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Within a few years, deaths from the plague would reach nearly 5 million people. Along with the crisis of the Bubonic Plague, floods, famine and widespread unrest led to the fall of the Mongol Yuan dynasty in and the rise of the new Ming dynasty, which would last until To do so, it resurrected and strengthened the bureaucratic systems that had long been in place in China.

The Ming dynasty also, during the s, authorized a number of long-range ocean voyages under the command of Zheng He, a court eunuch. Burning the fleet, China turned inward during the Ming dynasty.

The Plague that began in China in would have global repercussions. The disease would spread across the trade routes of central Asia, reaching Europe in It was just one of the catastrophes that struck the Afro-Eurasian world between and As the thirteenth century drew to a close, Europe began to run into its Malthusian limits , i.

At the same time, the previously-warm climate began to cool, making conditions less suitable for agriculture. Famine returned to Europe. Between and , a set of extremely rainy, wet summers—accounts written at the time speak of castle walls being washed away in flood waters—caused crops to fail, resulting in massive famines and starvation.

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At the same time, livestock throughout western Europe died in droves from outbreaks of Rinderpest, Anthrax, and other diseases. Europe in CE. Author: Ian Mladjov. Source: Original Work. Used with permission.

Many peasants starved. Many more suffered from malnutrition. Contemporary accounts refer to hungry peasants resorting to cannibalism. Like all other crops, cash crops also failed, so that those who did survive were poorer.


Scarcely a generation had passed after the Great Famine when Europe was hit by a global pandemic: the Black Death. The Black Death was almost certainly an outbreak of Bubonic Plague, caused by the bacterium Yersina pestis. This disease has an extremely high mortality rate—certain varieties can have a mortality rate of over ninety-nine percent, and even the more survivable varieties usually kill the majority of the infected. The Plague acts in three ways: the variety called Bubonic Plague results in painful, swollen lumps around the armpits, crotch, and neck locations associated with the lymph nodes ; when they burst, a foul-smelling pus emerges.

The septicemic variety results in skin turning black and dying all over the body, and the pneumonic variety—almost always fatal—shows no visible symptoms, but affects the lungs, and can cause a victim to go from healthy to dead in the space of twenty-four hours.

As discussed earlier, the pandemic began in the Yuan Empire.

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Unfortunately for the rest of the world, the trade routes opened by the Mongols meant that not only could ideas and technology travel, but that disease could as well. Its impact was calamitous. After the first outbreak of the Plague, between and , less virulent outbreaks continued to strike Europe nearly every year until It did not return to its pre-Plague levels until the seventeenth and in some regions, the eighteenth century.

Casualty rates among clergy were as high as sixty percent, with some monastic houses having casualty rates as high as ninety-nine percent, as monks living in communal environments were more likely to spread disease.

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Victims of the Black Death Note that above, we can see St. He was known for having been executed by arrows during the reign of Diocletian, and so Christian art usually pictured him as being covered in arrows. Author: Jose Lieferinxe. Source: The Walters Art Museum. License: CC0. In the aftermath of the Plague, however, living conditions for those peasants who survived improved in many ways.

Because there were fewer people, those who survived had access to more lands and resources.

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As a result, peasant wages rose and serfdom in Western Europe gradually vanished. Although in some kingdoms, monarchs and their assemblies attempted to create legislation to reinforce the social status of the peasantry, these e orts were often unsuccessful. Famine and disease were not the only disasters to strike late medieval Europe. The fourteenth century also saw an increase in both civil wars and wars between states. The Holy Roman Empire saw nearly a decade of civil war — between rival emperors and, because of the close relations of their kings, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway experienced frequent combinations of civil and interstate war until the Union of Kalmar brought the three together under one crown.

In , the French king Charles IV died without a direct heir. The resulting war would last over a century, although it was broken by frequent, lengthy truces. Although France had many more people than England, the kingdom of England was often able to defeat it.

The main reason was that the English kings made increasing use of trained, disciplined infantry armies. Horses are effective in battle against raiders or other horsemen.


A horse, however, is less effective when an infantry formation is able to present a solid front against the horses and use missile weapons on those horses before they can close with their enemy. Author: Virgil Master illuminator. Source: Wikimedia Commons. License: Public Domain. The war was particularly hard on the civilians of the French countryside: the method of waging war of a pre-modern army often involved invading enemy territory and burning crops, looting villages, and murdering civilians.

French peasants, who had suffered first from the Plague and then from war, rose in rebellion in , but this rebellion was ruthlessly crushed, with the peasants slaughtered and leaders brutally executed. The wars of the fourteenth and especially fifteenth century saw not only an increasing use of trained, professional armies, but also the employment of gunpowder weapons, invented in Song China and first seen in Europe in the early s.

At first, firearms were limited to heavy, cumbersome artillery pieces that were deployed from fixed points. Their use on the battlefield and in sieges was limited, although by the fifteenth century, cannons could blast open the gates of most existing fortifications.

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Meanwhile, in Eastern Europe, the restored Byzantine Empire was unable to fully re-establish itself even as a regional power in the Aegean. The warring Italian city-states of Genoa and Venice controlled many of the best ports of the Aegean and Black Sea, and a new Turkic power, that of the Ottomans, was rising in Central Anatolia in the aftermath of the Mongol destruction of the Saljuq sultanate.

Emperor Andronikos II r.

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With the failure of the Catalan Company to shore up Byzantine defenses in Anatolia, by , nearly all Byzantine territory in Asia Minor had fallen under Turkish rule; shortly thereafter, the nascent Ottoman Empire began expanding into southeastern Europe.

The disintegration of the Byzantine state did allow for the fourteenth-century flourishing of Serbian and Bulgarian Empires, whose cultures emerged as a melding of both Greek and Slavic elements to create a unique synthesis of cultures and institutions. In the end, though, these Empires would eventually be overwhelmed by the Turks, with the Ottomans conquering Serbia between and and Bulgaria in But even as the Byzantine state crumbled, intellectual activity flourished in the Orthodox Church.

Greek intellectuals of the fourteenth century sought to engage with the thought of Aquinas and experiment with new forms of prayer and meditation.

Late Medieval Serbian Monastery. Author: Petar Milosevic. In the end, Ottoman power swept away all resistance, Bulgar, Serbian, and Byzantine, and in , the Turkish army conquered Constantinople. After two thousand years, the last remnant of the Roman Empire was gone. In , the papacy looked like it was at its high point. After nearly two centuries of struggle, the popes had definitively broken the power of the Holy Roman Empire. Within less than a century, however, the power and prestige of the papacy would be heavily damaged.

When King Philip attempted to tax French clergy, Pope Boniface resisted strongly, claiming not only that a king had no right to tax any clergy, but also that all earthly authority was subordinate to the authority of the popes, who were rightful lords of the earth.

This conflict ended when King Philip had a gang of mercenaries kidnap and abuse the pope. Even though Boniface himself escaped, he died of the shock shortly thereafter. In order to avoid further antagonizing the French crown, the College of Cardinals those churchmen in Rome who elect the pope elected Clement V r. Clement, however, never took up residence in Rome. In , he settled the papal court in Avignon, a city owned by the papacy which sat just across the border of the Kingdom of France. Author: Giovanni Villani.

To many observers at the time, it looked as though the papacy had been relocated to France under the thumb of the French monarchy. The Italian poet Petrarch referred to the period when the papacy resided at Avignon as the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. He was referring metaphorically to the account in the Old Testament also referred to as the Hebrew Bible in which the people of Judaea had been held captive in the city of Babylon.

Peter and thirteen subsequent centuries of popes. The crisis would only grow worse. In , Pope Gregory XI r. The result was that the Catholic Christian world now had two popes, each one claiming to be the rightful representative of Jesus Christ on earth. This period, lasting from to , is known as the Great Schism ; it resulted in a divided church, with different bishops following different popes.

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  • The Papal Palace at Avignon. Author: Jean-Marc Rosier. A council convened to depose both popes and appoint a single pope instead resulted in three popes, as neither Rome nor the Avignon papacy recognized this new pope.

    In the end, although the con ict was resolved with the Council of Constance — deposing all three popes and selecting a new one, the prestige of the papacy had been tarnished. No intellectual movement can be traced to a single cause. An idea has many parents and even more children.

    Renaissance comes from the French word for rebirth. It was an intellectual movement whose ideals were to return to the art, literature, and culture of Ancient Greece and Rome. Northern Italy was well-suited to allow for the emergence of the Renaissance.

    Thanks to Mediterranean trade, it was one of the wealthiest and most urbanized regions of Western Europe. It was also politically fragmented so that the princes of its many courts all offered sponsorship to artists and intellectuals.