Latest on world changing events from Livescience focuses on the reign of the Frankish King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Great, or Charlemagne. Ruling much of Western Europe, Charlemagne encouraged education, the arts, trade and reinforced the position of the Catholic Church as a unifying force for what had been the Western Roman Empire up to its downfall in 450 AD. Charlemagne ruled modern France, northern Spain and Italy, Belgium and Western Germany, along with many other territories, including Corsica and Sardinia in the Western Mediterranean Sea.
"One of the most important changes Charlemagne made was abandoning the gold standard and putting all of Europe on the same silver currency. Trade became easier and the continent prospered, aided by laws that took some power away from the nobles and let the peasantry participate in commerce. The lower classes benefited in other ways under Charlemagne, who was frustrated with the nobility's sense of entitlement and had deep sympathy for the peasants, according to historians.
Among other legislation, all local regional governors were subject to regular inspections by royal emissaries to make sure no injustices were being done. Educational reform was also high on Charlemagne's agenda. The progressive leader loved to learn, historians say, and so encouraged schooling throughout his kingdom in his chosen lingua franca, Latin. All of a sudden, not only were the once-fractured regions of Europe connected by peaceful trade networks and common laws, but people could communicate with each other too."
Charlemagne was born in the 740s AD, believed to be near Liege in modern Belgium. He ascended to the throne of the Frankish kingdom in 768. His father Pippin had established the new Carolingian dynasty after displacing the weak Merovingian figurehead King Childeric III. Most of Charlemagne's early reign was spent subduing neighboring areas such as Italy, Spain, Saxony and Bavaria, establishing his rule over the majority of Western Europe. He was named Roman Emperor in 800 AD, and also fought campaigns against the Slavs and Avars in Eastern Europe, as welll as the Danes.
Good Wiki article of the life and times of Charlemagne found here.