Map Exercise 4: The Early Middle Ages    (This exercise includes 3 maps)

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the western world was forced to rebuild itself on the twin foundations of security and protection. Much of this was accomplished by Charlemagne in the early ninth century, although stability did not last much longer following his death. While Western Europe was in the process of rebuilding itself, Byzantine and Islamic civilizations were flourishing and far outshone Europe in terms of material wealth and prosperity. The city of Baghdad in modern Iraq may have reached one million people and Cordoba in Muslim-controlled Spain may have attained a population of half a million people, while Rome fell to thirty-five thousand and Paris and London to fifteen thousand people.

Meanwhile, Europe faced even more difficulties during the ninth and tenth centuries, as this was the age of the great Viking, Magyar, and Muslim invasions. Although historians have abandoned the old label of "Dark Ages" to define this period, it seems clear that the classical age of Greece and Rome was a world apart from that of early medieval Europe.

Some important questions to consider here include:

  • What were the reasons for Byzantine and Islamic expansion after the eighth century?
  • Why has it been argued that with Charlemagne, Europe was born?
  • What role did Christianity play in the Early Middle Ages?
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