22 episodes

Major developments in the political, social, and religious history of western Europe from the accession of Diocletian to the feudal transformation. Topics include the conversion of Europe to Christianity, the fall of the Roman Empire, the rise of Islam and the Arabs, the "Dark Ages," Charlemagne and the Carolingian renaissance, and the Viking and Hungarian invasions.

Early Middle Ages Paul H. Freedman

    • History
    • 4.4 • 282 Ratings

Major developments in the political, social, and religious history of western Europe from the accession of Diocletian to the feudal transformation. Topics include the conversion of Europe to Christianity, the fall of the Roman Empire, the rise of Islam and the Arabs, the "Dark Ages," Charlemagne and the Carolingian renaissance, and the Viking and Hungarian invasions.

    16. Splendor of the Abbasid Period

    16. Splendor of the Abbasid Period

    In this lecture, Professor Freedman discusses the Abbasid dynasty, which ruled the Islamic Caliphate beginning in 750. The Abbasids moved the capitol of the Caliphate to the newly-built city of Baghdad and created a state characterized by a strong administration and well-organized tax system. The state sponsored a cultural flowering, based in part on the translation of classical Greek and Roman texts. Professor Freedman ends the lecture by focusing on developments in mathematics and astronomy.

    Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu

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    10. Clovis and the Franks

    10. Clovis and the Franks

    Professor Freedman begins his discussion of Gregory of Tours’ history of the Merovingian kings. This history differs markedly from the classical invective style used by Procopius. Gregory of Tours’ account seems more random by comparison and emphasizes the intervention of the supernatural in everyday life, particularly through the miracles of St. Martin of Tours. Gregory begins his account by showing how Clovis established Frankish hegemony and secured the prominence of the Franks in the post-Roman West. That the Franks were the first Catholic (as opposed to Arian) people among the barbarian invaders also figures heavily in his account. Professor Freedman ends the lecture with a discussion of Clovis’ sons, among whom Clovis had divided his empire. Despite their violent internecine conflicts,, Gregory of Tours considers them and their father to be appropriate rulers for savage times.

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    22. Vikings / The European Prospect, 1000

    22. Vikings / The European Prospect, 1000

    In the first part of this lecture, Professor Freedman discusses the emergence of the Vikings from Scandinavia in the ninth and tenth centuries. The Vikings were highly adaptive, raiding (the Carolingian Empire), trading (Byzantium and the Caliphate) or settling (Greenland and Iceland) depending on local conditions. Through their wide-ranging travels, the Vikings created networks bringing into contact parts of the world that were previously either not connected or minimally so. Professor Freedman concludes the lecture, and the course, by considering what’s been accomplished between 284 and 1000. Although Europe in the year 1000 experienced many of the same problems as did the Roman Empire 284 where we began -- population decline and lack of urbanization, among others – the end of the early Middle Ages also arguable heralds the emergence of Europe and Christendom as cultural constructs and sets the stage for the rise of the West.

    Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu

    This course was recorded in Fall 2011.

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    12. Britain and Ireland

    12. Britain and Ireland

    In this lecture, Professor Freedman considers the importance of the British Isles in the early Middle Ages, both in their own right and as an example of a post-Roman frontier society. In the wake of the fifth century Roman withdrawal, England experienced “radical economic simplification.” However, England’s conversion to Christianity beginning at the end of the sixth century brought about a flourishing written culture and Latin learning. Ireland experienced a similar cultural flowering, although it had converted to Christianity centuries earlier. It had never been colonized by the Romans, and the Irish Church was less hierarchical, more decentralized, and placed less importance on bishops than did the Roman. The conversion of England under the competeing influences of Rome and ireland was thus not just a conflict between Christianity and paganism, but also between two administrative styles of Christianity. Professor Freedman ends the lecture with a few remarks on the cultural accomplishments of the British Isles.

    Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu

    This course was recorded in Fall 2011.

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    19. Charlemagne

    19. Charlemagne

    In this lecture, Professor Freedman discusses the Carolingian dynasty from its origins through its culmination in the figure of Charlemagne. The Carolingians sought to overthrow the much weakened Merovingian dynasty by establishing their political legitimacy on three bases: war leadership, Christian rule, and the legacy of Rome. Charlemagne’s grandfather Charles Martel won a major victory over the Muslims in 733 at the Battle of Poitiers. Charlemagne’s father Pepin the Short allied the Carolingians with the papacy at a time when the latter was looking for a new protector. Charlemagne, crowned emperor in Rome by Pope Leo III in 800, made strides in reestablishing the Roman Empire; although, being centered in northern Europe, his was not an exact imitation of the Roman Empire. Professor Freedman concludes the lecture with the observation that Charlemagne can be considered the founder of Europe as a political and cultural expression.

    Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu

    This course was recorded in Fall 2011.

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    21. Crisis of the Carolingians

    21. Crisis of the Carolingians

    In this lecture, Professor Freedman discusses the crisis and decline of Charlemagne’s empire. Increasingly faced with external threats -- particularly the Viking invasions – the Carolingian Empire ultimately collapsed from internal causes, because its rulers were unable effectively to manage such a large empire. In the absence of strong social infrastructure and an idea of loyalty to the ruler, government servants strove to make their positions hereditary and nobles sought to set up independent kingdoms. Although it only lasted for a short time, the Carolingian Empire helped shape the face of Europe, especially through the partitions of the Treaty of Verdun which created territories roughly equivalent to France and Germany.

    Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu

    This course was recorded in Fall 2011.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5
282 Ratings

282 Ratings

crazycatkatie ,

Masterful lecturing

As an educator, Professor Freedman’s mastery of integrating the old history into why it’s relevant to modern times is remarkable. So many analogies from the past to present and why were in the messes were in today. Is the companion literature he assigns also available to peruse and keep up with the background of his lectures. Thank you for this podcast.

JoelG Marietta ,

Lucid and kind

Professor Freedman’s remarkable lucidity and mastery of this subject matter are part of why these lectures are so outstanding. But for me, even more powerful are the kindness and humanity that shine through in every talk. The depth of Professor Freedman’s care—about the people who lived and made this history; the students in his lecture hall, and perhaps the listeners online—make these lectures something truly special. His dry sense of humor, too, is worth the price of admission!

Crowbar Man ,

Too biased

It is unquestionable that professor Freedman is knowledgeable. However, I’m looking for an unbiased course. He says that if any of the friends of the students are wondering why the course spends so much time discussing theology, then they should come to office hours. Well, we the listeners can’t go to his office hours. So if theology is so central to middle age history, then I wish he would have explained it to the rest of us. I’m sure he could have talked about other things aside from the exquisite religious details that dominate the course. He spent an entire lecture on the confessions of St. Augustine. He has to cover the entire history and the lives and culture of middle age Europe in a handful of lectures, and he dedicated a whole lecture on the writings of one religious figure. His lectures are 85% religion, with no mention of the negative impacts of religion on the lives of the people. He presents all religious topics as factual components of history. Yet when the topic of King Arthur comes up, he admits he will only mention him briefly because he is 99.9% legend. This was a lost opportunity to discuss the resistance of the Celtic people against the Roman invaders, and the leaders and communities that inspired the legend of King Arthur. He explains how there was no such thing as the dark ages, conveniently ignoring the degree to which the dominance of religion stifled science, secular art and literature, and the exchange of the large scale civil engineering of the Romans with just building cathedrals. Interestingly, if religion is such a large component of the Middle Ages that we can’t have a history course without discussing it at length, then maybe it was the dark ages after all. Freedman further supports this idea on the lecture of Monasticism but saying that much of the learning in the Middle Ages was in the monasteries. If most learning at the time was limited to what was sanctioned by religion, then that pretty well defines the Dark Ages. This brings to mind the Muslims who burned books, and the many books banned by the Catholic Church. In making a comparison and saying the modern university is very much like a monastery, he is essentially saying monasteries were as harmless (and essential) to knowledge as universities. This is a blatant denial that the middle age limitation of knowledge to monasteries was a suppression of non religious writings. When he covers the topic of ethnogenesis, and the emergence of the Visigoth cultural identify, he literally explains how the Visigoth culture transitioned to the emergence of the German culture, “culminating into the Nazis”. Really?! This is a rich culture of 1000 years that made tremendous contributions to science, literature, poetry, philosophy, music, sports, modern technological manufacturing, not to mention the linguistic contributions that gave rise to the English language and set it apart from the Romance languages….. and he represents it all by a single political party that lasted 25 years and was backed by a minority of voters! The importance of religion to middle age Europe is debatable; but there’s no need for racist comments.

Freedman says that in In 632, Islam is not to be understood as a militant conversion-oriented jihad-o-centric religion from the start, in 632 when Mohammed died.
Interestingly, 632 was the year of the first Muslim Arab raiders in Persia culminating in the fall of the empire in 651
Islam did not “develop” in the Persian empire. It was pure conquest, jihad, forced conversion, the effects of which have successfully lasted for over 1300 years until today.
I’m simply tired of Freedman’s personal biases. I’m sure he is successfully misinforming countless young impressionable minds with his personal opinions, presented as historical fact. My rating has progressed from 3 stars to 1 star, and I can no longer listen to these lectures. I will eagerly seek another lecture series on the Middle Ages.

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