11th Century Timelines
Episode One: Century of the Sword
The Larger Eleventh-Century World Context
If all the world is a stage, the opening scene of this
Millennium would be an agricultural village, the
place where most of the world's peoples lived. The
rhythm of the days and the seasons, planting and
harvesting reflected the agricultural revolution, the
first great change in human history. Song China,
Heian Japan, the Abbasid caliphate, Ghana, the
Byzantine Empire, the Anasazi, the Mississippians,
and the people of Tiahuanaco developed thriving
urban cultures that differed markedly from simple
village life. Surplus grain at this time in human
history supported urban wealth.
Chinese Innovation
Yet great changes were about to take place. They
began in China during the Song dynasty. Although
the Song paid huge sums of money for defense,
commerce expanded. Various changes had
occurred before 1000 which enabled China to shift
from a command economy in which government
officials set prices to a market economy in which
prices were determined by supply and demand. In
611 the Grand Canal was completed linking the
northern and southern cities. Canals served the
same function as railroads in a later age. China
developed regional trade network between the
north and south via rivers and canals.
Chinese Innovation
A new kind of fast ripening rice was introduced in South
China. Peasants could plant, harvest, and sell two crops a
year. Grain was shipped north to trade for products like iron.
The Chinese adopted Korean moveable type. Print
technology made paper money possible. Since paper
money could be transported more easily and exchanged for
gold or silver in another market town, more people traded
over longer distances. A credit system developed. The
government switched from collecting grain for taxes to
accepting cash for tax payments. By the Song period
millions of ordinary peasants were able to sell their
products, pay taxes in money, and use what was left over to
buy things they needed , tools, clothes and household
Chinese Innovation
Export of porcelain, silks, spices and other luxury
goods also flourished. Chinese ships journeyed to
Srivijaya, a Southeast Asian empire, for spices and
to Pacific islands for sandlewood. Even though
Srivijaya collapsed in 1025, the lucrative maritime
trade in spices continued. Chinese merchants
traded in the Indian Ocean. More Chinese paid
taxes. Print increased demands for books with
practical information to improve everyday farming,
knowledge of medicines, and mathematics. The
lives of ordinary Chinese changed as an economy
with modern characteristics expanded rapidly. This
was the beginning of a series of changes that led to
the modern world.
Islamic World
Beyond China these were the last golden years for Bagdad
as the capital of the Abbasid caliphate. Seljuk Turks
occupied the city in 1055; soon afterward (1071), they
defeated Byzantine military in the Battle of Manzikert. That
forced the Byzantines back to Constantinople and opened
Syria and most of modern Turkey to conquest. The alAzhar Mosque, one of the Islamic world's most significant
religious centers and universities, was built in the city of
Cairo. Spain became another center of Islamic learning
and cultural expression. Between these two brilliant
cultural centers, Berber nomads conquered trade routes
and established a new kingdom that extended from
Morocco south to Ghana and Mali. Islam continued to
expand on every front, especially in Africa and SE Asia.
In Europe the Normans invaded England in 1066.
European trade gradually revived from centuries of
subsistence farming when peasants began to
produce a surplus. Europe slowly returned to a
money economy with the circulation of silver coins.
In 1095 Pope Urban II urged Christians to go to the
Holy Land to fight Muslims where they learned
about spices, and silks, and porcelains from the
The term Orient means east, it
also means to acquaint with a
situation. The story from 1000 to
1500 is a story of Europeans
orienting themselves to the rest
of the world; a world in which
China was the dominate
CHINA - Summary
In China, barbarians from the
north swept down to seize some
of China's wealth. In the course
of this invasion, the bustling,
cosmopolitan city at the heart of
China-Kaifeng-was sacked.
Confucian scholars remained
confident, however, that China's
culture would endure. As it
turned out, they were more or
less right.
China was a center of world
innovation and would not be
restrained for long. Chinese
civilization had produced the
print block, paper money, the
compass, the seismograph, an
accurate water clock,
acupuncture, medical sciences,
and gunpowder.
The invaders, rather than
crushing these achievements,
were seduced by such
sophistication and adopted
Chinese ways.
JAPAN - Summary
Treacherous seas separated the Japanese
from much of the world. At the heart of
the Japanese islands was a court where
manners had became increasingly
refined. Female courtiers were expected
to be skilled in many things.
Writing talent in particular was
highly valued. Sei Shonagon was one
such courtier skilled in letters. Her
portrait of court life has been
preserved, as fresh today as it would
have been in the 11th century.
Perhaps because her world was
confined to the walls of the palace
complex, she observed her
surroundings in their minutest
details: the raindrops on a spider's
web, the wind created by a
mosquito's wings, the play of light on
water as it is poured into a vessel.
She also recorded awkward and
embarrassing moments, such as when a
man lay awake at night talking to his
companion, only to have the companion
go on sleeping. Sei Shonagon's nights
were full of intrigue as various lovers
tiptoed around the palace complex to
visit her and the other ladies of the
Although this court culture was only a
small part of Japanese reality, it
typifies this introspective and insular
society, which would show no signs
of initiative for several centuries to
INDIA - Summary
For centuries, India had provided much
of the rest of Asia with sacred
scriptures and scientific texts. In the
11th century, the Muslim scholar
Alberuni visited India to learn the
secrets of Indian wisdom.
He traveled around the subcontinent
for 15 years, visiting sacred temples
and studying Sanskrit. He marveled at
the industry of the various Indian
peoples he encountered but was
puzzled by the behaviour of India's
religious leaders. The priests did not
take shelter, nor did they wear clothes.
The great learning of the previous
millennium was no longer in much
evidence; instead he found a
civilization that had become selfabsorbed.
SPAIN - Summary
The Islamic World was a young and
vigorous civilization in the 11th
century. Over the preceding four
hundred years, the warriors of Islam
had conquered vast tracts of
Once converted by traders, the
nomadic tribes of the Sahara and
central Asia proved to be even
more zealous evangelists than their
During this century, Turks
displaced Arab rulers in Asia and
Egypt, and real military
expansion occurred on many
fronts, including sub-Sahara
Africa, North Africa,
Afghanistan and Spain.
Muslim traders also extended and
consolidated Islamic influence.
They operated across great
distances, connecting the African
continent to the Middle East,
Christendom and Asia.
At the heart of the western Islamic
world lay Cordoba. Like many
Islamic cities, it boasted
hundreds of gardens, shops and
baths. It was a mirror of paradise.
Christendom was also on the
fringes of the greater civilizations,
and in the 11th century was split
irrevocably into two separate
geographic and ideological factions.
The West held the wealthy
Eastern Church in contempt, while
the more urbane Eastern
Church considered the Christians
of the west to be barbarians
of little faith. In 1054, years of
political wrangling reached a
The Pope in Rome issued a
document formally
excommunicating the Eastern
Church. It was a rift that would
create divisions within Europe for
centuries after. At the time, it
appeared that prospects for this part
of the world in the future were dim.
However, the drive to clear the
forests and spread the Christian
faith into the corners of the
continent proved to be a powerful
force of revival later in the
millennium. Rapid expansion
would begin on all frontiers-the
seeds of Western dynamism were
already in hand.
William the Conqueror, 1027-1087
England as we know it began when William, Duke
of Normandy, crossed the Channel and went on
to win the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Eager to
increase his power as king, he dispossessed
Anglo-Saxon nobles and divided their lands
among his followers. The Norman influence was
felt in every sphere, from language to
architecture to warfare. William spent his 21-year
reign successfully fending off enemies. No one
has invaded England since.
Fan Kuan 990 - 1030
A Taoist recluse, Fan Kuan is best known
as the painter of Travelers Amid Streams
and Mountains, the greatest single
example of the monumental-landscape
style of painting and a model for all
Chinese artists. The painting, nearly seven
feet tall, is based on the Taoist principle of
becoming one with nature. Fan's style -reducing human figures to minute
proportions and dramatizing the awesome
power of nature -- has led critics to
compare his creative powers with those of
nature itself.
Guido of Arezzo 991-1033
Musical theorist and teacher Guido of
Arezzo solved two practical problems.
Choirboys were learning chants by
listening and imitating, not always
accurately. Guido devised a system of
musical notation -- it has evolved into
today's five-line staff -- that enabled
certainty of pitch. He also used the
syllables that began six lines of a popular
hymn (ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la), along with
the notes on which they were sung, to
perfect a method of teaching sight-singing
still in use today.
Ibn Sina 980 - 1037
Islam's most renowned philosopher-scientist, Ibn
Sina outgrew his teachers as a teenager and
educated himself in law, medicine and
metaphysics. His intellect served him well: As a
court physician in Persia, he survived intrigue and
imprisonment to write two of history's greatest
works, The Book of Healing, a compendium of
science and philosophy, and The Canon of
Medicine, an encyclopedia based on the teachings
of Greek physicians. The latter was widely used
in the West, where Ibn Sina, known as Avicenna,
was called the Prince of Physicians.
Pope Gregory VII, 1020-1085
Originally named Hildebrand,
Gregory is considered one of the
most significant popes of the Middle
Ages. He attempted sweeping
reforms in the Church, and took a
stand for the primacy of the papacy
over secular authorities, a policy that
was epitomized in his conflict with
Emperor Henry IV.
11th Century Segments
How the World Has Changed – World’s 5
Largest Urban Areas (million population)
Kaifeng (China)
Constantinople (Istanbul)
11th Century Legacies
The migration and synthesis of peoples created new cultural
identities that continue to exist at the end of the
Modern European languages like English, the international
language of business, modern science, and technology,
were formed from a synthesis of languages during this
period. Arabic becomes the lingua franca of the Muslim
world and Mandarin Chinese was taught to the educated of
the Pacific World. One-third of all Africans living south of
the Sahara speak a Bantu language.
11th Century Legacies
Religious conversions established universal
religions with less regard to ethnic identities.
The division of Catholic and Orthodox believers
has lasted through the millennium.
Pilgrimages like those to the Ganges or to Mecca
have remained a significant religious ritual for
millions of people from the year 1000 to the
present. Such occasions have tended to link
peoples over long distances through time.

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