will neither steal nor take anything away from you, or fleen or depart from you for any reason, until he has completed his apprenticeship.

—French apprenticeship agreement, 1248

Few apprentices ever became guild masters unless they were related to one. Most worked for guild members as journeymen, or salaried workers. Journeymen often accused masters of keeping their wages low so that they could not save enough to open a competing shop.

Women in the Guilds

Women worked in dozens of crafts. A woman often engaged in the same trade as her father or husband and might inherit his workshop if he died. Because she knew the craft well, she kept the shop going and sometimes became a guild master herself. Young girls became apprentices in trades such as ribbon-making and paper-making. Women dominated some trades and even had their own guilds.

In Paris, they far outnumbered men in the profitable silk and wool guilds. A third of the guilds in Frankfurt were composed entirely of women.

Illustration of women sitting around a loom, engaged in various weaving activities.

These women and children are working at a wool weaving loom. Many women belonged to weaving guilds.

Middle Class Family Life

Family life in the towns and cities differed in some ways from the lives of peasants on farms. Unlike peasants, middle class families did not grow their own food. Instead, they bought food and other goods in the town's market. Although the calendar still determined everyday life from harvests to holidays, artisans, merchants, and other townspeople saw the seasons differently. They had to make or sell goods during all seasons.

In towns, children were apprenticed out or worked in the business of their parents, rather than in the fields. Some middle class families sent their boys to schools, which were more common in towns than on the manor. Boys might attend a local church school, learning the basics of reading and writing. A few privileged boys might even get the chance for a higher education. In a world where most people were illiterate, or unable to read and write, a basic education was a valuable skill.

The Crusades

By 1050, Western Europe was just emerging from centuries of isolation. For the first time since the fall of Rome, Western Europeans were strong enough to break out of their narrow world and take the offensive against other lands.

Starting in 1096, thousands of Europeans took part in the Crusades, a series of wars in which Christians battled Muslims for control of land in the Middle East. During these wars, both sides committed bloody acts. The First Crusade freed Jerusalem from Muslim rule and established a string of European-ruled Crusader states. They were surrounded by Muslim-ruled lands, however, and Arab counterattacks reconquered the last European outpost in 1291.

Conflict in the Holy Land

By the 1050s, the once prosperous Byzantine empire was facing a serious threat from the Seljuk Turks.

The Turks had migrated from Central Asia into the Middle East, where they converted to Islam. Before long, the Seljuks had overrun most Byzantine lands in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey) and extended their power over the Holy Land. This area included Jerusalem and other places where Christians believe Jesus had lived and preached. For centuries, Christians had made pilgrimages to the Holy Land.

The conflict between the Seljuk Turks and the Byzantines disrupted travel to the Holy Land and was threatening the very survival of the Byzantine empire.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments