Europe in the High Middle Ages

The 13th century was heavily successful while the other century was not successful and was full of controversies. To have a sharper image of how the two centuries contrasted, we are to examine each century at a time and classify the happenings according to economical, political, intellectual as well as religious issues that took place.

This century was characterized with an increase in population of the people. This led to increase in urbanization throughout Europe. The influx of people in the villages led migration of people into the urban centers. This led to an increase in trading activities in the urban areas. (Mundy 2000)

There was growth in the number of towns. These towns were interconnected by either rivers or roads. Trade took place between the various towns. Growth of trade led to formation of various trade organizations. The various cities located at the coast of North Europe, that is from the Baltic to the North sea- formed a league called the Hanseatic league. This alliance formed a monopoly of trade that would control trade among these cities and the towns surrounding the cities. (Jordan 2001)

The towns of the early Italy such as Venice, Pisa and Genoa formed an alliance where they expanded trade throughout the Mediterranean. Apart from trade, people were also involved in manipulating new land. The population influx led people to clear more land for cultivation. This led to an increase in agriculture. This led to an increase in agricultural products. It boosted food security in the areas. An increase in agriculture

also boosted trade as there was an excess in production. Population increase led to people seeking land abroad. They left their villages for lands which were far from home. (Jordan 2001)

In the 13th century, there was huge urbanization throughout Europe. Due to economic growth in this cities and towns, they also accumulated political power. This era was characterized with the feudal leaders building of castles throughout Europe also known as encastellation. Atop the castles, they would be able to watch over their kingdoms. The castles were used as their palace where they would give their orders as well. (Jordan 2001)

The rulers of Europe became consolidated and they were able to form strong governing institutions. Due to the economic growth of their territories, the rulers of this era expanded their armies. They were able to arm them well, as well as recruit more people in the army. (Mundy 2000)

The Papacy had by this time created a Papal Monarchy. They had created an ideology which made them govern the Christian world. They were also able to acquire even some of the pagan states such as the Finnish state and several others which were by the North Sea. (Mundy 2000)

The church had ‘The Crusades’. These were armed pilgrimages that were destined to acquire the Muslim-controlled states in Europe. The crusaders were able to acquire Jerusalem in 1099 which had been conquered by the Muslims in the 7th century. By the end of the 13th century the crusaders were able to conquer most of the states controlled by the Muslims in Spain, Italy and Portugal. The Church did not control much of Europe before this duration. This century saw an increase in the territory the Church influenced.

Most of the peasants in this period were transformed into monks. This was because; people believed that the Church taught things which were realistic to them as it had impact to their lives. The Elites had contributed a lot in the growth of the church. They contributed in the building of churches. The church had massive success in this century. (Mundy 2000)

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There was development in the intellectualism of Europe in the century. The Europeans were able to borrow much from the Islamic philosophy and science.. The Roman numerals were replaced with decimal positional number system. This had a great arithmetic advancement. There was also invention of algebra which was an achievement in the study of mathematics.

In the earlier times, the learning institutions were wholly run by monasteries. There was establishment of universities in this period. Literacy was now accessible to a wider range of people than before. The various subjects of study such as Literature, Music, Art, Sculpture as well as Architecture were greatly improved. This led to building of more stronger and magnificent building such as the large Cathedrals built in the Romanesque and the Gothic designs. (Mundy 2000)

The improvement in literacy levels as well as science and technology in Europe led to inventions in various fields. (Mundy 2000) There was invention of the compass, spectacles, gunpowder, the cannon and silk as well. There were also improvements in the building of the ship and clocks.

The 14th century was characterized with an economic down-turn. First, the agriculture sector, a major stakeholder of the economy, was hard hit by the persisting climate change. This had been forecast by a climate historian. There was great drought throughout Europe that led to periodical famines in Europe. Agriculture which was a main feature in the economy went down. Many of the people who were affiliated to this sector were adversely affected. Trade in the European continent was in a declining rate due to the low yields realized from the fields. Farmers did not realize excess and so they would not release much to the market due to the persisting famine. (Jordan 2001)

There was also a great tragedy with the emergence of the ‘Black Death’. This was a disease that was highly contagious among people. It was very dangerous. The overcrowded towns and cities also accelerated the situation. This killer disease killed a third of the population in some areas while some area, it took a half of the population.

The disease took a very large population. This badly affected the labor market in the European continent. The number of workers reduced due to the huge number of deaths. There was an acute shortage of workers. There was a great demand for labor which led to the wages increase so as to entice more workers. Workers often were in endless uprisings as they felt pressured in their workplaces. These activities brought an overall down-turn in the economy. (Mundy 2000)

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The church was filled with controversies in this century. There were the movements of the Avignon Papacy which took place on1305-1378 and the Western Schism which took place on 1378-1418. The Avignon papacy was a period when popes resided in the town of Avignon (on exile) which was in the present day France. This period was hostile and controversial.

There was a controversy looming in the church when the Church practiced papal indulgences which were fully monetized. The congregation felt that there was corruption in the church as the funds passed through the parish churches and finally to the pope. The era of western schism, saw the church split into two factions after the Avignon papacy. This dearly compromised the Catholic Church. (Mundy 2000)

The 14th century was characterized with creation of nation-states that were royalty based. They included England, Spain as well as France. This led to a hundred-year era of conflict between England and France. The period of conflict between France and England saw a development in the army weapons used as well as the tactics in the battlefield. They were exceptional from the olden feudal ways used earlier. The monarchies were led by elite bureaucrats. The governments became strong that they would impose taxes and formulate laws. (Jordan 2001)

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