Late Middle Ages

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Around 1300–1350 the Medieval Warm Period gave way to the Little Ice Age. The colder climate resulted in agricultural crises, the first of which is known as the Great Famine of 1315-1317.The demographic consequences of this famine, however, were not as severe as those of the plagues of the later century, the Black Death. Estimates of the death rate caused from one third to as much as sixty percent. By around 1420, the accumulated effect of recurring plagues and famines had reduced the population of Europe to perhaps no more than a third of what it was a century earlier. The effects of natural disasters were exacerbated by armed conflicts; this was particularly the case in France during the Hundred Years' War. As the European population was severely reduced, land became more plentiful for the survivors, and labor consequently more expensive. Landowners attempt to forcibly reduce wages, these efforts resulted in nothing more than fostering resentment among the peasantry, leading to rebellions such as the French Jacqueline in 1358 and the English Peasants' Revolt in 1381. The long-term effect was the virtual end of serfdom in Western Europe. In Eastern Europe, on the other hand, landowners were able to exploit the situation to force the peasantry into even more repressive bondage. While the Jews were suffering persecution, one group that probably experienced increased empowerment in the Late Middle Ages was women. The great social changes of the period opened up new possibilities for women in the fields of commerce, learning and religion. Yet at the same time, women were also vulnerable to incrimination and persecution, as belief in witchcraft increased.

Military developments

Through the Welsh Wars the English became acquainted with, and adopted the highly efficient longbow. Once properly managed, this weapon gave them a great advantage over the French in the Hundred Years' War. The introduction of gunpowder affected the conduct of war significantly....
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