Late Middle Ages

The Late Middle Ages or Late Medieval Period was the period of European history lasting from 1250 to 1500 AD. The Late Middle Ages followed the High Middle Ages and preceded the onset of the early modern period (and in much of Europe, the Renaissance).[1]

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.[2] 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, 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, those events are sometimes called the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages.[3]

Despite the 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]

Combined with this influx of classical ideas was the invention of printing, which facilitated dissemination of the printed word and democratized learning. Those two things would later lead to the Protestant Reformation. Toward the end of the period, the Age of Discovery began. The expansion of the Ottoman Empire cut off trading possibilities with the East. Europeans were forced to seek new trading routes, leading to the Spanish expedition under Christopher Columbus to the Americas in 1492 and Vasco da Gama’s voyage to Africa and India in 1498. Their discoveries strengthened the economy and power of European nations.

The changes brought about by these developments have led many scholars to view this period as the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of modern history and of early modern Europe. However, the division is somewhat artificial, since ancient learning was never entirely absent from European society. As a result, there was developmental continuity between the ancient age (via classical antiquity) and the modern age. Some historians, particularly in Italy, prefer not to speak of the Late Middle Ages at all but rather see the high period of the Middle Ages transitioning to the Renaissance and the modern era.

Europe in 1328
Europe and the Mediterranean region, c. 1328
Western/Central Europe
     Holy Roman Empire
Eastern Europe
     Teutonic Order
     Golden Horde
     G. Horde Vassals
     Genovese Prov.
     Hungary and Croatia
Italian peninsula
     Papal states
Iberian peninsula
British Isles
     England and Wales
Balkans/Middle East
     Duchy of Athens
     Byzantine Empire
     Mameluke Empire
     Turkic states
     Venetian Crete
     Knights of St. John
     Ilkhan Empire
North Africa
Great famine
From the Apocalypse in a Biblia Pauperum illuminated at Erfurt around the time of the Great Famine. Death sits astride a lion whose long tail ends in a ball of flame (Hell). Famine points to her hungry mouth.

Historiography and periodization

The term "Late Middle Ages" refers to one of the three periods of the Middle Ages, along with the Early Middle Ages and the High Middle Ages. Leonardo Bruni was the first historian to use tripartite periodization in his History of the Florentine People (1442).[5] Flavio Biondo used a similar framework in Decades of History from the Deterioration of the Roman Empire (1439–1453). Tripartite periodization became standard after the German historian Christoph Cellarius published Universal History Divided into an Ancient, Medieval, and New Period (1683).

For 18th-century historians studying the 14th and 15th centuries, the central theme was the Renaissance, with its rediscovery of ancient learning and the emergence of an individual spirit.[6] The heart of this rediscovery lies in Italy, where, in the words of Jacob Burckhardt: "Man became a spiritual individual and recognized himself as such".[7] This proposition was later challenged, and it was argued that the 12th century was a period of greater cultural achievement.[8]

As economic and demographic methods were applied to the study of history, the trend was increasingly to see the late Middle Ages as a period of recession and crisis. Belgian historian Henri Pirenne continued the subdivision of Early, High, and Late Middle Ages in the years around World War I.[9] Yet it was his Dutch colleague, Johan Huizinga, who was primarily responsible for popularising the pessimistic view of the Late Middle Ages, with his book The Autumn of the Middle Ages (1919).[10] To Huizinga, whose research focused on France and the Low Countries rather than Italy, despair and decline were the main themes, not rebirth.[11][12]

Modern historiography on the period has reached a consensus between the two extremes of innovation and crisis. It is now generally acknowledged that conditions were vastly different north and south of the Alps, and the term "Late Middle Ages" is often avoided entirely within Italian historiography.[13] The term "Renaissance" is still considered useful for describing certain intellectual, cultural, or artistic developments, but not as the defining feature of an entire European historical epoch.[14] The period from the early 14th century up until – and sometimes including – the 16th century, is rather seen as characterized by other trends: demographic and economic decline followed by recovery, the end of western religious unity and the subsequent emergence of the nation state, and the expansion of European influence onto the rest of the world.[14]


The limits of Christian Europe were still being defined in the 14th and 15th centuries. While the Grand Duchy of Moscow was beginning to repel the Mongols, and the Iberian kingdoms completed the Reconquista of the peninsula and turned their attention outwards, the Balkans fell under the dominance of the Ottoman Empire.[15] Meanwhile, the remaining nations of the continent were locked in almost constant international or internal conflict.[16]

The situation gradually led to the consolidation of central authority and the emergence of the nation state.[17] The financial demands of war necessitated higher levels of taxation, resulting in the emergence of representative bodies – most notably the English Parliament.[18] The growth of secular authority was further aided by the decline of the papacy with the Western Schism and the coming of the Protestant Reformation.[19]

Northern Europe

Main articles: Denmark, Norway, Sweden

After the failed union of Sweden and Norway of 1319–1365, the pan-Scandinavian Kalmar Union was instituted in 1397.[20] The Swedes were reluctant members of the Danish-dominated union from the start. In an attempt to subdue the Swedes, King Christian II of Denmark had large numbers of the Swedish aristocracy killed in the Stockholm Bloodbath of 1520. Yet this measure only led to further hostilities, and Sweden broke away for good in 1523.[21] Norway, on the other hand, became an inferior party of the union and remained united with Denmark until 1814.[22]

Iceland benefited from its relative isolation and was the last Scandinavian country to be struck by the Black Death.[23] Meanwhile, the Norse colony in Greenland died out, probably under extreme weather conditions in the 15th century.[24] These conditions might have been the effect of the Little Ice Age.[25]

Northwest Europe

The death of Alexander III of Scotland in 1286 threw the country into a succession crisis, and the English king, Edward I, was brought in to arbitrate. Edward claimed overlordship over Scotland, leading to the Wars of Scottish Independence.[26] The English were eventually defeated, and the Scots were able to develop a stronger state under the Stuarts.[27]

From 1337, England's attention was largely directed towards France in the Hundred Years' War.[28] Henry V's victory at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 briefly paved the way for a unification of the two kingdoms, but his son Henry VI soon squandered all previous gains.[29] The loss of France led to discontent at home. Soon after the end of the war in 1453, the dynastic struggles of the Wars of the Roses (c. 1455–1485) began, involving the rival dynasties of the House of Lancaster and House of York.[30]

The war ended in the accession of Henry VII of the Tudor family, who continued the work started by the Yorkist kings of building a strong, centralized monarchy.[31] While England's attention was thus directed elsewhere, the Hiberno-Norman lords in Ireland were becoming gradually more assimilated into Irish society, and the island was allowed to develop virtual independence under English overlordship.[32]

Western Europe

Main articles: France, Burgundy, Burgundian Netherlands
Map France 1477-en
France in the late 15th century: a mosaic of feudal territories

The French House of Valois, which followed the House of Capet in 1328, was at its outset marginalized in its own country, first by the English invading forces of the Hundred Years' War, and later by the powerful Duchy of Burgundy.[33] The emergence of Joan of Arc as a military leader changed the course of war in favour of the French, and the initiative was carried further by King Louis XI.[34]

Meanwhile, Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, met resistance in his attempts to consolidate his possessions, particularly from the Swiss Confederation formed in 1291.[35] When Charles was killed in the Burgundian Wars at the Battle of Nancy in 1477, the Duchy of Burgundy was reclaimed by France.[36] At the same time, the County of Burgundy and the wealthy Burgundian Netherlands came into the Holy Roman Empire under Habsburg control, setting up conflict for centuries to come.[37]

Central Europe

Main articles: Germany, Bohemia, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania
Silver mine, Kutna Hora
Silver mining and processing in Kutná Hora, Bohemia, 15th century

Bohemia prospered in the 14th century, and the Golden Bull of 1356 made the king of Bohemia first among the imperial electors, but the Hussite revolution threw the country into crisis.[38] The Holy Roman Empire passed to the Habsburgs in 1438, where it remained until its dissolution in 1806.[39] Yet in spite of the extensive territories held by the Habsburgs, the Empire itself remained fragmented, and much real power and influence lay with the individual principalities.[40] In addition, financial institutions, such as the Hanseatic League and the Fugger family, held great power, on both economic and political levels.[41]

The kingdom of Hungary experienced a golden age during the 14th century.[42] In particular the reigns of the Angevin kings Charles Robert (1308–42) and his son Louis the Great (1342–82) were marked by success.[43] The country grew wealthy as the main European supplier of gold and silver.[44] Louis the Great led successful campaigns from Lithuania to Southern Italy, and from Poland to Northern Greece.

He had the greatest military potential of the 14th century with his enormous armies (often over 100,000 men). Meanwhile, Poland's attention was turned eastwards, as the union with Lithuania created an enormous entity in the region.[45] The union, and the conversion of Lithuania, also marked the end of paganism in Europe.[46]

Louis did not leave a son as heir after his death in 1382. Instead, he named as his heir the young prince Sigismund of Luxemburg. The Hungarian nobility did not accept his claim, and the result was an internal war. Sigismund eventually achieved total control of Hungary and established his court in Buda and Visegrád. Both palaces were rebuilt and improved, and were considered the richest of the time in Europe. Inheriting the throne of Bohemia and the Holy Roman Empire, Sigismund continued conducting his politics from Hungary, but he was kept busy fighting the Hussites and the Ottoman Empire, which was becoming a menace to Europe in the beginning of the 15th century.

The King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary led the largest army of mercenaries of the time, The Black Army of Hungary, which he used to conquer Bohemia and Austria and to fight the Ottoman Empire. However, the glory of the Kingdom ended in the early 16th century, when the King Louis II of Hungary was killed in the battle of Mohács in 1526 against the Ottoman Empire. Hungary then fell into a serious crisis and was invaded, ending its significance in central Europe during the medieval era.

Eastern Europe

The state of Kievan Rus' fell during the 13th century in the Mongol invasion.[47] The Grand Duchy of Moscow rose in power thereafter, winning a great victory against the Golden Horde at the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380.[48] The victory did not end Tartar rule in the region, however, and its immediate beneficiary was the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which extended its influence eastwards.[49]

Under the reign of Ivan the Great (1462–1505), Moscow became a major regional power, and the annexation of the vast Republic of Novgorod in 1478 laid the foundations for a Russian national state.[50] After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 the Russian princes started to see themselves as the heirs of the Byzantine Empire. They eventually took on the imperial title of Tsar, and Moscow was described as the Third Rome.[51]

Southeast Europe

Main articles: Byzantine Empire, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania
Ottoman miniature of the siege of Belgrade in 1456

The Byzantine Empire had for a long time dominated the eastern Mediterranean in politics and culture.[52] By the 14th century, however, it had almost entirely collapsed into a tributary state of the Ottoman Empire, centered on the city of Constantinople and a few enclaves in Greece.[53] With the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Byzantine Empire was permanently extinguished.[54]

The Bulgarian Empire was in decline by the 14th century, and the ascendancy of Serbia was marked by the Serbian victory over the Bulgarians in the Battle of Velbazhd in 1330.[55] By 1346, the Serbian king Stefan Dušan had been proclaimed emperor.[56] Yet Serbian dominance was short-lived; the Serbian army led by the Lazar Hrebljevanovic was defeated by the Ottomans at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, where most of the Serbian nobility was killed and the south of the country came under Ottoman occupation, as much of southern Bulgaria had become Ottoman territory in 1371.[57] Northern remnants of Bulgaria were finally conquered by 1396, Serbia fell in 1459, Bosnia in 1463, and Albania was finally subordinated in 1479 only a few years after the death of Skanderbeg. Belgrade, an Hungarian domain at the time, was the last large Balkan city to fall under Ottoman rule, in 1521. By the end of the medieval period, the entire Balkan peninsula was annexed by, or became vassal to, the Ottomans.[57]

Southwest Europe

Main articles: Italy, Crown of Aragon, Spain, Portugal
Batalha de Aljubarrota 02
Battle of Aljubarrota between Portugal and Castile, 1385

Avignon was the seat of the papacy from 1309 to 1376.[58] With the return of the Pope to Rome in 1378, the Papal State developed into a major secular power, culminating in the morally corrupt papacy of Alexander VI.[59] Florence grew to prominence amongst the Italian city-states through financial business, and the dominant Medici family became important promoters of the Renaissance through their patronage of the arts.[60] Other city states in northern Italy also expanded their territories and consolidated their power, primarily Milan and Venice.[61] The War of the Sicilian Vespers had by the early 14th century divided southern Italy into an Aragon Kingdom of Sicily and an Anjou Kingdom of Naples.[62] In 1442, the two kingdoms were effectively united under Aragonese control.[63]

The 1469 marriage of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon and the 1479 death of John II of Aragon led to the creation of modern-day Spain.[64] In 1492, Granada was captured from the Moors, thereby completing the Reconquista.[65] Portugal had during the 15th century – particularly under Henry the Navigator – gradually explored the coast of Africa, and in 1498, Vasco da Gama found the sea route to India.[66] The Spanish monarchs met the Portuguese challenge by financing the expedition of Christopher Columbus to find a western sea route to India, leading to the discovery of the Americas in 1492.[67]

Late Medieval European society

Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry octobre detail
The peasants preparing the fields for the winter with a harrow and sowing for the winter grain. The background contains the Louvre castle, c. 1410

Around 1300–1350 the Medieval Warm Period gave way to the Little Ice Age.[68] The colder climate resulted in agricultural crises, the first of which is known as the Great Famine of 1315-1317.[69] The demographic consequences of this famine, however, were not as severe as the plagues that occurred later in the century, particularly the Black Death.[70] Estimates of the death rate caused by this epidemic range from one third to as much as sixty percent.[71] By around 1420, the accumulated effect of recurring plagues and famines had reduced the population of Europe to perhaps no more than a third of what it was a century earlier.[72] The effects of natural disasters were exacerbated by armed conflicts; this was particularly the case in France during the Hundred Years' War.[73] It took 150 years for the European population to regain similar levels of 1300.[74]

As the European population was severely reduced, land became more plentiful for the survivors, and labour consequently more expensive.[75] Attempts by landowners to forcibly reduce wages, such as the English 1351 Statute of Laborers, were doomed to fail.[76] These efforts resulted in nothing more than fostering resentment among the peasantry, leading to rebellions such as the French Jacquerie in 1358 and the English Peasants' Revolt in 1381.[77] The long-term effect was the virtual end of serfdom in Western Europe.[78] In Eastern Europe, on the other hand, landowners were able to exploit the situation to force the peasantry into even more repressive bondage.[79]

The upheavals caused by the Black Death left certain minority groups particularly vulnerable, especially the Jews,[80] who were often blamed for the calamities. Anti-Jewish pogroms were carried out all over Europe; in February 1349, 2,000 Jews were murdered in Strasbourg.[81] States were also guilty of discrimination against the Jews. Monarchs gave in to the demands of the people, and the Jews were expelled from England in 1290, from France in 1306, from Spain in 1492, and from Portugal in 1497.[82]

While the Jews were suffering persecution, one group that probably experienced increased empowerment in the Late Middle Ages was women. The great social changes of the period opened up new possibilities for women in the fields of commerce, learning and religion.[83] Yet at the same time, women were also vulnerable to incrimination and persecution, as belief in witchcraft increased.[83]

Up until the mid-14th century, Europe had experienced steadily increasing urbanisation.[84] Cities were also decimated by the Black Death, but the role of urban areas as centres of learning, commerce and government ensured continued growth.[85] By 1500, Venice, Milan, Naples, Paris and Constantinople each probably had more than 100,000 inhabitants.[86] Twenty-two other cities were larger than 40,000; most of these were in Italy and the Iberian peninsula, but there were also some in France, the Empire, the Low Countries, plus London in England.[86]

Military history

Battle of crecy froissart
Miniature of the Battle of Crécy (1346)
Manuscript of Jean Froissart's Chronicles.

The Hundred Years' War was the scene of many military innovations.

Through battles such as Courtrai (1302), Bannockburn (1314), and Morgarten (1315), it became clear to the great territorial princes of Europe that the military advantage of the feudal cavalry was lost, and that a well equipped infantry was preferable.[87] Through the Welsh Wars the English became acquainted with, and adopted, the highly efficient longbow.[88] Once properly managed, this weapon gave them a great advantage over the French in the Hundred Years' War.[89]

The introduction of gunpowder affected the conduct of war significantly.[90] Though employed by the English as early as the Battle of Crécy in 1346, firearms initially had little effect in the field of battle.[91] It was through the use of cannons as siege weapons that major change was brought about; the new methods would eventually change the architectural structure of fortifications.[92]

Changes also took place within the recruitment and composition of armies. The use of the national or feudal levy was gradually replaced by paid troops of domestic retinues or foreign mercenaries.[93] The practice was associated with Edward III of England and the condottieri of the Italian city-states.[94] All over Europe, Swiss soldiers were in particularly high demand.[95] At the same time, the period also saw the emergence of the first permanent armies. It was in Valois France, under the heavy demands of the Hundred Years' War, that the armed forces gradually assumed a permanent nature.[96]

Parallel to the military developments emerged also a constantly more elaborate chivalric code of conduct for the warrior class.[97] This new-found ethos can be seen as a response to the diminishing military role of the aristocracy, and gradually it became almost entirely detached from its military origin.[98] The spirit of chivalry was given expression through the new (secular)[99] type of chivalric orders; the first of these was the Order of St. George, founded by Charles I of Hungary in 1325, while the best known was probably the English Order of the Garter, founded by Edward III in 1348.[100]

Christian conflict and reform

The Papal Schism

The French crown's increasing dominance over the Papacy culminated in the transference of the Holy See to Avignon in 1309.[101] When the Pope returned to Rome in 1377, this led to the election of different popes in Avignon and Rome, resulting in the Papal Schism (1378–1417).[102] The Schism divided Europe along political lines; while France, her ally Scotland and the Spanish kingdoms supported the Avignon Papacy, France's enemy England stood behind the Pope in Rome, together with Portugal, Scandinavia and most of the German princes.[103]

At the Council of Constance (1414–1418), the Papacy was once more united in Rome.[104] Even though the unity of the Western Church was to last for another hundred years, and though the Papacy was to experience greater material prosperity than ever before, the Great Schism had done irreparable damage.[105] The internal struggles within the Church had impaired her claim to universal rule, and promoted anti-clericalism among the people and their rulers, paving the way for reform movements.[106]

Protestant Reformation

Jan Hus at the Stake
Jan Hus burnt at the stake

Though many of the events were outside the traditional time period of the Middle Ages, the end of the unity of the Western Church (the Protestant Reformation), was one of the distinguishing characteristics of the medieval period.[14] The Catholic Church had long fought against heretic movements, but during the Late Middle Ages, it started to experience demands for reform from within.[107] The first of these came from Oxford professor John Wycliffe in England.[108] Wycliffe held that the Bible should be the only authority in religious questions, and he spoke out against transubstantiation, celibacy and indulgences.[109] In spite of influential supporters among the English aristocracy, such as John of Gaunt, the movement was not allowed to survive. Though Wycliffe himself was left unmolested, his supporters, the Lollards, were eventually suppressed in England.[110]

The marriage of Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia established contacts between the two nations and brought Lollard ideas to her homeland.[111] The teachings of the Czech priest Jan Hus were based on those of John Wycliffe, yet his followers, the Hussites, were to have a much greater political impact than the Lollards.[112] Hus gained a great following in Bohemia, and in 1414, he was requested to appear at the Council of Constance to defend his cause.[113] When he was burned as a heretic in 1415, it caused a popular uprising in the Czech lands.[114] The subsequent Hussite Wars fell apart due to internal quarrels and did not result in religious or national independence for the Czechs, but both the Catholic Church and the German element within the country were weakened.[115]

Martin Luther, a German monk, started the German Reformation by posting 95 theses on the castle church of Wittenberg on October 31, 1517.[116] The immediate provocation spurring this act was Pope Leo X’s renewal of the indulgence for the building of the new St. Peter's Basilica in 1514.[117] Luther was challenged to recant his heresy at the Diet of Worms in 1521.[118] When he refused, he was placed under the ban of the Empire by Charles V.[119] Receiving the protection of Frederick the Wise, he was then able to translate the Bible into German.[120]

To many secular rulers the Protestant reformation was a welcome opportunity to expand their wealth and influence.[121] The Catholic Church met the challenges of the reforming movements with what has been called the Catholic Reformation, or Counter-Reformation.[122] Europe became split into northern Protestant and southern Catholic parts, resulting in the Religious Wars of the 16th and 17th centuries.[123]

Trade and commerce

Late Medieval Trade Routes
Main trade routes of late medieval Europe.

     Venetian and Genoese
     (stippled) Overland and river routes

The increasingly dominant position of the Ottoman Empire in the eastern Mediterranean presented an impediment to trade for the Christian nations of the west, who in turn started looking for alternatives.[124] Portuguese and Spanish explorers found new trade routes – south of Africa to India, and across the Atlantic Ocean to America.[125] As Genoese and Venetian merchants opened up direct sea routes with Flanders, the Champagne fairs lost much of their importance.[126]

At the same time, English wool export shifted from raw wool to processed cloth, resulting in losses for the cloth manufacturers of the Low Countries.[127] In the Baltic and North Sea, the Hanseatic League reached the peak of their power in the 14th century, but started going into decline in the fifteenth.[128]

In the late 13th and early 14th centuries, a process took place – primarily in Italy but partly also in the Empire – that historians have termed a "commercial revolution".[129] Among the innovations of the period were new forms of partnership and the issuing of insurance, both of which contributed to reducing the risk of commercial ventures; the bill of exchange and other forms of credit that circumvented the canonical laws for gentiles against usury and eliminated the dangers of carrying bullion; and new forms of accounting, in particular double-entry bookkeeping, which allowed for better oversight and accuracy.[130]

With the financial expansion, trading rights became more jealously guarded by the commercial elite. Towns saw the growing power of guilds, while on a national level special companies would be granted monopolies on particular trades, like the English wool Staple.[131] The beneficiaries of these developments would accumulate immense wealth. Families like the Fuggers in Germany, the Medicis in Italy, the de la Poles in England, and individuals like Jacques Coeur in France would help finance the wars of kings, and achieve great political influence in the process.[132]

Though there is no doubt that the demographic crisis of the 14th century caused a dramatic fall in production and commerce in absolute terms, there has been a vigorous historical debate over whether the decline was greater than the fall in population.[133] While the older orthodoxy held that the artistic output of the Renaissance was a result of greater opulence, more recent studies have suggested that there might have been a so-called 'depression of the Renaissance'.[134] In spite of convincing arguments for the case, the statistical evidence is simply too incomplete for a definite conclusion to be made.[135]

Arts and sciences

In the 14th century, the predominant academic trend of scholasticism was challenged by the humanist movement. Though primarily an attempt to revitalise the classical languages, the movement also led to innovations within the fields of science, art and literature, helped on by impulses from Byzantine scholars who had to seek refuge in the west after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.[136]

In science, classical authorities like Aristotle were challenged for the first time since antiquity. Within the arts, humanism took the form of the Renaissance. Though the 15th-century Renaissance was a highly localised phenomenon – limited mostly to the city states of northern Italy – artistic developments were taking place also further north, particularly in the Netherlands.[15]

Philosophy, science and technology

European Output of Manuscripts 500–1500
European output of manuscripts 500–1500. The rising trend in medieval book production saw its continuation in the period.[137]

The predominant school of thought in the 13th century was the Thomistic reconciliation of the teachings of Aristotle with Christian theology.[138] The Condemnation of 1277, enacted at the University of Paris, placed restrictions on ideas that could be interpreted as heretical; restrictions that had implication for Aristotelian thought.[139] An alternative was presented by William of Ockham, following the manner of the earlier Franciscan John Duns Scotus, who insisted that the world of reason and the world of faith had to be kept apart. Ockham introduced the principle of parsimony – or Occam's razor – whereby a simple theory is preferred to a more complex one, and speculation on unobservable phenomena is avoided.[140] This maxim is, however, often misquoted. Occam was referring to his nominalism in this quotation. Essentially saying the theory of absolutes, or metaphysical realism, was unnecessary to make sense of the world.

This new approach liberated scientific speculation from the dogmatic restraints of Aristotelian science, and paved the way for new approaches. Particularly within the field of theories of motion great advances were made, when such scholars as Jean Buridan, Nicole Oresme and the Oxford Calculators challenged the work of Aristotle.[141] Buridan developed the theory of impetus as the cause of the motion of projectiles, which was an important step towards the modern concept of inertia.[142] The works of these scholars anticipated the heliocentric worldview of Nicolaus Copernicus.[143]

Certain technological inventions of the period – whether of Arab or Chinese origin, or unique European innovations – were to have great influence on political and social developments, in particular gunpowder, the printing press and the compass. The introduction of gunpowder to the field of battle affected not only military organisation, but helped advance the nation state. Gutenberg's movable type printing press made possible not only the Reformation, but also a dissemination of knowledge that would lead to a gradually more egalitarian society. The compass, along with other innovations such as the cross-staff, the mariner's astrolabe, and advances in shipbuilding, enabled the navigation of the World Oceans, and the early phases of colonialism.[144] Other inventions had a greater impact on everyday life, such as eyeglasses and the weight-driven clock.[145]

Visual arts and architecture

MZK 003 Nr 01 Fig 27 - Holzwohnhaus Halberstadt Aufbau
Urban dwelling house, late 15th century, Halberstadt, Germany.

A precursor to Renaissance art can be seen already in the early 14th-century works of Giotto. Giotto was the first painter since antiquity to attempt the representation of a three-dimensional reality, and to endow his characters with true human emotions.[146] The most important developments, however, came in 15th-century Florence. The affluence of the merchant class allowed extensive patronage of the arts, and foremost among the patrons were the Medici.[147]

The period saw several important technical innovations, like the principle of linear perspective found in the work of Masaccio, and later described by Brunelleschi.[148] Greater realism was also achieved through the scientific study of anatomy, championed by artists like Donatello.[149] This can be seen particularly well in his sculptures, inspired by the study of classical models.[150] As the centre of the movement shifted to Rome, the period culminated in the High Renaissance masters da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.[151]

The ideas of the Italian Renaissance were slow to cross the Alps into northern Europe, but important artistic innovations were made also in the Low Countries.[152] Though not – as previously believed – the inventor of oil painting, Jan van Eyck was a champion of the new medium, and used it to create works of great realism and minute detail.[153] The two cultures influenced each other and learned from each other, but painting in the Netherlands remained more focused on textures and surfaces than the idealized compositions of Italy.[154]

In northern European countries Gothic architecture remained the norm, and the gothic cathedral was further elaborated.[155] In Italy, on the other hand, architecture took a different direction, also here inspired by classical ideals. The crowning work of the period was the Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, with Giotto's clock tower, Ghiberti's baptistery gates, and Brunelleschi's cathedral dome of unprecedented proportions.[156]


Michelino DanteAndHisPoem
Dante by Domenico di Michelino, from a fresco painted in 1465

The most important development of late medieval literature was the ascendancy of the vernacular languages.[157] The vernacular had been in use in England since the 8th century and France since the 11th century, where the most popular genres had been the chanson de geste, troubadour lyrics and romantic epics, or the romance.[158] Though Italy was later in evolving a native literature in the vernacular language, it was here that the most important developments of the period were to come.[159]

Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, written in the early 14th century, merged a medieval world view with classical ideals.[160] Another promoter of the Italian language was Boccaccio with his Decameron.[161] The application of the vernacular did not entail a rejection of Latin, and both Dante and Boccaccio wrote prolifically in Latin as well as Italian, as would Petrarch later (whose Canzoniere also promoted the vernacular and whose contents are considered the first modern lyric poems).[162] Together the three poets established the Tuscan dialect as the norm for the modern Italian language.[163]

The new literary style spread rapidly, and in France influenced such writers as Eustache Deschamps and Guillaume de Machaut.[164] In England Geoffrey Chaucer helped establish Middle English as a literary language with his Canterbury Tales, which contained a wide variety of narrators and stories (including some translated from Boccaccio).[165] The spread of vernacular literature eventually reached as far as Bohemia, and the Baltic, Slavic and Byzantine worlds.[166]


A musician plays the vielle in a fourteenth-century Medieval manuscript.

Music was an important part of both secular and spiritual culture, and in the universities it made up part of the quadrivium of the liberal arts.[167] From the early 13th century, the dominant sacred musical form had been the motet; a composition with text in several parts.[168] From the 1330s and onwards, emerged the polyphonic style, which was a more complex fusion of independent voices.[169] Polyphony had been common in the secular music of the Provençal troubadours. Many of these had fallen victim to the 13th-century Albigensian Crusade, but their influence reached the papal court at Avignon.[170]

The main representatives of the new style, often referred to as ars nova as opposed to the ars antiqua, were the composers Philippe de Vitry and Guillaume de Machaut.[171] In Italy, where the Provençal troubadours had also found refuge, the corresponding period goes under the name of trecento, and the leading composers were Giovanni da Cascia, Jacopo da Bologna and Francesco Landini.[172] Prominent reformer of Orthodox Church music from the first half of 14th century was John Kukuzelis; he also introduced a system of notation widely used in the Balkans in the following centuries.


In the British Isles, plays were produced in some 127 different towns during the Middle Ages. These vernacular Mystery plays were written in cycles of a large number of plays: York (48 plays), Chester (24), Wakefield (32) and Unknown (42). A larger number of plays survive from France and Germany in this period and some type of religious dramas were performed in nearly every European country in the Late Middle Ages. Many of these plays contained comedy, devils, villains and clowns.[173]

Morality plays emerged as a distinct dramatic form around 1400 and flourished until 1550. The most interesting morality play is The Castle of Perseverance which depicts mankind's progress from birth to death. However, the most famous morality play and perhaps best known medieval drama is Everyman. Everyman receives Death's summons, struggles to escape and finally resigns himself to necessity. Along the way, he is deserted by Kindred, Goods, and Fellowship – only Good Deeds goes with him to the grave.

At the end of the Late Middle Ages, professional actors began to appear in England and Europe. Richard III and Henry VII both maintained small companies of professional actors. Their plays were performed in the Great Hall of a nobleman's residence, often with a raised platform at one end for the audience and a "screen" at the other for the actors. Also important were Mummers' plays, performed during the Christmas season, and court masques. These masques were especially popular during the reign of Henry VIII who had a House of Revels built and an Office of Revels established in 1545.[174]

The end of medieval drama came about due to a number of factors, including the weakening power of the Catholic Church, the Protestant Reformation and the banning of religious plays in many countries. Elizabeth I forbid all religious plays in 1558 and the great cycle plays had been silenced by the 1580s. Similarly, religious plays were banned in the Netherlands in 1539, the Papal States in 1547 and in Paris in 1548. The abandonment of these plays destroyed the international theatre that had thereto existed and forced each country to develop its own form of drama. It also allowed dramatists to turn to secular subjects and the reviving interest in Greek and Roman theatre provided them with the perfect opportunity.[174]

After the Middle Ages

After the end of the late Middle Ages period, the Renaissance spread unevenly over continental Europe from the southern European region. The intellectual transformation of the Renaissance is viewed as a bridge between the Middle Ages and the Modern era. Europeans would later begin an era of world discovery. Combined with the influx of classical ideas was the invention of printing which facilitated dissemination of the printed word and democratized learning. These two things would lead to the Protestant Reformation. Europeans also discovered new trading routes, as was the case with Columbus’ travel to the Americas in 1492, and Vasco da Gama’s circumnavigation of Africa and India in 1498. Their discoveries strengthened the economy and power of European nations.

Ottomans and Europe

Battle of Nandorfehervar
Saint John of Capistrano and the Hungarian armies fighting the Ottoman Empire at the Siege of Belgrade in 1456.
The wars of Matthias Corvinus of Hungary (1458-1490)
King Matthias Corvinus's Black Army Campaign.

By the end of the 15th century the Ottoman Empire had advanced all over Southeastern Europe, eventually conquering the Byzantine Empire and extending control over the Balkan states. Hungary was the last bastion of the Latin Christian world in the East, and fought to keep its rule over a period of two centuries. After the tragic death of the young king Vladislaus I of Hungary during the Battle of Varna in 1444 against the Ottomans, the Kingdom was placed in the hands of count John Hunyadi, who became Hungary's regent-governor (1446–1453). Hunyadi was considered one of the most relevant military figures of the 15th century: Pope Pius II awarded him the title of Athleta Christi or Champion of Christ for being the only hope of resisting the Ottomans from advancing to Central and Western Europe.

Hunyadi succeeded during the Siege of Belgrade in 1456 against the Ottomans, the biggest victory against that empire in decades. This battle became a real Crusade against the Muslims, as the peasants were motivated by the Franciscan friar Saint John of Capistrano, who came from Italy predicating Holy War. The effect that it created in that time was one of the main factors that helped in achieving the victory. However the premature death of the Hungarian Lord left Pannonia defenseless and in chaos.[175] In an extremely unusual event for the Middle Ages, Hunyadi's son, Matthias, was elected as King of Hungary by the nobility. For the first time, a member of an aristocratic family (and not from a royal family) was crowned.[176]

King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary (1458–1490) was one of the most prominent figures of the period, directing campaigns to the West, conquering Bohemia in answer to the Pope's call for help against the Hussite Protestants. Also, in resolving political hostilities with the German emperor Frederick III of Habsburg, he invaded his western domains. Matthew organized the Black Army of mercenary soldiers; it was considered as the biggest army of its time. Using this powerful tool, the Hungarian king led wars against the Turkish armies and stopped the Ottomans during his reign. After the death of Matthew, and with end of the Black Army, the Ottoman Empire grew in strength and Central Europe was defenseless. At the Battle of Mohács, the forces of the Ottoman Empire annihilated the Hungarian army and Louis II of Hungary drowned in the Csele Creek while trying to escape. The leader of the Hungarian army, Pál Tomori, also died in the battle. This is considered to be one of the final battles of Medieval times.[177]


Dates are approximate, consult particular articles for details          Middle Ages Themes      Other themes

14th century
15th century
Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry juin

Peasants in fields
Très Riches Heures.

See also


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Further reading


  • The New Cambridge Medieval History, vol. 6: c. 1300 – c. 1415, (2000). Michael Jones (ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-36290-3.
  • The New Cambridge Medieval History, vol. 7: c. 1415 – c. 1500, (1998). Christopher Allmand (ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-38296-3.
  • Brady, Thomas A., Jr., Heiko A. Oberman, James D. Tracy (eds.) (1994). Handbook of European History, 1400–1600: Late Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation. Leiden, New York: E.J. Brill. ISBN 90-04-09762-7.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Cantor, Norman (1994). The Civilization of the Middle Ages. New York: Harper Perennial. ISBN 0-06-017033-6.
  • Ferguson, Wallace K. Europe in transition, 1300-1520 (1962) online.
  • Hay, Denys (1988). Europe in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries (2nd ed.). London: Longman. ISBN 0-582-49179-7.
  • Hollister, C. Warren (2005). Medieval Europe: A Short History (10th ed.). McGraw-Hill Higher Education. ISBN 0-07-295515-5.
  • Holmes, George (ed.) (2001). The Oxford History of Medieval Europe (New ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280133-3.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Keen, Maurice (1991). The Penguin History of Medieval Europe (New ed.). London: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-013630-4.
  • Koenigsberger, H.G. Medieval Europe 400 - 1500 (1987) excerpt
  • Le Goff, Jacques (2005). The Birth of Europe: 400–1500. WileyBlackwell. ISBN 0-631-22888-8.
  • Waley, Daniel; Denley, Peter (2001). Later Medieval Europe: 1250–1520 (3rd ed.). London: Longman. ISBN 0-582-25831-6.

Specific regions

  • Abulafia, David (1997). The Western Mediterranean Kingdoms: The Struggle for Dominion, 1200-1500. London: Longman. ISBN 0-582-07820-2.
  • Duby, Georges (1993). France in the Middle Ages, 987–1460: From Hugh Capet to Joan of Arc (New ed.). WileyBlackwell. ISBN 0-631-18945-9.
  • Fine, John V.A. (1994). The Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest (Reprint ed.). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-08260-4.
  • Jacob, E.F. (1961). The Fifteenth Century: 1399–1485. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-821714-5.
  • McKisack, May (1959). The Fourteenth Century: 1307–1399. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-821712-9.
  • Mango, Cyril (ed.) (2002). The Oxford History of Byzantium. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-814098-3.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Martin, Janet (2007). Medieval Russia, 980–1584 (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-85916-6.
  • Najemy, John M. (ed.) (2004). Italy in the Age of the Renaissance: 1300–1550 (New ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-870040-7.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Wandycz, Piotr (2001). The Price of Freedom: A History of East Central Europe from the Middle Ages to the Present (2nd ed.). London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-25491-4.


  • Behrens-Abouseif, Doris (1994). Cairo of the Mamluks: A History of Architecture and its Culture (Reprint ed.). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-08260-4.
  • Chazan, Robert (2006). The Jews of Medieval Western Christendom: 1000–1500. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-61664-6.
  • Herlihy, David (1985). Medieval Households. Cambridge, Massachusetts; London: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-56375-1.
  • Herlihy, David (1968). Medieval Culture and Society. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-88133-747-1.
  • Jordan, William Chester (1996). The Great Famine: Northern Europe in the Early Fourteenth Century. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01134-6.
  • Klapisch-Zuber, Christiane (1994). A history of women in the West (New ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts; London: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-40368-1.

The Black Death

  • Benedictow, Ole J. (2004). The Black Death 1346–1353: The Complete History. Woodbridge: Boydell Press. ISBN 0-85115-943-5.
  • Herlihy, David (1997). The Black Death and the transformation of the West. Cambridge, Massachusetts; London: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-7509-3202-3.
  • Horrox, Rosemary (1994). The Black Death. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-3497-3.
  • Shillington, Kevin (2004). Encyclopedia of African History, Volume 1 (1st ed.). Taylor & Francis, Inc.: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781579582456.
  • Ziegler, Philip (2003). The Black Death (New ed.). Sutton: Sutton Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0-7509-3202-3.


  • Allmand, Christopher (1988). The Hundred Years War: England and France at War c. 1300–c. 1450. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-31923-4.
  • Chase, Kenneth (2003). Firearms: A Global History to 1700. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521822749.
  • Contamine, Philippe (1984). War in the Middle Ages. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-13142-6.
  • Curry, Anne (1993). The Hundred Years War. Basingstoke: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-53175-2.
  • Davis, Paul K. (2001). 100 Decisive Battles: From Ancient Times to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195143663.
  • Keen, Maurice (1984). Chivalry. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-03150-5.
  • Verbruggen, J. F. (1997). The Art of Warfare in Western Europe during the Middle Ages: From the Eighth Century to 1340 (2nd ed.). Woodbridge: Boydell Press. ISBN 0-85115-630-4.


  • Cipolla, Carlo M. (1993). Before the Industrial Revolution: European Society and Economy 1000–1700 (3rd ed.). London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-09005-9.
  • Cipolla, Carlo M. (ed.) (1993). The Fontana Economic History of Europe, Volume 1: The Middle Ages (2nd ed.). New York: Fontana Books. ISBN 0-85527-159-0.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Postan, M.M. (2002). Mediaeval Trade and Finance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-52202-1.
  • Pounds, N.J.P. (1994). An Economic History of Medieval Europe (2nd ed.). London and New York: Longman. ISBN 0-582-21599-4.


  • Kenny, Anthony (1985). Wyclif. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-287647-3.
  • MacCulloch, Diarmaid (2005). The Reformation. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-303538-X.
  • Ozment, Steven E. (1980). The Age of Reform, 1250–1550: An Intellectual and Religious History of Late Medieval and Reformation Europe. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-02477-0.
  • Smith, John H. (1970). The Great Schism, 1378. London: Hamilton. ISBN 0-241-01520-0.
  • Southern, R.W. (1970). Western society and the Church in the Middle Ages. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-020503-9.

Arts and sciences

  • Brotton, Jerry (2006). The Renaissance: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280163-5.
  • Burke, Peter (1998). The European Renaissance: Centres and Peripheries (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-19845-8.
  • Curtius, Ernest Robert (1991). European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages (New ed.). New York: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01899-5.
  • Grant, Edward (1996). The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages: Their Religious, Institutional, and Intellectual Contexts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56762-9.
  • Snyder, James (2004). Northern Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, the Graphic Arts from 1350 to 1575 (2nd ed.). Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-189564-8.
  • Welch, Evelyn (2000). Art in Renaissance Italy, 1350–1500 (reprint ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-284279-X.
  • Wilson, David Fenwick (1990). Music of the Middle Ages. New York: Schirmer Books. ISBN 0-02-872951-X.

External links


An altarpiece is an artwork such as a painting, sculpture or relief representing a religious subject made for placing behind the altar of a Christian church. Though most commonly used for a single work of art such as a painting or sculpture, or a set of them, the word can also be used of the whole ensemble behind an altar, otherwise known as a reredos, including what is often an elaborate frame for the central image or images. Altarpieces were one of the most important products of Christian art especially from the late Middle Ages to the era of the Counter-Reformation.Large number of altarpieces are now removed from their church settings, and often their elaborate sculpted frameworks, and displayed as more simply framed paintings in museums and other places.

Barbarians (miniseries)

Barbarians is a 2004 miniseries on The History Channel which tells the story of tribes from the early and late Middle Ages. Two series have currently been produced, each consisting of four episodes – the first aired in 2004, and the second aired in 2007. The series tells about what the groups did, who they conquered, and how they fell. Clancy Brown narrated both seasons. The 2004 miniseries was History Channel's highest-rated telecast of the year.

Biblia pauperum

The Biblia pauperum ("Paupers' Bible") was a tradition of picture Bibles beginning probably with Ansgar, and a common printed block-book in the later Middle Ages to visualize the typological correspondences between the Old and New Testaments. Unlike a simple "illustrated Bible", where the pictures are subordinated to the text, these Bibles placed the illustration in the centre, with only a brief text or sometimes no text at all. Words spoken by the figures in the miniatures could be written on scrolls coming out of their mouths. To this extent one might see parallels with modern cartoon strips.

The tradition is a further simplification of the Bible moralisée tradition, which was similar but with more text. Like these, the Biblia pauperum was usually in the local vernacular language, rather than Latin.


A claymore (; from Scottish Gaelic: claidheamh-mòr, "great sword") is either the Scottish variant of the late medieval two-handed sword or the Scottish variant of the basket-hilted sword. The former is characterised as having a cross hilt of forward-sloping quillons with quatrefoil terminations and was in use from the 15th to 17th centuries.

The word claymore was first used in reference to swords in the 18th century in Scotland and parts of England to refer to basket-hilted swords. This description was maybe not used during the 17th century, when basket-hilted swords were the primary military swords across Europe, but these broad-bladed swords remained in service with Scottish regiments for some time longer. After the Acts of Union in 1707 when Scottish and English regiments were integrated together, the swords were seen as a mark of distinction by Scottish officers over the more slender sabres used by their English contemporaries: a symbol of physical strength and prowess, and a link to the historic Highland way of life. Such swords remain in service with officers of Scottish regiments in Great Britain and various Commonwealth countries today.

Coercion castle

A coercion castle (German: Zwingburg) or coercive castle was a heavily fortified, medieval castle built to dominate the surrounding land. Such castles were built mainly in the High and Late Middle Ages in order to protect those territories in areas where the population was not assessed as being entirely loyal to the sovereign. Because of the poor infrastructure of medieval Europe, the construction of castles was one of the most important ways of exercising power, which is why it was governed by royal rights (known as regalia). Examples of coercive castles are the Moritzburg in Halle, which was built in the late 15th century, and the Alte Burg in Koblenz.

Crisis of the Late Middle Ages

The crisis of the Late Middle Ages was a series of events in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries that brought centuries of European prosperity and growth to a halt. Three major crises led to radical changes in all areas of society: demographic collapse, political instabilities and religious upheavals.A series of famines and plagues, beginning with the Great Famine of 1315–17 and especially the Black Death of 1347-1351, reduced the population perhaps by half or more as the Medieval Warm Period came to a close and the first century of the Little Ice Age began. It took 150 years for the European population to regain the levels of 1300.Popular revolts in late-medieval Europe and civil wars between nobles within countries such as the Wars of the Roses were common—with France fighting internally nine times—and there were international conflicts between kings such as France and England in the Hundred Years' War. The unity of the Roman Catholic Church was shattered by the Western Schism. The Holy Roman Empire was also in decline; in the aftermath of the Great Interregnum (1247–1273), the Empire lost cohesion and politically the separate dynasties of the various German states became more important than their common empire.

Ear dagger

An ear dagger is a relatively rare and exotic form of dagger that was used during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. It is so named because the pommel of the dagger has a very distinctive shape, somewhat resembling a human ear. Ear daggers frequently have a single sharpened edge that ends in an acute point.

It is thought that the ear dagger was introduced to Europe from Spain, where it presumably originated from the Moors.

High Middle Ages

The High Middle Ages, or High Medieval Period, was the period of European history that commenced around 1000 and lasted until around 1250. The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and were followed by the Late Middle Ages, which ended around 1500 (by historiographical convention).Key historical trends of the High Middle Ages include the rapidly increasing population of Europe, which brought about great social and political change from the preceding era, and the Renaissance of the 12th century, including the first developments of rural exodus and of urbanization. By 1250, the robust population increase had greatly benefited the European economy, which reached levels that would not be seen again in some areas until the 19th century. That trend faltered during the Late Middle Ages because of a series of calamities, most notably the Black Death, but also numerous wars as well as economic stagnation.

From around 780, Europe saw the last of the barbarian invasions and became more socially and politically organized. The Carolingian Renaissance led to scientific and philosophical activity in Northern Europe. The first universities started operating in Bologna, Paris, Oxford and Modena. The Vikings settled in the British Isles, France and elsewhere, and Norse Christian kingdoms started developing in their Scandinavian homelands. The Magyars ceased their expansion in the 10th century, and by the year 1000, a Christian Kingdom of Hungary had become a recognized state in Central Europe that was forming alliances with regional powers. With the brief exception of the Mongol invasions in the 13th century, major nomadic incursions ceased. The powerful Byzantine Empire of the Macedonian and the Komnenos dynasties gradually gave way to the resurrected Serbia and Bulgaria and to a successor crusader state (1204 to 1261), which countered the continuous threat of the Seljuk Turks in Asia Minor.

In the 11th century, populations north of the Alps began a more intensive settlement, targeting "new" lands, some of which areas had reverted to wilderness after the end of the Roman Empire. In what is known as the "great clearances", Europeans cleared and cultivated some of the vast forests and marshes that lay across of the continent. At the same time, some settlers moved beyond the traditional boundaries of the Frankish Empire to new frontiers beyond the Elbe River, which tripled the size of Germany in the process. The Catholic Church, which reached the peak of its political power around then, called armies from across Europe to a series of Crusades against the Seljuk Turks. The crusaders occupied the Holy Land and founded the Crusader States in the Levant. Other wars led to the Northern Crusades. The Christian kingdoms took much of the Iberian Peninsula from Muslim control, and the Normans conquered southern Italy, all part of the major population increases and the resettlement patterns of the era.

The High Middle Ages produced many different forms of intellectual, spiritual and artistic works. The age also saw the rise of ethnocentrism, which evolved later into modern civic nationalisms in most of Europe, the ascent of the great Italian city-states and the rise and fall of the Muslim civilization of Al-Andalus. The rediscovery of the works of Aristotle led Thomas Aquinas and other thinkers of the period to expand Scholasticism, a combination of Catholicism and ancient philosophy. For much of this period, Constantinople remained Europe's most populous city, and Byzantine art reached a peak in the 12th century. In architecture, many of the most notable Gothic cathedrals were built or completed around this period.

The Crisis of the Late Middle Ages began at the start of the 14th century and marked the end of the period.

Holy Roman Empire

The Holy Roman Empire (Latin: Sacrum Imperium Romanum; German: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western and Central Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its dissolution in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. The largest territory of the empire after 962 was the Kingdom of Germany, though it also came to include the neighboring Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Burgundy, the Kingdom of Italy, and numerous other territories.On 25 December 800, Pope Leo III crowned the Frankish king Charlemagne as Emperor, reviving the title in Western Europe, more than three centuries after the fall of the earlier ancient Western Roman Empire in 476. The title continued in the Carolingian family until 888 and from 896 to 899, after which it was contested by the rulers of Italy in a series of civil wars until the death of the last Italian claimant, Berengar I, in 924. The title was revived again in 962 when Otto I was crowned emperor, fashioning himself as the successor of Charlemagne and beginning a continuous existence of the empire for over eight centuries. Some historians refer to the coronation of Charlemagne as the origin of the empire, while others prefer the coronation of Otto I as its beginning. Scholars generally concur, however, in relating an evolution of the institutions and principles constituting the empire, describing a gradual assumption of the imperial title and role.The exact term "Holy Roman Empire" was not used until the 13th century, but the concept of translatio imperii, the notion that he—the sovereign ruler—held supreme power inherited from the ancient emperors of Rome, was fundamental to the prestige of the emperor. The office of Holy Roman Emperor was traditionally elective, although frequently controlled by dynasties. The mostly German prince-electors, the highest-ranking noblemen of the empire, usually elected one of their peers as "King of the Romans", and he would later be crowned emperor by the Pope; the tradition of papal coronations was discontinued in the 16th century.

The empire never achieved the extent of political unification as was formed to the west in France, evolving instead into a decentralized, limited elective monarchy composed of hundreds of sub-units: kingdoms, principalities, duchies, counties, prince-bishoprics, Free Imperial Cities, and other domains. The power of the emperor was limited, and while the various princes, lords, bishops, and cities of the empire were vassals who owed the emperor their allegiance, they also possessed an extent of privileges that gave them de facto independence within their territories. Emperor Francis II dissolved the empire on 6 August 1806 following the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine by emperor Napoleon I the month before.


Jousting is a martial game or hastilude between two horsemen wielding lances with blunted tips, often as part of a tournament. The primary aim was to replicate a clash of heavy cavalry, with each participant trying hard to strike the opponent while riding towards him at high speed, breaking the lance on the opponent's shield or jousting armour if possible, or unhorsing him. The joust became an iconic characteristic of the knight in Romantic medievalism. The participants experience close to three and a quarter times their body weight in G-forces when the lances collide with their armour.The term is derived from Old French joster, ultimately from Latin iuxtare "to approach, to meet". The word was loaned into Middle English around 1300, when jousting was a very popular sport among the Anglo-Norman knighthood. The synonym tilt dates c. 1510.

Jousting is based on the military use of the lance by heavy cavalry. It transformed into a specialised sport during the Late Middle Ages, and remained popular with the nobility in England and Wales, Germany and other parts of Europe throughout the whole of the 16th century (while in France, it was discontinued after the death of King Henry II in an accident in 1559). In England, jousting was the highlight of the Accession Day tilts of Elizabeth I and of James VI and I, and also was part of the festivities at the marriage of Charles I.From 10 July to 9 August 1434, the Leonese Knight Suero de Quiñones and ten of his companions encamped in a field beside a bridge and challenged each knight who wished to cross it to a joust. This road was used by pilgrims all over Europe on the way to shrine at Santiago de Compostela, and at this time of the summer, many thousands would cross the bridge. Suero and his men swore to "break 300 lances" before moving on. The men fought for over a month, and after 166 battles Suero and his men were so injured they could not continue and declared the mission complete.Jousting was discontinued in favour of other equestrian sports in the 17th century, although non-contact forms of "equestrian skill-at-arms" disciplines survived. There has been a limited revival of theatrical jousting re-enactment since the 1970s.

Khorasan Province

Khorasan (Persian: استان خراسان‎ listen ) (also transcribed as Khurasan and Khorassan, also called Traxiane during Hellenistic and Parthian times) was a province in north eastern Iran, but historically referred to a much larger area comprising the east and north-east of the Persian Empire. The name Khorāsān is Persian and means "where the sun arrives from." The name was first given to the eastern province of Persia during the Sasanian Empire and was used from the late middle ages in distinction to neighbouring Transoxiana. The province roughly encompassed the western half of the historical Greater Khorasan. The modern boundaries of the Iranian province of Khorasan were formally defined in the late nineteenth century and the province was divided into three separate administrative divisions in 2004.

Kingdom of France

The Kingdom of France (French: Royaume de France) was a medieval and early modern monarchy in Western Europe. It was one of the most powerful states in Europe and a great power since the Late Middle Ages and the Hundred Years' War. It was also an early colonial power, with possessions around the world.

France originated as West Francia (Francia Occidentalis), the western half of the Carolingian Empire, with the Treaty of Verdun (843). A branch of the Carolingian dynasty continued to rule until 987, when Hugh Capet was elected king and founded the Capetian dynasty. The territory remained known as Francia and its ruler as rex Francorum ("king of the Franks") well into the High Middle Ages. The first king calling himself Roi de France ("King of France") was Philip II, in 1190. France continued to be ruled by the Capetians and their cadet lines—the Valois and Bourbon—until the monarchy was overthrown in 1792 during the French Revolution.

France in the Middle Ages was a de-centralised, feudal monarchy. In Brittany and Catalonia (now a part of Spain) the authority of the French king was barely felt. Lorraine and Provence were states of the Holy Roman Empire and not yet a part of France. Initially, West Frankish kings were elected by the secular and ecclesiastic magnates, but the regular coronation of the eldest son of the reigning king during his father's lifetime established the principle of male primogeniture, which became codified in the Salic law. During the Late Middle Ages, the Kings of England laid claim to the French throne, resulting in a series of conflicts known as the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453). Subsequently, France sought to extend its influence into Italy, but was defeated by Spain in the ensuing Italian Wars (1494–1559).

France in the early modern era was increasingly centralised; the French language began to displace other languages from official use, and the monarch expanded his absolute power, albeit in an administrative system (the Ancien Régime) complicated by historic and regional irregularities in taxation, legal, judicial, and ecclesiastic divisions, and local prerogatives. Religiously France became divided between the Catholic majority and a Protestant minority, the Huguenots, which led to a series of civil wars, the Wars of Religion (1562–1598). France laid claim to large stretches of North America, known collectively as New France. Wars with Great Britain led to the loss of much of this territory by 1763. French intervention in the American Revolutionary War helped secure the independence of the new United States of America but was costly and achieved little for France.

The Kingdom of France adopted a written constitution in 1791, but the Kingdom was abolished a year later and replaced with the First French Republic. The monarchy was restored by the other great powers in 1814 and lasted (except for the Hundred Days in 1815) until the French Revolution of 1848.

L-plan castle

An L-plan castle is a castle or towerhouse in the shape of an L, typically built in the 13th to the 17th century. This design is found quite frequently in Scotland, but is also seen in England, Ireland, Romania, Sardinia, and other locations. The evolution of its design was an expansion of the blockhouse or simple square tower from the Early Middle Ages. As building techniques improved, it became possible to construct a larger building footprint and a more complex shape than the simple blockhouse tower. A more compelling motivation for the L plan was the ability to defend the entrance door by providing covering fire from the adjacent walls. This stratagem was particularly driven by the advent of cannon used by attackers.

It was common for the union of the two wings to have very thick wall construction to support a major defensive tower in the union area. For example, the stone walls of Muchalls Castle in Scotland are over 14 feet thick at the ground level. Built in the 13th century, these walls are thought to have supported a substantial defensive tower. A 17th-century reconstruction consisted of a probably equally tall structure, but one suited toward 17th century living and whose upper storey footprints mimicked the lower course.

Other examples of Scottish L-plan castles are Culzean Castle built in the late 16th century in Ayrshire; Dalhousie Castle built as a 15th-century towerhouse near Dalkeith in the Lothian region; Dunnottar Castle a partially ruined castle perched on a cliff by the North Sea near Stonehaven; Erchless Castle, a 14th-century castle in Inverness-shire; Fernie Castle constructed in the 16th century in Fife; and Neidpath Castle built by Clan Fraser in the 13th century near Peebles.

Irish L-plan castles include Balingarry Castle, which originated as a pre-Norman ringfort, but was modified as a high Middle Ages L-plan towerhouse; Balingarry Castle is located in the town of Balingarry. Gleninagh Castle is a 16th-century towerhouse in a state of partial preservation. The L-plan design is also present in Rathmore Castle in County Meath.

As an eastern European example, one may look to Ilmov County, Romania to Herasti Castle, which includes elements of Italian Renaissance design. In Cagliari, Sardinia are two surviving structures known as the Pisan Towers. Each of these towers, as well as a third structure destroyed by English and Spanish naval power, is an L-plan design. The structures date from the year 1217 and are each 30 metres in height. The towers served as important lookouts over the sea and toward the island interior.


A livery is a uniform, insignia or symbol adorning, in a non-military context, a person, an object or a vehicle that denotes a relationship between the wearer of the livery and an individual or corporate body. Often, elements of the heraldry relating to the individual or corporate body feature in the livery. Alternatively, some kind of a personal emblem or badge, or a distinctive colour, is featured.

The word itself derives from the French livrée, meaning dispensed, handed over. Most often it would indicate that the wearer of the livery was a servant, dependant, follower or friend of the owner of the livery, or, in the case of objects, that the object belonged to them.

In the late medieval phenomenon of bastard feudalism, livery badges worn by the "retainers" of great lords, sometimes in effect private armies, became a great political concern in England.

Medieval Greece

Medieval Greece refers to geographic components of the area historically and modernly known as Greece, during the Middle Ages.

These include:

Byzantine Greece (Early to High Middle Ages)

Northern Greece under the First Bulgarian Empire

various High Medieval Crusader states ("Frankish Greece") and Byzantine splinter states:

Latin Empire

Kingdom of Thessalonica

Principality of Achaea

Duchy of Athens

Despotate of Epirus

Despotate of the Morea

Northern Greece under the Second Bulgarian Empire (Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria)

Ottoman Greece (Late Middle Ages)

Pomerania during the Late Middle Ages

Pomerania during the Late Middle Ages covers the history of Pomerania in the 14th and 15th centuries.

The Duchy of Pomerania gained the Principality of Rugia after two wars with Mecklenburg, the Lands of Schlawe and Stolp and the Lauenburg and Bütow Land. Pomerelia was integrated into the Monastic state of the Teutonic Knights after the Teutonic takeover of Danzig in 1308, and became a part of province of Royal Prussia within the Kingdom of Poland in 1466.

The Duchy of Pomerania was internally fragmented into Pomerania-Wolgast, -Stettin, -Barth, and -Stolp. The dukes were in continuous warfare with the Margraviate of Brandenburg due to Uckermark and Neumark border disputes and disputes over formal overlordship of Pomerania. In 1478, the duchy was reunited under the rule of Bogislaw X, when most of the other dukes had died of the plague.

Scotland in the Late Middle Ages

Scotland in the Late Middle Ages, between the deaths of Alexander III in 1286 and James IV in 1513, established its independence from England under figures including William Wallace in the late 13th century and Robert Bruce in the 14th century. In the 15th century under the Stewart Dynasty, despite a turbulent political history, the Crown gained greater political control at the expense of independent lords and regained most of its lost territory to approximately the modern borders of the country. However, the Auld Alliance with France led to the heavy defeat of a Scottish army at the Battle of Flodden in 1513 and the death of the king James IV, which would be followed by a long minority and a period of political instability.

The economy of Scotland developed slowly in this period and a population of perhaps a little under a million by the middle of the 14th century began to decline after the arrival of the Black Death, falling to perhaps half a million by the beginning of the 16th century. Different social systems and cultures developed in the lowland and highland regions of the country as Gaelic remained the most common language north of the Tay and Middle Scots dominated in the south, where it became the language of the ruling elite, government and a new national literature. There were significant changes in religion which saw mendicant friars and new devotions expand, particularly in the developing burghs.

By the end of the period Scotland had adopted many of the major tenets of the European Renaissance in art, architecture and literature and produced a developed educational system. This period has been seen one in which a clear national identity emerged in Scotland, as well as significant distinctions between different regions of the country which would be particularly significant in the period of the Reformation.


Tavadi (Georgian: თავადი, "prince", lit. "head/chief" [man], from Georgian: თავი tavi, "head", with the prefix of agent -di) was a feudal title in Georgia first applied in the Late Middle Ages usually translated in English as prince or less commonly as duke . The title was designated for dynastic princes who were heads of families, akin to mtavari who had a higher standing.

The tavadis were subordinates and vassals of the kings, queens, mtavaris and batonishvilis but had administrative, judicial and tax immunities in their dominions and had their own military forces. The lower noble feudal class of Georgia had the title of aznauri who were subordinates of tavadis.

Wales in the Late Middle Ages

Wales in the Late Middle Ages covers the period from the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in late 1282 to the incorporation of Wales into the Kingdom of England by the Laws in Wales Acts 1535-1542.

Middle Ages
Middle Ages
LateMiddle Ages
See also
Periods of the history of Europe
Classical antiquity
Middle Ages
Early modern
See also

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