Sunday, February 3, 2013

Middle Aged Europe

Having been given the title, "The Dark Ages" many people think of this as a period in history when not much was happening except death, war and decay.  In fact, there are amazing stories, art, and advancements that happened for society during the middle ages too - especially when you take a look at the world beyond Europe. 

In Europe, the middle age was the time of Vikings and their raids and amazing naval feats.  It was the age of Kings, Knights and Feudalism.  The Middle Ages brought us complex characters such as Charlemagne, William Wallace, King Alfred, and a huge variety of "Saints". The Legends of King Arthur and his Knights as well as the Legend of Robin Hood come from this time period as did the Magna Carta.  Like the history before it, the Middle ages were a time of betrayals, raiding and warring, of suffering and injustices but it was also a time of survival, re-growth, re-definition and change.

Whether you are a believer or not, the story of how Christianity and its influence over art and society grew during this time is a fascinating part of Europe's history.  The atrocities that took place in the name of Christianity are a part of this story as are the illuminated texts and the stories of the monks that sacrificed everything for those texts.  It is also the time when the essence of what we now know as The New Testament in anything other than Greek or Latin took shape through controversial translations and re-writings.

Elsewhere in the Eastern Hemisphere, there was even more innovation - particularly through the work of early Muslims, there were major advancements in math, medicine, technology and the sciences as well as innovative cultural ideas.  For a really fast and funny over-view of the time- period (adults and teens - when I say, fast, I mean fast)  I recommend crash course

Lessons and Activities:

Make sure you know who is who in First Millenium Europe.  This blarticle will help you get to know the different barbarian groups in and near Europe at the End of the Roman Empire and those that followed shortly after the fall of Rome. 

Illuminated Manuscripts - use Help you child or children create a beautiful "History Record Book" in which to keep journal entries, artwork and maps used or made in their lessons on the Medieval Period.  Along the way learn about what an "Illumination" is and dip your feet into just one example of the amazing achievements in art during this period of history.  End the activities with a view of The Secret of Kells.

Knights - This set of lessons, includes Knights, with information about the tools and life of a Medieval Knight, and Two Articles about the Legendary King Arthur, Biography or Fiction? and a Literature Unit Resource page.

Castles, Cathedrals and Dungeons This article has a list of a few activities to try as well as video and book resources to help kids get to know castles, their construction and life in and around a Medieval castle.

Middle Music Information and Resources regarding the evolution of music during the Medieval Period.  Also make sure to check out the Illuminated Manuscripts as some of these scripts are the first examples of written semi-modern musical notation.

Careers in Medieval Europe Video Resources depicting different jobs various medieval peoples may have had and the good, bad, and downright aweful of making a living during the Middle Ages.

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table - There are actually a couple of lessons on this topic.  One, is a literary study that can be adapted and adjusted for a variety of ages and a variety of book sources.  The other is more of an historical study regarding who is King Arthur and how much factual history is the basis for the legend.

Some Related Articles that May be of Interest:

You may also find some inspiration for Language Arts practice with this list of Ten Writing Ideas for Historical Writing.

As with the Ancient Rome Unit, this page will grow and change over the coming months as I develop and add a variety of lessons to accompany it.  For now, here are just some of the wonderful resources I have found to get us started.

Other Resources of Interest:

From the History Channel: The Dark Ages (This movie is about the brutal time period we call the Dark Ages, Medieval Period and the Middle Ages.  Violence and death are shown) - Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9.

Terry Jones follows the first Road Atlas ever in The Great Mystery Map Series. The link will take you to episode one. 

Britain AD Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.  This has some surprising insights into the not-so-dark, dark ages.  Even if you do not share this with your kids, I recommend it for background information for you as the teacher and informer.  It certainly seems appropriate for Middle Schoolers and older who are studying the period (as well as many elementary school students) but preview the movie first so you know it fits your objectives and expectations.

Art of the Middle Ages and Gothic Influence

The Viking Sword: +Ulfber+t swords: This movie is an engaging documentary about the discovery of these amazing swords that defy explanation from the era of the vikings.  A modern blacksmith attempts making a genuine replica using only the materials and technology of the era while archaeologists search for clues as to who the maker of the swords was.  A great diversion if your child is a fan of knights, vikings or just ancient weaponry in general. 

Blacksmith Clothing - a little insight into women's fashions of the time as well.

The Secret of Kells: This movie has amazing imagery full of symbolism.  Bleak, beautiful, fearsome, enlightening.  Although it is a cartoon, the story is a very serious one about monks trying to create their illuminated texts and escape viking raids.  The artistry uses images from Celtic traditions, illuminated texts and Anglo Saxon/vikings to bring about this visual telling of one take on what life might have been like for those involved in writing The Book of Kells.  It was never given a rating and although it does not have a lot of violence or any images of sex or bad language, you should be aware that some of the images are pretty dark and mysterious and might be scary for the particularly sensitive and young child.  I had no qualms about sharing it with my six-year-old however, and even developed a couple of lessons leading up to watching the movie.

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