Site of Le bûcher de Jeanne d'Arc, Rouen, France
(This is the site where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake on 30 May 1431), photo credit Lainey Roe
The Middle Ages were not just a time of stagnation, barbarism and poverty--Monty Python and the Holy Grail has a certain air of accuracy about it--okay, maybe the Early Middle Ages were on the dark side. Indeed, some of the greatest monuments to Western civilization date from twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the High Middle Ages: the Gothic cathedrals. In fact, we have a great example of a Gothic cathedral in Washington, DC: The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul (aka Washington National Cathedral). It was largely built between 1907-1990 using traditional techniques, but some construction continues on the structure.
The period of time from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries saw a flowering of medieval culture. An agricultural revolution occurred that brought increased wealth into the countryside; cities prospered as trade expanded; a new middle class emerged. Contact with the Islamic Near East brought to the West a number of classical Greek (and Roman) philosophical and scientific works that had been lost to Western scholarship up to that time. Some other cultural examples from the Middle Ages might include:
For the Late Middle Ages, maybe 1300-1450, we might want to focus on these three events that took place over long spans of time.
Some recommended online lectures and website: