International School History - International Baccalaureate - MYP History

MYP4 Last update - 09 November 2017  
Unit 1 - Lesson 1 - What are the Middle Ages?
The Middle Ages of European history (adjective ‘medieval’) are a period in history which lasted for roughly one thousand years, commonly dated from the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century to the beginning of the Early Modern Period in the 16th century.

International school students might be interested to know that the plural form of the term, Middle Ages, is used in English and Dutch while other European languages use the singular form (French le moyen âge, German das Mittelalter, Spanish edad media). The Middle Ages form the middle period in a division of European history into three ‘ages’: the classical civilization of Greece and Rome, the Middle Ages, and the modern period. The Middle Ages are themselves often subdivided into three.

The early medieval period was from the 5th to the 8th century. Sometimes called the Dark Ages, this period is associated with the consequences of the break up of the Roman Empire and regular invasions into Europe by non-Christian ‘Barbarians’.

The middle period (the High Middle Ages) follows, a time of the feudal system, castle and cathedral building, new methods in warfare and the growth of towns. The last span (the late Middle Ages) is a later period of growing power of kings and queens, increasing importance of trade, and weakening of the feudal system after the 14th century plague.


When did the Middle Ages begin and end?

It is impossible to put a precise date on the beginning and end of the Middle Ages. The successful attack on Rome by the Visigoths in 400AD and the deposing of the last Roman emperor Romulus Augustus in 476AD are popular starting points.

There is even less agreement on the date of the end of the Middle Ages. The Turkish capture of Constantinople or the end of the Anglo-French Hundred Years' War (both 1453), the invention of the printing press by Johann Gutenberg (around 1455), the fall of Muslim Spain or Christopher Columbus's voyage to America (right) both 1492, the Protestant Reformation starting 1517 are all possible end-dates.

Sometimes the date of the end of the Middle Ages reflects national history. In Britain, for example, the change of monarchs which occurred on 22 August 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth is often considered to mark the end of the period, the defeated king Richard III representing the old medieval world.

What makes an event in the past historically significant?

The list of dates and events above are all historically significant. But what makes something ‘significant’. I find it useful to think of the following:

Profundity– how deeply people’s lives have been affected
Quantity– how many lives have been affected
Durability– for how long have people’s lives been affected
Relevance– is something still significant to our present lives?


Using the template timeline of the middle ages to help you, research and add three additional, significant events and explain their significance. Each of the events added by the students in the year will be tested in a quiz at the end of the unit.





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