Urban II declares the First Crusade (November 27, 1095): Pope Urban II called the Council of Clermont to discuss church reforms. Over 300 French clerics attended the meeting. On the next to last day, Urban called a crusade to recapture the Holy Land. Islam expanded dramatically since Muhammad’s death in 632 and now threatened Europe. Urban hoped to turn back Islamic expansion and unite Europe for the first time since Rome. The First Crusade proved successful and spawned further adventures. Most importantly, Crusaders brought back spices, luxury items, and ancient knowledge which led to Europe’s recovery from the Dark Ages.
The First Shogun (1192): During the eleventh and twelfth centuries, powerful families and their samurai battled for control of Japan. Eventually, Minamoto no Yoritomo emerged as the most powerful man on the island nation. He grabbed power from the government and the leading families to create his own feudal state. In 1192, the emperor recognized this situation and named Yoritomo shogun. Although the emperor remained the technical ruler, the Shogunate was born.
Genghis Khan unites the Mongols (1206): Genghis Khan united the Mongol tribes under his rule spelling dire consequences for the world. Khan marshaled the energies of the nomadic tribes and redirected it into an effective military machine. His organizational skills, adaptability, ruthlessness, and intellect created the world’s largest land empire. The Mongols decimated their opponents and used terror to control those under their yoke. Genghis Khan may have been directly responsible for 40 million deaths. Without Genghis Khan, the Mongols never unite to conquer the vast swath of territory that became their empire.
The Magna Carta (1215): The Magna Carta limited and challenged the English monarch’s right to absolute rule. King John managed to anger just about everyone and his nobles revolted. The barons forced the King to limit his own power and sign the document. Essentially, the document required the king to provide good government and protected the nobles against the government. Although it only applied to nobles, it provided a precedent and represented the first step toward limiting governmental power.
Dante’s Inferno kicks off the Renaissance (1321): The Divine Comedy, also known as Dante’s Inferno, launched the Renaissance. The poem recounts Dante’s travels through hell, purgatory, and heaven. Additionally, the work is an allegory about the soul’s travels and political satire. Dante’s efforts represent one of the earliest pieces of Renaissance literature. The Renaissance brought Europe out of the Middle Ages and into the modern age with its focus on intellectual pursuits and humanism. It rejected the Middle Ages and mourned the loss of the Classical Age