Western Civilization I, HIS 101
Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Period
|Late Middle Age or the Ending of the Middle Ages: 1300 - 1500
The Middle Ages are a 1000 year period of time from the end of the Roman
Empire to the end of Christian unity in the West. This period can be
divided into five segments of two hundred years each. The High Middle
Ages, which can be roughly dated from 1100 to 1300 entered into an abrupt
tailspin during the first fifty years of the fourteenth century.
During the High Middle Ages, there was what has been called the medieval
synthesis. Four pillars of medieval society competed with each other
for dominance: 1. The Roman Catholic Church with the Pope at its
head; 2. The emerging national monarchies, particularly in France,
England, and Spain, and the declining feudal monarchies of the Holy Roman
Empire, Burgundy, and Poland; The Feudal nobility seeking to maintain their
local dominance; and the townspeople in the Imperial Cities, self-governing
republics, and towns with royal charters. At the bottom of society, as
always, were the peasants. Many continued to be serfs working on the
manors of their lords.
This medieval synthesis broke down when the Papacy of Boniface VII
confronted Philip IV, the Fair, of France. The result of that clash,
which resulted in a massive defeat for the Papacy, is the Avignon Papacy.
But within a generation (23 years to be exact) after Philip the Fair's
death, the French monarchy became embroiled in the Hundred Years War with
the kings of England. Both countries descended into war, civil war,
and chaos. Both countries and their kings declined in power and
prosperity during this period of feudal warfare.
And in 1347, the Bubonic Plague broke out in Europe. One third to
one half the population of Europe died of the Plague within the next few
years. More than the political events, it is this pandemic which
brought the Middle Ages to an end. The culture of the High Middle Ages
was shaken by the massive death toll brought on by the plague. Faith
in God, the effectiveness of prayer, and the mission of the Church was
shaken. Those who survive the plague were glad to be alive. They
became this worldly in their orientation rather than other worldly.
The rebirth after the black death gives rise to the Renaissance.
Philip IV the Fair of France (1285 - 1314) and
Pope Boniface VII (1294 - 1303)
|Avignon Papacy: 1309 - 1377|
|Hundred Years War: 1337 - 1453|
|Black Death 1347|
|Formation of National States--From Feudal Monarchies to
Absolute Monarchies. The Black Death, the Hundred Years War,
and the Decline of Papal Authority brought an end to the medieval synthesis.
Strong national monarchies emerged. After eight hundred years of
struggle against the Muslims in Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella unified most
of the Iberian Peninsula under their joint rule. During the sixteenth
century, Spain is the most powerful country in Europe. But strong
centralized government re-emerges as well in France and England after the
Hundred Years War. The Wars of Religion brought a renewal of anarchy,
but by 1648, strong national monarchies have become dominant. The
modern state and the modern state system have been born.|
|Voyages of Discovery.
When Byzantium falls to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the Voyages of Discovery
begin. The Atlantic Ocean replaces the Mediterranean Sea as the new
highway of trade and commerce. The Portuguese navigators were the
first to explore the coast of East Africa down to the Cape of Good Hope and
into the Indian Ocean. An Italian from Genoa named Christopher
Columbus hired himself out to Queen Isabella of Spain and discovered, in
1492, a continent unknown to Europeans which came to be called America.
Europeans began the exploration of the world. Wherever their ships
would take them, soldiers, missionaries, and traders followed.
Portugal, Spain, The Netherlands, England, France, Sweden began the
colonization of the Americas and the world.|
The Renaissance started in the city-states Northern Italy after the Black
Death. It can be dated broadly between 1350 to 1600. There was
an Italian Renaissance and a Northern [European] Renaissance. The
writings of William Shakespeare in England belong to the Northern
Renaissance. The growing fervor of the Reformation, the hostility
between Catholics and Protestants, and the ensuing wars of religion brought
the Renaissance to an end. |
The Reformation began when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the Church
door in Wittenberg, Saxony, Holy Roman Empire on October 31, 1517. The
Reformation shattered the unity of Western Christendom. It helped to
bring about national churches. It leds to the wars of religion.
The most destructive of those wars was the Thirty Years War within Germany,
then called the Holy Roman Empire, from 1618 to 1648. The
Reformation period is generally dated from 1517 to 1648.|
|Wars of Religion. The Reformers wanted
initially to reform the Holy Roman Catholic Church from what they considered
its abuses and superstitions. The Bible and the individual conscience
replaced the authority of the Pope and the bishops. The Reformers
disagreed not only with the Pope but with each other. Several reform
movements developed led by Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, and
others. When the Catholic Church sought to restore Christian Unity
using the Inquisition and the might of the armies of the Spanish Habsburgs,
the reformers protested. They became the Protestants. Four main
branches of Protestantism developed during the sixteenth century. They
were Lutheranism in Germany and the Scandinavian countries; Calvinism in the
Netherlands, parts of Switzerland, Scotland, and England; Anglicanism in
England; and Anabaptism. Religious differences led to war. Most
of these wars pitted Catholics against Protestants and most of the wars of
religion were within countries. They were what we might call civil
wars. The French Calvinists, the Huguenots, fought against the French
monarchy until Henry of Navarre became Henry IV of France. Henry IV
issued the Edict of Toleration which remained in place until revoked by
Louis XIV. Calvinists fought against Philip II of Spain until they
gained their independence by forming the Seven United Provinces of the
Netherlands. In the seventeenth century, Calvinists fought against
Anglicans in England. Oliver Cromwell briefly established Calvinist
dominance until, after his death, the Stuarts were restored in 1660.
But, the bloodiest war took place between Lutherans and Catholics within the
Holy Roman Empire. The Thirty Years War killed about half the people
in Germany. It lasted from 1618 to 1648. |
Western Civilization I, HIS 101, comes to an end in 1648. The Early
Modern Period which is dated from 1500 to 1648 ended. The Age of
Absolutism had begun. Louis XIV of France dominated European politics
during the second half of the seventeenth century.