Medieval Time Period

What kid doesn’t want to learn about the medieval time period? I mean knights, kings, queens, castles and maybe dragons? Well you can get it all in Minecraft too so check out our Minecraft Lesson to go with tomorrow.

When I started this lesson with Matthew, we actually watched the television show Merlin. Of course its not accurate but we pointed out the castle, banners and the armor. We also did research before we got to Minecrafting. Here is what we learned:

Medieval Time Period

In European history, the Middle Ages or  Medieval Period lasted from the 5th to the late 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.

Between the 5th and 8th centuries, new peoples and individuals filled the political void left by Roman centralized government. The High Middle Ages was a period of tremendous expansion of population. The estimated population of Europe grew from 35 to 80 million between 1000 and 1347. The first years of the 14th century were marked by famines, culminating in the Great Famine of 1315–17. The causes of the Great Famine included the slow transition from the Medieval Warm Period to the Little Ice Age, which left the population vulnerable when bad weather caused crop failures. The years 1313–14 and 1317–21 were excessively rainy throughout Europe, resulting in widespread crop failures. The climate change—which resulted in a declining average annual temperature for Europe during the 14th century—was accompanied by an economic downturn. These troubles were followed in 1347 by the Black Death, a pandemic that spread throughout Europe during the following three years. The death toll was probably about 35 million people in Europe, about one-third of the population. Towns were especially hard-hit because of their crowded conditions.

Medieval Castles

Medieval castles were built from the 11th century CE for rulers to demonstrate their wealth and power to the local populace, to provide a place of defence and safe retreat in the case of attack, defend strategically important sites like river crossings, passages through hills, mountains and frontiers, and as a place of residence. Whether a permanent home for a local lord or a temporary one for a ruler embarking on a tour of their kingdom, castles were converted from wood into stone and became ever more impressive structures with more and more defensive features such as round towers and fortified gates. There was actually an evolution of these castles.

  • Motte and Bailey – A motte-and-bailey castle is a fortification with a wooden or stone keep situated on a raised area of ground called a motte, accompanied by a walled courtyard, or bailey, surrounded by a protective ditch and palisade. Relatively easy to build with unskilled labour, but still militarily formidable, these castles were built across northern Europe from the 10th century onwards, spreading from Normandy and Anjou in France, into the Holy Roman Empire in the 11th century. The Normans introduced the design into England and Wales following their invasion in 1066. Motte-and-bailey castles were adopted in Scotland, Ireland, the Low Countries and Denmark in the 12th and 13th centuries. Windsor Castle, in England, is an example of a motte-and-bailey castle. By the end of the 13th century, the design was largely superseded by alternative forms of fortification, but the earthworks remain a prominent feature in many countries.
  • Shell Keep – Shell Keep is a style of medieval fortification, best described as a stone structure circling the top of a motte. In English castle morphology, shell keeps are perceived as the successors to motte-and-bailey castles, with the wooden fence around the top of the motte replaced by a stone wall. Castle engineers during the Norman period did not trust the motte to support the enormous weight of a stone keep. A common solution was to replace the palisade with a stone wall then build wooden buildings backing onto the inside of the wall. This construction was lighter than a keep and prevented the walls from being undermined, meaning they could be thinner and lighter. Shell keeps were added around the 13th Century.
  • The Concentric Castle – A concentric castle is a castle with two or more concentric curtain walls, where the outer wall is lower than the inner and can be defended from it. Concentric castles resemble one enclosure castle nested inside the other, generally without a central free-standing keep. Concentric Castles were built between the 13th – 14th Century.
  • The Palace or Royal Quarters – A castle is a fortified dwelling. In other words, there are many kinds of fortifications built for defense, but a castle is specifically used as a residence, as well. … So when we’re wondering what’s the difference between a castle and a palace, the most important difference is that a palace is not fortified and has Royal Quarters. Palaces were beginning to be built between the 14th – 16th Century.


Besides our minecraft lesson, here are some fun ideas for kids of all ages.

Coloring Pages – Super Coloring

Recycled Medieval Castle – My Creative Days

Medieval Book Binding from Layers of Learning

Coat of Arms from Happy Strong Home

Catapults – Left Brain Craft Brain

For more Medieval History check out these resources:

Medieval Castles

Medieval Armor

Medieval Food

Medieval Clothing


A Year in a Castle (Time Goes By) by Rachel Coombs

Lower the drawbridge! Would you like to know what life was like in a castle long ago? Then come spend the next twelve months in this castle. Check out eight action-packed scenes for a bird’s-eye view of the life and work of lords, ladies, knights, maids, and more. See the castle on market day and during an attack by an enemy lord. Watch knights compete in a tournament. Keep your eye on the calendar too. By spending a whole year in a castle, you can watch events unfold as the seasons change.

DK Eyewitness Books: Medieval Life: Discover Medieval Europe from Life in a Country Manor to the Streets of a Growin by Andrew Langley

Eyewitness Medieval Life is a compelling introduction to the people and culture of the Middle Ages. Superb color photographs of artifacts, costumes, furniture, and buildings bring daily life in Medieval Europe vividly to life.

National Geographic Kids Everything Castles: Capture These Facts, Photos, and Fun to Be King of the Castle!  by Crispin Boyer

Young readers will be spellbound by this story of fierce battles, dark dungeons, secret passageways, and medieval characters, made all the more vivid by true tales from experts in the field. Fun facts and photos, including reenactment shots, illuminate the lives of the inhabitants and the fascinating histories of castles.

If You Were a Kid In a Medieval Castle (If You Were a Kid) by Josh Gregory

As the son of a medieval lord, Henry has lived in a castle all his life. When learns that he must leave home to begin training to be a knight, he turns to his friend Margaret for help. But as a worker in the castle’s kitchen, Margaret is envious of Henry’s opportunity to see more of the world. Readers (Ages 7-9) will get a look into medieval times by following these two friends as they explore the castle and meet a variety of colorful characters.

DK Eyewitness Books: Arms and Armor: Discover the Story of Weapons and Armor from Stone Age Axes to the Battle Gear by DK

Eyewitness Arms and Armor gives you an exciting look at weapons and armor through the ages. Stunning real-life photography reveals the design, construction, and workings of armor, giving a unique view of how methods of warfare have changed throughout history.

See the way weapons such as guns, swords, and bows developed over time to win fights and wars. Learn how the improvement of the weapons forced the improvement in armor – as weapons became more accurate and deadly, the people in the firing line needed better protection! Find out which events in history sparked the creation of weapons and armor, and see who used them. 

Whether you’re already a history fan or want to learn more about how humans adapted their weaponry techniques over time, you’ll find lots of help inside this visual guide.\

Great Medieval Projects: You Can Build Yourself (Build It Yourself) by Kris Bordessa

Great Medieval Projects You Can Build Yourself brings the Middle Ages in Europe alive through hands-on activities for kids ages 9-12. Addressing various aspects of medieval life, this book provides historically accurate details of the period leading up to the Renaissance. From monastic life to castle living, villages to towns, each section offers a glimpse into the daily existence of the people who lived in medieval Europe. Sidebars and fun trivia break up the text. Readers will expand their knowledge of this era beyond knights, fair maidens, and castles as they learn about siege warfare, life in a medieval village, medieval clothing, markets and fairs, the Plague, medieval medicine, and the Crusades.

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