High Middle Ages Project: Background Information

Good day, everichon!

Over the next few days, you will be working– both individually and as a group– to further your understanding of the High Middle Ages in Western Europe.  While most of your work will be completed in the classroom, you may find it useful to have online resources and instructions at your disposal during this project.  To that end, you will find individual pages linked from this central page relating to the specific tasks for each fiefdom and social group.

Firstly, you should have already completed your reading for the unit and have read the article comparing and contrasting forms of feudalism in Japan, which we have already discussed, and feudalism in the early Middle Ages in Western Europe.  If you would like to refresh your memory on that article, you can find it here:

Feudalism in Europe and Japan, from “Ties that Bind: Lineage, Clientage, and Caste,” by Candice Goucher, Charles LeGuin, and Linda Walton, In the Balance: Themes in Global History (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1998).

In class, you will have been sorted into small groups, each representing a fiefdom in Western Europe in the early 13th century.  Within your fief, each of your group members will draw a card indicating which of the following five social roles you will be representing and researching during the course of this project:

  • Nobility (vassals of the king, these are the lords of the land)
  • Clergy (ordained members of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy)
  • Knights (mounted warriors on horseback drawn from lower levels of the nobility)
  • Artisans (skilled artisans who produce manufactured goods for the fief)
  • Peasants (agricultural workers who provide manual labor and food for the fief)

Each of these social positions had specific and important duties within the feudal world of the High Middle Ages in Western Europe. Once you have drawn your role you may not swap with anyone else for a different position: if we are to try to position ourselves within the medieval world, this would be seen as an affront to the Divine order of things.  So if you drew a role you’re not thrilled with, roll up your sleeves, grit your teeth, and resign yourself to the workings of Providence– you can no more change your social position than you can grow wings, so it’s best to learn to make do.

In order to earn full credit for this assignment, you will need to work both as individuals within your social position and as a group living and working together in the same fiefdom to complete all of your required tasks.  Your work will require you to use your textbooks, online resources, and primary sources, and will involve both written and creative output from you.  Several of the tasks you will undertake will involve some degree of artistic production; please be aware that while you will not be judged on your artistic ability, you will be evaluated on your creativity, effort, accuracy of information, and neatness.

Now, on to your first task: you need to create your fiefdom and your individual characters!

Proceed to Fiefdom Instructions!