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What caused the bubonic plague, or Black Death, which ravaged Europe in the mid-1300s?

Bubonic plague was a bacteria carried into Europe by fleas that lived on black rats. The Black Death, as the plague was called, killed at least a third of Europe's population.


Why did the Black Death spread so rapidly and kill so many Europeans?

During the Middle Ages, European cities were ideal centers for the disease. They were filthy, with poor sanitation. Even the wealthy lived in cramped quarters and had limited personal hygiene. Although rural populations suffered as well, the death toll in the cities was catastrophic.


How did workers and peasants who survived the plague benefit from the Black Death?

Millions of workers died from the Black Death, resulting in a labor shortage. Surviving workers were able to demand higher wages. In the countryside, many serfs and free peasants simply left the farms in search of better opportunities, or were able to extract concessions from their superiors.


Practitioners of what religion were targeted as causing the Black Death?

Blame for the Plague fell upon the Jews. Jews suffered a lower mortality rate (aided by Jewish isolation in the ghetto and kosher practices), and were easy targets for those looking to assign blame. Jews were accused of poisoning wells and sacrificing children.

In the period's worst massacre, some 900 Jews were burned at the stake in Strasbourg, France in 1348.


The Dance Macabre, an artistic genre of the late Medieval period, visually represented the universality of _____.


Life in the late Middle Ages could be nasty, brutish, and short, with famines, plagues, and wars emphasizing that death could be sudden and painful. Dance Macabre style was featured in many works of art during the late Medieval period as well as the earliest printed texts. 


What act caused the Hundred Years' War in 1337?

In addition to being the King of England, Edward III was the Duke of Normandy, and as such was required to pay homage to Philip VI of France. Edward III refused to do so, and the French king confiscated Edward's lands in Aquitaine.


How did Edward III respond to Philip VI's confiscation of his lands in Aquitaine?

Edward III declared himself the legal king of France (a claim with some backing in dynastic law), and dispatched an army to France. Initially, the English were successful, with victories at Crecy (1346), Poitiers (1356), and Agincourt (1415).

The Hundred Years' War is a term by historians coined to describe the conflict that ranged off and on between France and England from 1337 to 1453. 


In 1429, the French defeated English forces laying siege to the town of Orleans. Who led the French forces?

Joan of Arc, a French peasant girl who claimed she spoke with God, led the French. The victory strengthened the French cause, and proved the turning point in the Hundred Years' War.


How did Joan of Arc die?

Burgundy, an English ally located in the northeast of modern-day France, captured Joan and turned her over to the English, who burned her at the stake as a witch. After Joan's death, English fortunes plummeted, and they were steadily driven out France.


Historians date the end of the Hundred Years' War to 1453, although peace was not formally declared until twenty years later. Who won the war?

Victory in the Hundred Years' War belonged to the French, who conquered all of the English possessions in modern-day France except for Calais.

Some twenty years later the French defeated Burgundy's forces at the Battle of Nancy, and France emerged as a strong monarchical state with a centralized government.


How did the English Kings meet the expense of the Hundred Years' War?

In England, the King had to ask Parliament for taxes to fund the conflict. Throughout the War, Parliament reserved to itself the power to debate taxes, and required the King to continually request funds. Parliament's taxing power proved to be a strong check on any absolutist ambitions harbored by English monarchs.


How did the French Kings meet the expense of the Hundred Years' War?

In France, the King convinced France's legislative assembly, the Estates General, to authorize the King to collect a tax on land (the taille) and a tax on salt (the gabelle). The French nobility and clergy supported the taxes in large part because they were exempt from both taxes.

The tax revenue ensured that the French Kings were not beholden to the Estates General, and they quickly became absolute monarchs. As Louis XIV expressed it, "I am the State."


Who are generally considered the most powerful political figures in the late Medieval period?

Popes and the Catholic Church dominated Western and Central Europe during the late Medieval period. The Church had vast landholdings, extensive revenues, and significant moral power.

Henry IV, the Holy Roman Emperor, once stood barefoot in the snow for three days until the Pope responded to his request to have his excommunication lifted.



"Simony" refers to paying the Catholic Church for appointment to Holy Offices, such as Cardinal or Bishop. The practice was prevalent during the late Medieval period, and was a significant source of revenue for the Church. 

In his Divina Commedia, Dante accused simonists of buying and selling the grace of God and placed them in hell, where they were buried headfirst in pits while flames lapped endlessly at their feet.


Who was John Wycliffe?

John Wycliffe (1321-1384) was an English advocate for Catholic Church reforms. Contending that the Church should follow Scriptural law, Wycliffe denounced the extravagance of bishops, cardinals, and the Papacy, with whom lavish expenditures of wealth were commonplace.

Wycliffe also translated the Bible into English so that the common people could understand God's Word.


_____ _____, a Bohemian church reformer, was burned at the stake for heresy in 1415.

Jan Hus

Hus is considered as one of the Reformation's forbearers. He drew inspiration from John Wycliffe's teachings, and preached against Church corruption. Even after Hus's death, his followers, the Hussites, dominated Bohemia; three successive Papal crusades failed to defeat them.


In the history of the Catholic Church, what event is known as the Babylonian Captivity?

The Babylonian Captivity refers to the removal of the Papacy from Rome to Avignon, France in 1305. The next seven Popes would sit in Avignon, where the French King could dominate the Church.

The Babylonian Captivity severely damaged the Church's prestige, and called into question its independence.


How did the Great Schism of 1377 arise?

Pope Gregory IX had returned to Rome in 1377, ending the Babylonian Captivity, but died shortly thereafter. Under pressure by a mob in Rome to name a Roman successor, the College of Cardinals appointed the closest candidate they could find: Pope Urban VI from Naples, who established himself at Rome. 

However, after quickly regretting their decision, they chose a second Pope, Clement VII, who established his court at Avignon. The religious crisis soon became a political one as rulers throughout Europe chose to follow one Pope or the other. 


What was the Conciliar Movement?

The Conciliar Movement was an effort by leading cardinals to resolve the Great Schism. Their first attempt, at the Council of Pisa (1409), led to the creation of a third Pope.  However, at the Council of Constance (1414-1418), all three Popes resigned and a new Pope was elected, reunifying the Church. 

Further efforts to reform the Church and keep the Papacy inferior to the councils failed in the face of Papal resistance.


The Turks captured _____ in 1453, bringing an end to the Byzantine Empire.


The fall of Constantinople marked the end of an unbroken chain of government stretching back over 2000 years. Scholars fleeing the Turks headed to Italy and the West, where they would influence Renaissance thinkers and expose them to ancient Greek and Latin literature.



Vernacular refers to the native language of a people. 

Although scholastic writers in the Late Middle Ages typically wrote in Latin, authors such as Dante and Chaucer wrote in Italian and English respectively, allowing a wider audience to enjoy their work.

During the Renaissance, vernacular writing became the norm for writers of works for popular consumption.


Who authored The Divine Comedy (Divina Commedia)?

The Divine Comedy was the work of Dante Alighieri of Rome, and was completed in 1321. In it, Dante described a journey to hell (Inferno), purgatory (Purgatorio), and Heaven (Paridiso).

Rather than writing in Latin, Dante adopted the vernacular, writing in the common language of the day (Florentine Italian), an unusual practice at the time. Dante's work is considered one of the finest ever written, and has been an inspiration to countless authors.


_____ _____ _____ is a collection of tales told by religious pilgrims on their journey as part of a story-telling contest.

The Canterbury Tales 

Composed in the late 1300s, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales in the vernacular. Chaucer's use of English led to the general acceptance of the practice in literature.

Chaucer's rather ribald work (vulgar for its time) even featured some of English literature's first flatulence-based humor.


Who was St. Thomas Aquinas?

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was an Italian priest and influential philosopher and theologian. Aquinas's teaching and writings were the bedrock of late Medieval philosophy, and sought to reconcile faith and reason by using logic to support Christian doctrine. Aquinas's reliance on logic would be countered by humanists during and after the Renaissance.

His ideas remain influential today; Aquinas's Summa Theologica is still used in theology and philosophy classes.