's Early Globalizations: East Meets West (1200s-1600s)/Europe: East and West

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In the wake of the collapse of the Roman Empire, two major civilizations emerged in Europe during the early medieval period. The Byzantine Empire, which encompassed territory in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the eastern Mediterranean, maintained a highly advanced political, cultural, and economical system between 500 and 1450 C.E. Orthodox Christianity defined characteristics of Byzantium and helped expand the empire’s influence in eastern Europe, Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia. Meanwhile, another form of Christianity that had no imperial center, Catholicism, developed in western and central Europe. Although areas of small kingdoms diffused in the early Middle Ages, the fiefdoms of western Europe had shared some common ground—Latin as lingua franca, the Catholic Church, and feudal society.

In this unit, we will first study a broad overview of Byzantine civilization before looking at its more specific components—Orthodox Christianity, imperial law and government, and Byzantine society. We will then turn our attention to an examination of medieval western Europe, beginning with the historical context of the medieval era and the definition of the term “Middle Ages.” We will then study the emergence of the powerful Carolingian Empire, the expanding scope and power of the medieval Catholic Church, the significance of feudalism and manorialism in medieval society, and the devastating impact of the Black Death.