12th Century, 1101 to 1200 AD
In western Africa, a few miles from the Niger River, where the
mosquitoes are not so bad as they are closer to the river, a well has
been dug and a camp created for people trading salt for gold and for
slaves brought northward on the river. The camp is to become Timbuktu.
By the beginning of this new century, towns are becoming an important
part of life in Europe, although people there are less than ten percent
and ninety percent and rural. The towns are centers of
commerce, which enlightened feudal lords and kings find in their
interest, either of the two having granted the town charters. Where big
landowners resist the rise of towns they find trouble often in the form
of violence directed against them.
In Europe, royalty is little more than family of warlords. Robert
Curthose, Duke of Normandy, has returned from the First Crusade, and he
invades England in an attempt to take the throne from his brother,
In Southern France, troubadours appear, resuming a tradition that began
in the 500s when secular entertainers were banished on the urging of
Christian bishops. The troubadours sing of the lives and the courts of
Two peasants at Soissons are accused of holding meetings outside of the
Church. A deep vat of water is blessed. One of the peasants, Clement,
is tied up and tossed into the tank, and he floats, leading to the
conclusion that the "holy water" has rejected him and that he is
therefore guilty. After this, the other peasant confesses. Two others
are imprisoned with the two. Local people excited and passionate about
heresy break into the jail and burn the four to death.
The Chinese have begun stitching together books of printed pages. They
have been enjoying prosperity. Poetry and art are flourishing. But
China is weak militarily, a result in part of Confucianism, which
Slavery is abolished in Iceland.
For centuries - perhaps as early as the 200s C.E. - a few Chinese have
known about magnetic north, and now the first recorded use of a
magnetic compass takes place.
The Roman Catholic Church is more bureaucratically organized than it
was in previous centuries. Centuries before it had no problem with
common people believing in pagan herbal magic, holy trees and springs,
fairies and the like, but now the Church feels more threatened in its
role as arbiter of truth. Literacy has been rising. Translations of
ancient Greeks are circulating. Ideas are spreading with the increase
in the movement of trade and people within Europe. The Church is now
concerned about heresy. The Concordat of Worms condemns the popular
lecturer and writer, Peter Abelard. And later this year the uncle of
Abelard's wife, Heloise, leads a group of men who attack and castrate
In far northwestern Africa, a religious movement among the Berber
tribes, led by Abdallah ibn Tumart, takes power, overthrowing the
Almoravids, who had been strict interpreters of the Koran. Tumart
founds the Almohad state, proclaiming himself a promised messianic
figure, the Mahdi. An administrative structure is created to enforce
piety. This includes a keeper of morals, the mizwar, whose duties
include punishing the users of alcohol and destroying musical
A summit meeting between Holy Roman Emperor Henry V and and Pope
Calixtus II settles the investiture issue between the two. The Church
is to choose who will be a bishop within the Holy Roman Empire, but the
Holy Roman Emperor is to have veto power over this selection.
China's emperor, Huizong, has made an alliance with the Jurchen of
eastern Manchuria, against a common enemy, the Khitan empire. The
Jurchen accomplish what China, with its much larger population, has
failed to do: defeat the Khitan.
Following their victory against the Khitan, the Jurchen turn on China's
emperor, Huizong. They overrun his capital, Kaifeng, and take him and
around 3,000 others away. Remnants of the Song royal family flee
southward, and Huizong's ninth son continues the Song dynasty in
southern China, the dynasty there to be called the Southern Song.
The Catholic Church sanctions the Knights Templar, of Jerusalem, to
guard the road between the eastern Mediterranean port of Acre, held by
the crusaders, and the holy city of Jerusalem. The Knights Templar have
grown from a few crusaders reputed to have been fierce warriors. They
have taken vows (promises to God) of poverty and chastity.
Drought in what someday will be called Arizona causes the Anasazi
people to abandon that area.
The Catholic Church forbids Christians from using the crossbow against
their fellow Christians. It remains okay to use against Turks and other
Portugal is forming. Count Afonso Henriques, 29, has been allied with
discontented nobles in the northeast corner of the Iberian Peninsula.
He has been fighting the kings of León and Castile, and he has defeated
a small army belonging to his mother and has driven her to
León. He now defeats the Moors in battle and declares his
lands independent of Moorish rule.
The same year that the University of Bologna is founded, for the study
of law, the Council of Sens condemns Peter Abelard for heresy, and
Abelard travels to Rome to defend himself.
A few people in Europe are finding trials by ordeal as signs of God's
judgment to be inadequate procedures. The alternative is testimony by
human witnesses, and some are interested in whatever empirical evidence
can be obtained. Meanwhile, a Camaldolese monk in central Italy,
Gratian, has been trying to bring order to Church law. He is a believer
in "natural law," as were the Romans - law he sees as built upon doing
to others what one wants done to oneself. His writings are considered
the best collection on law.
At the city of Cologne a mob pulls people accused of heresy from
ecclesiastic prisons and burns them at the stake.
The Church arranges the Treaty of Zamora between Afonso Henriques and
the King of Castile. The treaty places the lands of Afonso Henriques
under the protection of the Church and secures recognition of his
title, King of Portugal.
A Muslim warlord in northern Mesopotamia, Imad al-Din Zangi, has been
trying to extend his power against other Muslims. Presenting himself as
a champion of Islam he captures the weakest of the Latinized crusader
states, Edessa, in northern Mesopotamia (or southern Asia Minor) -
territory occupied by Christians from the First Crusade.
Normans have been involved in piracy in the Mediterranean Sea. On the
coast of North Africa they seize Tripoli, which had been a base for
The taking of Edessa by Zangi is seen in Europe as a move against
Jerusalem, which is controlled by Europeans. The German emperor, Conrad
II, and French monarch, Louis VII, lead hundreds of thousands on a
crusade - the Second Crusade - to retake the Edessa for Christendom.
The crusade stimulates a response from the Seljuk Turks who battle the
crusaders. Another group of crusaders sail to the Iberian Peninsula and
help King Afonso's move southward against the Muslims at Lisbon. Afonso
captures Lisbon, which is to become the capital of Portugal.
Picking up on the spirit of the Second Crusade, a Christian force from
Jerusalem attacks the Muslim city of Damascus - a former ally against
Zangi. The Christian army besieges Damascus, which is to fail.
In the Second Crusade to the Middle East many have died from starvation
and disease as well as injuries from battle. Edessa remains under
Muslim control. But those returning from the crusade bring back sugar,
which some Europeans will use in place of honey.
Koreans start printing books using movable type. Society under China's
Southern Song is prospering. The Southern Song have large ships that
carry goods to India's Malabar Coast and to the Red Sea, its crews
using a magnetic compass.
Troubadours are now popular in southern France. The University of Paris
Most Finns have by now been converted to Christianity. In Sweden, where
Christianity was introduced in 829, paganism is finally overwhelmed by
The Templars have given up their poverty. With another
Christian-crusader order in Jerusalem, the Hospitallier, they have
become owners of extensive real estate. They are also the bankers of
Jerusalem. They deal in exports and handle the 6,000 or so pilgrims
that visit the Holy Land annually and are trusted to refrain from
selling pilgrims into slavery, as have some Italian merchants.
In Japan, the Taira and the Minamoto clans having been rivals for
influence at Japan's royal court. Both families are related to Japan's
royal family. So too is the Fujiwara clan, which has lost positions of
importance to members of the Taira clan. In the Heiji war of this year
the Taira clan wins against the Minamoto.
The Almohads have grown as a power on the coast of North Africa, and
they expel the Norman pirates from the coast of North Africa.
Temujin, one day to be known as Genghis Khan, is born in the Hentiyn
Nuruu mountains north of Ulan Bator.
In Paris, construction begins on a cathedral to be known as Notre Dame.
A Danish soldier and Archbishop of Lund, Absalon, has fortified the
village that later becomes the city of Copenhagen, his purpose to repel
attacks by Wendish (Slavic) pirates. He is to be described as the
founder of Copenhagen.
The first classes begin at Oxford University.
Taira Kiyomori of the Taira clan begins to rule Japan, as a prime
minister of sorts, in the name of the emperor.
Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, is hacked to death at the
altar of his church by knights - agents of England's king,
Hentry II. .
In Egypt, Salah al-Din, to be known in the West as Saladin, declares
his independence. In Egypt, the Shiite Fatimid dynasty no longer rules.
Saladin, a Kurd who arose in the service of the Seljuk Turks, is sultan
and military leader. He mentions the Abbasid caliph (in Baghdad) in his
prayers, and he is interested in a Sunni ideological revival in Egypt
and in driving the crusaders out of the Middle East.
Horsemen led by the Anglo-Norman adventurer John de Courcy defeats
Celtic foot soldiers and builds a fort, founding what will become the
city of Belfast.
Venetians take from Verona (100 km west of Venice) control of the
Brenner pass, opening access to silver from Germany.
Glass windows are put in English homes.
Windmills are used as a source of power in Flanders and the
Netherlands, wind being more constant than the flow of streams, which
freeze in winters.
Philip Augustus of France has been in need of money to hold on to his
throne and to combat feudal barons. He has accused Jews of ritual
murder and has confiscated their wealth, and now he confiscates their
land and buildings and banishes them from his realm.
Pope Lucius III issues a bull against heretics. Anyone who shields or
gives aid to a heretic is to be subject to the same punishment as the
heretic. Unrepentant heretics are to be turned over to a secular
government for punishment, and relapsed heretics are to receive harsher
In India, Bhaskara, the inventor of calculus, five centuries before it
arose in Europe, dies at the age of 71. He also calculated, with
exquisite accuracy, the time it takes Earth to orbit the sun - while
Europeans are viewing the earth as standing still.
In Japan the five-year Gempei War ends. The Taira clan had been
oppressive and corrupt in its rule of Japan. Opposition had formed
against them, led by a member of the Minamoto clan, Minamoto Yoritomo,
who had been held at the fishing village of Kamakura. From the Gempei
War, Minamoto Yoritoma emerges supreme. He has members of the Taira
clan hunted down and killed, and he has rivals from his own family
King Philip Augustus (Philip II) defeats the coalition of Flanders,
Burgundy, and Champagne and expands his territory from around Paris and
Orléans, taking from the count of Flanders the territories to his
north: Amiens, Artois and part of Vermandois.
Saladin retakes Palestine, including Jerusalem, for Islam. There is no
pillaging or slaughter of non-combantants - as there had been when the
Crusaders took Jerusalem in 1099. There are now about 1,000 Jewish
families in all of Palestine. Before the Christian crusaders and their
killings the Jews numbered about 300,000. Saladin is to acquire a
reputation in Europe as a chivalrous knight.
Jews are massacred at the coronation of England's Richard the First.
In response to Saladin taking Jerusalem in 1887, the Third Crusade
Tea from China is introduced to the Japanese.
Crusaders arrive at and besiege the port city of Acre, on the coast of
Lebanon. Richard I arrives in June. Saladin fails to break the siege
and in July the city falls to the crusaders. In August, Richard the
First (the "Lion-hearted") slaughters 4,000 Muslim prisoners. Richard
then takes the coastal town of Jaffa.
Saladin holds off Richard's advance against Jerusalem. Richard and
Saladin sign a treaty that leaves Jerusalem under Muslim control and
allows Christian pilgrims to visit. Some coastal towns and Cyprus are
left in Christian hands. Richard leaves for England. The Third Crusade
is over, and many will see it as a failure because Jerusalem remains in
the hands of Muslims rather than Christians.
The imperial court confers on Yoritomo the title of Shogun (seii
taishogun or "barbarian-subduing generalissimo"). He rules
from the village of Kamakura (eventually to be a part of Tokyo).
Japan's Kamakura era begins, to last until 1250. The emperor, still in
Kyoto, is to be a puppet of the Shogun, a relationship to last until
the middle of the19th century.
Muslim warriors from Afghanistan are pushing into India, not just to
raid but to stay. They reach Delhi, overwhelming fierce Hindu
Muslims led by Ikhtivar Khilihi raze the Odantapura monastery at
Nalanda, a Buddhist center of learning and a famous university, in the
state of Bihār. Monastery monks are killed. Muslims have contempt for
Buddhism and have been destroying Buddhist temples for decades.
Buddhism is being driven out of India. Survivors of the Odantapura
monastery scatter with a few holy texts, most of them to Nepal and
Commerce has been growing, and the century ends with the seaport city
of Venice as Europe's commercial capital. Its population is around
80,000, equal to Paris, Milan and Florence, Europe's leading cities in
In Western Europe the Catholic Church has been organizing law that had
vanished with Imperial Rome's state power. Natural law, a phrase coined
by the Romans, is being applied to property rights because, it is said,
God forbade stealing. Contractual rights are also being supported on
the ground of "natural law," including the contracts that emperors,
kings or princes have made with their subjects.
In Japan, slavery had arisen with the taking of capitives in civil
wars, but by now slavery has virtually disappeared.
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