The Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties (581-1279) were pinnacle of ancient Chinese economics and culture, and maintained a leading position among world's major civilizations. Europe at same time was in Middle Ages (476-1453). The traditional view is that Middle Ages are "Dark Ages". Indeed, in Middle Ages there was a social regression due to invasion of barbarian and backward Germanic peoples. However, Middle Ages simultaneously matured modern civilization, and modern state system, and economic system, and culture - all this grew out of Middle Ages. Only by understanding Middle Ages can we better understand turnaround of China and West during Ming and Qing dynasties. This article mainly introduces formation and political system of medieval European states.1. Formation of large countries of Western Europe
In 476 BC. Western Roman Empire fell. On its territory, small barbarian countries were formed, such as Visigoths, Eastern Goths, Vandals, Burgundians, Anglo-Saxons. These countries did not last long. After Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian came to power, he tried to restore territory of Rome, so he continued to conquer West and wiped out Vandals, Ostrogoths and other countries, turning Mediterranean once into an “inland lake”. However, after death of Justinian, empire shrank. Soon Arab Empire occupied North Africa, Spain and Sicily, and Lombards captured Italy and established a kingdom. So far, territory of Eastern Rome has been reduced to Southeastern Europe and Asia Minor.
It was Franks who were able to unite a small barbarian country in Western Europe. In 481 Frankish leader Clovis established a kingdom known as "Merovingian Dynasty" (481–751). The Merovingian dynasty occupied lands of Gaul and Germany, but due to system of enfeoffment, country soon fell apart. In 687, Charles Martel unified country, carried out reforms and increased control of princes. In 751, dwarf Pepin put an end to Merovingian dynasty and founded Carolingian dynasty. After second generation of monarch, Charles succeeded to throne, after more than 50 conquests and wars, he founded "Empire of Charlie", covering Elbe River in east, Pyrenees in west, Italy in south and North Sea. in north.
Kingdom of Franks
Charlemagne tried his best to increase centralization of power. He divided Frank into 98 districts, in each of which count was responsible for administration. There are many military regions throughout country, and each military region has a duke in charge of military affairs, and imperial envoys are sent to inspect places for supervision. In center, Privy Council was formed with emperor as center, which became organization of imperial state affairs. Aristocrats of all levels throughout country and high priests of church gathered in a noble assembly to discuss national affairs. This is one of origins of modern European parliamentary system. Charlemagne also attached great importance to education and culture: he established court schools (like Taixue) and many church schools, ordered collection of documents from classical era, shaped Renaissance in Middle Ages.
After death of Charles, empire began to fall apart again. In 843 empire was divided into three parts: East Francia was origin of Germany, Middle Francia was origin of Italy, and West Francia was origin of France. In 870, many of Middle Frankish lands were divided, laying foundation for today's territories of France, Germany, and Italy. All three countries inherited Frankish feudal system, which led to decline of royal power. The pope supported nobles at all levels to keep king in check, gradually making pope supreme ruler of Western Europe.
Royalty, nobles and Pope fought furiously between Germany, France and Italy, but only France succeeded. In 987 French Capetian dynasty (987-1328) was established, three prominent kings of dynasty - Louis VI, Philip II and Louis IX - continuously weakened nobility and laid foundation for centralization of French power. In Germany, Saxon dynasty was founded in 919. In 936, Otto I came to throne. With support of Pope, he continued invasion and founded "Holy Roman Empire". But Germany did not really solve problem of princes. In 1075, pope declared that religious authority was above all else, and united princes to submit to Kaiser Henry IV, and famous "Canossian Shame" appeared. For next few hundred years, Germany was in a state of disintegration.
Under constant German invasion, Italy was also torn apart. However, northern Italy developed industry and trade and became a staging post for eastern trade. In these places, city-states such as Florence, Venice, Genoa and Milan arose and established a democratic system similar to ancient Greece. In this environment, Italian culture was first to flourish. In 11th century, earliest universities were founded in Italy. In 13th century, "Renaissance" appeared in Italy.
After formation of main countries of Western Europe, at instigation of Pope, for more than 200 years (1096-1291) they carried out crusades against Islamic world. The Crusades ultimately failed, but greatly weakened Pope. Later, after end of Crusades, Pope was under control of France. At same time, Crusades broadened horizons of Westerners, allowing a large number of Oriental books and Byzantine documents to reach Western Europe, setting stage for Renaissance.2. Education of Northern Europe, Spain and Portugal.
Scandinavian countries here are mostly countries around North Sea, such as British Isles, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and so on. The Scandinavian region is said to have descended from so-called Vikings, a famous group of pirates. In Middle Ages, they raided entire area around North Sea. They were first to discover Iceland and Greenland. At end of 8th century they began to invade Britain. Britain was originally a province of Rome. In early Middle Ages, Anglo-Saxons of German people founded seven small kingdoms on British Isle. The original meaning of word England now is "the land of Angles".
In 793 Danes began to invade England, and by 871 they had occupied London. To counter invasion, Great Britain united into a kingdom, but was unable to stop invasion of Denmark. In 1016, Denmark occupied all of England and founded Danish Empire. The empire collapsed in 1042. After Denmark lost power over England, she was still overlord of Northern Europe and continued to invade Central Europe. In 1397, under auspices of Queen Margaret I of Denmark, Kalmar Conference took place. Denmark, Sweden and Norway entered into an alliance with Denmark as core, and this alliance ruled Northern Europe for 126 years. Sweden did not replace Denmark as hegemony until 16th century.
The Normans in Northern Europe continued to invade France. In 911, French king canonized Norman leader as a duke and became one of princes of France. In 1066, Normans invaded England and founded Norman dynasty (1066-1154), known in history as "Norman Conquest". They established a strict feudal system in England. Later, French-Norman title was inherited by Anjou family, and British rule was also replaced by Anjou dynasty (1154-1485), then British Lancaster dynasty (1399-1461), York dynasty (1461-1485). years) were dynasties founded by Angevin family. The King of England is both King and Duke of France, so in theory he has right to succeed King of France. Later, Hundred Years War (1337-1453) broke out between two countries, which led to mass extermination of nobles of two countries and created conditions for formation of Central Group.
During reign of King John, nobles and townspeople banded together to force King to sign Magna Carta, and nobles gradually entered Parliament. Since then, two traditions of "king in parliament" and "king under law" have developed in Britain, from which modern British democratic system has grown. In France, first three-tiered conference was held in 1300, which marked beginning of early French parliament.
The formation of Spain and Portugal has strong connotations of national independence and religious antagonism. After fall of Eastern Roman Empire, it was occupied by Arab Empire. The remnants of Christian nation retreated north and continued struggle against Arabs, known as "Movement for return of lost lands." From 10th to 11th centuries, it evolved into Castel, León, Barcelona, Navarre and other countries. In 1179, Kingdom of Portugal was founded, which became first unified nation-state in Western Europe. Later, Castile gradually merged with several other countries, and merger eventually formed Kingdom of Spain. By end of 13th century, Islamic forces were mostly driven out of Iberian Peninsula. The countries of peninsula due to enfeoffence system were not realized, so she quickly embarked on a strong path, led to discovery of new sea routes in 15th century, and became world hegemon and stronghold of Catholicism.3. Formation of Eastern European Slavic states.
After split of Roman Empire, Europe was actually divided into two parts: countries of Western Europe basically inherited legacy of Western Rome and became Catholic countries; Eastern European countries basically inherited legacy of Eastern Rome and became Orthodox countries. After death of Justinian, Eastern Roman Empire was limited to Southeastern Europe and Asia Minor. Although it lost a lot of territory, it still retained its strength and prosperity in Middle Ages, becoming at that time a country second only to Tang and Arabia in world.
Eastern Roman Empire
In 9th century, Eastern Roman Empire was in decline. At this time, Slavic countries on East European Plain began to rise, and they had a huge impact on Eastern Rome. In 679, Bulgars and Yugoslavs entered into an alliance and founded Bulgarian kingdom in 681. Bulgaria considers Orthodox Church as state religion, indicating that culture of Eastern Rome began to conquer Slavs. In 925, Simeon Great of Bulgaria declared himself "Emperor of Romans and Bulgaria", indicating his desire to inherit Roman heritage. However, after death of Simon, Bulgaria fell into decline, and then Eastern Rome supported Principality of Ross in order to destroy Bulgaria. After that, Eastern Rome sent troops to repulse Ross and took this place. In 1187 Bulgaria established Second Kingdom (1187-1396), which was eventually destroyed by Turkish Empire. In addition, Serbs in Yugoslavia also established a kingdom and invaded Eastern Rome many times.
Eastern Slavs lived in Volga basin, and they became powerful because they controlled road trade between East and West. In 862, Rurik founded Rurik dynasty (862-1598), which marked beginning of history of Russian state. Today's Russia, strictly speaking, should be translated as "Rus". In 987, Grand Duke Vladimir of Rus' declared Orthodox Church state religion. In 1054, Duchy of Ross collapsed and eventually broke up into 12 duchies, which were later conquered by Mongols. Only in 1328 did Grand Duke of Moscow begin to separate from power of Mongols and gradually unite Russian region.
Slavs in Central Europe are called Eastern Slavs and they include Poles, Marzes, Czechs, etc. Because of their proximity to Western Europe, they were heavily influenced by Catholicism and eventually became a Catholic country. These countries formed large and small principalities in Middle Ages, among which Lithuania was last to be formed and established itself only in 13th century. The Polish region formed Duchy of Vistula and Duchy of Poland in 9th century, and later Duchy of Poland unified Poland. Poland converted to Catholicism in 966. Poland is also enfeoffed. In 1146 Poland fell into a period of long division. In 1320, Ketic reunited Poland and became a great power in Central Europe. In 1385, Poland and Lithuania united, and country had only one parliament, one king and one currency, becoming ruler of Eastern Europe.
The Czechs entered Elbe basin in 7th century and founded early "Duchy of Samo", but this soon fell apart. In 830, Czechs founded Kingdom of Great Moravia, which includes today's Moravia, Bohemia, Slovakia and other places. In 863 they converted to Orthodoxy. Later, with help of Eastern Roman missionaries, they created earliest Slavic alphabet based on Greek alphabet. In 885, country expelled Eastern Roman missionaries and converted to Catholicism. In 9th century, kingdom fell into decline. In 895 Bohemia became independent and became Czech state. In 906 Great Moravia was destroyed by Hungary. After that, Germans continued to penetrate into Central Europe. After 12th century, Czech Republic became one of seven principalities of Holy Roman Empire.
Around 890, marze of Slavs entered Danube region, and then Hungarian principality began to form. In 1000, Grand Duke of Hungary converted to Catholicism and became a kingdom. Hungary was also under influence of German troops. During Mongol Western Expedition, Hungary became a European stronghold against Mongol cavalry.