Premium teacher supplementary guidance – the Medieval Era in World History

Civilizations of the Eastern Hemisphere, AD 500 to 1453

This Premium guide suggests points students should be covering in their responses to questions.

Tasks 1, 2 & 3: Enquiry, Summarize and Presentation

This process might result in something like those set out below. These are only suggestions, but give some idea about what should be included. Students may well disagree – and should be prepared to defend their decisions. Those in bold should really be included.


Origins of medieval Europe

Roman Empire in West fell

Major legacy: Christianity dominant belief-system in medieval Europe

Western Europe overrun by German tribes

City-based way of life in steep decline

Classical learning preserved by Christian clergy

Church expands throughout Europe

Church increasingly dividing into two branches

Byzantine Empire

The Roman Empire in East survived: Byzantine empire

Governed from Constantinople

Base for Orthodox Christian Church

preserved Graeco-Roman civilization

Greatly shrank in size

Western Feudal Europe

Western (Catholic) Christianity led by the pope, in Rome

Kings of the Franks came to rule much of western Europe – Charlemagne’s empire

Then broke up: kingdom of France and Holy Roman Empire emerged

Destructive invasions by Vikings, Magyars and Arabs

Disintegration of central power: widespread disorder

Feudal system emerged

In some places Church’s influence strengthened royal power, in other places weakened it


Initial success of Crusades – taking Jerusalem and chunks of territory

Ultimate failure: Muslim forces drove Crusaders out of Middle East

By-products: European shipping dominated Mediterranean

Muslim learning comes to Europe

Economic expansion of Europe

The feudal system succeeded in enforcing a degree of order

Expansion of trade

Heavy plough – new land under the plough

Population increase

Received a sharp set-back in the mid-14th century: the Black Death

Economic growth resumed again: trade expanded, towns and cities grew

Prosperous merchants are helping to turn cities into centres of political power

Wealth going into magnificent cathedrals and churches across Europe

Learning returned to the region, much from the Muslim world

End of Middle Ages

Fall of Constantinople to the Muslim Turks

Era of European voyages of discovery begins

The Italian Renaissance begins

The first European printing presses

Royal power increase, helped by cannon



The Rise of Islam

The Middle East divided between Roman Empire and Sasanian (Persian) Empire

In the 7th century new religion, Islam

Arabs conquered huge empire: the “Caliphate”

Political fragmentation

Science and learning

Technological and scientific developments have come in from other parts of the world

Most advanced in world at that time

The era of the Crusades

The Seljuqs


Vigorous, ultimately successful, resistance


Other Turkish groups rule different countries

In 13th century: Mongols

In 1258 killed last of the caliphs

Introduced firearms to the region

Il-khans: converted to Islam

Timur – huge but short-lived empire


Asia Minor, then Balkans, under Ottoman Turks

In 1453, captured Constantinople



North India: Gupta period and after

Gupta Empire in north India and Vataka kingdom in central India

Very productive period in Indian civilization: decimal system



Rise of Rajputs – “warrior prince”.

South India

The rising importance of the south

Maritime trade expanding

Colas conquer territory both within India and overseas

Islamic conquerors

In 7th century, Islamic Caliphate takes over Indus region

From 1000 onwards, Mahmud of Ghazna, a Muslim ruler in central Asia, conducted many raids into India

Rise and fall of Muslim Sultanate of Delhi

A legacy of Muslim sultans ruling in many parts of the sub-continent

But some Hindu ones also – Rajput kingdoms in the north, large kingdom of Vijayanagra in the south.

Religion and culture

Decline of Buddhism

Hinduism becomes dominant

The coming of Muslim armies

Mass of population are Hindu

Caste system becomes increasingly rigid

In art and architecture, Muslim and Hindu elements fuse into a new style



Outline of Chinese history

Period of barbarian invasion and internal warfare

Reunified by the Sui dynasty in 589

Tang dynasty took power in 608

A brilliant period in China’s history

In 755, great rebellion permanently weakened Tang dynasty

Tang dynasty fell in 907; China again divided

By 969 China largely reunified under the Song dynasty

Under the Song, dramatic economic and technological advances

In 1135 Song expelled from northern China by northern invasion

Continued prosperity under in south

Rise and fall of Mongol Empire

Followed by Ming dynasty

Chinese economy and society

Under Sui, Grand canal unified China’s economy

Under the Song, dramatic technological and economic advances  Revolution in farming

Commercial and industrial expansion

Major technological innovations: printing, gunpowder, shipbuilding techniques, the compass, paper money and porcelain

Under Ming, China is largely tranquil, and the economy and population expand strongly.

Culture and Religion

Buddhism became widespread in all classes of society

But in late Tang period its wealth confiscated

Has remained popular ever since, but not officially patronized

Ruling class adopted Neo-Confucianism as ideology


Under Sui, examination system reinstated; expanded under later dynasties

Under Song, China administered by scholar-officials

Mongols kept bureaucracy in place, but placed non-Chinese in highest posts

The Ming restored Confucian bureaucracy to its place of primacy

China’s neighbours

Single kingdoms appeared in both Korea and Japan

Tang period high watermark of Chinese cultural influence on neighbouring countries

Korea and Japan adopted Chinese civilization wholesale, including bureaucracy, Confucianism and Buddhism

Later, increasing cultural independence

Koreans developed movable type printing

Nobility increasingly powerful in both Korea and Japan

In Korea, central government remained in control of kingdom

In Japan, rise of local lords called daimyos, military leaders called shoguns, and samurai warrior class

Korea conquered by Mongols, but Japan repelled Mongols

After expulsion of Mongols, growth of tribute system in East Asia, centred on Ming emperor in China

The Japanese stood aloof

East Asia and the World

In central Asia borders of Tang empire touching Islamic Caliphate

Silk Road flourished under Tang, and later under Mongols

Technological innovations such as paper, printing and gunpowder travelled across central Asia to the west

The Black Death also spread throughout Asia and to Europe.

In the early 15th century Ming government briefly sent out number of major naval expeditions, reaching as far as Africa

Task 4: Whole-class questions

Which religions prevailed in which regions?

Europe – Christianity

Middle East – Islam

India and South Asia – Hinduism; Buddhism

East Asia – Confucianism, Buddhism

What episodes covered more than one region?

Decline and fall of Roman Empire

Spread of Islam



Black Death


What were the major advances of the period…

  • in technology? heavy plough (Europe), paper, compass, gunpowder and firearms, printing, porcelain (China) (which of these was most important, do you think?)
  • in science? – decimal system (India), medicine (Arabs)

How did they spread?

  • Trade: eg. Silk Road (paper, probably printing), Indian Ocean (compass)
  • Conquest: Mongols (firearms)

Which region had the most impact on the rest of the world?

Surely East Asia – especially China – would be hard to beat?