The period from 1000 to 1300, called the High Middle Ages, witnessed significant changes and high levels of advancement from a wide variety of perspectives. In England, William the Conqueror secured a unified kingdom in 1066, and successive English kings managed to keep their competitors under control and build up the machinery of royal administration. In France, the movement toward the consolidation of royal power emanated from the minuscule Ile de France. Each of the many counties and duchies that constituted feudal France had to be subordinated and brought within the framework of royal authority. It took the French kings three centuries to accomplish what William the Conqueror had done in one generation. The German kings dissipated their energies by seeking the prize of empire over the Alps in Italy and Sicily. Nation-making in Spain was unique, since it acquired the religious fervor of a crusade. In the mid-eleventh century the Christian Spanish states began the Reconquista in earnest, but not until the end of the fifteenth century would the task be completed.

Economically, Europe was transformed by new forces: increased food production and population, revitalized trade, new towns, expansion of industry, and a money economy. A new society began to take shape - the bourgeoisie emerged, and serfdom declined.

During the High Middle Ages, the church developed the first unified system of law and administration in medieval Europe and intimately affected the life of every person. It gave people a sense of security against the dangers on earth and those beyond. Within the church, thinkers wrestled with philosophical issues, such as the realist-nominalist controversy. In the thirteenth century, such famous scholars as St. Thomas Aquinas made impressive attempts to reconcile faith and reason, church authority and classical thought; and universities were established.

The Middle Ages
Date: 2003

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