At the beginning of the 14th century, the European economy was flourishing. Agriculture proved successful in the whole continent, leading to the rapid population rise. The tripled population, however, posed a challenge to feeding. At the same time, the region experienced some climatic changes in the form of changes in rainfall trends, shortened crop seasons.
The Great Famine and the Black Death
The new state of affairs ushered in the great famine which struck shortly after that, in 1315 and prevailed up to 1322(Cole &Symes, 2017). During this period people were starved and struggled with malnutrition, while livestock succumbed to various epidemics. The great famine greatly affected the immunity levels of the people, setting the stage for the subsequent Black Death plague in the 1340s. The plague originated from Mongolia and was propagated at an alarming rate. It led to massive fatalities, cutting the population of Europe by approximately 30-50%(Cole &Symes, 2017). The Black Death's aftermath changed the status quo, where workers assumed control of social, economic, and political affairs.
Extension of European Commerce and Struggles for Sovereignty
The great famine and The Black Death brought some advantages. Due to the reduced population, food became abundant and affordable. There were increased commerce and European settlement. Many people moved to towns to revive their lives. Cities in northern Germany, for instance, formed the Hanseatic League, a pact that controlled business in parts of Scandinavia, Britain, and the Baltic(Cole &Symes, 2017). The increase in wealth even in the lower class led to the demand increase in luxury goods like spice and silk, fine cloth, and jewelry. This made cities like Venice, Milan, and Florence successful, respectively. The armament industry in Milan also flourished by supplying arms to neighbors and other European nations. The increasing commerce led to advanced accounting techniques and insurance policies to cushion risks of long-distance trade.
The middle of the 14th century saw the spark of rebellions by peasants against landlords and nobilities. French peasants destroyed their lords' property in protest. In England, the masses marched in protest of the state and church bureaucracies. In Florence, cloth manufacturing workers protested mistreatment by the owners who also sat in government(Cole &Symes, 2017). On an international perspective, countries and kingdoms went to war to secure sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Scottish kingdom, for instance, allied with France to prevent King Edward I of England from invading their sovereignty. The Flanders also rallied with England to prevent consistent imperialism by the French.
The Mongol Empire, Re-orientations of the West, Papal Power and Knowing the World
The Mongols were nomadic people with their original homeland north of Gobi desert, present-day Mongolia. The arrival of the Mongols in Ukraine quashed the Viking rule, and they proceeded to establish their 150 years rule on territory on the lower Volga River referred to as Khanate of the Golden Horde(Cole &Symes, 2017).. The Mongol empire also had the direct rule over several Russian territories which paid allegiance to the Great Khan of Mongolia.
After the plague, the western world was stricken by wars and re-orientation of the region. Florence, Milan, and Venice in Northern Italy became city-states ruled by oligarchies and other organized groups. Spain came under a national Catholic monarchy which later induced the expulsion of Jews insinuating them for bad influence. Portugal, England, Scotland, and France also became under cohesive national monarchial systems, born out of war and vernacular languages(Cole &Symes, 2017). There was the construction of new national identities in these territories which were fused by kingship.
In the Middle Age, the Roman Empire was powerful, and the west had popular piety anchored in Catholic doctrines. The Catholic papal rule controlled the northern and central parts of Italy, from Avignon(Cole &Symes, 2017). Recurringrebellions and instability led to the collapse of the Papal States. The Papacy, however, regained power on central Italy when it was restored in 1377 with new headquarters in Rome.
The later Middle Ages were punctuated by the Renaissance, which was characterized by remarkable artistic and intellectual development. Philosophical minds sought to attribute the natural world to the existence of supernatural, divine power. Philosophers, like William of Ockham, made considerable contributions to the nominalism theory of Plato. The approach suggested that there is no linkage between observable regularities of nature and the unknowable essence of divinity (Cole &Symes, 2017)
The Mongols were instrumental in establishing ties and bridges between the East and the West. The interest was to expand commercial activities between the two regions. Mongols welcomed business with Europeans which opened up the East for European exploration. A significant sign of European venture to the East was the sending of William of Rubruck by King Louis IX as a French ambassador to the Mongolian court(Cole &Symes, 2017).. Italian merchant Marco Polo documented his travels into India and Persia, as well as his sojourn under Kublai Khan of Mongol. His accounts were used as primary reference points for Europeans' learning about the Far East.
Cole, J., &Symes, C. L. (2017). Western civilizations: their history & culture. WW Norton & Company. Retrieved from http://exodusmyth.com /wp-content/uploads/2017/06/212834826-Western-Civilizations.pdf
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