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Today we’re going back to the Medieval or Postclassical Era in the West, or as I like to call it “That Time Europe Lost Its Mind.” We’ll look at how people reacted to the barbarian invasions, who reunified western Europe, and how they dug their way out of the dirt hole they jumped into when Rome fell.
Last episodes we explored the classical empires but now they’ve fallen, which brings us to the aptly named Postclassical Era from 600 to 1450 C.E. This one is definitely the most difficult era to simplify. Because while the other eras have overarching themes that are common for most of the world, in the postclassical era everyone is sort of doing it their own way.
Classical empires have collapsed and have been replaced by different things around the world. The Middle East becomes a caliphate – or Islamic empire – and expands into Africa and India; China continues its dynastic cycle; and in Europe, there is essentially anarchy. Ultimately, the Mongols will do us a favor for our narrative and wipe the slate clean.
So Europe is on the rise, kings are becoming powerful again, and the economy is growing. People have had their eyes opened to the wider world thanks to the Crusades and are looking outward. And it’s at this point, in the early 1300s that they’re also hearing rumors of an incredibly rich king from Africa who has been spreading his wealth all across the continent on his way to Mecca. But more on that next week.
Europe fell apart but is slowly putting itself together. But what was going on in the east? Islam is on the rise and filling the power vacuum left behind from the collapse of classical empires. China hides away and invents everything and Africa develops into an important trading hub. But the real story is going to be a group of nomadic barbarians who ravage Eurasia and leave the seeds of modern civilization in their wake.
To be continued…