Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



The towering institution of the Middle Ages was the Church. From birth until death both the highest lord and the lowest serf felt its influence in some way or another, directly or indirectly. After about the year 1000 all men in Western Europe, except for a few Jews and Muslims, were its members. They were expected to support the Church in every way. It was not possible for one with a secular turn of mind to go to the priest and ask, in effect, to have his name erased from the Church's rolls. Even the passing of time was now reckoned from the supposed year of Christ's birth, following the calculations of a sixth century monk. [excerpt]


This is a part of Section III: The Medieval Church. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections of Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, as well as the Table of Contents for both volumes.

More About Contemporary Civilization:

From 1947 through 1969, all first-year Gettysburg College students took a two-semester course called Contemporary Civilization. The course was developed at President Henry W.A. Hanson’s request with the goal of “introducing the student to the backgrounds of contemporary social problems through the major concepts, ideals, hopes and motivations of western culture since the Middle Ages.”

Gettysburg College professors from the history, philosophy, and religion departments developed a textbook for the course. The first edition, published in 1955, was called An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization and Its Problems. A second edition, retitled Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, was published in 1958 and 1960. It is this second edition that we include here. The copy we digitized is from the Gary T. Hawbaker ’66 Collection and the marginalia are his.