10B Introduction to life in 1500

10B Introduction to life in 1500 - 1 Western...

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Western Civilization—1500 to the Present Introductory Lecture We will begin this class with the Protestant Reformation, which caused a gigantic and, in a real sense, permanent rupture in the religious, social and political order of 16 th century society. But before we discuss the causes of this disruption, I want to spend a few minutes describing the structure of society on the eve of the reformation and the mental world that people of the 16 th century embraced. What about the geography, population and everyday life of a European in 1500? Geography and Demography Well, where is Europe? The term Europe refers to the continent west of Asia, an area of about 4 million square miles that comprises about 35 countries . Culturally speaking, there is an East/West dimension , with a greater emphasis on the countries in Western Europe— o England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal, the low countries and Scandinavia; o In the east is Poland, Hungary, the Balkan states and Russia. (This line shifts over time as well). There is a North/South dimension that again shifts over time—this is less of a cultural and more of a climatic and economic dimension… and again this fluctuates with time. o Western Europe’s climate, latitudinally speaking, should be colder than it is, but it is warmed by the gulf stream, so cities in southern France/ northern Spain are at the same latitude as Chicago but have much more temperate climates. o In southern Europe, the climate is mild warmed by the Mediterranean and thus is categorized as ‘Mediterranean’ whereas Northern Europe is famously cold. 1
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The population in Europe in 1500 was around 80 million (today it is around 725 million). Fourteenth Century Crises The most striking aspect a modern might notice about Europe in 1500 is how empty, how sparsely populated it would seem. The population had been greater during the high Middle Ages until the calamitous 14 th century catastrophes : o Europe underwent a “little Ice Age” in the first decades of the 14 th century, where temperatures dropped, causing crop failure, and famine. o The Black Death which struck in 1346-7 took somewhere between one third and one half of the population o The Hundred Years War from 1339-1453? Ravaged cities and countryside throughout Europe o The Catholic Church underwent a severe crisis, when the papacy was moved from Rome to Avignon in the so-called Babylonian Captivity ; o And then, upon its return to Rome split between contending popes in the Great Schism . The magnitude of these catastrophic events was such that it would take almost two centuries for Europe to recover from them. Thus, the population in 1500 was still recovering from these demographic, economic, political, and religious disasters of the 14 th century. Disease and Famine
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10B Introduction to life in 1500 - 1 Western...

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