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Facts about the Middle Ages

In the 1200s, northern Europe's largest towns
--London, Paris and Ghent--contained no more than 30,000 or 40.000 residents. Southern European cities like Venice and Florence had over 100,000. The world s largest cities--Constantinople and Baghdad--each had about a million people. How do these figures compare with the population of your city or town?

Europeans established the world's first universities in the 1100s. Like the world outside then, the university could be a violent place: Oxford University in England had rules that specifically forbid students from bringing bows and arrows to class.

Under Medieval law, animals could be tried and sentenced for crimes, just as though they were people. There are records of farm animals being tried for injuring or killing people. Animals were charged with smaller crimes, too. Some mice were taken to court for stealing part of the harvest, and, in another case, a flock of locusts was convicted --in absentia--of eating crops

A feudal society very much like that of Europe's developed in Japan in the 1100's. The Japanese called their knights "samurai," and, like the knights of Europe, they fought on horseback. As in Europe, Japanese feudalism developed at a time of anarchy.

In the early Middle Ages, Europeans told time in a way that would seem very strange to us today. They divided the day into 7 hours' of equal length. Because summer days are longer than winter ones, a winter 'hour" was about 60 minutes, but a summer one was 150 minutes! By the late 1300s, Europeans had mechanical clocks and often installed them in the towers of churches and town halls.

- The knight on horseback would have been impossible without an important innovation that reached Europe from India in the 700s-- the stirrup Mounted warriors could now maneuver their horses more effectively and carry heavier armor and weapons.

A number of European advances during the Middle Ages were made possible by the Moorish occupation of Spain. Most important was the use of Arabic numerals, which we still use today. The Moors also brought new words to Europe. "Algebra," "lute," "magazine," "orange ," and "tariff" all come from Arabic. In addition, the Moors introduced a game that quickly became popular from Cadiz to London: chess.

What kind of meal was "fit for a king"? King Richard II of England sometimes gave feasts for as many as 10,000 people at once. One of these required 140 hogs, 14 oxen, 12 calves, 12 boars and 3 tons of salted venison.



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The Middle Ages

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