Middle Ages and Renaissance Facts for Kids

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Have you ever wondered how people lived in the past? There’s just so much history out there, and all of it is so interesting! Two of the most exciting time periods that humanity has lived through were called the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. They happened one right after the other, and without them, life today wouldn’t be the same. Here’s what you might not know about both the Middle Ages and the Renaissance!

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What Is the Middle Ages?

The Middle Ages was a period of time that lasted around a thousand years of human history. It’s sometimes called the Medieval Period. It’s hard to say when the Middle Ages definitely began, but most people say that it started with the fall of the Roman Empire. Meanwhile, the Middle Ages ended when the Renaissance began. Again there’s not an exact date, which is why most people consider rough dates of around 400 CE to 1400 CE. No matter how you look at it, the Middle Ages lasted a very long time!

You might think that the Middle Ages was filled with knights in shining armor, but the time period wasn’t really that great a time to live at first. The stability that the Roman Empire gave many places in Europe was gone, and that meant life was hard for lots of people. Much of the scientific knowledge that the Romans had developed was even lost! Over time, people began to rebuild their societies and civilizations, and soon you did have knights and kings working to create new countries. Many of the countries in Europe today can trace their history back to the Middle Ages!

What Is the Renaissance?

After the Middle Ages, the Renaissance started. This period of time, which is also sometimes called the Early Modern Period, didn’t last nearly as long as the Middle Ages, though – only around 200 years or so. But even though it was much shorter, plenty of things happened that paved the way for our modern world! The Renaissance ended in around 1600 CE, which is when European countries began lots of colonization efforts in both North and South America. From there, you probably know the story: colonies in the Western Hemisphere developed further, became countries of their own, and led to where we are today.

The Renaissance was much different than the Middle Ages. Now that the hard work of rebuilding society and civilization was done, the people living in the Renaissance didn’t have to worry about survival anymore. Instead, they had time to pursue other interests like art, music, science, and engineering. Many of the new ideas and inventions that people came up with during this period of time led to the technologies we use every day in our own lives!

Timeline of Events

So many things happened in both the Middle Ages and the Renaissance that it’s impossible to list all of them! Here are some of the most important things that did happen, and why they were so noteworthy.

476 CE: The Fall of Rome. The Roman Empire collapsed officially on this date, though it had been in decline for decades previous to this. While it’s not completely clear while Rome fell, many historians think it had to do with a string of military losses that weakened the Empire from within and without.

481 CE: The Rise of the Franks. The Roman province of Gaul was a region of Western Europe that is today made up of France and other nearby countries. A Celtic people known as the Franks lived there under Roman rule. Once the Empire fell, the Franks formed their own kingdom. Its first ruler was named King Clovis.

Around 700 CE: The Islam/Christian Conflict. With most of Europe having converted to Christianity by this time, Europeans began to come into contact with other cultures. One of these was Islam, as Muslims began to spread through Northern Africa and into what would become modern-day Spain. The Franks and the Muslims would clash repeatedly in this time, with the Franks coming out the winners at the Battle of Tours in 732.

Around 800 CE: Charlemagne Becomes Holy Roman Emperor. King Charlemagne of the Franks unites much of Western Europe under Frankish rule. He allied himself with the Catholic Church at this time, earning him the title of Holy Roman Emperor. This gave Charlemagne not just political power but also religious power as well.

Around 835 CE: The Rise of the Vikings. Warriors from Scandinavia began to raid many areas of Europe. Sometimes these raids were made in order to look for resources or find new places to live. Other times they were in retaliation for being converted to Christianity by Charlemagne.

871 CE: Alfred the Great Crowned King of England: The first king to rule over a united England, the Anglo-Saxon king Alfred the Great provided some much-needed stability to the island. Alfred also successfully held back Viking attacks on his country, making it safe for his subjects to live.

1066 CE: The Battle of Hastings. A dispute over who had the right to sit on the throne of England led to a major battle between Anglo-Saxon forces and Frankish ones. The victor, William the Conqueror, was a French-Norman noble who assumed the throne. English society and culture underwent a major change from this time forward.

1095 CE: The Crusades Begin. After Muslim forces occupied the city of Jerusalem in the Middle East, the Pope issued a decree that asked the kingdoms of Europe to recapture the city and expel Muslims from the region. This period would last several hundred years and lead to the rise of knights as military leaders.

1187: The Fall of Jerusalem. While the Crusades were initially successful in occupying Jerusalem and many portions of the Middle East, this success would not last. The city of Jerusalem was recaptured by Muslim forces led by Saladin, the Sultan of Egypt and Syria.

1215 CE: The Signing of the Magna Carta: King John of England signed the Magna Carta, a document that is one of the earliest forms of democracy. The Magna Carta established that no one, not even a king, was above the law.

1337 CE: The Beginning of the Hundred Years War. King Edward III of England attempts to conquer France, making a claim on the throne. The result was a conflict between the two countries that lasts until 1453. In the end, the French kings retained their throne.

1347 CE: The Black Death Arrives in Europe. Also known as the Bubonic Plague, the Black Death was a deadly pandemic that reached Europe from Asia when several boats filled with infected sailors arrived in Italy. The pandemic would kill around 20 million Europeans.

1434 CE: The Rise of the Medicis: The city of Florence, Italy became home to the Medici family, rich merchants that began to have a heavy influence on European politics. The Medicis were also patrons of the arts and sciences, and many historians say this family played a major role in beginning the Renaissance.

1444 CE: The Printing Press is Invented. In Germany, Johannes Gutenberg invents the first printing press. Now, books didn’t have to be hand-copied anymore, and more people in Europe began to learn to read because books were so much more accessible.

At this point in time, the Renaissance is well underway! Here are some important things that happened during this period.

1492 CE: Christopher Columbus Reaches North America. Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, who was working for the King and Queen of Spain, successfully reaches the Caribbean. He begins sending back the Western Hemisphere’s riches to Europe.

1509 CE: Henry VIII Becomes King of England. King Henry VIII was known for having many wives. When the Pope refused to give him an annulment on one of his marriages, Henry cut ties between the Catholic Church and England and created the Anglican Church.

1517 CE: The Protestant Reformation Begins. German monk Martin Luther nails a long written criticism of the Catholic Church to the doors of the Church of Wittenburg. Those that agreed with Luther joined him, creating a further split in the church known as the Protestant Reformation.

1558 CE: Elizabeth I Becomes King of England. Elizabeth Tudor, the daughter of King Henry VIII, becomes queen of England. She would rule for 44 years, providing peace and prosperity for the English. Her rule became known as the Elizabethan Period.

1588 CE: The Defeat of the Spanish Armada. Spain, which had grown rich and strong from its colonies in the Americas, was one of the most powerful countries in Europe. Spain attempted to invade and conquer its rival England, but the smaller English fleet of ships defeated the Spanish forces.

1618: The Thirty Years War Begins. The Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II declares that all members of the Empire must be Catholic. This begins a bloody war between Catholics and Protestants that lasts until 1648. By the end of the war, the Catholic Church and its political power over Europe have diminished greatly.

1687: Newton Publishes the Principia. Sir Isaac Newton publishes a book called The Principia. It contains all his work on the laws of motion and gravity. It becomes the foundation for modern science. From here on, the Renaissance continues to transition to the Colonial Period, the Industrial Revolution, and on to today!

How Was the Renaissance Different From the Middle Ages?

The Middle Ages and the Renaissance had a lot in common. At the same time, there were some really important differences between the two. Here’s how life was for people living in both periods.

Famous People from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

There are so many famous people that lived during both the Middle Ages and the Renaissance! Some we’ve already mentioned. Here are a few more.

Pope Gregory I: Born in Rome in around 540 to a noble family, Gregory grew up to become governor of the city. He then became a monk and founded several monasteries throughout Italy. Eventually, Gregory became Pope, where he used his power to reorganize the church and help the people of Rome by providing them food during a famine. He also helped spread Catholicism to England.

Bede the Venerable: An Anglo-Saxon monk born sometime around 672 in the north of England, Bede was a scholar and a teacher that helped record the history of England in the early Middle Ages.

Geoffrey Chaucer: Born in 1340 in England, Geoffrey Chaucer was a well-known poet. He wrote The Canterbury Tales, a long poem about pilgrims telling stories to each other while traveling, that is still taught in schools today. Chaucer is often considered the father of English poetry.

Joan of Arc: A French farm girl born in 1412, Joan of Arc claimed she received visions from God. These visions told her to fight for France in the Hundred Years War. Before she was captured by the English, she led armies to victory for the French.

Leonardo Da Vinci: Famous for his artistic ability and his clever inventions, Leonardo da Vinci was born in Italy in 1452. He created some of the most notable works of art in the history of humanity, including the Mona Lisa. He also studied science, creating plans for inventions such as the parachute, a self-propelled vehicle, a diving suit, and even an armored tank!

Michelangelo: Another Italian artist famous for his painting and sculpture, Michelangelo was born in 1475. Some of his most famous works of art include the painted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the statue of David.

Niccolo Machiavelli: An Italian diplomat born in 1469, Niccolo Machiavelli wrote The Prince, a political treatise on how to govern. He is widely considered the father of political philosophy and political science.

Galileo: Born in 1564 in Italy, Galileo was a scientist and engineer who studied the stars and made many discoveries, including the moons of Jupiter and the planets Saturn and Neptune. He was famously arrested by the Catholic Church because he said the Earth revolved around the Sun, which the Church disagreed with.

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