The Middle Ages was a period in European history where technology was ever evolving and spreading. From horse drawn carts to deadly weapons and armor, the middle ages became a time of great achievement in the field of technology throughout Europe. “The technological history of the time was one of slow but substantial development. In the succeeding period the tempo of change increased markedly and was associated with profound social, political, religious, and intellectual upheavals in Western Europe.”(“The Emergence of Western Technology (1500-1750”)
Advancements came about in all fields and aspects of life. The world was just beginning to emerge from the Dark Ages, and lost technology was being recovered from all corners of the world. It is a common misconception that the Renaissance and greater Middles Ages were brought about by the rediscovery of roman writings and methods found in the Library of Alexandria during the Crusades. This is only partially true, many innovations of the middle ages had never been seen before. For example, the concept of a city wide plumbing system was, for the most part, lost to the common people after the fall of the Roman Empire. Along with this method of plumbing, an entirely new well system known as the artesian well made its debut in 1126. “A thin rod with a hard iron cutting edge was placed into a bore hole and repeatedly struck with a hammer; underground water pressure forces the water up the hole without pumping.” (“Medieval Technology”). Such wells still function throughout the world today.
The directional Compass found its origins during the 12th century. The Dry directional compass was invented in the Mediterranean during the 1300’s. Before this innovation, explorers navigated by the stars using instruments such as the Astrolabe and Sextant which were far less reliable than the compass. Innovations in the closing industry were not as common as others, but still existed. The functional button was invented in Germany in the 13th century. “Buttons with buttonholes were used to fasten or close garments, being most convenient before the introduction of the zipper.” (“Medieval Technology”)
Advancements in military technology ranged from cannons to castles, and boasted more killing and protecting power than ever before. Before the introduction of the castle, small wooden forts were used to house military forces and nobles. “Medieval castle builders incorporated designs of early castles and improved upon them over time.”(freudenrich) This process eventually led to the castles we now know today, whose thick walls and sound structures have enabled them to survive both war and time.
Just as kings and rulers improved their castles they also improved their militaries, particularly their knights. Leather and chain mail armor were both technologies rediscovered from the Romans but they proved ineffective when pitted again sword thrusts and arrow attacks. Toward the later part of the middle ages, blacksmiths began developing plate armor. “The plates provided protection and ease of movement…Each plate covered a different area of the body and had a specific name…Plate armor was effective against cuts and thrusts.” (Freudenrich) Knights wearing plate armor were very difficult to kill and acted very much like tanks on the battlefield. Unstoppable.
Advancements were made in maritime technology as well. Before the middle ages most ships were equipped with oars and one large square sail. New innovations in sail technology allowed ships to travel into the wind rather than just along with it. Guns and cannons also aided in the building of some of the first naval fleets of the day. “How much development of ships and guns changed practice at sea is difficult to assess but certainly the effects contributed to the evolution of standing naval forces.”(Langdon 69)
Despite the many benefits of new technology, man still found ways to corrupt its power. The Hundred Years War between England and France is a good example of this. Technologies such as plate armor, primitive guns, and new types of swords were used during this war, and because it was so prolonged, technology evolved during the war, constantly introducing new ways for both sides to destroy one another. “The overseas possessions of the English kings were the root cause of the tensions with the kings of France, and the tensions reached right back to 1066.” (Ibeji)
Technology is ever in a state of development. “Military technology has changed quite a bit since the days of dueling with swords and shields.”(Nasr) It will continue to develop as we expand and evolve. Perhaps one day, the way war is waged today will look like the way war was waged during the Middle Ages. Time will tell.
"Encyclopædia Britannica Online School Edition." Encyclopædia Britannica Online School Edition. 26 Aug. 2009 . Web