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HIST302: Medieval Europe

Unit 5: Medieval Science, Technology, and Culture   The Middle Ages were once termed the “dark ages,” but in recent decades, scholars have increasingly challenged this popular belief as outdated.  We now know that the Middle Ages was a period of brilliant cultural and intellectual achievement that laid the foundation for the Renaissance and the rise of Western Civilization.  Supported by the Church and the universities it founded, medieval scholars pioneered the scientific method of offering rational proofs to explain natural phenomenon.  Cistercian monks developed and spread new methods of agriculture including selective breeding of plants and animals.  The great Gothic cathedrals of Europe illustrate this era’s achievements in engineering and architecture.  Monks and nuns copied and spread the works of their Greek and Roman predecessors as well as countless religious texts.  In the visual arts, music, theater, and literature medieval men and women expressed themselves and their vibrant, passionate lives.

Unit 5 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 18 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 5.1: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 5.2: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 5.3: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 5.4: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 5.5: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 5.6: 3 hours

Unit5 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Describe the efforts and accomplishments of medieval thinkers and scholars in the realms of science, technology, and culture.
  • Identify major educational initiatives of the period; describe the origins and spread of medieval universities as well as the types of scholarship carried on within them.
  • Describe the role of the Church and Christian theology in the intellectual pursuits of the period as well as the methods used by scholars to attain new knowledge.
  • Identify and describe the problems and ideas that especially attracted medieval thinkers, including those which generated controversy and conflict.
  • Compare and contrast major developments in secular culture, specifically art, literature, and music, across the European continent.

5.1 Science and Learning   5.1.1 Elite Culture   - Reading: Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Elite Culture” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Elite Culture” (PDF).
 
Instructions: Please read "Elite Culture."  As you read, answer the following questions: what were the main cultural developments of the twelfth century?  Why do scholars refer to this period as the “Flowering of the Middle Ages?”  What codes of behavior characterized new genres of literature?
 
Reading and answering these questions should take approximately 30 minutes to complete. 

5.1.2 Intellectual Life   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Peter Abelard’s “Sic et Non” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Peter Abelard’s “Sic et Non” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the selection from Peter Abelard’s “Sic et Non” to understand the methods of early scholasticism.
 
Peter Abelard (1079–1142) taught theology at the University of Paris, where he was instrumental in introducing scholastic method to the curriculum.  Scholasticism uses Aristotelian logic to explain known truths, but in “Sic et Non,” Abelard’s scholastic masterpiece, he presents both sides of an issue and expects his students to use logic to determine which side has the better case.  Because it left out the answers, Abelard’s book became controversial and open to attack, and eventually, it was condemned by the papacy.
 
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5.1.3 Universities   - Reading: Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Universities” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Universities” (PDF).
 
Instructions: Please read "Universities."  As you read, consider the following questions: what challenges did masters and students face in towns where their schools were located?  In what ways did the growth of secular and ecclesiastical bureaucracies influence the rise of universities?  What legal status did students and masters gain with the designation universitas, and how did they organize the new institutions?
 
Reading and answering the questions above should take approximately 20 minutes to complete. 

5.1.4 Science   - Reading: Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Science and Philosophy” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Science and Philosophy” (PDF).
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire text.  As you read, answer the following questions: what were the primary goals of scholars in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries?  What methods did they use to meet these goals?  In what ways does this approach reflect an optimistic view of the world?
 
Reading and answering these questions should take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete. 

5.2 Technology   5.2.1 Overview of Technology   - Web Media: New York University: Professor Paul Gans’ “Timeline of Medieval Technology” Link: New York University: Professor Paul Gans’ “Timeline of Medieval Technology” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Examine Gans’ timeline of medieval technology.  What developments seem most critical to the development of Europe’s economy during this period?
 
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5.2.2 The Development of Agriculture   - Reading: New York University: Paul Gans’ “The Heavy Plow” and “The Great Harness Controversy” Links: New York University: Paul Gans’ “The Heavy Plow” (HTML) and “The Great Harness Controversy” (HTML) and Flow of History

 Instructions: Read these two short articles for an overview of the
impact of technology on medieval agriculture.  
    
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displayed on the webpages above.
  • Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Development of Agriculture” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Development of Agriculture” (PDF).
     
    Instructions: Please read "The Development of Agriculture."  As you read, answer the following questions: what were the major innovations of the period referred to as the Agricultural Revolution?  What were the immediate and long-term effects of these innovations?
     
    Reading and answering these questions should take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete. 

5.2.3 The Stirrup Controversy   - Reading: New York University: Paul Gans’ “The Great Stirrup Controversy” and Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of John Sloan’s “The Stirrup Controversy” Links: New York University: Paul Gans’ “The Great Stirrup Controversy” (HTML) and Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of John Sloan’s “The Stirrup Controversy” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Gans’ and Sloan’s discussions of the “stirrup controversy,” and consider how scholars’ view of the importance of the stirrup to the development of feudalism have changed over time.
 
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5.2.4 Origins of Industry   - Reading: New York University: Paul Gans’ “Iron Working” and “The Horizontal Loom” Links: New York University: Paul Gans’ “Iron Working” (HTML) and “The Horizontal Loom” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read these brief articles by Paul Gans for an overview of medieval iron working and weaving.
 
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5.2.5 Military Technology   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Military Technology” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Military Technology” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read "Military Technology."  As you read, try to answer the following questions: what improvements contributed to the rise of the mounted knight?  In what ways did new technologies in weaponry impact the role of the mounted knight on the battlefield?
 
Reading and answering the questions above should take approximately 15 minutes to complete. 

5.3 Art and Architecture   5.3.1 Overview of Medieval Architecture   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Overview of Medieval Architecture” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Overview of Medieval Architecture” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read "Overview of Medieval Architecture."  As you read, try to answer the following questions: what are the main differences between the Romanesque and Gothic styles of architecture?  What were the motivations for the boom in church construction between 1050 and 1350?

 Reading and answering the questions above should take approximately
15-20 minutes to complete. 

5.3.2 Gothic Cathedrals   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Gothic Cathedrals” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Gothic Cathedrals” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire text.  As you read, try to answer the following questions: what messages did the Romanesque and Gothic styles of churches intend to send?  What are the main characteristics of Gothic cathedrals?
 
Reading and answering the questions above should take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete.

5.3.3 Visual Arts   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation's “Visual Arts” Link: The Saylor Foundation's “Visual Arts” (PDF). 

 Instructions: Please read "Visual Arts." As you read, ask yourself
the following questions: What themes are represented in Gothic
painting and sculpture?  What types of surfaces did painters use and
how were these surfaces prepared?  What are the main artistic
innovations in style associated with painters such as Giotto di
Bondone?  This should take you approximately 20 minutes.

5.3.4 Illuminated Manuscripts   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation's "Illuminated Manuscripts” Link: The Saylor Foundation's "Illuminated Manuscripts” (PDF). 

 Instructions: Please read "Illuminated Manuscripts." As you read,
ask yourself the following questions: What are the distinguishing
features of illuminated manuscripts?  Who was the audience and how
did this change over time?  In what way is the illuminated
manuscript a work of art?  This should take you approximately 20
minutes.

5.4 Music   5.4.1 Chant   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation's "Chant" Link: The Saylor Foundation's "Chant" (PDF). 

 Instructions: Please read "Chant." As you read, ask yourself the
following questions: What are the main characteristics of Gregorian
chant?  What are the main developments within chant from the late
sixth to the twelfth centuries?  This should take you approximately
15 minutes. 

5.4.2 Sacred Music   - Web Media: YouTube: “Anonymous 4, Miracles of Compostela, Plainchant from the Codex Calixitus” and “St. Hildegarde von Bingen: Spiritus Sanctus (Holy Spirit)” Link: YouTube: “Anonymous 4, Miracles of Compostela, Plainchant from the Codex Calixitus” and “St. Hildegarde von Bingen: Spiritus Sanctus (Holy Spirit)
 
Instructions: Listen to the musical selections to hear examples of medieval sacred music (about 4 and 8 minutes, respectively).
 
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5.4.3 Popular Religious Music   - Web Media: YouTube: “Anonymous 4, On Yoolis Night: Medieval Carols and Motets: “I Saw a Swete Semly Syght” Link: YouTube: “Anonymous 4, On Yoolis Night: Medieval Carols and Motets: “I Saw a Swete Semly Syght
 
Instructions: Listen to the 3-minute musical selection, and consider how popular religious music differed from more formal compositions.
 
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5.4.4 Secular Music   - Web Media: You Tube: NicolasBreezeWood: “Medieval Danse Royale” (Thirteenth Century, French) and Lumina Vocal Ensemble: “Sumer is Icumen in” (Thirteenth Century, English) Link: You Tube: NicolasBreezeWood: “Medieval Danse Royale” (Thirteenth Century, French) and Lumina Vocal Ensemble: “Sumer is Icumen in” (Thirteenth Century, English)
 
Instructions: Listen to the selections of secular music (about 2 minutes each), and consider how these pieces differ from each other and from the examples of sacred music you heard previously.
 
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5.5 Literature and Theater   Note: This topic is covered in the readings under sub-subunits 5.5.1-5.5.4.

5.5.1 Sagas   - Reading: Readings: Icelandic Saga Database’s version of George W. DaSent’s (trans.) Brennu-Njal’s Saga: Chapters 41–45 and Project Gutenberg’s version of Beowulf: Chapters III and IV Link: Icelandic Saga Database’s version of George W. DaSent’s (trans.) Brennu-Njal’s Saga: Chapters 41–45 and Project Gutenberg’s version of Beowulf: Chapter III and Chapter IV (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the selections from Brennu-Njal’s Saga and Beowulf to gain an understanding of early medieval literature and its relationship to oral stories.
 
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5.5.2 Medieval Mystery Plays   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation's "Medieval Mystery Plays" Link: The Saylor Foundation's "Medieval Mystery Plays" (PDF).
 
Instructions: Read "Medieval Mystery Plays" to gain an understanding of medieval popular theater.

  

5.5.3 Chivalric Romances   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of “Song of Roland” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of “Song of Roland”
 
Instructions: Read the selection linked above to gain an understanding of the medieval romance genre.
 
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5.5.4 Popular Stories   - Reading: CUNY Brooklyn: Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: “Knight’s Tale” and “Wife of Bath’s Tale” Link: CUNY Brooklyn: Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: “Knight’s Tale” and “Wife of Bath’s Tale”
 
Instructions: Read the “Knight’s Tale” and “Wife of Bath’s Tale” to gain an understanding of popular tales in the Middle Ages.  These texts have been revised with modern spelling by Michael Murphy.
 
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  • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation's “Medieval Europe Reading Questions Part I” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Medieval Europe Reading Questions Part I” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Please respond to the questions in the PDF linked above. After you are finished, read over the answer guidelines to check your work.