Introduction

Week 13

Introduction

Conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204

The Late Middle Ages or Late Medieval Period were the period of European history generally comprising the 14th and 15th centuries (c. 1301–1500). The Late Middle Ages followed the High Middle Ages and preceded the onset of the early modern era (and, in much of Europe, the Renaissance).

Around 1300, centuries of prosperity and growth in Europe came to a halt. A series of famines and plagues, including the Great Famine of 1315–1317 and the Black Death, reduced the population to around half of what it was before the calamities. Along with depopulation came social unrest and endemic warfare. France and England experienced serious peasant uprisings, such as the Jacquerie and the Peasants’ Revolt, as well as over a century of intermittent conflict in the Hundred Years’ War. To add to the many problems of the period, the unity of the Catholic Church was temporarily shattered by the Western Schism. Collectively these events are sometimes called the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages.

Despite these crises, the 14th century was also a time of great progress in the arts and sciences. Following a renewed interest in ancient Greek and Roman texts that took root in the High Middle Ages, the Italian Renaissance began. The absorption of Latin texts had started before the Renaissance of the 12th century through contact with Arabs during the Crusades, but the availability of important Greek texts accelerated with the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks, when many Byzantine scholars had to seek refuge in the West, particularly Italy.[4]