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Late Middle Ages

Late Middle Ages

Professor Philip Daileader Ph.D.
The College of William and Mary

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Late Middle Ages

Late Middle Ages

Professor Philip Daileader Ph.D.
The College of William and Mary
Course No.  8296
Course No.  8296
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Course Overview

About This Course

24 lectures  |  30 minutes per lecture

Were the two centuries from c. 1300 to c. 1500—an age that has come to be known as the Late Middle Ages—an era of calamity or an era of rebirth? Should we look on this time as still clearly medieval or as one in which humanity took its first decisive steps into modernity? Was it a period as distant from us as it appears, or was it closer than we suspect? Students of history are still trying, even after so many centuries, to reach anything approaching a consensus on the answers to these questions.

Ponder the many contradictions on your own and you may be frustrated by inconclusive answers. Instead, let Professor Philip Daileader be your guide and set you on the path to answers with

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Were the two centuries from c. 1300 to c. 1500—an age that has come to be known as the Late Middle Ages—an era of calamity or an era of rebirth? Should we look on this time as still clearly medieval or as one in which humanity took its first decisive steps into modernity? Was it a period as distant from us as it appears, or was it closer than we suspect? Students of history are still trying, even after so many centuries, to reach anything approaching a consensus on the answers to these questions.

Ponder the many contradictions on your own and you may be frustrated by inconclusive answers. Instead, let Professor Philip Daileader be your guide and set you on the path to answers with The Late Middle Ages, the final course in his excellent trilogy that began with The Early Middle Ages and The High Middle Ages.

This provocative 24-lecture course introduces you to the age's major events, personalities, and developments and arms you with the essentials you need to form your own ideas about this age of extremes—an age that, according to Professor Daileader, "experiences disasters and tragedies of such magnitude that those who survive them cannot remember the like, and doubt that subsequent generations will be capable of believing their descriptions."

An Era of Disease, War, and Religious Turmoil ...

There was the Black Death, which killed perhaps half the population of Europe in four years and remained a constant and terrifying presence for centuries to come. ...

There was the carnage of frequent wars, particularly the Hundred Years War, and a steady progression in the deadly effectiveness of the weapons with which those wars might be waged. ...

There was religious turmoil, with the papacy humiliated, the popes departing Rome, and a Great Papal Schism that ultimately produced three competing popes, leaving the Catholic Church with no clear leader for a period of nearly 40 years. ...

And there was the threat of rebellion in both city and country as disasters and social change took their inevitable toll.

... or Were the Seeds of Modernity Planted?

On the other hand, even as Europe was reeling under these onslaughts, a powerful new way of thinking was coming to fruition. This was the beginning of the intellectual and cultural movement known as Humanism.

By Humanism's precepts, which harkened back to the moral inspiration inherent in Classical artistic values, humans have an enormous capacity for goodness, for creativity, even for the achievement of happiness. Moreover, that happiness was something that could be experienced not in the next life, but in this one.

But these were hardly the only forces that tug modern-day historians in multiple directions. The Middle Ages was also a period when the persisting legacy of knights, serfs, and castles coexisted with the cannons and muskets newly made possible by gunpowder.

It was a period when Scholastic theologians continued to question the nature of God and the salvation of humanity, while this new breed of Humanists urged a focus on humanity itself. And it was a time enlightened enough to welcome and appreciate the rise of the printing press, yet it still permitted and tolerated the torments of the Spanish Inquisition.

With a world of such contradictions and juxtapositions, is it any wonder that historians, including those who have been the most influential and evocative in studying this period, have differed on how history is to judge this era?debating even when it ended and modernity began?

As you might imagine, Professor Daileader is no stranger to this discussion. His opinion is that modernity in Europe came much later than is generally thought, occurring between 1750 and 1850.

More importantly, Professor Daileader's wealth of teaching skills has drawn consistent recognition and honors, beginning with his four Certificates of Distinction while still a graduate student at Harvard and ranging to his current occupancy of one of William and Mary's University Chairs in Teaching Excellence.

Encounter Extraordinary People and Events

The teaching skills that helped earn those honors include a delightful narrative style and a wry and pointed sense of humor, both of which are on regular display throughout these lectures. The result is a compelling course that introduces you to an extraordinary array of people and events.

  • Meet women like Christine de Pizan, possibly the first woman to support herself and her family entirely through her literary efforts. Left to her own devices after the deaths of her husband and father, the Italian-born resident of France put her superb education to work, writing and selling poems, royal biographies, a defense of Joan of Arc, and even a book on military theory. But her greatest contributions were as an early feminist; with major works defending the intellectual and moral equality of women, she launched a discussion that would last for centuries.
  • Encounter rulers who helped turn the tide of history, like Ferdinand and Isabella, who sponsored Columbus's voyages to the Americas but also expelled both the Jews and Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula and established the Spanish Inquisition. Or Philip IV of France, whose drive to assert supremacy over the papacy included the so-called Babylonian Captivity of the popes in Avignon and the arrest and trial of the Knights Templar, the military order supposedly answerable only to the pope.
  • And discover radical thinkers and theologians such as John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, and William Ockham, whose ideas dared to approach—and cross—the forbidden lines of heresy, sparking controversy, rebellion, and the sometimes fatal opposition of the church.

But as fascinating as the people of the Late Middle Ages were, its signpost events and developments were no less gripping, and Professor Daileader creates vibrant pictures in showing how each contributed to this complex and important era, including:

  • The Black Death, which claimed what some historians now believe to be fully half of Europe's population in its first four-year visit (there were others) and left in its wake not only death and grief but widespread social and economic complications.
  • The influence of the Inquisition's courts and the idea of the "witch"—especially the female witch—as well as the occurrence of the first witch trials and the widespread ordeals women fell prey to in the 16th and 17th centuries.
  • The coming of paper to Europe, after its invention in China 1,000 years earlier, and the replacement of parchment by paper. This development was critical to the feasibility and spread of the printing press, perhaps even more so than the demands presented by the rise of literacy.
  • The far-reaching effects of the historical transaction that has come to be known as the Columbian Exchange. The massive trade of plants, animals, and diseases between the Old and New Worlds rapidly changed both areas forever. As Europe gained enormous demographic and economic benefits, it was often at the cost of profound devastation to the Americas.

The impact of the exchange that began with Columbus's voyage is still felt today, as is the impact of the entire era whose end it roughly marks and whose story is presented so brilliantly in The Late Middle Ages.

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24 Lectures
  • 1
    Late Middle Ages—Rebirth, Waning, Calamity?
    This lecture introduces the course and its focus on two major questions debated by historians for centuries: Did the 14th and 15th centuries mark the turning point between the medieval and the modern? Was this period a high or a low point in European history? x
  • 2
    Philip the Fair versus Boniface VIII
    You'll examine the conflict between the king of France and the papacy. The results—a growth of French influence and a weakened papacy—will shape the religious history of 14th-century Europe. x
  • 3
    Fall of the Templars and the Avignon Papacy
    Continued French defiance of papal authority generates a perception of French influence that—even though exaggerated by influential foreign voices such as Petrarch's—can only diminish the authority of an institution that aspires to universality. x
  • 4
    The Great Papal Schism
    Two unusual papal elections produce two popes, one in Rome and the other in Avignon, with each claiming legitimacy. The resulting split, complete with competing lines of popes, will divide Christian Europe for nearly two generations. x
  • 5
    The Hundred Years War, Part 1
    The political history of 14th-century Europe will be dominated by more than a century of continual conflict between France and England over the latter's claims to the French throne. x
  • 6
    The Hundred Years War, Part 2
    Although the thrones of the combatants ultimately remain unchanged, the war demonstrates the effectiveness of the longbow against knights and contributes to the emergence of larger, infantry-based armies—a trend that will soon have political and social repercussions. x
  • 7
    The Black Death, Part 1
    With its population at a difficult level to sustain, Europe is ill-equipped to confront the calamity that arrives in 1347. Medical and cultural assumptions of the time are limited and the population drops by one-third, perhaps by one-half, in four years. x
  • 8
    The Black Death, Part 2
    The consequences of the Black Death and subsequent outbreaks of plague include an increase in geographical mobility and wages and a drop in rents, land values, and food prices. The result is a rising gap between rich and poor, increasing the social tensions that sometimes manifested themselves in revolt. x
  • 9
    Revolt in Town and Country
    The Late Middle Ages witnessed a relatively high number of large-scale revolts, and you'll examine both rural and urban examples: the Peasants' Revolt in England of 1381 and the revolt of the Ciompi in Florence in 1378. x
  • 10
    William Ockham
    You'll learn about the life and works of a man whose theological views and criticisms of the papacy made him a polarizing figure, not only during his own lifetime but for centuries to come. x
  • 11
    John Wycliffe and the Lollards
    Another controversial English Scholastic theologian has an even greater impact than Ockham, inspiring—through his ideas about the church, priesthood, and spiritual authority—the first large-scale heretical movement to emerge in medieval England. x
  • 12
    Jan Hus and the Hussite Rebellion
    The execution of the man willing to defend Wycliffe's ideas in the Holy Roman Empire touches off a series of revolts known as the Hussite Wars, during which the Hussites become the only medieval heretical group to fight successfully for the establishment of their own church. x
  • 13
    Witchcraft
    Although the 16th and 17th centuries were the great age of European witch hunts, the first European witch trials date to the Late Middle Ages. You'll discover the fusion of the concepts of heresy and "harmful" magic that set the stage for those witch hunts. x
  • 14
    Christine de Pizan and Catherine of Siena
    You'll look at the work of two of the late-medieval culture's most noteworthy women: one perhaps the first self-supporting female author, the other a mystic who was to become one of the first female Doctors of the Church. x
  • 15
    Gunpowder
    The introduction of gunpowder and the weapons for it is one of the most important technological developments in late-medieval Europe, altering the balance of power and, together with other changes in military technology, forcing the medieval nobility to function less as warriors and more as courtiers. x
  • 16
    The Printing Press
    The printing press greatly increases the efficiency with which knowledge is disseminated, making it easier for subsequent generations to build on and surpass the intellectual achievements of their predecessors. x
  • 17
    Renaissance Humanism, Part 1
    This first of two lectures on Humanism looks at the emergence of this strong belief in the inherent goodness, intellectual capability, and dignity of the individual, combined with a profound admiration for Classical literature and art and a desire to revive the literary and artistic values of antiquity. x
  • 18
    Renaissance Humanism, Part 2
    Continuing our discussion of Hu­man­ism, you'll look at its differences from the dominant intellectual method of the time—Scholasticism—and the role Hu­manist ideas were destined to play in Euro­pean intellectual life. x
  • 19
    The Fall of the Byzantine Empire
    The eastern half of the Roman Empire outlives the western half by nearly 1,000 years. This lecture traces the fall of that empire, with the resulting migration of Byzantine scholars to Italy, helping to fuel the revival of antiquity's values then taking place in the West. x
  • 20
    Ferdinand and Isabella
    The marriage of the heir to the throne of Aragon to the heir to the throne of Castile sets the stage for one of the most important political events of the late 15th century: the dynastic unification of most of present-day Spain. x
  • 21
    The Spanish Inquisition
    In 1478, Ferdinand and Isabella establish the Spanish Inquisition. It is a reaction to the large number of Jews converting to Christianity in the aftermath of earlier pogroms and doubts about their sincerity, with Spanish Inquisitors likely playing a role in the decision to expel the Jews in 1492. x
  • 22
    The Age of Exploration
    During the 15th century, Portuguese and Spanish explorers begin to venture down the west coast of Africa and farther out into the Atlantic Ocean, reaching places where no European, to anyone's knowledge, had ever been before—with enormous economic consequences to Europe. x
  • 23
    Columbus and the Columbian Exchange
    Christopher Columbus's voyage to the Americas in 1492 marks a turning point not just in European history but in global history. Trading plants, animals, minerals, and diseases between the Americas and Europe quickly changed both continents. x
  • 24
    When Did the Middle Ages End?
    Humanists of the Italian Renaissance came to believe they had brought the Middle Ages to an end, but there are several reasons to dispute that claim, as this closing lecture makes clear. x

Lecture Titles

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Philip Daileader
Ph.D. Philip Daileader
The College of William and Mary
Dr. Philip Daileader is Associate Professor of History at The College of William and Mary. He earned his B.A. in History from Johns Hopkins University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from Harvard University. Before taking his position at William and Mary, he taught at the University of Alabama and the State University of New York at New Paltz. Professor Daileader received William and Mary's 2004 Alumni Fellowship Award for excellence in teaching. As a graduate student, he was a four-time winner of the Harvard University Certificate of Distinction in Teaching. Dr. Daileader is the author of True Citizens: Violence, Memory, and Identity in the Medieval Community of Perpignan, 1162ñ1397. His research focuses on the social, cultural, and religious history of Mediterranean Europe.
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Reviews

Rated 4.8 out of 5 by 73 reviewers.
Rated 5 out of 5 by Wow!!! This is my third course in Professor Daileader’s trilogy on th middle ages. This one covers the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries – right up to the eruption of the renaissance and the Columbian exchange which will introduce another phase in human development. This period is so packed with pivotal historical events that it was absolutely stunning. The first important process, is the strengthening of the secular French leadership in relation to papal authority, under King Phillip the Fair. This was to indirectly cause the papal schism in which there was more than one pope at a time, one in Avignon and one in Rome, at times even three. A second fascinating topic of that era (lasting more than a hundred years), was the hundred year was between England and France. The war erupted for primarily two reasons: the first was that due to the Norman Conquest of England and the Norman’s accession to the British throne in the 11th century, the British kings came to hold lands in France. These land holdings were in later generations greatly enhanced through marriage alliances and inheritance, primarily through Henry the second’s marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine in the 12th century. The second reason for the resentment was that since the Norman kings were also French subjects, the British king was in a way the vassal of the French king. This was more a matter of prestige than of any practical importance, but the French kings used it often to yank on the British king’s chains. This came to a head in 1337 when King Edward the 4th refused to pay homage to King Phillip the 6th of France, and thus his French holdings were confiscated. This war, or actually a series of wars and battles with intermittent haphazard diplomatic solutions was to last until 1453. The wars in that era were usually not fought in outright battles, as that was far too dangerous – you may get injured or even killed in battles. Instead, the war was much more about attrition than about anything else. At the beginning, the British would lead harrying assaults through the French countryside, killing peasants, pillaging and burning crops and houses. The French were on the defense. It took French peasant girl from Orleans to change the tides. Joan of Arc by sheer charisma and strength of character managed to convince the French king to allow her to lead an attack on the British army holding siege on the city of Orleans. Miraculously, she was successful. She was later to lead more successful compaigns against the British. She was eventually captured by the British, tried for Heresy and burned at the stake, but from this point on Britain was on the defensive and its countryside was to be harried by French armies. The next fascinating chapter has to do with the Black Death, peaking between 1346 and 1353. This was to change European demography in an extreme way. The actual numbers and percentage of people who died is really hard to calculate, but some learned estimates say that on average between a third and a half of the European population died with some areas with as much as eighty per cent casualty. Obviously this had many far reaching effects. Many strange religious movement sought to understand and remedy the situation. The most well-known is the religious flagellant movement whose members would whip themselves in order to repent for their sins and thus avoid god’s punishment through plague. Another consequence, was that the usual scapegoats – the Jews, were blamed for the plague and many were massacred in well-orchestrated pogroms. Unbelievably, this was going on at the same time as the Hundred Year War was in full swing. The huge drop in population create very strong economic and sociological reactions. The land owning classes were accustomed to renting their lands out in exchange for rent, or for employing serfs. Now that there was a much smaller population, the demand for land decreased, and the price of land dropped. At the same time, the price of labor was on the rise. Although in Britain the price was to be legally checked by parliament, the market dynamics were just too strong and labor prices did in fact rise. It became much easier and cheaper to acquire land, and this led to the diminishing of serfdom. The British Parliament’s legislation created a huge amount of friction with the peasants and this eventually led among other factors to the peasant’s revolt in 1381. The course goes on to cover other pivotal events and processes, but Professor Daileader does not cover them into with the same level of detail as with the prior ones mentioned, simply because it would make the course much too long: the invention of gunpowder, the printing press, fall of the Byzantine empire to the Turks, Columbus’ voyage to America, and the beginning of the Humanistic movement. Each of these would probably merit a full course on its own. Overall this has been a fantastic course, absolutely brimming with content and fascinating insight. Professor Daileader, as I have already come to expect, presented the material in a fascinating manner often seasoning the lectures with much appreciated wit. November 8, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Brought the late Middle Ages into the present A fantastic series of lectures by Dr. Philip Daileader, a marvelous, engaging and fun lecturer. His interest in the subject is genuine and this aspect certainly comes through. For anyone with even a mild interest or curiosity in the Middle Ages, such as was, at least initially, the case for me, I highy recommend this course of lectures, as well as Dr. Daileader's lectures on the early and high middle ages. My perspective on present day issues has certainly been enriched with background material I was unaware of. November 7, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Really good Just a great course. Professor Daileader has a real gift for teaching. October 7, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Excellent courses. This review holds for all three courses: early, high and middle ages. Dr. Daileader is master of his subject. He makes a complicated subject easy to understand and appreciate. His lectures are thorough yet kept together as a whole. I enjoyed not only his narrative approach but more importantly his comprehensive in-depth analysis: such as his ability to provide mechanisms of history and cause-and-effect perspective. At the end of each lecture, you get the feeling “aha”, “hmm it makes sense” which I believe are the ultimate expressions of learning. Highly recommended. July 13, 2014
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