The combination of bubonic and pneumonic plagues that entered Europe along Eastern trade routes, sweeping across Europe between 1347-1350. Spread by rats carrying infected fleas, the Plague eliminated between one-fourth and one-third of the population in its first wave. Subsequent outbreaks, which continued into the seventeenth century were far less severe. The Black Death had profound effects on all aspects of medieval life and deeply affected the psychological outlook of Europeans.
The Ciompi Rebellion in Florence in 1378 was an attempt by day-labourers and shop owners, mostly in the textile trades, and others of the popolo minuto to achieve a political voice. The goal of the uprising was to address inequalities rather than a complete upheaval of the constitution and the new regime was successful for three years. Three new guilds were created and the committee of priors was adjusted. Although the popolo grasso eventually regained power in 1381, Florentine politics would continue to be influenced by the idea of popular uprisings.
English Peasants' Revolt
The Peasants' Revolt of 1381 in England was a full-scale rebellion that occurred in reaction to the corruption of the regency government that followed the death of Edward III. The government's ineffectiveness in curbing the more extreme excesses of the merchants and nobles against the peasants during the Black Death also contributed to the revolt. The rebels called on the young king, Richard II, to take control of the government and protect the lower classes from the nobility and from the selfish rule of the regency. Some aristocrats were murdered and there was widespread destruction of property, particularly that belonging to the nobility. When a mob marched on London, King Richard courageously went into its midst in order to hear the people's complaints. One of the rebel leaders, Wat Tyler, tried to kill the king, but was himself slain. Shortly thereafter, the rebels dispersed and the nobles joined the other propertied classes in brutal retaliation against the rebels.
During the Middle Ages, craftsmen, artisans and merchants formed organizations that regulated most aspects of its members' businesses. Guilds dictated the requirements for membership and controlled the training of apprentices as well as the quality and price of services or merchandise offered by its members. Non-members were forbidden to practice their crafts and preferential treatment was often afforded to guild members. By the end of the Middle Ages, guilds became extremely powerful, influencing the economic and political life of towns throughout Europe as well as international trade. They often had their own patron saint and staged elaborate processions that both honoured their patrons and provided a form of medieval advertising. Guild halls were often the political centre of towns and, at times, the statutes of guilds were adopted by the town as civic statutes.
The Hanseatic League was an association of German cities, originally established solely for economic reasons. These cities primarily wished to increase and protect their commerce and, where possible, secure a monopoly of trade in foreign ports. The League's members combined their naval and miltary powers to rid the Baltic and North Seas of pirates, and to protect their merchants who travelled by road or river. In the fourteenth century, after earlier occasional co-operation, the Hanseatic League became a permanent federation of towns with an assembly that formulated a common policy. A critical struggle for the League was the war from 1367 to 1370 with one of its chief rivals, Denmark. In this war, the League was victorious. It was granted extensive privileges and maintained the supremacy of its merchants over those of Scandinavia. The League eventually declined because of the diverging interests of its members and because of the rise of English and Dutch trade.
Hundred Years' War
A war fought on French soil between England and France. It was a war initiated by the French monarchy's expansionist policy and by the English king's resentment of having to recognise the King of France as his superior with regards to England's territory in France. The war was fought off and on between the years 1337-1453 and resulted in the loss of the majority of the English territory in France.
Frustrated by plague, famine and mercenaries, the peasants of northern France rebelled in 1358. As violent as the Jacquerie was reported to be, the revolt was quashed by the aristocracy with greater savagery. One repercussion of the Jacquerie was the return of royalist ideals that were being threatened by constitutional movements in the Estates General.
The agricultural system of personal relationships that organized a labour population around the estate of a noble lord. It has been defined as economic feudalism.
|Return to Economy|