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Medieval Europe: Crisis and Renewal

Medieval Europe: Crisis and Renewal

Professor Teofilo F. Ruiz, Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles

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Medieval Europe: Crisis and Renewal

Course No. 863
Professor Teofilo F. Ruiz, Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles
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Course No. 863
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Course Overview

This course examines the crises of late medieval society (widespread famines in 1315-1317, wars, plagues, popular rebellions) and the manner in which, during the 14th and 15th centuries, men and women responded to these crises by formulating new concepts of love, art, religion, and political organization.

The emphasis throughout is not on a sustained political narrative. The aim of the course is to explore the structure of late medieval society and show how the society, economy, and culture were transformed and refashioned by the upheavals besetting Europe at the onset of modernity.

Thus, in tracing the response to economic, political, and social crises, we also chart the transition from the medieval to the modern world.

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16 lectures
 |  44 minutes each
Year Released: 1996
  • 1
    Europe in 1300—An Introduction
    Professor Ruiz sets the geographical, linguistic, and historiographical contexts for the course. Understanding how medieval men and women imagined their society and saw themselves provides insight on how they responded to the imminent crises. x
  • 2
    Europe in 1300—Rural Society
    Peasants were the group most dramatically affected by late medieval crises. We look at their difficult daily lives and crucial, but lowly, roles in society. x
  • 3
    Europe in 1300—Urban Society
    Focusing on the rise of towns and cities, we examine the sources of so much inspiring art and great learning that shaped society in the Middle Ages and years to come. The character of the bourgeoisie and state of popular culture are reflected in fundamental changes in value systems and religious beliefs. x
  • 4
    Europe in 1300—Church, State and Learning
    As the power of the papacy is envied and emulated throughout Europe, changes occur in the relationship between church and state. Professor Ruiz describes those changes while tracing the origin of political organizations and a political point of view that emphasized the state over the church. x
  • 5
    An Age of Crises—Hunger
    We study the great famines of 1315–1317 and their impact on European society in succeeding decades. Medieval governments are unable to deal with the consequences of widespread hunger—rising violence, crimes against property, high mortality rates, and a reduced population. x
  • 6
    An Age of Crises—War
    We discuss the Hundred Years War and its affect on social, economic, political, and cultural structures. We deal with the impact of military technology on society, the role of war, the rise of knightly orders, and the contradictions of war's savagery and chivalry's ideals. x
  • 7
    An Age of Crises—The Black Death
    The Black Plague had an enormous impact on Europeans in the mid-14th century. We consider the development of the church after the plague, violence against Jews and lepers following the spread of the plague, and the reaction of authorities to its onslaught. x
  • 8
    An Age of Crises—Popular Rebellions
    Many peasant and urban uprisings occurred as individuals at the top of society sought to maintain their positions in a time of vast economic and social dislocation. Those below, and those caught in the middle, often reacted with violence. x
  • 9
    Late Medieval Society—Politics
    Professor Ruiz introduces new political concepts formed in the late Middle Ages, including first steps toward the genesis of the nation state. Centralized monarchies emerged at the end of the 15th century in France and England as a result of crises that pushed thinkers and rulers to develop concepts of sovereignty. x
  • 10
    Late Medieval Society—Castile in the Fifteenth Century
    We see how the ideas and practices of government were put into service in the kingdom of Castile in Spain, and how age-old medieval institutions were utilized by the Castilian monarchy to organize the nation state. x
  • 11
    Late Medieval Society—Culture and Mentality, Part I
    We examine the birth of Renaissance culture in Italy in the 14th and 15th centuries and its spread to other parts of western Europe. Beginning with Dante, we consider the transforming factors of Renaissance humanism and art. x
  • 12
    Late Medieval Society—Culture and Mentality, Part II
    Continuing the examination of the birth of Renaissance culture in Italy in the 14th and 15th centuries, we consider new artistic models, aesthetic sensibilities, and a new spirit. x
  • 13
    Late Medieval Society—Love, Sexuality, and Misogyny, Part I
    Professor Ruiz discusses how concepts of love, sexuality, the body, and marriage were transformed by the crises of the late Middle Ages. Boccaccio's Decameron and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales are studied for statements on love and sexuality. x
  • 14
    Late Medieval Society—Love, Sexuality, and Misogyny, Part II
    We discuss the Spanish Inquisition, the witch craze, and other examples of society turning against specific groups in its midst. x
  • 15
    Late Medieval Society—The Blending of High and Popular Culture
    We see how festivals, royal entries, and carnivals were used to expand the power and influence of nation states. The mix of certain elements of high and popular cultures in jousts, pas d'armes (passage of arms), and other public festivals were of great benefit to rulers of the day. x
  • 16
    The Beginnings of Modernity
    Professor Ruiz gives a rousing summation and provides a peek into the next era. The fall of Constantinople and subsequent reception of Greek Classical knowledge in the West, the disruption of trade routes in the East, and the voyages of discovery are all treated as dramatic transforming factors in European lives. x

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Your professor

Teofilo F. Ruiz

About Your Professor

Teofilo F. Ruiz, Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles
Dr. Teofilo F. Ruiz is Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles. A student of Joseph R. Strayer, Dr. Ruiz earned his Ph.D. from Princeton University. Prior to taking his post at UCLA, he held teaching positions at Brooklyn College, the City University of New York Graduate Center, the University of Michigan, the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences in Paris, and Princeton University-as the...
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Rated 4 out of 5 by 37 reviewers.
Rated 5 out of 5 by Superb Presentation This is by far the best history course I've ever taken and it's taught by a passionate charismatic, very erudite professor. You can't ask for anything more. I was impressed that it was so intellectually stimulating rather than being 'dumbed' down as some other TC offerings are. Yes, some lectures are hard but isn't that the whole purpose here, education rather than entertainment, or if we're lucky both in the same presentation? The fact that he covers the social history rather than political history as written by the 'winners' is a definite plus, so much more interesting and informative than conventional courses. Some reviewers called him a communist, he is not, but even if he was - can we not entertain a different point of view? And can we not then make up our own minds? Or are we stuck in the rhetoric of the 50's. And what other history course includes discussions of Dante, Boccaccio and Chaucer as a guide to the way society deals with illness and other slings and arrows of 'history'? His lecture on Dante alone is worth the entire course. I would like to see him teach a course on the Golden Age of Spanish Literature & Art, Cervantes, Goya, the poets, etc. With his insightful observations and passionate love for his subject this would be a mind-blowing presentation. In all other respects, I agree wholeheartedly with Silberg whose review is among the ones at the top. This course is one to watch again and again there is so much to absorb and to enjoy. Professor Ruiz is one of the very best lecturers in the Teaching Company roster, along with Daniel Robinson and Elizabeth Vandiver. I would like to see more by him along the lines I've already suggested to the Teaching Company. He sets the bar so high it's difficult to know who and what to watch following his courses. November 18, 2011
Rated 5 out of 5 by Really understanding Medieval Europe! I just finished listening to the audio of this course and wanted to write some words about how great it is. Professor Ruiz really knows the subject well, and this course helped me have a much greater understanding of this time period and its pivotal nature in history. He tackled a huge subject and made so many good points -- I know I will want to listen to his lectures multiple times to digest all he said. I came away with so many insights into what life was like during the time period discussed. I wish he had been able to have more time. Having enjoyed this course, I am encouraged to look up his other Teaching Company courses, and I certainly will give them much higher consideration when deciding which courses I can afford to purchase. I think Professor Ruiz is really gracious to offer to answer any questions we may have if we write him care of The Teaching Company. How many professors are willing to give of their time in this way? To be fair, I will admit that Professor Ruiz has an accent, but I believe it is well worth the slightly extra effort to understand him (it did not take me long to get used how he speaks) in exchange for all the benefits of this course has to offer. I applaud the efforts of The Teaching Company in capturing and preserving lectures such as these for many to benefit from. November 30, 2010
Rated 5 out of 5 by Middle Ages Explained I have listened to this course several times over the years - it was one of the first TC courses I bought. After hearing the TC's trilogy on the Middle Ages by Dr Daileader this course, which I always thought of as excellent, seemed even better. Dr D's course provides the story of the Middle Ages wonderfully told. Dr Ruiz gives an elegant explanation of the medieval period. This course enriches the understanding of both the medieval period and the times that followed. Some reviewer's found Dr R's accent distracting - I did not. This subject matter and presenation will enhance your knowledge the Middle ages and Western History. Like its topic this is a course that has aged well. June 5, 2009
Rated 4 out of 5 by Captivating Lectures AUDIO DOWNLOAD This is my first course with Professor Ruiz and, overall, it was a very positive experience. He deftly handles a complex period noted for famines, plagues, wars, and popular rebellions, showing how “…how the society, economy, and culture were transformed and refashioned by the upheavals besetting Europe at the onset of modernity”. This is not so much a course of hard facts and dates, though those are included, but is more “impressionistic” (audio, lecture 16), teasing out from varied, though limited, sources issues such as power relationships and group “mentality”. Professor Ruiz is particularly skeptical of elites (i.e., church, nobles, rulers, and bourgeoisie) in their efforts to maintain and/or expand their power. The last lecture is especially good in tying things together in the transition of Medieval Europe into the modern world. The course is longer than expected, as the sixteen lectures are 45 minutes each, and despite being a 1996 TC course, it holds up very well. I especially appreciate Professor Ruiz’s references to other scholars’ work and his identifying areas of interpretive disagreement. He also frankly acknowledges that the Middle Ages are difficult to pigeon-hole, given the extensive territory involved and historical/cultural diversity within that expanse. Indeed, as Professor Ruiz notes, there is much in the period that appears “confusing and contradictory”. This is a fine social history. The only criticism I have is that it is at times difficult to understand what Professor Ruiz is saying. For example, “Wheel of Fortune” sounds like Will of Fortune and Canary Islands sounds like Can-ary Islands. He also back tracks a bit to make sure he has been clear enough in his statements. But these are minor issues in such a fine course. I am now looking forward to Professor Ruiz’s TC course on ‘The Other 1492’. October 13, 2015
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