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Summary of European History

The Middle Ages

The Middle Ages cover about 1,000 years from about 500 AD until 1500 AD. The eastern block, known as the Byzantine Empire, was strongly influenced by the Church and retained the higher level of civilization than the western block of the Roman Empire.  The western half soon crumbled into various feudal kingdoms.  However, the Byzantine Empire lasted until 1453 AD when it fell to the Ottoman Turks.  The Muslim Turks dominated a large part of western Asia until they fell to the British in 1919 AD.

In the west, the rude forms of the Germanic tribe of barbarians overcame the highly developed systems of Roman civilization.  

“The invaders lacked the knowledge and skill to carry on Roman achievements in art, literature, and engineering and ‘the whole world’, as St. Jerome wrote, ‘is sinking into ruin.'”

The early medieval period is known today as the Dark Ages.

During the latter years of the fifth century, Christianity began to lift Europe out of the Dark Ages.  Clovis, the Frankish King, became a Christian in 496 AD and led his people, later to become France, into the Roman Catholic Church.  When Clovis became a Roman Catholic, his people began to receive the support of the bishop of Rome (the Pope).  This opened the door for the Franks to participate in the Roman culture which had been sustained by the church.  The monks, who were living in monasteries, had preserved the knowledge of the Roman arts and crafts.

In 786 AD the leadership of the Franks passed to the great Charlemagne.  He brought the Lombards and heathen Saxons under his dominion.  By 800 AD, Charlemagne was the undisputed ruler of Western Europe.  He ruled over what are now France, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands and included half of present-day Italy and Germany, part of Austria, and the Spanish border.

In 800 AD the Pope proclaimed him ruler of the Holy Roman Empire and he began to provide education for his people.  He founded schools for the poor as well as for the nobility.  Under his reign, some of the Roman culture was expanded in the west.

After the death of Charlemagne, barbaric Vikings and Hungarians invaded England and the West Coast of Europe.  Hungarians drove from the east into Germany, France, and Italy.  At the same time, Moors, who were from Africa and Spain, slashed into southern Europe.  The weaken kings of the broken Holy Roman Empire could not stand against the invaders and they turned to powerful lords for protection.

This brought about a feudal system in which powerful lords ruled over lesser lords and lesser lords ruled over servants.

During this time, education was suppressed as ninety percent of the people were in various degrees of slavery.  Again, they enter dark ages where the Lords and the church ruled the land.  Few could read and write thus many false teachings were imposed upon the people.  The peasants did homage for protection and gave up their independence.  The lord’s castles served as forts of refuge when there was an invasion.  During this period heavily armored Knights came upon the scene.

By the middle of the 10th century the Frankish kingdom was divided into the east and west kingdoms.  The West Kingdom was composed of today’s France and the East Kingdom was Germanic.  The Germanic group also controlled what is now England.  During this time, the Holy Roman Empire moved to the Germanic group.  Between 1000 AD and 1200 AD the church, which was ruled by the Pope, made a political comeback.

Another major group of people, which had an impact during the Middle Ages, was the Muslim nations.  Followers of Mohammed began Holy Wars and gained control of the Middle East during the sixth and seventh century.  Forging across Western Asia and the southern Europe they reached as far as Spain by 711 AD.  The Muslim Arabs invaded Spain from North African and controlled the nation until 1492 AD.

In 1096 AD Pope Urban 11 sent the first Christian Crusaders eastward to fight against the Muslims.  The Pope was motivated by the fact that all of Europe would be lost to the Muslims if they were not stopped.  He also received a request for help from the Byzantine Empire leaders who were fighting for their life in eastern Europe and western Asia.  Also, the Muslims were preventing Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land and Jerusalem.

A total of five military expeditions, known as Holy Wars, were launched between 1096 AD and 1221 AD.  The first expedition reached the Holy Land and controlled it for several years but after a period of time the Crusaders lost control of the area to the Muslims.  Thereafter, the Popes continued to send military expeditions to reclaim it.  Pope Urban 11 originally launched the military campaign with the idea that if the Kings and Lords of Europe had a common military goal, they would consolidate their efforts and stop fighting among themselves.  His strategy worked, however, after many years, the expeditions became more commercial than military.

The crusades opened the door for commercial trade beyond Europe and increased the control of the church over the people.  Late in the thirteenth century AD, Marco Polo began exploring the Far East and opened the door to trade with China, Japan and the East Indies.  His writings later led to other efforts of exploration such as those done by Columbus and others that followed him.

By the 13th century the church was the strongest influence in Europe.  Most everyone except Jews, Arabs and the people in the Byzantine Empire belonged to the Roman Catholic Church and fell under its authority.  The Pope had more authority and wealth than the combined wealth of lords and nobles.  

The Pope’s subordinate officials, the archbishops, bishops and others, were usually great feudal lords with rich possessions and military strength.  The church also administered many of the legal affairs of the people and sometimes used their authority in excommunication.  Once excommunicated, a person was expelled from the church and all Christians, even members of his family, were forbidden to associate with him.

The church mainly provided education to the barons and clergy leaving the masses largely uneducated.  The universal language, Latin, was maintained as the common language of learning.  The Monks’ service was to produce manuscripts of classical learning thus providing us with much history.

By this time France, Germany, England, Spain and Italy had become sovereign nations and had become major powers in Europe.

The Modern Ages

Modern Times began with the Renaissance age, people began to pull out of the bondage the Kings, Lords and the Church.  It is considered one of the rare periods of genius in world history.  It began in the 14th Century in Italy and reached its height in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries as it spread across Europe.  

The word Renaissance means “rebirth” and refers to the rediscovery of writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans.  It was a period of discovery of the arts and literature, mathematics, new scientific laws and new religious ideas.  The Monks had carefully preserved the old documents as they copied old manuscripts down through the ages.

The transition from the middle ages to the modern ages brought about an increase in the number of new towns.  The Roman Empire had encouraged the building of towns but the German barbarians refused to live in confinement.  The new cities aided the establishment of trade, commerce and manufacturing.

Between 1337 AD and 1453 AD history recorded the longest war in ever to be record.  The war was fought between France and England.  The war started as a dispute over the legitimate succession to the French crown.  The English claimed rights by way of marriage.  Over the years the reason for the fighting changed several times, as the two nations had become bitter enemies.  By the end of the war, England had lost all of its territory on the main continent of Europe.  The war lasted through the reign of five English kings and brought an end to feudalism.

Christopher Columbus opened the way to world exploration when he sailed westward from Spain in search of a route by sea to the East Indies.  On the morning of October 12, 1492, he stepped ashore on an island that is part of a land known today as America, thus discovering a new continent.  His discoveries opened the door for fierce competition among the European countries as they explored and colonized the new territories.

Another major change took place in new religious ideas as the reform movement broke the bond of the medieval Roman Catholic Church.  Martin Luther broke the yoke of the Roman Catholic Church in 1517 AD when he disagreed with the church over doctrine.  This led to a permanent division of the church and brought on the great Protestant Reformation in Germany and later throughout Europe.  Religious freedom played a big role in the colonization of America during the 18th century.

A major force in Europe during the later part of the 18th century and the early part of 19’h century was the short administration of Napoleon Bonaparte of France.  He was a great reformer and wanted to restore the Western Empire of Charlemagne.  For sixteen years, he was master of most of Europe as he defeated one country after another.  He can be compared to Adolph Hitler who would try the same thing over two centuries later.  Napoleon met his end in defeat with the battle of Waterloo, which was fought on June 18, 1815.

With the turn of the 20th century, Europe began to enter into world wars.  During World War 1 most of Europe fought against the Germans and the Turks of Asia.  After the defeat of the Germans, colonization by the European countries increased around the world.  At one time it was said that the “sun never sets on the British Empire”.

Peace was short lived, about twenty years later the world had to fight the Germans again under the dictatorship of Adolph Hitler.  Since World War 2, the independence gained by many countries has practically brought an end to European colonization.

The world has experienced very little peace during the 20th century as the United Nations and the United States have tried to police the world.  Many are saying that we need a one-wodd government under one leader to bring peace to the World.

Late in the 20th century, the countries of Europe united under a Europe common market.  In 1999, they adopted a common currency for trade among themselves and are calling themselves the United States of Europe.  Have they at last revived the old Roman Empire?

The Bible tells us that the “Times of the Gentile” will come to an end when the Antichrist, who will control the entire world, is defeated when Christ returns to the earth to reign as Kings of kings and Lord of lords.

This completes our study of “The Times of the Gentiles”. Return to the “History Section” to continue your studies.