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The “High” Middle Ages was from 11001330(ish) the time of the Crusade etc….
Beginning around 1300 Europe is hit with a
series of problems, causing Europe as a whole
to question everything about the society they
had made for themselves- changed the way
they saw the world.
Bad weather (Little Ice Age 1315-1322) meant
bad harvests and famine. Famine made people
more susceptible to disease
October 1347 trade ships return to Italy from the Black Seawith some extra cargo: Bubonic Plague (originated in Asia
Spread across Europe like wildfire- anywhere from ¼ to ½
of the population died (varies by area, sanitation issues- or
lack therefore- NO help)
Seemed a biblical judgment, God’s punishment for a sinful
world. No effective treatment, no rhyme or reason (from
their standpoint) to who got it
Widespread hysteria- people fled, cities/towns deserted.
Witch hunts and pogroms looking for someone to blame
First wave ends around 1353, reappears intermittently in
following decades, 1666 (London), last Marseilles 1721
Devastating to witness, those who survived the
age were never the same. Ripped apart social
fabric- causing people to question Church and
In the end, plague makes Europe stronger, it
was overpopulated in 1347- this took care of
that- redistribution of land, more resources
available, better standard of living.
Also led to greater education (new colleges)
and new experimental procedures, clearly the
way things had been done not working….
1337-1453 Last “medieval” war of knights and chivalry
1328 the Capetian dynasty of France was dying out.
Queen Isabella of England (and daughter of king of
France), said her son Edward III was heir. Good claim,
English crown already held Aquitaine.
French nobility create a law saying heir cannot come
through female line- and chose Philip of Valois as new
Edward invades 1337, but this is also a French civil war
(part of why it lasts so long) French kings have been
centralizing power, nobles don’t like that (some back
Edward- like the powerful Burgundians)
England starts strong.
At battle of Crecy 1346
the English longbow
men are heroes. Eng.
also first to use cannon
to break castle sieges.
1357 at Poitiers the King
of France is captured
and held for ransom. By
battle of Agincourt 1415
British victory seems
Joan of Arc born 1412 in
Doremy France.
“Voices” told her to go
to the Dauphin (Charles
VII) and make him
king, then expel the
English from France. So
she does. She is a
turning point, convinces
the French that God
wants them to win, that
they CAN win. Joan
captured by Eng. in
1430 and burned as a
heretic in 1431.
War promoted Nationalism, but was also a
bottomless pit of $$ and manpower. France
turned the tide, but it still took 20 years to push
the English out.
England spent a TON of $$- and ended up
losing not only their claim to throne, but all
their lands in France (stimulated parliament at
France wins, but is devastated even in victorythe country is laid waste. Made king of France
more powerful (felt need to control nobles)
Roman Catholic Church was the dominant
spiritual force of the middle ages- the only
path to heaven. Also had enormous social
control and prestige- unquestionable.
The Church will lose both its supremacy and it
infallibility by the end of the Middle Ages
From 1309-1376 the pope lived in Avignon
France rather than Rome
 Damaged the pope’s prestige- seen as a
“puppet” of the French king and Avignon
papal court was known for luxury and
extravagance (not so holy)
 Also caused all sorts of
problems in Italy- pope was
leader of big chunk (papal
states) and he’s not there
1377 papal conclave, Italian cardinals elect
Urban VI, (says he will stay in Italy) But French
cardinals choose Clement VII (cousin of Fr.
So who is “really” pope? Italy, HRE, and
England support Urban. France, Spain and
Scotland support Clement.
Split continued until 1417- and cost the church
a lot of respect- how can they be “infallible” if
they can’t even choose their own leader?
After Schism people begin calling for reform of
the church, saying that pope’s power comes
from Christian community (not God) and his
role is to serve them (not rule with divine right)
Deposed various popes, installed others (which
only added to confusion of the period)
Overall, shows people aren’t just going to
accept anymore- precursor to reformation
Europe is on the edge of great change. They
have risen from the ashes of catastrophe
(destruction of classical world) and about
about to begin their climb to world domination.
Most important rite of passage for
ordinary people.
Marriages of peasants not generally arranged,
but had to be approved by both families.
Men married in their mid 20s, girls in mid/late
teens. Not uncommon (or upsetting) to be
pregnant when married. No divorce
Problems in late middle ages pushed age of
marriage back- which meant people had fewer
The center of rural peasant life (and 75% of
Europe is rural at this point) People work the
land, either for a lord, church, or common
lands, work was generally collective.
Violent entertainment popular: Jousts (for
nobles, but peasants watch) archery contests,
wrestling, bearbaiting etc… Alcohol (weak
beer) commonly drunk- healthier than water
Towns and cities run differently, with guilds to
control labor
Nobles seen as “fur collar
criminals” exploiting $$ from
peasants to maintain their lifestyle.
Resentment frequently led to revolt. 1358 “Jacquerie”
(in name of “Jacques bonhomme”) sparked by new
taxes paid to raise ransom for Fr. King. 1381 Eng.
Peasant’s revolt bout taxes to continue fighting in 100
years war. Revolts frequently demanded $$ wages and
an end to manor obligations.
Revolts tended to be put down savagely. But by 1550
serfdom and feudal obligations had died out in
western Europe- so it sort of worked
The people of Europe are all
Caucasian, so “Race” came
to describe culture/customs,
not biology. Chief marks of
an ethnic group were
language, customs, laws- all
seen as your blood heritage.
(and various groups
During the late middle ages
crisis causes a lot of
demographic changepopulations move from one
place to another looking for
better circumstances, which
can cause issues
High Medieval culture
had belonged to Nobility
and Clergy. Gothic
cathedrals had been result
of outpouring of faith in
high middle ages War
glorified with Castles and
Now as things begin to
change, ordinary people
become more important,
and will begin to have
larger impact of social and
cultural issues
Latin had been “universal” language of late
classical age, but during dark ages languages
had localized, becoming specific to an area.
Vernacular is “everyday” language used for
informal communication.
During late middle ages, growing nationalism
led people to begin using “their” language for
writing as well.
Dante Alighieri, Geoffrey Chaucer, Christine di
Pisan, and Villon all vernacular authors