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12th Century, 1101 to 1200

1101  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.

1101  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.

1101  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, Henry I.

1101  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 noblemen.

1114  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. 

1116  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 dominates ideologically.

1117  Slavery is abolished in Iceland.

1119  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.

1121  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 Abelard.

1121  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 instruments.

1122  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.

1125  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.

1126  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. 

1128  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. 

1130  Drought in what someday will be called Arizona causes the Anasazi people to abandon that area. 

1139  The Catholic Church forbids Christians from using the crossbow against their fellow Christians. It remains okay to use against Turks and other Muslims.

1139  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.

1140  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.

1140  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.

1143  At the city of Cologne a mob pulls people accused of heresy from ecclesiastic prisons and burns them at the stake.

1143  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.

1144  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.

1146  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 Muslim pirates.

1147  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.

1148  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.

1149  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.

1150  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. 

1150  Troubadours are now popular in southern France. The University of Paris is founded.

1150  Most Finns have by now been converted to Christianity. In Sweden, where Christianity was introduced in 829, paganism is finally overwhelmed by Roman Catholicism.

1154  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.

1160  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.  

1160  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.

1163  Temujin, one day to be known as Genghis Khan, is born in the Hentiyn Nuruu mountains north of Ulan Bator.

1163  In Paris, construction begins on a cathedral to be known as Notre Dame.

1167  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.

1168  The first classes begin at Oxford University.

1168  Taira Kiyomori of the Taira clan begins to rule Japan, as a prime minister of sorts, in the name of the emperor.

1170  Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, is hacked to death at the altar of his church by knights – agents of  England's king, Hentry II. . 

1175  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.

1177  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. 

1178   Venetians take from Verona (100 km west of Venice) control of the Brenner pass, opening access to silver from Germany.

1180  Glass windows are put in English homes.

1180  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.

1182  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. 

1184  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 sentences.

1185  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. 

1185  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 eliminated.

1186  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.

1187  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.

1189  Jews are massacred at the coronation of England's Richard the First. 

1189  In response to Saladin taking Jerusalem in 1887, the Third Crusade begins. 

1191  Tea from China is introduced to the Japanese. 

1191  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. 

1192  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. 

1192  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.  

1193  Muslim warriors from Afghanistan are pushing into India, not just to raid but to stay. They reach Delhi, overwhelming fierce Hindu opposition.

1199  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 Tibet.

1200  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 population. 

1200  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.

1200  In Japan, slavery had arisen with the taking of capitives in civil wars, but by now slavery has virtually disappeared.

11th Century (1001 to 1100 CE) | 13th Century (1201 to 1300 CE)

Copyright © 2004-2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.