The High Middle Ages

Dickson College, Semester 2, 2013

Term 3Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10
Term 4
Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15 | Week 16

Class Files

Unit Outline
BSSS Policies & Procedures Manual

Oral PresentationOral Presentation Resource Page

The High Middle Ages on Clio1066 and After
Stephen's Claim to the Throne
Pope Urban and the First Crusade
Peter the Hermit and the First Crusade
On the Alexiad of Anna Comnena
Eleanor of Aquitaine, a 'Foolish Woman'?
The Failure of the Second Crusade
The Reputation of Richard the Lionheart;
The Glorification of Richard I
The Career of Saladin
Saladin and the Horns of Hattin
The Children's Crusade?
Italy and the Crusades
The Reign of King John
The Rebellion of Simon de Montfort
The Limitations of Medieval Medicine
The plight of the Jews in a time of plague
Intellectual Activity in the High Middle AgesW
Important DatesThursday, 29th August - In class essay.
Monday, 26th August - Draft for research essay due (if you're going to submit it, this is optional.)
Monday, 9th September - Research essay due.
Thursday, 31st October - Document test.
Friday 22nd November - Oral presentations to be viewed (see presentation schedule to the left).

Internet Medieval Sourcebook - Fordham University
Guide to Grammar & Writing
DC Library | DC Library History Page
Online Etymology Dictionary
Forvo: the pronunciation guide
The complete guide to Harvard Referencing
Textual references
Reference generator - Harvard system
Inserting quotes into essays
How to write a bibliography
See the PPT on annotated bibliographies
A Guide to Citing Sources in Classics
Bad King John and the Australian Constitution
Black Death Primary Sources
The Black Death, BBC Radio 4
Black Death, BBC History
Real Clear History

Name: Jason Abela
Staffroom: Humanities - N39
Phone: 6205 6481

Week 1 (22nd - 26th July)

To begin with I wanted to get an idea of what everyone already knew, so you all completed the questionnaire I handed out. Afterwards, I gave a brief introduction to the time period, and we went through the introductory PowerPoint, answering the questions raised in the questionnaire. I made a particular point to cover the concept of the 'Legacy of Rome', the enduring idea of the Western Roman Empire and its impact upon the people of Europe.

To get an idea of the extent to which faith and belief in the supernatural predominated in the thoughts of the medieval mind, we watched Inside the Medieval Mind: Belief (available on YouTube). After lunch we discussed what we had learnt from the video. We discussed the vast differences between modern day faith and the overriding sense of the divine that was common back then. Next we went through the presentation I had prepared on The Great Schism of 1054, which caused the split between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, and examined the changes to the Nicene Creed (one of the reasons cited for the Schism). After trying to spot the differences, we concluded that the reasons for the Schism were far more complex, and developed over an extended period of time.

I wanted to give everyone a chance to practice at extracting information from secondary sources today, so we worked through Chapter V from The Rise of Christian Europe, on the 12th Century Renaissance. We had previously discussed the idea that the Dark Ages were a misnomer, and that despite the fact that some knowledge was lost with the fall of the Western Roman Empire, there was still social and technological progress. Two periods in particular as cited as evidence of this: the Carolingian Renaissance, and the 12th Century Renaissance. We read through the chapter and made a summary of it.

Week 2 (29th July - 2nd August)

First I handed out the unit outline and extended my apologies for not having the assessment sheets done up yet, but I promise they will be ready soon! Now that we've gotten a good overview of Christianity during the Middle Ages, we're going to take a good look at Islam. To start things off, we began watching a documentary, Islam: An Empire of Faith, Episode 1 Prophet Muhammad and the Rise of Islam (available on YouTube). We will complete watching it next lesson.

We finished off watching the episode on Muhammad today (available on YouTube). Afterwards we went to the lab to do some research. Firstly we worked on doing a timeline of the Islamic and Christian worlds (the activity sheet only says until the death of Muhammad, but I asked you to go up to 1000, looking at major events and not getting bogged down in the details). Next I asked you to do a short report on one of the major achievements of the Islamic world. For example, you could focus on scientific achievements, architectural achievements, literary achievements etc. To help you with this I provided you with a handout, containing information on these various achievements (that was put together by Tom's students in past years).

I also handed out the assignment sheets for your major essay this semester, due in Week 8.

Now that we have gotten a good overview of the Christian and Islamic worlds, we're going to start taking an in depth look at the Crusades that everyone knows about, the Crusade for Jerusalem. We will return to religion later, to look at the Pagan world and then take a look at the far less well known Northern Crusades.

Today we started with a brief presentation on the First Crusade's beginnings, taking a look at Pope Urban II, his conflict with Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV, and the calling of the Crusade at the Council of Clermont. Afterwards we read through Pope Urban's speech (as recorded by Robert the Monk), and you answered the questions; 1) Why did Urban II call for a crusade?, and 2) How did Urban attempt to appeal to his audience at Clermont?

Finally, we took a look at an excerpt from Paul Crawford's The First Crusade. There are comprehension questions at the end, though most of you didn't get that far I believe. We ended the lesson with a discussion on why the Crusade started, and drew some parallels to the modern day with the US' invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. In particular we noted that the rhetoric and exaggerated claims felt familiar.

Week 3 (5th - 9th August)
I will be supervising AST trials so no class today. Year 11's can go to the library to get a start on their assignments.

We spent the double in the library today, working in groups to research one of the following battles of the First Crusade:
  1. May – June 1097: Siege of Nicacea
  2. July 1097: Battle of Dorylaeum
  3. Oct 1097 - May 1098: The Siege of Antioch
  4. May - June 1098: Antioch besieged

The task was to find out what happened, how did they win or lose, and find primary sources that give you information on it. Some good sources include the Gesta Francorum, Robert Frankopan's The First Crusade, The Alexiad, and Raymond d'Aguiliers. We will be doing a short, informal presentation in our groups on each of the battles tomorrow. Please make sure that you either print out or email me your primary sources if you haven't already.

I also gave out the In Class Essay notice today, which will be on Monday. Remember that the essay questions will only be on what we have covered in class, and it is an open book test, so as long as you have all the documents I've given you in class (all available here) you'll do fine.

Today we did our presentations on the various battles researched yesterday. Overall these were ok, some were great, but it was a bit disappointing to see that not everyone took it as seriously as they should have! Nonetheless, we all learnt some important information regarding the key battles of the First Crusade. Afterwards we watched a video on the Crusades by John Green, one of my favourite YouTubers who does some great general history overviews (you can watch the video here). We did a Think, Pair, Share to discuss the points he made and how they matched up with what we've learnt about the Crusaders thus far. The general consensus seemed to be that he made some good points that seemed accurate. Finally, we began reading an extract from Elizabeth Hallam's Chronicles of the Crusades, about the People's Crusade (basically what began the First Crusade). Please finish this for homework if you did not get through it all!

Week 4 (12th - 16th August)

In class essay was held today.

No school due to moderation day.

I was sick today, but I asked you to watch a documentary on the First Crusade (available on YouTube).

Week 5 (19th - 23rd August)

So far we have been focusing on the First Crusade, so today I gave a presentation on a broad overview of all the Crusades in the Holy Land. We looked in particular at the motivations of Crusaders, and the lasting effects they had.

We spent the double in the library today, doing research in groups on one of the crusades. We had the numbers to divide up into five groups, so each group was assigned one of the Crusades from the Second to the Sixth, and tasked with answering a number of questions on the Crusade and putting together a powerpoint. We will present to each other tomorrow.

If you weren't here for this lesson and are catching up, please research either the Seventh & Eighth Crusades, or the Ninth Crusade.

Today you presented on your crusade. Everyone did a really good job on this, lots of informative presentations. After this we read some first hand accounts of Crusaders.

Week 6 (26th - 30th August)

So far we've been looking at the broader events of the Crusades, so today I wanted to zoom in and take a close look at varying perspectives on the Crusades. Working in groups we looked at sources from European, Byzantine, Jewish and Muslim perspectives, then we debated whether or not the Crusades should happen from the perspective of the people in question.

In class essay resit.

I was sick today, but you were asked to use this time to go to the library and research one of the prominent Crusaders. You could choose from the following, but there are others if you wish to do them:
  1. Richard the Lion Heart
  2. Godfrey of Boillon
  3. Guy of Lusignan
  4. Henry IV
  5. Louis IX
  6. Peter the Hermit
  7. Duke Leopold VI
  8. King Andrew II of Hungary
  9. Raymond of Toulouse
  10. Rober II, Count of Flanders

Week 7 (2nd - 6th September)

Today we took a look at the formation of Knight Orders during the Crusades, then we looked at parts of the Templar Code documentary (available on YouTube). While it is a bit over the top and sensationalised at times (as American documentaries are wont to do), it does have some good information on a fairly obscure and mysterious order.

Year 11s were doing their ASTs today, so we went to the library where I asked you to put together a religious map of Europe in 1100 CE. Afterwards you had some time to work on your assignments.

So far we've focused on the Crusades in the Holy Land. While these are the best known, they aren't the only Crusades. There was the Reconquista in Spain, the Albigensian Cruasade in Southern France, and the Northern (or Baltic) Crusades in North Eastern Europe. The latter is what we looked at today. I gave an introductory presentation on this, then we read through some primary sources on the Teutonic and Livonian Orders (the two Knight Orders that were involved in the Northern Crusades). At the end of the lesson I also handed out an essay on this topic. It received awards, so it is a good example of how to write an effective essay.

Week 8 (9th - 13th September)

Following on from looking at primary sources on the Teutonic Order, today we looked at a detailed secondary source on them. I asked you to put together a timeline of what happened to the order. It was quite long and we didn't finish it off, so we will do that on Friday.

We spent the double in the library to give people a chance to finish off their assignments today.

We finished off reading the document on the Teutonic Order and doing the timeline. We then discussed how the Northern Crusade differed from the Crusades in the Holy Land, and the profound and lasting impact it had on the peoples of the Baltic.

Week 9 (16th - 20th September)

Today we moved on to a new topic! To transition from the Crusades to England (where we will be looking at the Magna Carta), I gave out a timeline of Richard the Lionheart's life. When Richard died, he was succeeded by King John, who is commonly villanised in Western literature. In order to look at whether or not this depiction is accurate we read through a newspaper article addressing the topic. Afterwards I assigned you all to a group, and we went to the computer labs. In your group you were asked to research the topic assigned and to put together an A4 or A3 sheet that puts a positive spin on it. We did not have time to finish this, so we will continue our research next lesson. The topics were as follows:
  1. John rebelled against Richard while Richard was away crusading.
  2. When John assumed the throne he inherited a kingdom that was in turmoil and deep financial trouble. John had important positive qualities.
  3. John had an unpleasant personality: he was interfering, unheroic and petty.
  4. John lost significant territories in France. John fought with the Pope and ultimately lost. John antagonised the nobility with measures including excessive taxation.

We spent the first half of the lesson in the computer lab again so you could finish off your research. After lunch we headed back to the classroom and you all presented your findings. We discussed again history as a narrative (albeit a narrative based on strong evidence), and how different interpretations of sources leads to different narratives. Afterwards I gave a brief presentation on King John, looking at excerpts from another such narrative and adding my personal interpretation to it.

We did a bit of an empathetic task today. I asked you all to imagine you were one of King John's barons and to write a letter to the King explaining your grievances and why you would be joining in the rebellion against him. Everyone read their letter out to the class, then we looked into Roger of Wendover (a chronicler during the time of the rebellion) and read an excerpt from his account of the rebellion.

Week 10 (23rd - 27th September)

Wrapping up on Magna Carta today, but first it was necessary to take a look at a portion of the document itself! We did an exercise on an excerpt from it, then discussed how and to what extent it was an important document in shaping the future of Britain's political landscape. Afterwards I gave a brief presentation on that, finishing off by comparing the political situation in England to that of France, which was becoming increasingly centralised and would culminate with the Absolutism of the Bourbons in the 17th Century.

Time to leave Europe for now! We're sweeping across the Steppes, past the Urals all the way to the Mongolian Plateau! As an introduction to the period just prior to the Mongol Conquests (the 12th Century) in the East, and to gain a good insight into the lives and social conditions of the nomadic steppe warrior cultures, we're going to watch the movie 2007 movie Mongol. While it does have some of the usual 'movie magic' flair and exaggeration, the movie is quite accurate and detailed in the story it tells of Temudgin (Genghis Khan) and his rise to power in uniting the disparate Mongol tribes.

Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties and a poorly times power outage, we didn't manage to get through much of the movie! We'll keep watching next lesson though. I also handed out the assignment sheet for the oral presentation due next term.

We didn't quite manage to get through Mongol today, so I encourage you to get your hands on it and finish it off during the holidays if you're able, as next term is a short one and it's unlikely we'll have time to do so in class. Have a wonderful holiday everyone, see you next term!

Week 11 (14th - 18th October)

Welcome back everyone, hope your holidays were pleasant!

Picking up where we left off, I gave a broad overview of the history of the Mongol Empire and its successor states. I do apologise for the amount of lecturing I had to do, but when we need to quickly cover a large amount of information this is the best way to do it! We got to the end of the slides, but didn't have time to read some excerpts from Marco Polo's account of his trip to Kubilai Khan's palace, so we will do that next lesson.

I finished off the presentation today, then gave you the excerpts from Marco Polo's accounts of Kubilai Khan. Afterwards we went to the computer labs to complete a research task on the various societies during the European Middle Ages. I wanted to extend the scope beyond Europe and the Middle East, and to take a closer look at Mongol and other Steppelander societies, as well as Chinese and African society. Everyone worked in groups to investigate each of the societies, then met at the end of the lesson to discuss and compare.

We spent the lesson in the library today to give you a chance to work on your oral presentations. If you haven't done so yet, please make sure you come and talk to me about your question soon!

Week 12 (21st - 25th October)

We went back to the library today to do more research on the various societies we looked at the other day. This time I asked you to work with your group to come up with a roleplay discussion between members of these various societies. You will present these roleplays next lesson.

Everyone took to the stage in a Medieval theatric extraodinnaire to rave reviews! The Canberra Times gave it 5 stars! Well done everyone for getting up there and giving it a go, even if it wasn't your kind of thing to do. Some people seemed a little unprepared, but overall I think things went well, and hopefully you learnt a bit about the various cultures of the European Middle Ages in trying to get inside the headspaces of people who lived back then.

Afterwards we read through The Year 1000 by Danziger & Lacey to get a detailed idea of the day to day lives of people in Europe at the time. In order to do this I asked you to fill out a table, making note of the interesting points you come across about the social and living conditions. Afterwards we watched a clip from Tony Robinson's Worst Jobs in History, taking a rather disgusting look at the job of the fuller (available on YouTube). This was to give you a sense of just how hard, horrible and smelly it would have been in the Middle Ages!

Continuing on with our investigation into the inner workings of Medieval society, today we looked at the development of the primary system during the time, Feudalism, and its very disparate cousin, the Merchant Republic. I gave half the class a document on the former, and half a document on the latter, then asked you to discuss in pairs and fill out a table on the conditions that led to the development of the two. Finally we discussed this as a class, and the various features of both.

Week 13 (28th October - 1st November)

We spent the lesson in the library to give you time to work on your oral presentations.

Document test was held today.

We examined our conceptions of the Medieval peasant today! To do this we watched Terry Jones' Medieval Lives - Episode 1, The Peasant (available on YouTube). Following this we discussed what it revealed about peasants, and how it matched up to the preconceptions we held.

Week 14 (4th - 8th November)

We've been in a rush to cover everything in the unit, and I haven't given you all as much time in the library as my other classes, so as promised we went to the library today to work on oral presentations, and shall do so again during the double this week.

In the library again.

To finish off our tour of Medieval society, we watched two more episodes of Terry Jones' Medieval Lives, Episode 5 - The Knight (available on YouTube) and Episode 8 - The King (available on YouTube). Once again we discussed these with particular focus on the historiographical questions raised by Terry Jones, and how it challenges our preconceptions.

Week 15 (11th - 15th November)

Today we looked at a unique example of governance in the Medieval world: the Holy Roman Empire. We started reading a rather thick document on its legal institutions and system of government, working in groups to split up the workload. We discussed the interesting and unique features that we had discovered so far at the end of the lesson, but we will continue reading on Friday.

We spent the double in the library to give you a chance to work on your assignments.

I was going to wrap up the unit today, but since you begged so nicely to go to the library, we did that instead.

Week 16 (18th - 19th November)

Last lesson today! We wrapped things up for the unit, taking a retrospective look, then went to the library. Don't forget, oral presentations are happening on Friday! If you've forgotten what time slot you've chosen the presentation schedule can be downloaded up top. If you haven't chosen a time yet, get in touch with me ASAP.

Thank you very much guys for a wonderful semester! It's been an absolute pleasure to be your teacher for this fascinating subject. Best of luck in your future studies and endeavours!