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Questions tagged [middle-ages]

The Middle Ages is a periodisation of European history, encompassing the period from the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century to the Renaissance in the 15th century.

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Why did archery not make a comeback when armor was phased out in the 18th century?

Even if we account for the argument that it is much more tedious to train a man to use a bow than a musket, why then did the arbalest not make a comeback? Its effective range - reportedly at 300m, is ...
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Why was Poland spared from the Black Death?

The featured image of the Wikipedia page for the Black Death is a gif showing the spread of the bubonic plague throughout Europe. There are a few places where the plague never spread to, including the ...
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How much smaller were medieval farm animals in England than today?

According the Medieval Life and Times website, Farm animals were small, for scientific breeding had not yet begun. A full-grown ox reached a size scarcely larger than a calf of to-day, and the ...
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Was England called England in the days of King Arthur?

King Arthur is a legendary king who is said to have ruled Britain in the early days of post-Roman Britain. Now Thomas Malory's famous novel "La Morte D'Arthur" puts the following inscription on the ...
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Is it true that slavery was endemic in Sub-Saharan Africa previous to the establishment of the trans-Atlantic slave trade?

Stefan Molyneux claims in The Truth About The Crusades that: Islam dominated slave trade between the 7th and the 15th century, while the Christians entered the market of human flesh much later - ...
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What were the reasons for the Renaissance / scientific revolution in Europe?

One of the common reasons given for the Renaissance and the subsequent scientific revolution is the rediscovery of classical works by scholars in Europe and the social change that the study of those ...
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Why did Europe not see Roman-era numbers of men participating in battles until the 17th century?

Typical decisive battles in Roman times involve 4+ legions - around 20,000 men + auxiliaries giving a total of about 30,000 men, on the Roman side only. Battles in even the late middle ages and early ...
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Was hay invented only in the Middle Ages in Europe?

I stumbled upon the following remark from Freeman Dyson: The most important invention of the last two thousand years was hay. In the classical world of Greece and Rome and in all earlier times, ...
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What was the typical peasant's diet like in Europe during the High Middle Ages?

I know that wheat, barley, rye, onions, lettuce-like plants and turnips were common but how common were other things like meat or cheese? I've heard the "plowman's lunch" was a concoction of the dairy ...
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Is there any proof that Robin Hood existed?

Is there any written proof/documentation that Robin Hood ever existed? Did he ever get arrested and got his name written in the prison books or something like that?
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Did cows in Medieval times have calves in spring or all year round?

I'm a Dairy Educator and want to learn about milking and cows in Medieval Times. I suspect that cows had calves only in spring, like most livestock. Am I correct? Would Medieval people drink the ...
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What were the acceptance criteria in universities of medieval Europe?

Did they have entrance tests? Were certain groups officially banned from entering? How much did one have to pay? Did they have scholarships for talented studends? How these criteria differed between ...
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What did people in 13th century England know about Greek mythology?

I understand this may depend on various factors, but I am interested to find out whether many/some/any people in 13th century England would have knowledge of the stories out of Greek mythology. ...
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Has an heir ever made the country believe the current ruler died in order to take over the throne?

Before the invention of the telegraph, a message couldn't travel faster than the speed of a horse (or maybe a messenger pigeon or something along those lines - still pretty slow). Has there ever been ...
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Were Medieval Britons aware of the existence of the Roman Empire?

I would like to know if the medieval people in Britain, by around 800 AD, knew that there was an empire that ruled Britain several hundreds of years before. Otherwise, were there any myths, legends, ...
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What is the pre-schism Christian church called today?

I've come upon numerous instances where a pre-11th century person or artifact is associated with either the Orthodox or Catholic church. The most recent example is in Francis Fukuyama's "The Origins ...
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What was the status of Arab Christians during the crusades?

Did Arab Christians take an active role in the crusades in the Holy Land or at any point on their trip to the Holy Land. Or were they victims of the crusaders? Did the crusaders typically ...
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How severe were the casualties in ancient/medieval battles?

I've heard that in most battles prior to the introduction of gunpowder weapons, the casualties were usually very low (around 5% even in long battles) prior to the moment when someone's formation was ...
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At what point was the Byzantine Empire's decline irreversible?

I've heard various arguments that the Byzantines were dealt the mortal wound at Manzikert in 1071 which allowed the Turks to claim most of Anatolia and set the stage for the later sacking of ...
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Why did only the English adopt, evolve and use the longbow en masse in war?

The bow was a relatively common weapon on dark age battlefields as Harold's arrow in the eye at Hastings will attest. But shortly after is was largely superseded by the crossbow, partly because pretty ...
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Did archers synchronize fire? Why?

I noticed that in medieval movies and TV shows, when there is a big battle happening, groups of archers always synchronize their firing. I was wondering whether this is something that writers made up ...
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Who believed the earth was flat?

Christians are sometimes mocked for having once believed the earth was flat. However, the only references I can find are Lactantius in the beginning of the 4th century, and Copernicus, who says ...
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‘Avoid sleeping on your back’ & ‘breathe in toilet smells’ were seen as precautions against the Black Death. Why did doctors think these would work?

Browsing a school book, Medieval Britain by Brenda Williams, I came across three precautions recommended by doctors to help people avoid going down with the plague. These were: cover windows avoid ...
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Did the Pope's crossbow and archery bans have any effect?

One of the more famous and certainly curious decisions at the Second Council of the Lateran in 1139 was a ban on using missile troops against Christians. Specifically, Canon 29 states that: We ...
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Why did the grip-centered viking shield fall out of use relative to the kite shields?

Did Normans have battle advantage with strapped kite shields over Saxons and Vikings with their grip-centered shield style of fighting? What often comes to my mind are battles like Hastings (1066). ...
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Where did Medieval Europe's gold come from?

Medieval Europe processed copious amounts of gold into religious artifacts, jewelry and of course gold coins, as evidenced by the large number of those that survive to this day. Given that today, no ...
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How did cities operate in medieval times?

Modern fiction is often filled with fantasy versions of the Middle Ages, from Lord of the Rings to Game of Thrones, and everything in between, but how did the reality of this trope operate? There ...
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How did Medieval Armies survive the use of mail armor in the deserts of the Middle East?

Something that has long puzzled me is the use of full mail hauberks and the like in the Crusades. How did Crusaders and their various enemies avoid cooking inside their armor? I know many of them did ...
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Were there any high-ranking female soldiers during the Middle ages?

There are several fictional works describing female knights in a fantasy world, but do they have any real world counterpart? For example, a knight or a high-ranking female military officer during the ...
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How kind were the Muslim occupations of North Africa?

I grew up in Egypt and although I was raised in Muslim-majority country, I am atheist now. In history classes we were told a doubtful story: The Muslims would have been kind and merciful invaders ...
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Where does the name of the country “Belarus” come from?

I've read the German and English Wikipedia on this topic as well as the translated Belarussian version and some sites I googled. They all seem to argue that the 'Rus' part stems from the Region called ...
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5answers
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What did squires do in the middle of a medieval battle?

According to wikipedia, a normal squire daily job included: Carrying the knight's armour, shield, sword, Holding any prisoners the knight takes, Rescuing the knight should the knight be ...
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What kind of ink was used by medieval scribes in Iceland, given that there were no plant galls for iron-gall ink?

Iceland was deforested since early settlement, and possibly never had oaks. It has no gall wasps either. I understand that Iceland was very isolated in medieval times. So without oak galls, how did ...
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How did Europeans first acquire gunpowder?

I know that gunpowder was first invented in China around the 10th century, and it seems that gunpowder likely made its way to Europe via the "Silk Road." However, there doesn't seem to be a ton of ...
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What is the date and original source of this medieval picture?

While researching the history of chimneys, I came across this medieval image on two different sites, neither of which gives any details. Source: Dark Ages Project. The same picture can also be found ...
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How prevalent were recreational drugs in the ancient world?

A recent discussion about the Queen Mab Speech in Romeo and Juliet, prompted us to wonder whether Mercutio was on drugs. Which then led to the question of how prevalent recreational drugs where ...
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Why was language not used to establish dominance throughout England 1066 AD–1360s CE?

Why didn’t the Normans enforce the use of their native tongue throughout the whole of England after William the Conqueror (of Normandy) became king of England? During William’s reign as king he ...
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Classical battle sizes vs medieval battle sizes

Why did classical battles did tend to be larger than in the medieval period? One particular example I am thinking of was the Battle of Stamford Bridge, which had around 30,000 participants, compared ...
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Why don't people without access to clean water drink beer anymore?

In the medieval ages, peasants used to drink beer instead of water because the plain water wasn't safe to drink. Why do people in countries where the water sources are polluted not do this today? Why ...
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Did Muslim states hire Western European knights as mercenaries before the Crusades?

In the book Hattin by John France the following claim is made: The fighting qualities of western knights were widely recognized in the Mediterranean lands, and they were often employed even by ...
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What is the difference between the Middle Ages and the Dark Ages?

Is there any difference between the "Middle Ages" and the "Dark Ages"?
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Why did the Moors invade the Iberian peninsula?

Almost all of the information that I can find with regards to the Moorish invasion of the Iberian Peninsula simply states when the Moors invaded. There seems to be very little on what the motivation ...
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In the Medieval period, how long would an average swordsmith need to forge an average sword?

Based on this question over in RPG, I'm trying to figure out how long it took to forge a sword in the Medieval/Renaissance smith to make swords. I am recalling a figure of about 9-12 months per sword,...
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Did “droit du seigneur” actually exist in medieval Europe?

Droit du seigneur, also known as "jus primae noctis" (right of the first night), was the supposed right of a feudal lord to sleep with his serfs' brides on their wedding night. Was it actually ...
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Why didn't the Black Death result in favorable results for surviving peasants in China?

Black Death affected Europe and China alike. In Europe, the Black Death resulted in social mobility of the peasants, and as a result, labor-saving innovations were introduced. All these laid ...
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Why didn't cheese spoil when it was given as rations to soldiers?

I've come across many mentions of cheese when talking about rations for soldiers and those who would be hiking for long stretches of time. What kind of cheese would we be talking about? I'm mainly ...
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Good online sources for historical maps

I am looking for good online sources for historical maps, specifically the late medieval period (but other periods would be interesting as well). While there are many historical maps out there, few ...
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Where did the term “Middle Ages” come from?

Where did the term "Middle Ages" come from? Who was the first known person to use that term?
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Do any churches continue to display length measures?

In 864, Charles the Bald issued what is today known as the Edict of Pistres. One of his demands was that copies of the standards of measurements (e.g. versions of a foot) were to be displayed on the ...
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Is there any evidence that the Catholic Church slowed innovation during the Middle Ages?

I often hear that the rate of innovation was very high during ancient times in Greece and the Roman empire. I've also heard that the rate of innovation was reduced once the Catholic Church gained ...