Europe, a continent that is in the modern-day today, renowned for its development and diversity in culture and beliefs, has its history dating back to the Early Medieval Period. Like a majority of the modern day societies, the European societies developed tremendously before 1500. Specifically, many historians contend that the development of the European societies before the 16th century was characterized by social, economic and political changes taking place. Therefore, based on this context, the core intent of this paper is to discuss both the strengths and the weaknesses of Europe between 500-1500 AD as well as the reasons why they occurred.
In particular, the years between 500-1500 AD are commonly referred to as the Centuries of Christendom or the Middle Ages. The reason why these centuries go by these names is owing to the fact that these were the years when Christianity became overly spread throughout Europe and most importantly, came into full flowering (Aristotle & Ross, 2011).
Firstly, significant changes in Europe were experienced from the year 501 to 600, better known as the 6th century. In particular, this century marked the end of what was deemed as the Classical Antiquity, in the West, and also the commencement of the Middle Ages. One of the most significant weaknesses of Europe was experienced in the early years of this century, owing to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire that occurred in in the later years of the previous century. As a result of this, Gingras (1970) points out that Europe experienced weakness in its social status since it fractured into various small Germanic Kingdoms, who brought about the conflict in the land through fierce conflicts for both wealth and land. However, Gingras (1970) argues that the upheavals that resulted from the fierce land and wealth competition, on the other hand, significantly led to the rise of Franks, to prominence. This, in essence, can be perceived as one of Europe's greatest strengths since Frank's rise to prominence led to the carving out of a considerable domain that encompassed of the better part of Germany and the modern day France. Besides, it was during this same period that Europe witnessed the expansion of the surviving Eastern Roman Empire under the leadership of the renowned Emperor Justian.
Besides, some of the greatest strengths and most significant reputations of Europe as a continent and those, which were witnessed during in this era are highly attributed to the collapse of the Roman Empire due to invasions by Germanic tribal people. More specifically, these people were such as the Goths who invaded Italy, the Angles and Saxons who invaded England and also the Visigoths who took over Spain. These, in essence, had negative impacts on the development and the expansion of the Roman Empire, and is thus, deemed as some of the most significant weaknesses of the Era.
In a similar regard, the period between 500-1500 AD is, up to the modern day today, deemed as the zones for cultural expansion. The manner in which these zones worked is evidently seen in the European history through the spread of various cultures such as the Roman culture which significantly spread out to Europe. This, in essence, began a whole new pattern of life in Europe. This pattern, for instance, consisted of the Romanization of the Germanic tribal people as well as the creation of the Roman and Germanic cultures. According to Brophy, Cole, Robertson, Safley and Symes (2016) the synthesis of these Germanic and Roman cultures occurred with reference to their political structures, language, architecture, and religion, among many others.
Brophy et al. (2016) point out that a vast range of European strengths characterized the High Middle Ages, the period between 1050 and 1300. For instance, during this period, Western Europe rose to a very significant power that had no other country, other than China, equalling it in political, cultural, and the political flourishing. In a similar vein, the Western part of Europe also witnessed profound intellectual as well as religious changes, which were inclusive of the organization of the papal monarchy. According to a majority of the historians studying this particular period, the changes that were witnessed in Europe during this time were considered significant strengths of the continent.
Further, the year 1050 was also characterized by great strengths which helped steer Europe into achieving its political, social and economic objectives. Notably, Europe, in the year 1050, marked the beginning of the first agricultural revolution of what was considered as Medieval Europe. Specifically, this revolution began with a shift of the northern lands that were used for cultivation. Besides, the period between 700 and 1200 was well known as a period of improved climate in Western Europe. Therefore, based on this conceptual base, one of the most significant strengths of the European nations during this period was the extensive use as the perfection in the use of new farming devices, especially those that were previously discovered by the Romans and the Carolingians. Besides, this was accompanied by massive technological innovations which were inclusive of the use of the heavy plow, mills for processing cloth, brewing beer, paper manufacture and many other services that were not initially available (Gingras, 1970). This, in essence, was counted as a significant advantage to the European continent especially owing to the fact that these services were not available before this time. Besides, these services were accompanied by the widespread use of tools made out of iron as well as the use of animals such as horses. Therefore, with an increase in the agricultural advancements the Western European towns as well as the related trades grew exponentially and Western Europe returns to a money economy.
Another significant strength witnessed in Europe was marked in the year 1200 a time when the growth of lay education and intellectual renaissance began. The elite, as well as the educated members in the European societies, began to become famous as, during this time, students began joining schools with no intentions of becoming priests. Particularly, the European and the Latin languages become overly known in Europe as education was offered in these two languages. However, like many other significant strengths witnessed in Europe at this time, the growth in lay education was also associated with significant weakness. For instance, as a result of the rise in lay education, the European churches that had already been established began to lose their control over education. In this regard, the growth of literacy in Western Europe as well as the transformation of the church based or the cathedral schools into advanced liberal arts universities.
A majority of Europe's weaknesses were highly attributed to natural disasters such as bad weather conditions. For instance, in 1315, the North Western part of Europe experienced the most significant weakness which was related to bad weather and crop failure. In a similar regard, in the early years of the 14th century, there was a rapid increase in the European death rates, and this was considered as one of the most significant weaknesses. The primary reason behind the increased death rates was poor sanitary conditions which were accompanied by malnutrition, According to Gingras (1970) even after the revival of weather conditions in Europe, weather disasters still reappeared. Thus, in a nutshell, a mixture of war, plague, and famine, especially in the Late Middle Ages, reduced the European population by half. Besides, this period was also characterized by other weaknesses especially the critical Black Death which appeared during in 1347. Particularly, the Black Death was experienced during a time of economic depression in Western Europe. Aristotle and Ross (2011) point out that the fact that The Black Death frequently reoccurred until the fifteenth century, during this time, Europe suffered the most significant form of weaknesses. Additionally, to appease the divine wrath experienced at the time, there was an appearance of religious flagellation.
Similarly, with reference to the Black Deaths, a majority of historians have significant debates relating to the epidemiology of Black Death. However, Brophy (1970) points out that this was a plague that had begun in Mongolia in the early 1300s and was overly transmitted by both fleas and rats to lands the Mongol armies had conquered in the thirteenth century. Moreover, the disease also spread along trade routes through Italy and into Wester and finally Central Europe. Eventually, owing to the mass of deaths and the flight of populations, agriculture in Europe was further undermined and eventually added to the constant famine threat.
Additionally, the Dark Ages, which was a period in history spanning between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance was also another significant period that Europe experienced a majority of the weaknesses. For instance, historians argue that the Dark Ages was an era of superstition, war, and death. Besides, this era was also characterized by the fact that for about a thousand years, certain rulers of various tribes across Asia and Europe arrived and declined as fast as a passing storm. Nonetheless, they were considered important due to the common belief that they would mold the structure of the nations that were to come.
Crisis in the European towns was also a significant limitation that characterized this particular era in Europe. In particular, both disease and famine, especially those associated with the Black Death hit the European towns as hard as they had hit the villages. Particularly, the towns and the cities were especially hit hard by the unsanitary conditions as compared to the countryside. This being the case, overcrowding had substantial contributions to the rapid spread of epidemics. Although there were certain cities such as Nuremberg and Milan that was able to escape the devastations of the Black Death successfully, other European countries such as London and various other great cities had a majority of their inhabitants dying of the disease. Also, some countries such as France were hit harder since the ravages of the Hundred Years' War added to the death toll. Besides, for the better part of the 1300s, the European urban economy suffered as a result of the massive costs due to warfare and also the collapse of trade and agricultural production. Into the mid-1300s countries such as France refused to offset loans that were made by the great urban banking houses that were located in Italy and which led the collapse of Sienna and Florence and as a result, this led to financial crisis. Another significant crisis that stroke the European towns and cities was related to the banking failures which, to a broader extent, disrupted the capital flow to other merchant enterprises. This, in essence, aggravated the depression which had gripped the better part of Europe's cities in the 1300s.
Despite the fact that a majority of Europe's strongest weaknesses were experienced between 1300 and 1500, an increase in population in a majority of areas of Europe became one of the greatest achievements in Europe after the two centuries of stagnation and decline. Besides, the 16th century Europe, which began in 1500AD was characterized by great geographic discoveries which, in turn, integrated Europe into a world economic system. Specifically, most historians locate the late 15th Century and the early 16th Century as the beginning or what was deemed as the maturing of the Western Capitalism. Based on this context, Capital assumed a major role not only in the economic organization but also in the political life and the international relations (Brophy et...
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