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Free «World Civilization» Essay Sample

Antoine Bernard was born in 1225, in the central part of France. He came from a poor family. His parents had to bring up five children, so they worked hard all their life. The family lived in the rural area, in the small manor of the lord. Therefore, the Antoine’s life was uneasy and challenging.

The relationships between the family and the lord were not always smooth. Nonetheless, in general, the master treated his servants like independent peasants. Another part of rustics of that time was considered to be villains. According to Perry et al., a serf and his family lived in a stable in terrible conditions, and “the odor from animal excrement was ever present” (223). Antoine’s family was lucky to possess the own hut. However, their rights were also restricted to some extent. Peasants were protected from other masters’ attacks, but, in return for it, they “owed obligations to their lord” (Perry et al. 204). As all the slaves of the village, every member of the Antoine’s family was “bound to the land, they could not leave the manor without the lord’s consent” (Perry et al. 204). At the same time, “rural society had its prosperous farmers, some of whom supplemented their income by working as reeves or overseers on lordly estates” (Perry et al. 227). Such kind of relationships between a lord and peasants was the basis of feudalism.

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The father was the main person in the family and tried to provide his wife and children with food and all the necessary. The mother usually stayed at home, running a household and looking after children. The main family’s income was from labor in the lord’s fields and breeding. They were not villains, but hired workers of the lord. According to Forgeng, “the demand for rural labor was at its peak during the harvest” (97). Every peasant wanted to perform all the tasks on time. They had to gather crops for their masters and, simultaneously, work on the family’s part of the field. Due to such a high demand of labor in this period of the season, women usually were also involved in the harvest (Forgeng 97). The Antoine’s parents took part in this work, so he was left at home with his three younger brothers and a sister, who was the oldest among the kids. After the harvest had been gathered, the time of celebration came (Forgeng 97). It was Antoine’s most favorite time from childhood. He was always eager to visit a festival with his family in their village, where he felt absolutely happy.

When the boy was seven years old, in 1232, his father decided to send him to the nearby local school. The parents noticed that Antoine was inclined to studying, and they hoped that he  would get at least a minimal education. The boy was getting on at school. However, he gradually started to understand the role of the position in society. There were richer kids, who teased Antoine because his family was poor. Nonetheless, the boy tried not to care about that mockery and concentrated all his efforts on studying. Approximately at the age of twelve, Antoine seriously intended to move from his native village to any nearby town in the future. Nevertheless, according to the law, he could not leave his place of living without the lord’s permission. After finishing school, in 1241, Antoine decided to go to the master in order to ask for the consent for his departure. The lord treated the boy with understanding, but did not give him an immediate permission. The master noticed that Antoine was a clever, quick-thinking person. He proposed the boy to serve the lord personally for at least 3 years in exchange for the complete freedom. Antoine had nothing to do, but accept the offer. Since that moment, the boy started to earn money and support his parents and siblings. Serving the lord, Antoine did not have much work to do. Mainly, he just went everywhere with his master, attending different meetings and interesting places. During his free time, the boy had an access to the lord’s library. It was big and extremely expensive. Antoine enjoyed reading ancient philosophers most of all. According to Jordan, “by the year 1200 there were many Latin translations of non-Christian philosophical texts available in the West. Aristotle’s works remained of primary interest, but exciting and challenging Arabic and Jewish commentaries on Aristotle, again in Latin translation, were in circulation as well” (263). Antoine spoke the Latin language fluently, so it was possible for him to read almost all the books from the library.

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In 1242, he went with the lord to Paris for a few weeks. There, he was able to observe the urban life and analyze all its advantages and disadvantages. Most people in the city were “involved in agricultural production, the equivalent of modern vegetable gardening, but also more extensive husbandry, like viticulture and exploitation of marshlands” (Jordan 234). Not every urban inhabitant was considered to have a citizenship, which was almost equal to wealth. People usually had to buy it, but it also was inheritable (Jordan 234). In this case, the poor could not afford themselves to purchase this status and “were deprived of some of the benefits of town life”, but, at the same time, they were free from some kinds of taxes (Jordan 234). 

After passing a few weeks in Paris Antoine and his lord came back home. The boy was extremely satisfied with the trip and was eager to live in the city for the rest of his life. Unfortunately, he had still to serve 2 more years in his master’s mansion. Once, a lord’s friend and his daughter, Emma, visited the mansion. As soon as the girl and Antoine had seen each other, they immediately fell in love. She was young, very beautiful and belonged to the upper class of society. Nevertheless, although Antoine was a handsome, attractive man, he was not an eligible couple for her due to his poor pedigree. Emma knew that her father would not approve her attachment, but she could not help loving Antoine. This event only heightened the boy’s desire to move to Paris, the Emma’s home, and become rich enough to be appropriate for the girl. When the time for the guests to leave came, the newly-created couple decided to tell nothing yet about their passionate relationships. Emma promised her lover to wait for him as much time as it would be needed. Thus, she went to Paris, and he was left in the village.

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Antoine was looking forward to meet Emma for the whole year. During this period of time, many things changed in his family. The mother died, and the father had to bring up children by himself. Actually it was Antoine’s elder sister who took care of the kids, because the father had to work and get some food. The boy was very upset due to the bereavement. In 1244, as soon as his lord had given him the desired freedom, Antoine decided to go to Paris to finally see the beloved girl. Unexpectedly, Emma turned out to be already married. She tried to explain him that it was not her fault. The girl convinced Antoine that it was the father, who compulsorily forced her to wed a wealthy man from the upper class.

It was extremely hard and painful moment in the boy’s life. He was only nineteen years old, and his heart was broken. At that turning point, Antoine decided to come back home. He stayed in his village for the next four years. The lord offered him the previous job back. Antoine did not accept the proposition at once, but a bit later, he understood that their family needed the money badly. Therefore, he returned to the lord’s manor, started performing his duties again, while helping and supporting his father and siblings in such a way. Leading this lifestyle, Antoine was not satisfied and happy at all. On the one hand, he felt the duty to sustain his family. However, on the other hand, the man had a continuous desire to do something more significant in his life.

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In 1245, at the age of twenty, Antoine finally moved to Paris. When the man came to the city, he did not yet know which occupation to choose. He started observing and finding out more information about the urban society. Craftsmen formed an essential part of it. There were smiths, carpenters, millers and many others. According to Jordan, these people “shared many characteristics with the agriculturally employed population” (228). Every occupation had its special peculiarities. Leather-workers might have “the flocks or herds from which their raw material came” (Jordan 228). Carpenters worked only for some periods of time. Glaziers also had seasonal work “at local abbeys or for local parish churches unless they joined the travelling ateliers involved in the great window-making campaigns accompanying the building of the cathedrals and palaces of Europe” (Jordan 228). The miller’s occupation involved the duties of three different kinds of workers such as a craftsman, agriculturalist and merchant. A miller usually was hired by a rich lord. Only people of the upper classes could afford themselves to buy the expensive equipment, such as watermills, windmills and other necessary instruments, for doing a particular work. In addition, millers had to take care of all these devices and repair them if it was needed. 

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Stewards of big manors, mayors and parish priests were on the higher ranks of society, than craftsmen. They were responsible for maintaining peace, economic situation and other aspects of life in the rural areas. Mayors helped in regulating “the payment of taxes and the control of rowdiness and indecency” (Jordan 228).  According to Jordan, these people usually “acted in the name of the lord who owned the village, but much of their work would have been of little interest to the seigneur as long as he, she or the appropriate ecclesiastical corporation received the levies and the proportion of fines that custom decreed” (228). Priests were mostly of the rural origin. They were not well educated, but had some knowledge of Latin, which was enough to conduct the Mass. Priests usually participated in negotiations with regional authorities. Due to this fact, “they were accorded a certain level of respect” (Jordan 228).

There were many other occupations in the city, which had different rates among the urban population. For instance, people, who worked with precious metals, usually were considered to be wealthy and privileged, and “other metal-workers ranked close behind (Jordan 229). Tailors and drapers were not appreciated as high as the previous group. Such workers as bakers, fishmongers, butchers and other people, who dealt with food, were even on the lower level of the social ladder (Jordan 229).

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Antoine was absolutely excited about a considerably faster pace of life in the city in comparison to the rural lifestyle. He wanted to involve himself in some of all those interesting activities, but the man did not exactly know what to choose, and how to start doing something. Then, he remembered his lord, who definitely had useful acquaintances in the city. Antoine decided to come back to the manor of the master and ask for his help. The lord agreed to assist the enthusiastic man. The master had a friend who possessed his own guild, and that man consented to hire Antoine.

According to Jordan, the labor in the city was “typically based on guilds, groups of producers or marketers who exercised a putative municipal monopoly over particular good” (Jordan 229). These craft organizations had a particular amount of masters, journeymen and apprentices. The first group of workers was the most privileged. The journeymen were people, who still had to prove their skills and knowledge for the possibility to become a master. Antoine would belong to the category of apprentices. These workers were “young adults or adolescents just beginning to learn their trade” (Jordan 229). There existed a few types of guilds. The group, which included the male organizations, was the biggest. The female and mixed guilds were less popular. A bit later, their number began to diminish more intensively.

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In 1246, Antoine settled in Paris and became totally absorbed in the work. Subsequently, he met a woman, and in a year, they got married. Antoine started his own family, and the first child appeared in a few months. The man earned enough money due to his new work in the guild. Antoine was able to provide his wife and the child with all the necessary things, and, at the same time, he gave a considerable support to the father and siblings.

The Antoine’s life concurred with a little part of an important process, in which Western Europe had been engaged for almost three centuries. These were crusades. In a nutshell, it was a war in the East, in which some European countries participated under the pretense of propaganda of Christianity. Generally speaking, the movement started in 1096. It was the year, when Pope Urban II stayed in France and intended to guide “the formative stages of what would become the First Crusade” (Riley-Smith 35). He forced different churchmen “to preach the cross” in the country (Riley-Smith 35). Initially, Urban wanted only military people to participate in the crusade. However, men and women of various social ranks joined the movement, and the process of choosing special soldiers became uncontrollable (Riley-Smith 35). In fact, the bands of poor urban and rural population, “known traditionally as the People’s Crusade”, were the first ones, who aimed at reaching Constantinople (Riley-Smith 36). Nonetheless, they eventually failed due to the lack of equipment and many of them were killed. Those, who managed to survive, finally came to Constantinople and joined the Urban’s army. That was considered to be the “second wave of the crusade” (Riley-Smith 37). There were many separate groups of warriors concentrated around influential lords. Some of those bands reached Jerusalem and even captured it for a short period of time. This temporary victory gave the impulse for “the third wave, the so-called crusade of 1101” (Riley-Smith 37). No one at that time could predict that this was only the First Crusade, and that this movement “would emerge to become one of the most important components, and defining characteristics, of late medieval western culture” (Riley-Smith 37). 

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It had obviously caused a change in crusading to the East. The First Crusade was routed to Palestine through the Byzantine Empire, as well as the Second Crusade (1147-9), “led by King Louis VII of France and King Conrad III of Germany” (Riley-Smith 38). The Third Crusade (1189-92) was organized by Emperor Frederick I “Barbarossa” in the same direction. After that stage, the idea to go to Egypt, instead of the Latin East, occurred. This was the aim of the Forth Crusade (1202-4), but, eventually, the destination was changed to Constantinople. The warriors of the Fifth Crusade (1217-29) managed to reach Egypt, but they did not succeed with their aim. The next crusade ruled by King Louis IX of France (1248-54) was unsuccessful, as well. His second expedition, “which proved to be the last of the great international crusades to the East before 1300, saw his death at Tunis in 1270” (Riley-Smith 38).  According to Riley-Smith, it could be observed that the crusades were also directed against other countries of western Christians (39). The example is the struggle between German and Slavs. The latters were pagans.

According to Riley-Smith, the period 1199-c.1240 was very “important in the history of crusading movement” (40). Those expeditions were also used for fighting with political adversaries and with heretics (Riley-Smith 40). The pope, Innocent III, “was provoked in 1208 to declare a crusade against the adherents of the Cathar heresy in southern France, by then very strongly entrenched” (Riley-Smith 40).

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In conclusion, in terms of the crusades, one can shortly observe the process of the development of intentions, starting from the First Crusade. According to Riley-Smith, the leader of the First Crusade, Urban II, had a desire “to rescue Christian people and places from Muslim oppression in Spain and Levant” (41). His successors maintained this aim, but also started to campaign against other adversaries of the Christianity. This tendency had been also noticed in the Second Crusade.  A bit later, the expeditions were organized against “heretics and papal political opponents” (Riley-Smith 41). Under the same purpose, the crusades were organized in order to struggle with such nations as Muslims, Slavs and Mongols. According to Riley-Smith, by the end of the thirteenth century, “crusading had become an elaborate and complex business, ‘the business of the cross’ as it was described at the time” (Riley-Smith 42).

In general, Jordan emphasized on the three main and the most influential points of the French rulers of the thirteenth century. The first one was “an aggressive series of campaigns against Jews” (Jordan 284). The authority tried to restrict all the aspects of their social life. According to Jordan, the goal was “to make living life as a Jew a humiliation and was supposed to induce Jews to convert” (284). The second policy concerned the struggle with heretics. The Inquisition was the special institution, which was allowed to use tortures on them. According to Jordan, heretics usually were kept in prison, but inquisitors could burn in public “converted heretics who relapsed and others who steadfastly and contumaciously refused to recant to the secular government” (285). The third policy was the one already mentioned – “the crusading in the eastern Mediterranean” (Jordan 286). 


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During the residence in the Paris, Antoine was observing and learning all the news about the political, cultural and other aspects of the society’s life. A few of his friends participated directly in some crusades. From time to time, Antoine was jealous of them, because he also wanted to take part in such grandiose events and become a part of the national history. Nonetheless, the man possessed the family, which he could not leave unexpectedly, without a real necessity. In 1275, Antoine was fifty years old. He still worked in the guild, but the man had already got the position of the master. It gave him a lot of privileges and a higher salary. His wife worked with him at the same place. However, she was on the lower post than her successful husband. The couple had three children. Every child went to school. All of them were getting on well in studying as their father did when he used to be a schoolboy. Antoine died at the age of sixty five. His widowed wife was left alone, and, since that time, she had to bring up the children by herself.

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