Saylor.org's Ancient Civilizations of the World/The Rise of Western Europe and the Spread of Civilization
Before the medieval period, western Europe was one of the least sophisticated civilizations in the world. In fact, it was only by inserting itself into foreign trade networks that western Europe developed ties with the wider world. In turn, these ties served as the basis for the emergence of new ideas and technologies during the Middle Ages. Other than the development of new commercial connections, there were two other major characteristics that defined the medieval period in western Europe. The first was Christianity and the Catholic Church (as well as the official language of the Church, Latin). The second was feudalism. The expansion of Catholic Christianity and the feudal system had a profound impact on western Europe in the medieval era.
In this unit, we will study the Middle Ages as a period of widespread political, social, and religious upheaval. We will examine how western Europe began to evolve from a region of disparate and migratory ethnic groups to a more cohesive and sedentary people who shared the same religion and language.