Since most did not even attend school, they were deprived of the mental stimulation that was an important part of an educated person's life. Without a university education, women could not become doctors, lawyers, or church officials.

Despite restrictions, a few women did get an education. Most convents educated girls. Some nuns became scholars and writers. Still, women like Christine de Pisan(duh pee ZAHN) were the exceptions. In The City of Ladies, she asks whether women are less capable of learning and understanding, as men insist, and a character replies.

If it were customary to send daughters to school like sons, and if they were then taught the same subjects, they would learn as thoroughly and understand the subtleties of all arts and sciences as well as sons.

—Christine de Pisan

Learning for Children

Few children in the Middle Ages received any education. At home, and perhaps in the parish church, they learned basic Christian beliefs.

Overall, education for most children was informal. They learned by doing. Within the family, they were assigned tasks appropriate to their age. Older children looked after younger ones. Children often took on demanding tasks in the fields or towns where they lived. They carried heavy loads, cleared land, or learned skilled trades if they were apprenticed out by their families.

New Knowledge Reaches Europe

Universities received a further boost from an explosion of knowledge that reached Europe in the High Middle Ages. Many of the “new” ideas had originated in ancient Greece but had been lost to Western Europeans after the fall of Rome.

Ancient Learning Is Brought to Europe

In the Middle East, Muslim scholars had translated the works of Aristotle and other Greek thinkers into Arabic. Their translations and commentaries on these ancient texts spread across the Muslim world. In Muslim Spain, Jewish and Christian scholars translated these works into Latin, the language of Christian European scholars.

Aristotle's Ideas Challenge Christian Thinkers

In the 1100s, these new translations were reaching Western Europe. There, they set off a revolution in the world of learning.

Photo of two metal circles with stems that connect at a hinge.

Metal-framed eyeglasses like these were the result of new knowledge that resulted in a variety of inventions during the Middle Ages.

The writings of the ancient Greeks posed a challenge to Christian scholars. Aristotle taught that people should use reason to discover basic truths. Christians, however, accepted many ideas on faith. They believed that the Church was the final authority on all questions. How could they use the logic of Aristotle without undermining their Christian faith?

Christian scholars, called scholastics, tried to resolve the conflict between faith and reason. Their method, known as scholasticism, used reason to support Christian beliefs. Scholastics studied the works of the Muslim philosopher Averroës (uh VEER uh weez) and the Jewish rabbi Maimonides (my MAHN uh deez). These thinkers, too, used logic to resolve the conflict between faith and reason.

Thomas Aquinas

The writings of these philosophers influenced the famous scholastic Thomas Aquinas (uh KWY nus). In a monumental work, Summa theologica, Aquinas concluded that faith and reason exist in harmony.

Aquinas's work concluded that both lead to the same truth, that God rules over an orderly universe. Aquinas thus brought together Christian faith and classical Greek philosophy.

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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