England in the middle ages was faced by losses and triumphs. For England like the rest of Europ, the middle ages was a time of significant social changes, growing nationalism, international war, devastating natural disasters, infighting and rebellion as well as renaissance.
Following the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, Emperor Honorius made it clear to the people of Britain that they would be in charge of their own security. From then forward the Britain was no longer part of the crumbling Empire and Britain had to start looking for means of supporting itself without the monetary or military support accorded by Rome.
In 1154, Henry II took over the English throne to become the King of England following the civil war and chaos that transpired under King Stephen. King Stephen had recognized Henry I as his successor as Eustace, his eldest son had died and his younger son was still serving as the count of Mortain. England in the middle ages had not yet established the system of Primogeniture.
Under Henry II and his sons John and Richard I, the population was undergoing rapid change and was growing at a fast rate. People undertook to build towns, clear forest for more space and were becoming interested in the Crusades.
In Middle Ages England, the Norman legacy was widely felt as the nobility still spoke French. Meanwhile the North of England and Scotland, which shared a local language with the Northern Humber England, was separate from the Highlands, which had Gaelic as the predominant language. While Britain and Scotland were greatly influenced by the Normans, the opposite was true for Ireland; despite the invasion and the tentacles of Norman aristocracy, most of Ireland maintained its indigenous culture.
At the peak of the 11th century, England began to experience the tides of nationalism. Although England played its role in the Crusades, the appeal was diminishing not only in the country but also internationally. This was precipitated by the fact that England had been defeated in the decisive Battle of Hattins and the Muslims had been successful in recapturing the city of Jerusalem from the Christians.
Additionally Richard I’s was unable to seize back the Holy city from Saladin. Other failures that England and Western Europe faced at the Crusades include the siege of Constantinople and infighting within the crusading group.
Within England itself, the barons sought to distance themselves from the rest of Europe. They became particularly aware of their Englishness. King John had lost land to the French and this made England start to look to itself in a fashion of nationalism that was soon to hit the better part of medieval Europe.
By the middle and tail end of the 11th century, the population had grown in manifolds and the system of primogeniture became more entrenched.
Henry III took charge of the British throne starting 1216 to 1272. He too was more inward looking and was barely interested in venturing out to regain the fortunes and land that was lost to the French during his father’s, King John, reign. He entered into a peace treaty with the French, resulting to the Treaty of Paris. This was widely seen as a failure on his part as he gave up the lands of Northern France and the all-important Normandy. Nevertheless, Henry III’s throne became closer to France under King Louis IX than any of his predecessors did.
Because of this closeness, French culture influenced much of Britain more so in Gothic designs and buildings. However, the English barons were still adamant that England maintain its language and culture.
The crusades continued throughout the 13the century. King Edward I’s father died while he was at the crusades and stayed at the battles two more years after this. However, the transition from Henry III was smooth because of the effective institutions of governance that were growing in England.
Because of the growing effectiveness of the institutions in England, Richard I’s throne was effectively governed while he was not there for almost the entire period. In addition, Henry III was able to take over at the age of nine, from his much-disliked father.
As the peasants grew more prosperous and urbanization characterized most of the country, England began to pay attention on the influence of its neighbors, Ireland, Wale and Scotland. Edward I took control of the territories of northern Wales, as this marked the start of British expansionism. However, Britain’s neighbors also engaged in expansionist behavior with Scotland seizing control or Western Isles during the Battle of Largs.
This presented an ideal opportunity for Britain’s involvement in Scotland’s politics, more so with the death of Alexander III. The Scots asked Edward I to be the judge of the person that would successes the throne of Scotland. By the tail end of the 13th century, England had increasingly dominated Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
Societal development in both England and Ireland continued to change dramatically especially in the tail end of the 13th century. Although the population was not growing as fast, inflation started to negatively impact on the countries’ wealth and this boiled over to the political developments. This also precipitated civil wars between the two countries and among the other neighbors.
Famine and Plagues
England in the middle ages was overcome by several famines and plagues that ruined the societal, economic and political achievements. Between 1300 and 1485 climate changes characterized by wet summers and cold winters precipitated the Great Famine of 1315 to 1322 in which millions of people died.
The Black Death was yet another catastrophe that served to sweep out almost half of Europe’s population in a single year. In both England and Ireland, the population was about 8million but by the end of the plague, the population had dwindled to 3 million.
The Renaissance marked the start of modern England as modern towns began to emerge, libraries were established and art became more appreciated.
In the wake of the renaissance England in the middle ages saw more and more universities emerging including Oxford and Cambridge.