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Unit 1: Redefining World Society and Culture

Lesson D: Life and Times in the Pre-Modern World

Activity 4: Western Europe

Alfonso X of Castile and Leon of Spain hears requests from his subjects from the 13th century Alfonso X of Castile and Leon of Spain hears requests from his subjects from the 13th century

Alfonso X of Castile and Leon (Spain) Hears Requests from his Subjects, 13th Century. Artist unknown. [1]

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Written Activity - Notebook

Examine the image to the right and answer the following questions in your notebook. A reminder, you may not be able to fully answer all of these questions.

  • What event does the image portray?
  • Who created the image and why?
  • What does the image suggest the creator and the civilization valued? What makes you say this?
  • Who is in the image, and who is not?
  • What conclusions can you draw about the way people lived based upon the image?

You just examined an image of a political leader in western Europe. You probably noticed that the king was at the center, but it appears that he had some advisors.

Medieval political systems in western Europe were based upon feudalism. This system emerged slowly after the fall of the Roman Empire. In a feudal system, the king grants land to the nobles who then promise to provide loyalty and military service to the king. These nobles then have knights who provide military service to the noble. When a war erupted, the king called upon the nobles who then called upon the knights. This relationship was outlined in the Code of Chivalry, which detailed proper behavior. The nobles, along with Roman Catholic Bishops and other Catholic leaders, provided advice to the king.

Meanwhile, the peasants worked the fields that were owned by the nobles and knights. They produced the food that the countries needed for their population. Peasants during the Medieval Period did not participate in political life. The following interactive shows this feudal structure.

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Page Notes:

[1] Source: This image from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LibroDesJuegasAlfonXAndCourt.jpg is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.