Europe 979 CE

Western Europe experiences internal wars and external attacks which bring widespread insecurity and lead to the rise of feudalism.

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What is happening in Europe in 979CE

Western Europe

The past two hundred years have seen the Frankish kingdom expand over much of Europe under its vigorous ruler, Charlemagne; but then, after his death, swiftly break up. The kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire (covering Germany, northern Italy and some eastern lands) have emerged from the wreckage.

Destructive invasions from outside – Vikings from the north, Magyars from the east and Arabs from the south – have hastened the disintegration of central power. Widespread disorder spreads across much of western Europe, in which a new feudal society is taking shape.

The rise of Feudalism

Thrown on their own resources by the weakness of the kings, local landowners build castles (at this stage of wood, later of stone), hire armed retinues (now mounted on horseback, the forebears of medieval knights), and establish almost royal power over their localities (in what would later be known as ‘fiefs’ – from which the term ‘feudalism’ comes).

The nobility use this power, not only to resist invaders and brigands, but royal officials as well. Rulers are therefore forced to come to terms with them if they are to exercise any leadership at all, and the feudal system – essentially a way of co-ordinating the military capabilities of a region at a time of fragmented authority – is gradually emerging.

The expansion of Christendom

Despite the troubles of the time, Christendom (a term often applied to Medieval Europe, denoting the dominating role Christianity has in its society and culture) is continuing to expand. However, it is increasingly dividing into an eastern branch (today represented by the Orthodox Church) based on Constantinople, and a western branch (the Catholic Church), headed by the pope in Rome. Missionaries of the western Catholic Church are active in northern and central Europe, while those from Constantinople are winning eastern Europe and much of the Balkans to Orthodox Christianity.

The Christian kingdoms of northern Spain have been able to chip away at Muslim power.

The British Isles have experienced massive Viking attacks. At one time the Christian Anglo-Saxons looked as if they might be completely conquered by the pagan Vikings, but, now united into a single kingdom, they have recovered all their territory and incorporated the Vikings (now converted to Christianity) under their rule.

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