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HIST302: Medieval Europe

Unit 7: The Late Middle Ages   *While historians usually characterize the High Middle Ages as a period of prosperity and social advancement, the Late Middle Ages, by contrast, was a marked by pandemic disease, famine, death, and recurrent warfare.  The Great Famine of 1315-1317 wreaked havoc over Europe but the arrival of the Black Death unleashed unparalleled devastation.  Perhaps as much as half the European population succumbed to the pandemic by 1420.  While the disease was originally thought to be a bacterium transmitted by fleas and rats from Asia, new research suggests that “The Great Plague” might instead have been a viral hemorrhagic fever.  The late medieval period was also witness to problems within the Catholic Church.  During the Great Schism, from 1378 to 1417, two men—one in Rome and one in Avignon, France—simultaneously claimed to be the true Pope.  The schism divided Europe and undermined the authority of the papacy.   And the Hundred Years’ War broke out when France attempted to confiscate English lands in the duchy of Aquitaine; the conflict dragged on for 116 years, ending only when France finally expelled England from the continent.

In this unit, we will consider the death and dislocation unleashed during the late medieval period.  We will also study how political, social and religious turmoil caused massive changes in medieval society.*

Unit 7 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 14 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 7.1: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 7.2: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 7.3: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 7.4: 3.5 hours

Unit7 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Identify and describe the causes of the Great Plague that spread throughout the European continent over the late middle ages; explain and assess some of the arguments developed by historians to indicate the long-term economic and political effects of this calamity.
  • Explain and assess the reasons given by historians for the turmoil within the Catholic Church and the causes of the “Great Schism” of the fourteenth century.
  • Identify and describe the causes of the Hundred Years’ War and some of the major events that affected the outcome of the conflict.

7.1 The Black Death   7.1.1 Origins   - Reading: The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies: Lynn Nelson’s Lectures for a Medieval Survey: “The Great Famine and the Black Death” and Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Johannes of Trowkelowe’s “On the Famine of 1315” Link: The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies: Lynn Nelson’s Lectures for a Medieval Survey: “The Great Famine and the Black Death” (HTML) and Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Johannes of Trowkelowe’s “On the Famine of 1315” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Lynn Nelson’s “The Great Famine and the Black Death” and Johannes of Trowkelowe’s “On the Famine of 1315” for an overview of the period leading up to the Black Death of 1348-1350 and of its course.
 
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7.1.2 The Disease Cycle   - Reading: The Centers for Disease Control: “Information on Plague” Link: The Centers for Disease Control: “Information on Plague” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the Centers for Disease Control’s “Information on Plague” for an understanding of the disease itself.
 
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7.1.3 Pandemic   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Giovanni Boccaccio’s “The Decameron” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Giovanni Boccaccio’s “The Decameron” (HTML)
 
Also available in:
ePub format on Google Books 
PDF
 
Instructions: Read Giovanni Boccaccio’s “The Decameron” to learn how the initial wave of plague affected people in southern Europe.
 
A merchant ship returning to Italy from the Crimea in 1347 carried a deadly disease that would devastate Europe—the Black Death.  The plague reduced the European population by one-third to one-half by 1400.  In this text, Boccaccio describes the social and psychological effects of the plague in Florence.
 
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7.1.4 Economic and Cultural Effects   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Jean Froissart’s “On the Jacquerie” and Niccolo Machiavelli’s “History of Florence: The Ciompi Revolt” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Jean Froissart’s “On the Jacquerie” (HTML) and Niccolo Machiavelli’s “History of Florence: The Ciompi Revolt” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Jean Froissart’s “On the Jacquerie” and Niccolo Machiavelli’s “History of Florence: The Ciompi Revolt” to learn about popular responses to post-plague pressures.
 
After the plague, many governments tried to force peasants and urban workers to accept pre-plague wages and working conditions.  The Jacquerie in France and the Ciompi Revolt in Italy were workers’ responses to these governmental actions.
 
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7.2 The Weakening of the Church   7.2.1 Rising Power of European States   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of William of Hundlehy’s “The Outrage at Anagni” (HTML) Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of William of Hundlehy’s “The Outrage at Anagni” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read William of Hundlehy’s “The Outrage at Anagni” to learn about the decline in papal power and the rise in royal power at the end of the thirteenth century.
 
Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303) tried to control kings and emperors as his predecessor Innocent III (1198-1216) had, but the situation had changed a great deal over the course of the thirteenth century.  When Boniface tried to punish Philip IV of France for taxing the clergy, Philip simply put the pope on trial and convicted him of blasphemy and sorcery, among other trumped-up charges.
 
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7.2.2 The Avignon Papacy   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Petrarch’s “Letter Criticizing the Avignon Papacy” and The ORB: Online References Book for Medieval Studies: Lynn Nelson’s Lectures for a Medieval Survey: “The Avignon Papacy” Links: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Petrarch’s “Letter Criticizing the Avignon Papacy” (HTML) and The ORB: Online References Book for Medieval Studies: Lynn Nelson’s Lectures for a Medieval Survey: “The Avignon Papacy” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Lynn Nelson’s “The Avignon Papacy” and Petrarch’s letter for an overview of the Avignon Papacy and the problems that it posed for Europe.
 
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7.2.3 The Great Schism and Conciliarism   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of “Manifesto of the Revolting Cardinals” and The ORB: Online References Book for Medieval Studies: Lynn Nelson’s Lectures for a Medieval Survey: “The Great Schism” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of “Manifesto of the Revolting Cardinals” (HTML) and The ORB: Online References Book for Medieval Studies: Lynn Nelson’s Lectures for a Medieval Survey: “The Great Schism” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the “Manifesto of the Revolting Cardinals” and Lynn Nelson’s “The Great Schism” for an overview of the papal schism.
 
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7.2.4 Popular Religion   - Lecture: YouTube: Stanford University: Caroline Walker Bynum’s “Christian Materiality: Miracles in the Later Middle Ages” Link: YouTube: Stanford University: Caroline Walker Bynum’s “Christian Materiality: Miracles in the Later Middle Ages” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: View Caroline Walker Bynum's “Christian Materiality: Miracles in the Later Middle Ages” to learn about late medieval religiosity (about 1 hour and 11 minutes).
 
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7.3 War and Peace   7.3.1 Hundred Years’ War   - Reading: The ORB: Online References Book for Medieval Studies: Lynn Nelson’s Lectures for a Medieval Survey: “The Hundred Years’ War” Link: The ORB: Online References Book for Medieval Studies: Lynn Nelson’s Lectures for a Medieval Survey: “The Hundred Years’ War” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Lynn Nelson's “The Hundred Years’ War” for an overview of the dynastic conflict between France and England.
 
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7.3.2 Holy Roman Empire   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Charles IV’s “Golden Bull” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Charles IV’s “Golden Bull” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Charles IV’s “Golden Bull” to learn about the methods of electing a Holy Roman Emperor in the late medieval period.
 
During the Middle Ages, the Holy Roman Emperor was chosen by a panel of electors.  The number of electors was finally set at seven in the thirteenth century.  After the disastrous Italian wars of the emperor Frederic II and the interregnum that followed, Charles IV issued these laws concerning the election of emperors.
 
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7.3.3 Impact of Widespread Conflict   - Reading: The ORB: Online References Book for Medieval Studies: Lynn Nelson’s Lectures for a Medieval Survey: "The National Monarchies" Link: The ORB: Online References Book for Medieval Studies: Lynn Nelson’s Lectures for a Medieval Survey: "The National Monarchies" (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Lynn Nelson's "The National Monarchies" to learn about the outcomes of the dynastic conflicts of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
 
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7.3.4 The Rise of the Ottoman Empire   - Reading: Sam Houston State University: Professor Nicholas J. Pappas’s version of Paul Pittman’s Turkey: A Country Survey: “Rise of the Turks and the Ottoman Empire” Link: Sam Houston State University: Professor Nicholas J. Pappas’s version of Paul Pittman’s Turkey: A Country Survey: “Rise of the Turks and the Ottoman Empire” (HTML)
 
Instructions: The Ottoman Empire not only extinguished the last remnants of the Byzantine Empire but dominated the eastern Mediterranean and began long series of conquests in southeastern Europe.  Read the selection linked above to learn more about the origins of Ottoman power.
 
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7.3.5 The Defeat of Teutonic Order   - Reading: University of Alaska: John Radzilowski’s “The Grunwald Campaign” Link: University of Alaska: John Radzilowski’s “The Grunwald Campaign” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the selection to understand the circumstances behind the defeat of Europe’s most powerful military crusading order.
 
Terms of Use: This material has been reposted with the kind persmission of John Radzilowski.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.