The Late Middle Ages and the Plagues of Europe, 1300-1450

The Crises of the 14th Century
Age of sorrow and temptation, of tears, jealousy and torment,
Time of exhaustion and damnation, declining to extinction,
Era filled with horror and deception, lying, pride and envy,
Time without honor and meaning, full of life-shortening
- Eustache Deschamps
Legacy of the Crusades
1. “Re-acquaintance” with Western past
2. Exposure to Eastern goods
3. Accentuated political and religious rivalries
4. Decline of the Byzantine Empire
5. “Jihad”
1096 – ca. 1272
Hey, lil’ fella
Xenopsylla cheopis
I. The Black Death 1347-1353
- bubonic, pneumonic, septicemic
A. Disaster in the making
1. Nearly all arable land taken
2. “Little” Ice Age
ca. 1300 – 1700+
B. Legacy of the plague
6, 14, 18th centuries
(1/4 - 1/3 of Europe in 1300s - 34M)
2. The Great Leveler
Hans Holbein The Dance of Death
the King
the Queen
the Pope
2. Europe subject to invasion
Mongols - 1400s
Ottoman Turks - 1500 & 1600s
3. Plagues of insurrection
- weakening of social bonds
- persecution
- peasant revolt
Jacquerie 1358
Wat Tyler’s Revolt 1381
Crises of moral authority paves the way for
Renaissance, Reformation.
The Triumph of Death 1562
- Bruegel
II. 100 Years War 1337-1450
A. Causes
1. Angevin Empire
- Henry & Eleanor 1152
Vassalage v. Nation-state
2. Edward III
3. Manufacturing
- Flemish wool trade
B. Conduct of the War
1. English occupation
- soldiers fend for themselves
End of Chivalry
C. Assault on authority
1. Yeomen archers
- Crécy 1346 / Agincourt 1415
2. Battle of Formingy
- gunpowder
Men in armor losing significance
3. Joan of Arc
- Battle of Orleans 1429
III. Division in Christendom
Religious controversy and challenges for
the Church
1. Urban social orders
- merchants, craftsmen
- “class,” not hereditary obligations
2. Alternative to feudal orders
- tweaking of theology
A. Limits of reason
B. Avignon Papacy
1. Clement V & Philip IV
- suppression of Knights Templar
- moved papacy to Avignon
“Whore of Babylon”
2. Gregory XI
- Rome, most of Europe wants Italian Pope
- Charles (V) Valois
3. Great (Western) Schism
1378- 1417
- Popes a’plenty
- Council of Constance 1414-17
antiPope John XXIII
C. Legacy of division
1. Worsened by contemporary problems
- papacy in the eyes of both clergy and lay people
2. Opened door for theological and literary
challenges to Church hegemony
IV. Cultural change in crisis
A. Theological challenges
1. John Wycliffe
- quality of sacrament
- Church authority
2. Jan Hus
- religion and nationalism
- language
3. Increased threat of Heresy
- Waldensians
no authority but the Bible
- Albigensians
extreme ascetism
“Heretics” often preached austerity not found in Church,
popular w/ peasants
The Inquisition
“what a show”
4. William of Ockham
- Argued against Aristotelian theory
- must argue from specific to general
Ockham’s razor
scientific method
B. Vernacular literature
1. Reliance on Latin declines
- expression of cultural, national, religious independence
(Gutenberg press)
2. Dante Alighieri The Divine Comedy
allegory – historical figures, contemporary critique
Redemption of Man – in Italian!
“Abandon hope, all ye who enter here”
3. Geoffrey Chaucer The Canterbury Tales
- middle English
- ribald, low brow comedy, social satire
Wife of Bath
4. Christine de Pizan City of Ladies
a. status of aristocratic women
b. all levels of patriarchy
Giovanni Boccaccio
Juan Ruiz
The Decameron
The Book of Good Love
- “Mr. Melon of the Vegetable Garden”
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