Chapter 12: The Crisis of the Later Middle Ages
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I. Prelude to disaster
A. Poor harvests led to famines in the years 1315-1322.
1. Fewer calories meant increased susceptibility to disease and less energy for growing
B. Diseases killed many people and animals.
C. Economies slowed down and population growth came to a halt.
D. Weak governments were unable to deal with these problems.
1. Starving people turned against rich people and Jews.
2. English kings tried to regulate the food supply, but failed.
II. The Black Death
A. Genoese ships brought the bubonic plague--the Black Death--to Europe in 1347.
1. The bacillus lived in fleas that infested black rats.
2. Some claim that it came from the east by way of the Crimea.
B. Pathology and care
1. The bubonic form of the disease was transmitted by rats; the pneumonic form was
transmitted by people.
a. Unsanitary and overcrowded cities were ideal breeding grounds for the black
2. Most people had no rational explanation for the disease, and out of ignorance and fear
3. The disease, which killed millions, recurred often and as late as 1700.
many blamed it on Jews, causing thousands of Jews to be murdered.
a. It spread to central Europe and eastward--although its toll was less in Poland.
b. In Hungary, type-D blood people may have been immune.
c. Its last occurrence was in France in 1721.
d. A vaccine was not developed until 1947.
C. The social and cultural consequences of the Black Death
1. Priests, monks, and nuns cared for the sick, and as the clergy were killed off even women
performed the services of priests.
2. In the towns the plague meant population decline, labor shortage, and high inflation.
Wages increased and labor productivity increased as did per-capita wealth.
3. The demand for slaves increased.
4. The psychological consequences of the plague were enormous: pessimism, gross
sensuality, religious fervor, and flagellantism.
a. Society became divided and full of fear.
b. Artists and writers became obsessed with death.
III. The Hundred Years' War (ca. 1337-1453)
A. The causes of the war
1. Edward III of England, the grandson of the French king Philip the Fair, claimed the French
crown by seizing the duchy of Aquitaine in 1337.
2. French barons backed Edward's claim as a way to thwart the centralizing goals of their
3. Flemish wool merchants supported the English claim to the crown.
4. Both the French and the English saw military adventure as an excuse to avoid domestic
B. The popular response to the war
1. Royal propaganda for war and plunder was strong on both sides.
2. The war meant opportunity for economic or social mobility for poor knights, criminals, and
C. The decline of medieval chivalry
1. Chivalry, a code of conduct for the knightly class, enjoyed its final days of glory during the
2. Chivalry and feudal society glorified war.
D. The course of the war to 1419
1. The battles took place in France and the Low Countries.
2. At the Battle of Crécy (1346), the English disregarded the chivalric code and used new
military tactics: the longbow and the cannon.
3. The English won major battles at Poitiers (1356) and Agincourt (1415) and had advanced
to Paris by 1419.
E. Joan of Arc and France's victory
1. Joan of Arc participated in the lifting of the English siege of Orléans in 1429.
2. She was turned over to the English and burned as a heretic in 1431.
F. Costs and consequences
1. The war meant economic and population decline for both France and England.
2. Taxes on wool to finance the war...
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