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The Fourteenth Century

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The Fourteenth Century

Humanities 101

1300 First Jubilee year proclaimed by Pope Boniface VIII

1301 Giotto painted The Last Judgement in the Chapel of Podesta

1303 The Baltic Sea froze over (The Little Ice Age)

1305 Giotto painted The Meeting of Joachim and Anna

1309 The Babylonian Exile began

1315-1317 The Great Famine kills millions in Europe

1316 John XXII becomes Pope

1334 Benedict XII becomes Pope

1337-1453 The Hundred Years War between France and England

1340 English writer Geoffrey Chaucer born

1347 Black Death kills around a third of the population of Europe

1351 The towns of Florence and Milan go to war as Milan attempts to extend its power into Tuscany

1356 At the Battle of Poiters, the English defeat the French

1363 The Battle of Lake Poyang

1364 Charles V becomes King of France

1368 The beginning of the Ming Dynasty

1377-1399 Reign of Richard II in England

1378-1417 The Great Schism

1380 Charles VI becomes King of France

1381 Peasant Riots of England (The Peasants' Revolt)


The fourteenth century started with Pope Boniface VIII proclaiming in 1300, a year of forgiveness of all sins. It turned out to be a very turbulent age. Nearly a third of the population of England was killed by the Black Death and millions more by the Great Famine. Many others died in the Hundred Years' War between France and England. Also during this time, the Peasant Riots were ignited when the Great Schism divided the church which led to the establishment of the papacy in Avignon and the unpopular poll tax (McKisack, 1959).

The Little Ice Age

The Little Ice Age is considered to be one of the two greatest disasters of the fourteenth century (Dutch, 1996). It began in Greenland and the Arctic around 1200. A general cooling of the climate was experienced in most parts of the world during the fourteenth century. A combination of less solar activity and large volcanic eruptions are said to be the cause of the cooler temperatures. The cooler temperatures caused glaciers to advance and the Baltic Sea to freeze over in 1303, and again in 1306 and once more in 1307.

Dutch (1996) went on to say that with a cooler and wetter climate, conditions were no longer suitable for agriculture. The fields were impossible to plow because of the heavy rains in the spring of 1315. The seed grain would also rot due to these conditions. The food reserves for most families became depleted as the harvest failed and livestock died. This led to The Great Famine of 1315.

The Great Famine

The population in Western Europe had grown to such an extent in the early fourteenth centurty that the land could not provide enough resources to support it. At the same time, the region was undergoing the climate changes and conditions of the Little Ice Age (Nelson, 1999). Devastion was caused by heavy rains. Many places encountered flood like conditions. Buildings and walls were undermined, crops and pastures were under water, and dikes washed away.

According to Nelson (1999), in 1315, because of the lack of harvest people collected plants, bark, and nuts from the forest to eat. People were suffering from malnutrition and were very weak. Surprisingly, few people died during 1315 as a result of these conditions. In 1316, the conditions of the climate had not improved. The rain and cooler temperatures continued during the spring and summer.

The food supply began to deminish even more in 1316 and people were starting to have less energy to do anything. As to be expected, the lower class suffered the most from these conditions. But as the weather conditions continued, all classes began to suffer by Spring of 1317.

Nelson (1999) also said that as a result of the widespread starvation and suffering, young children were abandoned and older people had voluntarily stopped eating so that younger family members could eat. It was their hope that the young family members might live to work in the fields once the weather conditions got better. During this time, millions of people died. Domesticated and semi-domesticated animals were slaughtered for survival, seed grain used to plant was eaten and there were widespread reports of cannibalism.

These conditions lasted through the summer of 1317, when the weather returned to its normal pattern. There was no quick recovery for Western Europe. People were sickened with pneumonia, tuberculosis, and bronchitis to name a few and those who had not died were too weak to work. But with fewer mouths left to feed, Europe eventually recovered.

The Hundred Years' War

Although France was the wealthiest country in Western Europe, England had a strong central government, a thriving economy, and a wealthy king (Nelson, 1999). A series of conflicts between France and England led to the Hundred Years' War. The war started in 1337 and continued for 116 years.

Control over the French throne created a major conflict. Charles IV, King of France, died in 1328 without a male heir. The King of England, Edward III, held claim to the throne through his mother who was Charles' sister. In 1338, Edward led a raid into French territory to defend his claim to the throne and declared himself the true king of France two years later (Curry, 2003).

From the beginning of the conflict in 1337, the war was defined by many smaller raids and skirmishes and a few major battles. The English,



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