Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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Magna Carta
Information about the Magna Carta from the National Archives, with links to the actual document.

Feudal Terms of England
A useful dictionary of terms of the time period.


The Magna Carta
Nobles divided their land among the lesser nobility, who became their servants or "vassals." Many of these vassals became so powerful that the kings had difficulty controlling them. By 1100, certain barons had castles and courts that rivaled the king's; they could be serious threats if they were not pleased in their dealings with the crown.

In 1215, the English barons formed an alliance that forced King John to sign the Magna Carta. While it gave no rights to ordinary people, the Magna Carta did limit the king's powers of taxation and require trials before punishment. It was the first time that an English monarch came under the control of the law.

Peasant Life
Peasants worked the land and produced the goods that the lord and his manor needed. This exchange was not without hardship for the serfs. They were heavily taxed and were required to relinquish much of what they harvested. The peasants did not even "belong to" themselves, according to medieval law. The lords, in close association with the church, assumed the roles of judges in carrying out the laws of the manor.

Role of Women
It should come as no surprise that women, whether they were nobles or peasants, held a difficult position in society. They were largely confined to household tasks such as cooking, baking bread, sewing, weaving, and spinning. However, they also hunted for food and fought in battles, learning to use weapons to defend their homes and castles. Some medieval women held other occupations. There were women blacksmiths, merchants, and apothecaries. Others were midwives, worked in the fields, or were engaged in creative endeavors such as writing, playing musical instruments, dancing, and painting.

Some women were known as witches, capable of sorcery and healing. Others became nuns and devoted their lives to God and spiritual matters. Famous women of the Middle Ages include the writer Christine de Pisan; the abbess and musician Hildegard of Bingen; and the patron of the arts Eleanor of Aquitaine. A French peasant's daughter, Joan of Arc, or St. Joan, heard voices telling her to protect France against the English invasion. She dressed in armor and led her troops to victory in the early fifteenth century. "The Maid of Orleans" as she was known, was later burned as a witch.

 
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The Middle Ages is inspired by programs from The Western Tradition.

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