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IES FRAY PEDRO DE URBINA. GEO.

AND HISTORY DEPARTMENT

THE FINAL CRISIS OF THE MIDDLE AGES


AND THE REBIRTH OF CITIES
On these websites you will find outlines on the subject:
http://www.educacion.gob.es/exterior/centros/severoochoa/es/departamentos/hist
oria/material_julia/Recuperacion_vida_urbana.pdf
http://www.corazonistas.com/valladolid/as
%C3%AD_trabajamos/departamentos/sociales/sociales_2/Ciudad%20medieval.pdf
http://www.arteguias.com/agriculturamedieval.htm
And in this documentary you will see the medieval farming and lifestyles:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTPKEogQrJE

Throughout the last two centuries of the Middle Ages, there were some changes
within the feudal system. Agricultural production increased as the population did,
the cities grew and activities such as trade or craft recovered in them. So they had
enough money to build the magnificent Gothic cathedrals. Also monarchies became
stronger.
However, the 14th century was a difficult period because of the plague and lengthy
wars in some countries, such as the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) between France
and England, or the struggle between the Byzantine Empire and the Turkish. The
Turkish army conquered Constantinople in 1453.

1. Agricultural improvements.
From the eleventh century the invasions stopped in Europe and that more safe time
made easier to extend from the Netherlands improvements in agricultural
production, which was the basis of the medieval economy.
Forests were cut and swamps were drained.
Horseshoes and collar allowed
horses as draft animals for
plowing.
The mouldboard plough or
Norman (crescent shaped, deep
plowing) was replacing Roman
(arrowhead shaped) .
In Central Europe it spread three-year rotation system: each village grouped farm
plots into three areas, each devoted to wheat, oats (or pulses) and fallow, and
making them rotate each year. That meant that each farmer had to have a plot in
each area (leased by the feudal lord) and should respect the rotation. The
shepherds tending flocks of all, which ate stubble in fallow (and fertilized it), so
fields could not be fenced.

Water force began to be used to move the mills through waterwheels.


All this made people eat better and the population increased.

2. The development of trade.


The increasing population, agricultural surpluses and increased security influenced
the development of trade since the twelfth century, by land, rivers and sea (coastal
shipping). There were two major routes:

The Mediterranean connected the cities of the Crown of Aragon or Italian with
Muslim or Byzantine ports. European people exported weapons and fabrics and
imported luxury products (perfumes, silk, spices) .
The Baltic and the Atlantic was controlled by a league of merchants, the Hansa,
and joined the Portuguese or Cantabrian ports with Flanders, England and the
German cities. They traded with Castilian wool, French wines, English tin or amber,
furs or wood from the Baltic countries. Merchants gathered at fairs, the largest
taking place in the central region of France (Champagne), but were also important in
Medina del Campo.

Over time, trade developed banking, payments on credit or bills of exchange (14 th
century), not to carry much cash.

3. The rebirth of cities.


Also from the XII century, cities began to grow and new cities were born. All were
small, no more than 50,000 inhabitants. Only Paris, Constantinople, Venice and
Bruges exceeded it.
Why cities grew?
The new agricultural techniques left some peasants without work, having to migrate
to the city.
The population increase led to a bigger demand for manufactured products, which
were made in guild workshops of the cities.
The business and markets also gave new life to cities.
They were places more free from feudal oppression, often reporting directly to
the king, which guaranteed their privileges with charters.
Even so, they were dirty and smelly places, surrounded by walls, with unpaved
streets where urine and garbage were directly thrown, of which pigs, chickens and
rats fed. The fountains used to be contaminated by sewage and diseases spread very
quickly. The houses were dark and cold, made of wood, burning so easily.

The

inhabitants

of

the city (burg = city,


hence

derived

bourgeois)

could

wealthy

merchants

(who

controlled

be

the

city council), traders, craftsmen, servants or beggars. The non-Christian minorities,


such as Jews, used to live in separate quarters (aljamas or ghettos) .

When the towns were small, the neighbors would gather in open council to fix
common issues (taxes, cleaning roads...). Over time, the rich men and the knights of
the city eventually controlled its government, electing councilors who formed its
council.

4. Artisans and guilds.


Along with the trade, craftwork was the main activity of the city. As population
grows, the demand for clothing, footwear, tools or weapons also grew. In the Middle
Ages, all these products were made by hand and craftsmen were grouped into guilds
of each trade: masons, bakers, weavers, dyers, shoemakers, coopers, blacksmiths...
Each guild laid down the rules, rights and obligations of the partners, controlling
production, the raw material and prices. Also succored to members or their families
in case of illness.
Workshops of each trade used to occupy the same street, which gave name to
(Cutler, Blacksmith, Baker Street...). They were at the same time workshop and
store and usually the master had his own home above.
The workers of the guilds had three categories:
The master was the owner of the shop, often
inherited from his father. With other masters he
controlled the guild and fixed the tests journeymen
had to overcome to reach the masters category.
Officers or journeymen were skilled craftsmen
working in the shop, in exchange for a wage.
Apprentices were young people who learned their
trade for several years, without being paid, in
exchange for maintenance.

5. The royal authority is reinforced.


From the twelfth century, the improving economy allowed the Kings to collect more
taxes, so they started to pay professional armies to defend their territories or
control the nobles. In addition, they strengthened their government with the help of
people

that

were

well

up

on

laws,

which

partly

recovered

Roman

law.

During the Middle Ages, almost nobody except the clergy and some nobles could read
and write. The king needed prepared counselors and officials and wealthy bourgeois
people also needed to study for their business, so they began to emerge in the cities
schools dependent of the Church or municipalities, which gradually gained
independence and became the first universities (Paris, Oxford, Bologna, Salamanca
-1218-).
Latin was used there to study grammar,
rhetoric,

dialectic

(the

trivium)

and

arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy


(the

quadrivium),

but

soon

also

law,

medicine and the arts.


Bourgeois people wanted security on roads,
ports and markets, and greater freedom to
exercise their businesses out of the feudal lords. So they supported the monarchy.
King got new taxes from the cities and instead he offered them protection and
privileges to govern themselves, which were contained in their own city laws
(charters).
As cities became important, the king called to his council meetings (where before
there were only nobles and clergymen) to representatives of the cities. Thus were
born the medieval courts or parliaments, as the meeting of the three estates
(nobility, clergy and third estate cities-). In the Iberian Peninsula, the first courts
met in Len in 1188. They could hardly make laws, merely granting taxes and
presenting complaints to the king.

6. The Black Death.


Many people died in the fourteenth century as a result of crop failures, wars or
diseases. The most terrible was the plague, which appeared in Europe in 1347. It was
a deadly epidemic caused by a bacterium that is transmitted to humans by fleas of
black rats. More than a third of Europe's population died and took 150 years to
recover. As a result, fewer farmers, abandoned lands, bad harvests, declining
revenues of the nobles and monasteries... and more fights to improve them. The
nobles reinforced serfdom, which led to peasants revolts. Food shortages and the
decline of the craftwork were also causes of riots in the cities, which often ended
up paying minorities due to religious fanaticism (massacres or pogroms of Jews,
1391).

7. Castile and Aragon in the Middle Ages.


7.1. Although Portugal 's independence in the twelfth century, Castilla y Len will
stay together since the reign of Ferdinand III (1230), the conqueror of the
Guadalquivir valley, giving rise to the CROWN OF CASTILE.
The Castilian monarchy was more powerful than the other peninsular kingdoms,
partly because only there was just a parliament (cortes) to the entire crown (it was
also advisory), but in the fourteenth century it also suffered from the plague, the
noble struggles, peasant revolts (Galician irmandios) and civil wars. Thus the
reconquest remained paralyzed a century and a half.
While the economy was based as usual during the Middle Ages in agriculture (cereals
predominated here, with two-year rotation system, wine and oil), it was very
important sheep farming, whose wool was exported to Flanders. Alfonso X the Wise
founded the Honourable Council of the Mesta (1237), an association of noble
stockbreeders who enjoyed many privileges to practice transhumance with their
herds through the glens of the kingdom. This enriched more noblemen, but hurt the
textile bourgeoisie.

The civil war between Pedro I (1350-1369), supported by the cities and the Jews,
and his half brother Henry of Castile (Henry II, 1369-1379), supported by the
nobility, was won by the latter.

7.2. Aragon and Catalonia, meanwhile, joined in 1150 giving rise to the CROWN OF
ARAGON, whose king Jaime I the Conqueror reached to conquer Valencia (1238) and
the Balearic islands in the thirteenth century. His successors, supported by the
merchants, then expanded for the Mediterranean (Sicily, Sardinia, Naples). This sea
trade was the basis of the wealth of the kingdom.
The Catalan-Aragonese monarchy was more in favour of agreements than Castilian,
among other things because there was a parliament in every realm (Aragon,
Catalonia, Valencia) and they could make some laws with the king, and because here
urban bourgeoisie was also very powerful, together with nobles and clergy. Each
kingdom retained its own laws and usages.
When King Martin I the Humane died in 1410 without an heir, representatives of the
three parliaments reached a Commitment in Caspe (1412) and chose as king a
Castilian prince from Trastmara family, Fernando de Antequera.
Plague greatly affected Catalonia, exacerbating peasant conflicts (payeses de
remensa: serfs who had to pay a ransom or remensa to leave the land of the lord),
due to the outrages of noblemen (misuse), and conflicts between the great
merchants (Biga), who controlled the municipal government, and small artisans
(Busca) of the city of Barcelona.

8. Gothic art.
Mid-twelfth century was born in France a new style that spread through Europe in
the thirteenth century, driven by the Church and the bourgeoisie of the cities.
Following this style will be built civic buildings (town halls, palaces, markets,

universities, shipyards), but also new monasteries linked to the Cistercian Order
(reform against Benedictine wealth) and especially the great cathedrals.
ARCHITECTURE in its technical innovations includes: pointed arch, rib vault, flying
buttresses, lighter walls where open large windows decorated with stained glass,
towers decorated with pinnacles and steeples.
SCULPTURE continued decorating facades, tympanums and archivolts, in addition to
altarpieces, but also proliferated gargoyles and the tombs of kings, nobles and
clergy. It is more expressive, less rigid and tends more to realism than Romanesque.
PAINTING, also more realistic, used to be tempera on panel and was located usually
in the altarpieces. Although the subjects were religious in the background landscape
began to appear. In Flanders, the bourgeoisie commissioned oil portraits or scenes of
everyday life already in the 15th century.

LOOK FOR INFORMATION ON FIVE OF THESE QUESTIONS:


FALL OF CONSTANTINOPLE
HUNDRED YEARS WAR AND JOAN OF ARC
EL CID
ALMOGAVARS
STREETS FROM THE MAP OF VITORIA LINKED WITH MEDIEVAL GILDS
GOTHIC-ROMANESQUE DIFFERENCES
MANUFACTURING PROCESSES AND TOOLS OF A GUILD
TRADES OF THE JEWS
WHAT COULD A MEDIEVAL DOCTOR CURE?
WHAT HAD TO DO THE PLAGUE WITH DEATH OF ROMEO AND JULIET?
HOW THE TRANSHUMANCE WAS DONE?

ColoPut these terms into the drawings: lantern tower, rib vault, rose window, pointed arch, round arch, transept, flying buttress, barrel vault, crossing.