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Chapter 14

The Latin West (1200 - 1500)

Irsia Khan
1 Ch 14
Rural Growth and Crisis
Peasants and Population - During the 1200s, most of the European
population consisted of poor peasants, living on wealthy lords
manors. The contrast in wealth between the serfs and the
nobles was dramatic; the a serf and his family lived in a small one
room hut, while the nobles lived in huge manor houses, surrounded
by anywhere from 15 to 30 serf families to meet their needs. The lord
would tax them heavily, taking half of the crops each family grew.
Serfs also sometimes lived and worked on Church land, however they
were no better off than any of the other serfs.
-Daily serf life centered on the large amount of work they would be
doing everyday. Women worked alongside men in the elds; however
they were socially subordinate to males and the men made all of the
household decisions.
-As the population of Europe grew between 1000 and 1445, more and
2 Ch 14
more farmers began to use the three-eld system (They would
cultivate 2/3 of their land, and grow oats on the last 1/3 to feed to
their pack animals. The oats replenished the nitrogen in the soil, and
the farmers would shift the oat area around each year) However,
since the peasants lived in extreme poverty and
most of their day was taken up by work, new agricultural
technologies in Europe were scarce.
-At one point the population grew so large that swamps were drained
and areas with poor soil were used for the cultivation of crops. This
led to an overall decline in crop output and quality.
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The Black Death and Social
4 Ch 14
The Black Plague helped to end Europes overpopulation
crisis by practically eliminating 2/3 of the population.
The plague killed of many people and destroyed cities,
where city ofcials tried to avoid contracting the plague
by quarantining the city and burning the bodies and
possessions of those who had been affected. During the
two-year period in which the plague wreaked havoc,
many people became more religious, paying the church
and whipping themselves in order to remain spiritually
pure, and hopefully plague-free.
After the brunt of the plague had
disappeared, the demand for skilled
labor was high; however the supply was
low due to the disease. The remaining
laborers demanded better wages as a
result. When the government tried to
stop this, mass revolts broke out and the
peasants killed many of the surviving
upper class.
Eventually the nobles complied and this lead to an overall rise in the quality of life for peasants. Serfdom became very scarce in Western Europe and as a
result, the gap between rural and urban decreased in size.
Mines and Mills
5 Ch 14
During the period of 1100-1500, England
had its own small industrial revolution.
People began to create and embrace new
technologies such as the water wheel.
Most lords began creating them on their
land by the river and using it to grind
grain and our, crush olives, saw wood,
make paper and other monumental but
useful tasks.
The lords could then charge the people
on his land for using the mill too, making
the expensive wheel worth it. People
also used windmills in areas where the
water would freeze, making a water
wheel impractical. Usually, a group of
people would all invest in creating a
water wheel because of its great
However since it was free to run these mills, they became very protable very
-England also started to use the power of water to further advance their iron making capabilities. Now that
blacksmiths could mold iron and create
high-quality iron, the demand for iron
spiked dramatically.
Therefore new mines opened up
and the mining industry increased.
-In 1388, the rst anti-pollution law was
introduced, because of people and shops
duping waste into the river where it
contaminated the drinking water.
Urban Revival
6 Ch 14
Trading Cites
-After the 1200s, there was a dramatic
growth in cites due to the increase in
trade and manufacturing. People began
to re-establish long-distance trading
routes and the Mongols control over
Asia helped to facilitate that process.
There was an especially high demand for
Chinese luxury items
-This high demand for Chinese goods
helped to increase Europes trade
output, as it needed materials to trade
with. After the fall of the Mongols,
trading with China became harder,
sparking exploration expeditions.
-Areas in Italy like Venice proted
greatly from all of this long-distance
trade, as they had direct access to the
Mediterranean maritime trading
-The Europeans also furthered their
textile industries, using wind and water mills to produce large quantities of wool for clothes. This led to even more
specialization of labor as local
businesses stated to focus on how to
meet the growing consumer demand.
Civic Life
7 Ch 14
-Most people who lived in the urban cities
enjoyed more freedom and social
mobility than those who lived in rural
areas. This caused many people to ock to
cities where they might be free after living
there for a year. This also helped the cities
because it brought new diverse peoples and
cultures, along with their specialization of
-During this period Jews faced heavy and
harsh persecution from other religious
groups. Many people blamed the Jews for the
plague and they were expelled and shunned
in once welcome areas such as Spain. -This
time period also brought the creation of
guilds. Guilds were created to help shorten
the apprenticeship time and to help regulate
certain areas of labor. It helped to regulate
trade and how it was practiced.
Women were still social unequal to men during this time, and were not allowed
to join guilds. They were allowed to
work in unskilled areas of work such as in the food and textile industry, though they received lower wages than men.
Some women tried to improve their
social status through marriage.
-The sudden growth in commerce also led to the
growth of banking institutions. The banks
specialized in everything from investments to
loans and even checking accounts! Some of the
wealthier banks even wrote news about the
economy and what was affecting it, much like the
Wall Street Journal today. These banks did
business with all people, from the lowest
merchants to kings and queens needing loans for
war campaigns.
The banking industry was m
ostly controlled by the Jewish since the
Christian Church did not allow usury, or interest. Som
e Christian
bankers got around that however, by asking for gifts in return for their
services. -M
ost people living in cities however, were still very poor
and lived in lthy and poverty- stricken areas.
Gothic Cathedrals
-The style of gothic cathedrals was extremely
popular during this period of Europe. They were
characterized by their pointing steeples, ying
buttresses, and their enormous stained glass
windows. Most of the cities would try to out do
each other, building more and more magnicent
and giant cathedrals. Yet the builders and
engineers had little formal training or knowledge
like our civil engineers have today. They learned
purely though trial and error, and that error
Learning, Literature, and the
8 Ch 14
University and Learning
-After 1100, Jewish scholars began to translate
manuscripts written by the Greeks and Arabs concerning
ideas of science, philosophy, and medicine. These writings
were then studied at Christian monasteries, the schools of
that time.
-After the 1200s, universities and colleges began emerging
over the Churches and monasteries as learning centers.
They were created mostly by guilds in order to educate their
students. Most of the colleges and universities focused on
one subject or specialization, such as medicine or theology.
Humanists and Printers
-During the Renaissance, great writers
emerged and offered a cross-section of
renaissance life and outlook. Geoffrey
Chaucers Canterbury Tales offered a
look at the different occupations and
mindsets of the Renaissance man/
women, in a funny and humorous way.
Many authors of the time wrote in
vernacular and Latin, regardless of their
spoken language so that they could
reach a larger audience.
-The humanists of that time focused on social reform and the texts and writings from Classical Greece and Rome. They helped to inuence the reform of
Renaissance society. They were helped by John Gutenberg, who perfected the
printing press and helped to publish all of these works.
Renaissance Artists
-Many Renaissance artists were inuenced by earlier artists, painting in a more
natural style, rather than in the staring blank look style of the Byzantium.
Many artists also started to paint more earthy and rich scenes, rather than
laying it on a gold leaf background. New art technologies came into existence as
well, such as the artists mixing their pigments with oil rather than with egg
yolk, giving it a better nish and making it more versatile. -Wealthy families also
helped this process by paying enormous amounts of money to fund the artists.
Political and Military
9 Ch 14
Monarch, Nobles, and the Clergy
-The Renaissance social classes and structure were still
very much like the medieval times. Monarchs who
inherited power from the family (hereditary) were at the
top of the social and political hierarchy. Next came the
powerful nobles and vassals. However unlike in medieval
times when the vassals were required to give military
service to their lord, the renaissance vassals tried every
way to take away power from the Monarch and give it to
-The knights were still the predominant force of Europes army, but the advent
of two new weapons helped to weaken their social standing in society. The
rearm and the piercing crossbow were two powerful new weapons that upset
the noble knights high standing, and lowered their status. This also meant
that Europes knights lost some of their wealth. -The church and nobles
undermined the monarchy of the royal family. When Pope Boniface VIII tried
to resist their power though, the reigning monarch, King Philip went as far as
to arrest the pope!
The monarchy was also limited in power
by the wealthy vassals who held enough money to stop the kings from
having complete control. Also, when the king tried to raise taxes, it led to a
revolt of the nobles, and the Magna Carta was signed, further limiting the
kings power. -In order to try to gain more control over the nobles, kings
would marry off sons and daughters to powerful vassals, in an attempt to
control that family. However it was not always successful because the
marriages didnt always work out.
-The Great Schism between the Roman and Latin Church also happened
during this time period, weakening the Churches power.
The Hundred Years War
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-The Hundred Years War consisted of the
English King Edward III ghting for the
French throne. The war was almost like
a showcase of new military technologies,
like the piercing crossbow, the rearm,
the cannon, and the pike. The French
won the war in 1453, after rallying
around Joan of Arc and using their
cannons to
demolish the English walls and castles.
Both countries came away learning
something from one another, however
the French were now in the lead over the
These arm
ies now relied
on professional soldiers using the new
ilitary technology, instead of relying
on the Knights. This m
ade the Knight
class drop way down in status, and it
eventually becam
e obsolete.
-Because the new central governm
had m
ore control over their nobles and
the church, they raised taxes and taxed
ore item
New Monarchies in France and
-The Hundred Years war helped both
France and England centralize their
governments and gain control over the
nobles. The war also motivated them to
create stronger boundaries and build up
better armies.
This helped them build up
their armies and create a better state.
However, the nobles still held some
power in the political institutions like