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Our modern society can be considered a result of a long evolution that started with the emergence of the first civilized communities. In the course of development, they faced multiple problems and challenges that shaped their mentalities, formed culture, and resulted in the appearance of particular ways of living. Every period of history left a unique heritage that contributed to critical changes in our ways of thinking and promoted different cultural phenomena. The ancient world gave rise to classic philosophy represented by such famous thinkers as Socrates, Aristotle, Plato; Roman Empire altered the whole civilized world by cultivating its culture and law (it is still used in the majority of European countries), while Eastern states fostered the growth of sciences. However, not only this period is characterized by significant shifts in mentalities. The Middle Ages should also be considered a critical stage in societys development. For this reason, the given paper is devoted to the comprehensive investigation of the Late Middle Ages as the era characterized by multiple meaningful events.
The Late Medieval period is the term used to determine the period from 1300 to 1500 AD in European history. There are several reasons for such periodization and the introduction of a separate term for these years. The fact is that the era of continuous growths and development peculiar to medieval Europe had ended by 1300 AD1. The people of this region faced a wave of plagues including the sadly remembered Black Death that significantly reduced population and preconditioned the emergence of irreversible changes in culture, industry, and economy2.
Devastation, hunger, and weakening of power resulted in a chain of peasant uprisings in England, France, and other developed regions3. Finally, the unity of the Catholic church was significantly damaged by the Western Schism that forced its split and emergence of serious religious debates about the nature of faith, rituals, and the role of the church in the life of people4. It can be taken as the birth of reformation movements as people recognized the need for the reconsideration of this institution and its ability to impact all spheres of activity. Additionally, corruption and abuse of power peculiar to the church of that period resulted in the desire to rethink its fundamentals, which was later called Reformation5. The combination of all these aspects is often called the Crisis of the Middle Ages6. It radically altered the image of Medieval Europe and gave rise to new tendencies.
Economy and Society
The economy of the Late Middle Ages can be characterized by significant shifts in its structure. For centuries Europe had remained an agricultural region that was critically dependant on crops and their sales7. The given model preserved topicality for years that followed the Black Death; however, there were also some fundamental changes in traditional approaches. The reduced number of peasants and other workers preconditioned the emergence of the need for new methods to perform old activities. At the same time, the price of labor increased and representatives of the lower social classes acquired the possibility to choose among offerings to select the best possible conditions; moreover, sometimes they were able to outline their demands to engage in some activities8. It resulted in the empowerment of these layers of society along with the development of their new rights. The economy remained mostly agricultural, however; the population started to use the power of wind and water to minimize efforts needed to produce some goods. The role of the market increased as it became the place where goods were exchanged to generate profit.
Impact of the Black Death
To a greater degree, these changes were preconditioned by the Black Death that became one of the most tragic events in the history of Medieval Europe. The given disease was fatal at that period, and people had no efficient treatment to protect themselves from it. The extreme virulence of the plague resulted in millions of deaths. By the research works devoted to the issue, about 60% of residents were killed9. Big cities were devastated and empty as the majority of citizens were dead10. The loss of population became a central factor that had been impacting the region for the following several decades. This event made people reconsider their attitudes to human life. Millions of deaths and suffering showed that humanistic values should become the basis for the new society. It became a potent stimulus for the emergence and rise of the Renaissance, which was the movement focused on the cultivation of new perspectives on individuals and their needs11.
Moreover, fewer peasant workers became able to demand higher pay for their work12. It also preconditioned the rise of the price for goods manufactured by these very workers13. At the same time, peasants demanded higher wages to survive in hard times, but their claims were disregarded; on the contrary, the government introduced wage freezes that sparked the growth of dissatisfaction and wave of revolts that overrun Europe14. It preconditioned new changes in the structure of society.
These peasant revolts became another factor that significantly shaped the society of that period and triggered significant social shifts. The great scope of the problem is evidenced by the fact that all authorities were affected. For instance, the King of England and the Mayor of London had to deal with the problem to find an appropriate solution and ensure that peasants will return to their work15. Additionally, revolts became the factor impacting the politics and economy of that period. The Hundred Years War was affected by rebels as Parliaments were not able to raise taxes to support war campaigns in France16. This fact evidences that peasants managed to attain success and minimize taxes, acquire better working conditions, and some additional rights that made their lives easier. Additionally, they preconditioned massive migration as workers moved to other regions to find better conditions for their living.
Finally, the constant warfare influenced medieval Europe and gave rise to numerous processes. First of all, it preconditioned the continuous growth of taxes needed to support armies and recruit new troops to continue the struggle17. It promoted the increase in the number of people who were not satisfied with the existing rules. Secondly, it triggered the militarization of society as for many people war became the main activity18. For this reason, peasants and other layers of society were able to struggle in multiple revolts. Finally, the constant warfare gave rise to particular industries needed to manufacture weapons and armors that were used in battles. In such a way, the Hundred Years War and other military events critically impacted the medieval society of that period o time and preconditioned the appearance of new tendencies in the society.
Altogether, the Late Middle Ages were a critical period in the history of Europe. The Black Death, peasant revolts, and constant warfare cultivated a new way of living and became a powerful stimulus for the development of society. These events gave rise to reformation movements and Renaissance as new ways to promote humanism and value human lives. In this regard, this period can be considered an important era in the worlds history that preconditioned the emergence of the coherent society.
Brown University. “Petrarch on the Plague.” 2018. Web.
Campbell, Bruce. The Great Transition: Climate, Disease and Society in the Late-Medieval World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016.
Fordham University. “Medieval Sourcebook: Anonimalle Chronicle: English Peasants’ Revolt 1381.” 2018. Web.
Fordham University. “Medieval Sourcebook: Jean Froissart: On The Hundred Years War (1337-1453).” 2018. Web.
- Bruce Campbell. The Great Transition: Climate, Disease, and Society in the Late-Medieval World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 25.
- Ibid., 48.
- Ibid., 48.
- Ibid., 54
- Ibid., 59
- Ibid., 55.
- Ibid., 87.
- Ibid., 95.
- Ibid., 111.
- “Petrarch on the Plague,” Brown University, Web.
- Bruce Campbell. The Great Transition: Climate, Disease, and Society in the Late-Medieval World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 131.
- Ibid., 121.
- Ibid., 123.
- Ibid., 124.
- “Medieval Sourcebook: Anonimalle Chronicle: English Peasants’ Revolt 1381,” Fordham University, Web.
- Bruce Campbell. The Great Transition: Climate, Disease, and Society in the Late-Medieval World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 125.
- Ibid., 189.
- “Medieval Sourcebook: Jean Froissart: On The Hundred Years War (1337-1453),” Fordham University, Web.