou, China

Designed at human scale, Chinese gardens are meant to be comfortable, intriguing, and pleasing at every turn. Introduction Extensive gardens are recorded in China from the third century B.C.E. onward. The scholar’s garden is often considered the most complete expression of the Chinese garden, especially in the late Ming (1573-1644) and Qing dynasties (1616-1911). These[…]

Temujin: The Reign of Genghis Khan, 1206-1227

Genghis Khan built the foundations of an empire which would ultimately control one-fifth of the globe. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Genghis Khan (aka Chinggis Khan, c. 1162/67-1227 CE) was the founder of the Mongol Empire (1206-1368 CE) which he would rule from 1206 until his death in 1227 CE. Born Temujin, he acquired the title[…]

The Rashtrakuta Dynasty of Medieval South India

By Saurav Ranjan Datta Introduction The Rashtrakuta Dynasty ruled parts of South India from the 8th to the 10th century CE. At its zenith, their kingdom included the modern state of Karnataka in its entirety along with parts of the current Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra and Gujarat. Their importance can be gauged from the[…]

The Temple-Building Gurjara-Pratihara Empire of Medieval India

The Pratiharas were known chiefly for their patronage of art, sculpture, and temple-building. By Dr. Avantika LalHistorian, Independent Researcher Introduction The Gurjara-Pratiharas, or simply, the Pratiharas (8th century CE – 11th century CE) held their sway over western and northern India. This dynasty saw its fortunes rising under Nagabhata I (730–760 CE) who successfully defeated Arab[…]

The History of the Emergence of Ancient Universities

Ever wondered about the origin of universities? If so, this article is going to be of interest you. The term university according to Wikipedia refers to an institution of higher learning or tertiary education and research. Every high school kid desires to go to university, although not all of them make it. Many Universities have[…]

Martial Arts in Medieval Japan

Several of the martial arts which became popular in medieval Japan were introduced from China. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction There were 18 martial arts (bugei or bujutsu) in medieval Japan, and these included use of weapons, unarmed self-defence techniques, swimming, and equestrian skills. Initially designed to hone the skills of warriors for greater success on[…]

Feudalism in Medieval Japan

Feudalism (hoken seido) began to be widespread in Japan from the beginning of the Kamakura Period (1185-1333 CE). By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Feudalism in medieval Japan (1185-1603 CE) describes the relationship between lords and vassals where land ownership and its use was exchanged for military service and loyalty. Although present earlier to some degree, the feudal system in Japan was[…]

Asylum in Ancient and Medieval Rome

Ancient Rome and its empire had the concept of asylum at its heart. Its legacy provided inspiration for centers of power around the world. Introduction The legacy of Ancient Rome has exerted a powerful influence on town halls and parliamentary buildings around the world, and especially Washington DC’s urban form and identity. With its classically[…]

Yakushiji and Ryoanji: A History of Two Japanese Buddhist Temples

Buddhism in Japan has been practiced since its official introduction by monks in 552 CE. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Yakushiji Overview The Yakushiji temple, located in Nara, Japan, is the headquarters of the Buddhist Hosso sect and one of the most important temples in the country. Originally founded in 680 CE at Fujiwara-kyo but then relocated[…]

African Traditional Religions in Art: Religion and the Spiritual Realm

Most traditional religions in Africa have developed at the local level and are unique to a particular society. Traditional Religions in Africa Most traditional religions in Africa have developed at the local level and are unique to a particular society. Common elements include a belief in a creator god, who is rarely if ever represented[…]

The Pushyabhuti Dynasty of Early Medieval India

The most notable ruler of this dynasty was its last ruler, Emperor Harshavardhana (or Harsha). Introduction The Pushyabhuti Dynasty (c. 500 CE – 647 CE) rose after the downfall of the Gupta Empire (3rd century CE – 6th century CE) in the 6th century CE in northern India. Also known as the Vardhana or Pushpabhuti[…]

The Gold Trade of Ancient and Medieval West Africa

The trade of gold in West Africa goes back to antiquity. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction West Africa was one of the world’s greatest producers of gold in the Middle Ages. Trade in the metal went back to antiquity but when the camel caravans of the Sahara linked North Africa to the savannah interior, the trade[…]

The Earth and the Heavens in Ancient and Medieval Maps

Exploring how British Library maps chart the evolution of man’s understanding of the earth and cosmos. Introduction Perhaps the oldest intellectual challenge facing the human mind has been to discover the shape and extent of the earth and of the cosmos which contains it. This problem has been fundamental to man’s understanding of his place[…]

The English Reformation: Tradition and Change

Introduction The English Reformation was part of a European-wide phenomenon to reform the church which began in 1517 when legend has it that the German monk and theologian Martin Luther nailed 95 theses (propositions for discussion) to the door of the castle church at Wittenberg to be debated publicly. Chief among these was the church[…]

The Crusades: Consequences and Effects

Many exaggerated claims have been made concerning the effects and consequences of the crusades on life in the Middle Ages and later. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The crusades of the 11th to 15th century CE have become one of the defining events of the Middle Ages in both Europe and the Middle East. The campaigns[…]

The Crusades: Causes and Goals

What were the motivating factors for crusaders, from the Pope to the humblest warrior? By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Crusades were a series of military campaigns organised by Christian powers in order to retake Jerusalem and the Holy Land back from Muslim control. There would be eight officially sanctioned crusades between 1095 CE and 1270[…]

Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Medieval Japanese Unification

His restructuring of the state would establish the social and political norms which endured in Japan until the 19th century CE. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598 CE) was a Japanese military leader who, along with his predecessor Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582 CE) and his successor Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616 CE), is credited with unifying Japan[…]

Medieval Japan, 1185 to 1603 CE

The was a busy period of development and population growth. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The medieval period of Japan is considered by most historians to stretch from 1185 to 1603 CE. Stand out features of the period include the replacement of the aristocracy by the samurai class as the most powerful social group, the establishment of shogun military rulers and their[…]

Religious Change and the Ottoman Empire, 1450-1750

How did the Ottomans shape the political and religious history of early modern Europe? Introduction The Ottoman Empire was one of the largest and longest-lasting empires in world history, stretching across the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Northern Africa at its zenith in the sixteenth century. Many European observers of the time experienced and depicted[…]

Six Great Heresies of the Middle Ages

So-called heresies offered the opportunity for religious expression outside of the narrowly defined and self-serving precepts of the Church. Introduction The medieval Church established its monopoly over the spiritual life of Europeans in the Early Middle Ages (c. 476-1000 CE) and consolidated that power throughout the High Middle Ages (1000-1300 CE) and Late Middle Ages[…]

‘Donation of Constantine’: A Medieval Forgery for Authority

The Donation of Constantine was most likely written, and almost certainly used, to coerce Pepin the Short to give up land. Introduction The Donation of Constantine (Donatio Constantini or the Donatio) is a medieval forgery dated to the 8th century CE purporting to be an original 4th-century CE document in which the Roman emperor Constantine the Great (r. 306-337 CE) granted[…]

The Varangian Guard: The Byzantine Emperor’s Secret Service

The Varangians were probably as shocking a sight to Byzantine enemies as tanks would have been to WWI infantry. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The mercenary Varangian Guard was an elite Byzantine army corps and the personal bodyguard of emperors beginning with Basil II in c. 988 CE. The Viking unit was famous for the stature[…]

The Legacy of the Middle Ages in the Renaissance and Beyond

The European Middle Ages were a time of tremendous creativity and innovation, setting the stage for what was to come. Introduction Today, the period in Europe from about the year 500 through approximately 1500 CE is called the Middle Ages, or the medieval era (the word medieval comes from the Latin medium aevum, literally middle age). But of[…]

Religious Change and Print Culture in the Reformation

The period of the Reformation (roughly 1500-1700) witnessed an unprecedented wave of changes in religion, thought, society, and politics throughout the world. Introduction When Martin Luther circulated ninety-five theses criticizing various practices of the Roman church in October of 1517, his only intention was to start a productive debate with his academic colleagues. Much to[…]

Monastic Orders of the Middle Ages

Monasteries in the Early Middle Ages already had rudimentary rules and guidelines. Introduction The monastic orders of the Middle Ages developed from the desire to live a spiritual life without the distractions of the world. Men and women who took religious vows were seeking a purity of experience they found lacking as lay people. Their[…]

The Medieval Church

The Church regulated and defined an individual’s life, literally, from birth to death and was thought to continue its hold over the person’s soul in the afterlife. Introduction Religious practice in medieval Europe (c. 476-1500 CE) was dominated and informed by the Catholic Church. The majority of the population was Christian, and “Christian” at this time meant[…]