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Chronicling the 14th Century in England and France Essay

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Updated: May 9th, 2021

What a year it was, the Bubonic Plague led to the death of over 200 million people in Eurasia, which was close to 50 percent of the European population at the time (Benedictow 43). In some countries, like Italy and Spain, where the plague lasted for over four years, 80 percent of the population was lost. Our lives changed drastically, and even for those of us who survived the plague, we had to deal with health problems related to the disease.

Society’s way of life was affected because all the normal daily activities were interrupted as the plague continued to spread across Europe. People went to the extremes of self-flagellation due to the belief that the plague was a punishment from God (Benedictow 112). Therefore, to cleanse ourselves and gain forgiveness, we would whip our backs. Other individuals believed that aromatherapy could prevent one from contracting the disease, and thus they would carry flowers wherever they went.

I witnessed as European culture changed significantly due to the plague. Feudalism started to decline as society transitioned from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Dark humor dominated literature and art as a way of dealing with the deaths and devastation that were taking place at the time (Benedictow 125). Additionally, due to the link between the plague and religion, people became spiritual as a way of seeking answers from supernatural powers.

However, the Catholic Church lost its credibility because it could not save its followers from the plague. In the post-plague era, the European population reduced significantly, and societal structures were changed. The Hundred Years’ War was halted, and we were excited by the establishment of colleges to train new academicians to replace the dead ones. In medicine, the focus shifted to anatomical investigations, and the role of surgeons became evident in the efforts to understand the causes of the plague and its effect on the human body.

I was part of the diminished labor force with the reduction of the European population. People migrated from villages to urban centers, and thus there were few workers in the agricultural sector. In the urban centers, labor was in shortage, and thus wages increased significantly (Thackeray and Findling 88). Governments started to control wages and the movement of workers from one region to another.

For instance, in England, employers could have employees imprisoned if they tried to leave their positions at work. Ultimately, serfdom declined, especially in Western Europe, and land laws changed. In the long term, feudalism was fading before our eyes as monarchies and other forms of governance took over. In religion, the Catholic Church lost its authority and influence. Therefore, different religions emerged as people endeavored to find answers to the plague. In medicine, the plague forced doctors to engage in life-long learning in the study of different diseases, outbreaks, prevalence, and other related aspects.

I heard of the Battle of Sluys on June 22, 1340, when Edward III of England invaded France at the port of Sluis. The French fleet formed a defensive wall, but the English side pretended to retreat. In the evening, when the wind was against the French fleet, Edward III and his troops attacked and subdued the adversary. In the Battle of Bauge on March 22, 1421, Thomas of Lancaster attacked the Franco-Scottish army, but he lost (King 758).

With only 1500 soldiers and few archers, he could not stand the force of the enemy, and thus he died in the battle together with his troops. When the news reached us, we could not believe how Thomas of Lancaster could confront the French troops with only a fleet of 1500 men. In the Battle of Sluys, technology was evolving, and it was used in the construction of ships, royal galleys, merchant boats, and crossbows.

By 1421 when the Battle of Bauge took place, longbows had been invented, and thus archers played a significant role in the confrontation (Lewis 48). Additionally, technology-assisted in the making of faster moving ships and boats as compared to the previous battles. England was advantaged because it had a stable army. In addition, it invented the longbow, which was superior to crossbows used by the French.

We discussed the way the Hundred Years’ War shaped different aspects of warfare, including diplomacy, the organization of forces, logistics, strategy, tactics, and campaigns. However, the necessity of the war led to the discovery of gunpowder. Even though the innovation process was slow, gunpowder revolutionized warfare, and enemies would be subdued faster while the number of casualties increased. For instance, during the Battle of Castillon, which is considered the last confrontation of the war, the French used guns to overpower English archers (Lewis 53). Additionally, military training centers were established in France and England, and these tactics continued to define warfare beyond the war.

I could not believe how nobilities were destroyed and replaced in both England and France during the war. When a king was captured and killed in a battle, someone else would take his throne, thus changing governance.

For instance, after John II of France was captured in the Battle of Poitiers, his son, Charles V, King Charles II of Navarre, and Estates Generals devolved power, and each claimed a significant portion of the French dynasty at the time. On the other hand, peasants were forced to revolt against nobles due to different reasons, including taxation, among others. In France, the Jacquerie revolt broke out in 1358 after the capture of John II (James 95). In England, the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 emerged due to heavy taxation to fund the war against France (Strohm 198).

Works Cited

Benedictow, Ole. The Black Death 1346-1353: The Complete History. Boydell Press, 2006.

James, George. The Jacquerie. Nabu Press, 2010.

King, Andy. “The English Gentry and Military Service, 1300–1450.” History Compass, vol. 12, no. 10, 2014, pp. 759-769.

Lewis, Taylor. “The Evolution of Military Systems during the Hundred Years War.” McNair Scholars Journal, vol. 19, no. 1, 2015, pp. 46 -57.

Strohm, Paul. “A Peasants’ Revolt.” Misconceptions about the Middle Ages, edited by Harris Stephen and Bryon Grigsby, Routledge, 2008, pp. 197–203.

Thackeray, Frank, and John Findling. Events That Changed Great Britain, from 1066 to 1714. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004.

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