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[…]

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[…]

How Did a Cockatoo Reach 13th-Century Sicily?

Images of a cockatoo in Frederick II of Sicily’s falconry book reveal how trade routes around Australia’s north were flourishing as far back as medieval times. Introduction Among the hand-written documents, books, and ancient artefacts in the Vatican Library is a 13th century manuscript on falconry written in Latin by or for the Holy Roman[…]

The Campaign of Asad Bin Alfurat to Conquer Byzantine Sicily

An introduction and prologue for the first campaigns against Sicily and the relations between both Sicily and Byzantines with Aghlabids state. By Dr. Sattam Zuheir AlkhateebDepartment of Basic SciencesMaan CollegeBalqa Applied University Early Islamic Campaigns against Sicily The first attempted invasion against Sicily had occurred during the reign of Mu’awiah bin Abi Sufain in Syria[…]

Theocratic Tyranny: The Late Medieval to Early Modern Inquisition

Originally established in the 13th century to combat heretical groups, the Inquisition became a sophisticated, global operation in the early modern period. Introduction From movies to metal bands to Monty Python (“Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”), the Holy Office of the Inquisition has retained a powerful place in popular imagination. For many, this image is[…]

Unam Sanctam: Spiritual Authority and the Medieval Church

The medieval Church developed and retained its power by encouraging the innate human fear of death and the Church’s vision of itself as the only path to salvation from hell. Introduction The pagan systems of the past all had some version of judgment after death whereby ‘good’ people were rewarded and ‘bad’ people punished, but[…]

The Medici Collecting the Americas

Objects, flora, and fauna from these faraway lands were shipped back to Europe where many people perceived them as exotic items of wonder and fascination. Americana and Cabinets of Curiosities After Christopher Columbus landed on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola in 1492 and the subsequent Spanish invasion and colonization of much of the Americas, material objects, flora,[…]

The Medieval Southeast Asian Khmer Empire

Throughout the empire’s history, Khmer’s court was repeatedly concerned with putting down rebellions. By Rodrigo Quijada PlubinsHistorian The Khmer empire was a powerful state in South East Asia, formed by people of the same name, lasting from 802 CE to 1431 CE. At its peak, the empire covered much of what today is Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and southern Vietnam.[…]

On the Pallava Trail in Kanchipuram

The creativity of the Pallavas did not diminish throughout their reign. By Anantha Krishnan Introduction The Pallavas ruled south-eastern India from the 3rd through the 9th centuries CE. Their empire covered what is today the Tamil Nadu state. Their origin is shrouded in mystery though historians believe their roots might have been from Andhra Pradesh[…]

Vikings: Jewelry, Weapons and Social Change, at The VIKINGR Exhibition

The artifacts exhibited can tell us about the Vikings’ lives and values in a time of transition and change. Introduction In April 2019 The Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, Norway opened its doors to the new exhibition VÍKINGR containing rich treasures and unique archaeological finds from the Viking Age (c. 750 – 1050 CE). The Viking[…]

The Late Medieval Japanese Invasion of Korea, 1592-1598

The conflict would not only have devastating consequences for all concerned but permanently sour relations between Japan and Korea. Introduction The two Japanese invasions of Korea between 1592 and 1598 CE, otherwise known as the ‘Imjin Wars’, saw Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598 CE), the Japanese military leader, put into reality his long-held plan to invade China[…]

The Fall of the Byzantine Empire and Rise of the Renaissance

The Byzantine Empire, is one of the most tragically understudied topics in modern American historical curriculum. By Gabriel Johnson Introduction Not only did Byzantium achieve greater feats of art and science than Rome, they safeguarded (and advanced) for nearly 1,500 years the ancient knowledge of the Greeks and Romans. Combined with exposure to Islamic and[…]

Medieval Japan’s Itsukushima Shinto Shrine

Traditionally founded in the 6th century CE, the present layout of buildings dates to the 12th century CE. Introduction Itsukushima Shrine is a Shinto shrine on the island of the same name, also known as Miyajima, located in Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan. Traditionally founded in the 6th century CE, the present layout of buildings dates[…]

The Architecture of Medieval Japan’s Himeji Castle

The castle is the largest and best-preserved samurai fortification in the country. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Himeji Castle, located in the town of Himeji in the Hyogo Prefecture of Japan, was built on a natural hilltop between 1581 and 1609 CE. The complex is composed of a maze-like arrangement of fortified buildings, walls, and gates,[…]

The Sultan of Byzantium: A Byzantine Past Hiding in Plain Sight

The journey begins with a quiet academic living in Istanbul who receives a cryptic message that will change his life. Introduction Istanbul makes an exotic first impression: Boat traffic on the Bosporus sends waves brushing up against the shores of both Europe and Asia as enormous mosques and monuments from previous empires stand guard. The[…]