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The Latin West
1200 - 1500
Rural Growth and Crisis
A. Peasants, population, and Plague
• Most people of the Latin West were peasants bound by serfdom that
used inefficient agricultural practices.
• Women labored in fields and were subordinate to men.
• Europe’s population doubled between 1000 and 1445.
• Population growth was spurred by new agricultural technologies in
northern Europe, including the three-field system and the cultivation
of oats for horses.
• As new land was opened up for cultivation much of it had poor soil
and poor growing conditions.
Peasant cultivators labored long
hours and more than half of the
fruits of their labor went to the
landowners, which led to a lack
of motivation to improve
farming techniques.
B. Social Rebellion
• The Black Death was brought from Kaffa to Italy and southern
France in 1346.
• Ravaged Europe for two years and returned periodically in the late
1300s and 1400s.
• As a result of plague, labor became more expensive in Western
Europe and led to peasant uprisings and the end of serfdom.
• After the plague, rural living standards improved, the period of
apprenticeship for artisans was reduced, and per capita income rose.
The Black Death resolved the
problem of overpopulation
by killing off a third of western
Black Death victims developed
boils the size of eggs
in their groins and armpits, black
blotches on their skin,
foul body odors, and severe pain.
C. Mills and Mines
• Between 1200 - 1500 Europeans invented and used a variety of
mechanical devices including water wheels and windmills.
• Industrial enterprises, including mining, ironworking, stone
quarrying, and tanning, grew during this time.
• The results included both greater productivity and environmental
damage including water pollution and deforestation
Wind mills were powered by
water or wind and were used to
grind grain into flour, saw logs
into lumber, crush olives, tan
leather, make paper, mold iron
into tools, horseshoes, etc.
II. Urban Revival
A. Trading Cities
• Cities grew due to the increase in trade and manufacturing.
• The rise of Venice was the result of the capture of Constantinople,
the opening of the Central Asian caravan trade under the Mongol
Empire, and the post Mongol development of the Mediterranean
galley trade with Constantinople, Beirut, and Alexandria.
• This increase in sea trade also brought profits to Genoa and to the
cities of the Hanseatic League in the Baltic and the North Sea.
• Flanders prospered from its woolen textile industries, while the towns
of Champagne benefited from their position on the major land route
through France.
• Trade industries also began to develop in England and Florence and
the use of windmills and water wheels helped develop the textile,
paper, and other industries
Routes and systems of trade in
medieval Europe.
Illustrates the major overland
and port trading cities.
Venice was the major trading
power in the Mediterranean.
It was the first European city to
open up trading
relationships with the Islamic
Flanders specialized in the
European cloth and
wool trade which was smoother
than the coarse
homemade textiles from village
B. Civic Life
• European cities that were city-states were better able to respond to the
changing market conditions than Chinese or Islamic cities and European
cities offered their citizens more freedom and social mobility.
• Europe's Jews lived in the cities and they were the subject of persecution
and they were blamed for disasters like the Black Death and were expelled
from Spain due to the Inquisition.
• Guilds regulated the practice of and access to trades, but women were
rarely allowed to join.
• The growth of commerce gave rise to bankers like the Medicis of
Florence and the Fuggers of Augsburg who handled financial
transactions for merchants, the church, and the kings and princes of
• Many bankers were Jews because the Church prohibited usury.
Cosimo the Elder was the head
of the Medici family
in Florence. They were largest
banking family in Italy
and were important patrons of
the arts.
Jacob “the Rich” Fugger started
out as a cloth merchant but
turned his family’s wealth into
the largest banking family in
C. Gothic Cathedrals
• Gothic Cathedrals are the masterpieces of late medieval architecture
and craftsmanship.
• Features include the pointed Gothic arch, flying buttresses, high
towers and spires, and large interiors lit by huge windows.
• The men who designed and built the Gothic cathedrals had no
formal training in design and engineering; they learned through their
The hallmark of Gothic
architecture is the Gothic arch
which replaced the older round
Roman arch.
III. Learning, Literature, and the Renaissance
A. Universities and Scholarship
• After 1100, Western Europeans got access to Greek and Arabic works on
science, philosophy, and medicine.
• These manuscripts were translated and explicated by Jewish scholars and
studied at Christian monasteries, which remained the primary centers of
• After 1200 colleges and universities emerged as new centers of learning.
• Universities generally specialized in a particular branch of learning.
• Theology was the most prominent discipline at the time because
theologians sought to synthesize the rational philosophy of the time with
the Christian faith of the Latin West in an intellectual movement known
as scholasticism
University of Bologna (1088) is
the oldest continually
operating university in the world.
The word “universitas”
was first used by this institution. It
is historically notable
for its teaching of canon and civil
A medieval Italian classroom.
B. Humanists and Printers
Humanists refers to their interests in grammar, rhetoric, poetry, history, and
moral philosophy (ethics). These subjects are collectively known as the
Humanists wrote in the vernacular and Latin and worked to restore the
original texts and Bible through exhaustive comparative analysis of the
many various versions that had been produced over the centuries.
Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy
was the first to combine
Christian and Greco-Roman
themes together, which
foreshadowed the literary
fashions of the later Italian
Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury
Tales is a rich portrayal
of the actions and attitudes of
everyday people
in late medieval England.
Johannes Gutenberg invented
mechanical movable type printing and
started the printing revolution that
played a key role in the development of
the Renaissance. It laid the material
basis for the modern knowledge-based
economy and the spread of learning to
the masses.
C. Renaissance Artists
• Style of art built on the more natural paintings which concentrated
on the depiction of Greek and Roman gods and of scenes from daily
• Jan van Eyck developed oil paints.
• Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were two of the famous artists.
• Wealthy merchant and clerical patrons liked the Medici's of Florence
and the church contributed to the development of Renaissance art.
Jan van Eyck was the first
painter to use oil to create very
life-like scenes.
The Mona Lisa.
Michalangelo’s Sistine Chapel
ceiling is considered his crowing
achievement completed in 1512
IV. Political and Military Transformations
A. Monarchs, Nobles, and the Church
• 13th century European states were ruled by weak monarchs whose
power was limited.
• The armor piercing crossbow and firearms led to the demise of
• Philip the Fair of France reduced the power of the church when he
arrested the pope and had a new French one installed in Avignon.
• The Magna Carta limited the power of the English King.
• Monarchs and nobles often entered into marriage alliances and these
led to wars and the establishment of territorial boundaries
With an iron tipped arrow, the
crossbow could pierce armor.
In 1139 it was outlawed because
it was considered too deadly to
be used against Christians.
Magna Carta (Great Charter)
affirmed that monarchs were
subject to established law. It is
one of the foundations of
modern-day democracy.
Depiction of King John signing
the Magna Carta under duress.
B. The Hundred Years War
• Pitted England against France when Edward III claimed the French
throne in 1337.
• War was fought with new military technology. (pikes, cannon,
crossbows, longbows, and firearms)
• The French superior cannon destroyed the castles of the English and
their allies and left the French monarchy in a stronger position than
King Henry V at the battle of
Agincourt. The longbow allowed
the outnumbered English to
crush the French knights.
Joan of Arc, the heroine of
France, rallied the French to
defeat the English to end the
Hundred Years War in 1429.
Burned at the stake in 1431 for
being a “witch”.
C. Iberian Unification
• The reconquest of Spain by Christians over Muslims took several
• Portugal was established in 1249, but by 1415 they had captured the
Moroccan port of Ceuta, which gave them access to the transSaharan trade.
• Castile and Aragon were united in 1469 and by 1492 they drove the
Muslims out of their last Iberian stronghold (Granada).
• Spain and Portugal then expelled all Jews and Muslims from their
Reconquest of the Iberian
peninsula from the Moors.
King Ferdinand and Queen
Isabella completed the conquest
of Spain in 1492. They also
sponsored the voyages of
Muslim palace in Granada which
was the last Muslim stronghold
to fall into Spanish hands during
the reconquest.