Late Middle Ages

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

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
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 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
    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
    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

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  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
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Your professor

Philip Daileader

About Your Professor

Philip Daileader, Ph.D.
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...
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Late Middle Ages is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 104.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Presentation Once again Professor Daileader does a wonderful job of explaining a complex and vast topic. He pulls together all the material from the Early Middle Ages and weaves those stories into this course. He takes the important aspects of the time period and helps you understand all of the events of Europe and the Middle East at this time.
Date published: 2009-05-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Least Favorite of the Trilogy I enjoyed these lectures, but not as much as the first two of the series, which I had listened to just before this one. The professor is interesting and insightful, but the structure of the course didn't flow as smoothly as the previous two. Of course, since it was the third, perhaps I had exhausted my mood for the Middle Ages by the time I reached the final course. I'd still recommend it.
Date published: 2009-04-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Trilogy This is the final lecture of an engaging and informative trilogy of medieval history. This and the previous two courses will hold your interest from start to finish. These lectures are great history and wonderful story telling. If Dr Dalleader offers another course I wouldn't hesitate to buy it. These three courses fill out the TC's lectures on the Foundations of Western Civilization I & II and dovetail nicely with TC's courses on late antiquity and the Renaisance. Dr D should be asked back to teach additional courses.
Date published: 2009-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic!! Professor Philip Daileader is an excellent lecturer! The topics chosen for these lectures were all interesting- he presents the information in a way that makes it very easy for the listener to retain. A+
Date published: 2009-03-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good not Great I thought this was a good course but was my least favorite of the 3 Middle Ages courses. I would still recommend it but I completely disagree with his theory that the Middle Ages did not end until sometime in the mid 18th century. That's OK, because he seems to admit its not well received in many circles but I would have preferred some of the final lectures to have been removed in exchange for more detail on the information contained in most of the course.
Date published: 2009-03-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good course Of the middle ages trilogy (early middle and late), this is the one I enjoy the least. But then I bought the course after having listened to the other two which are probably the very best lectures the TC ever sold. But it's still pretty good, just not as enjoyable as the other two.
Date published: 2009-02-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wonderfully absorbing Professor Daileader does a fine job of presenting material which he obviously knows well. I like his balanced approached, rather than simply pushing his pet views on a subject which he admits is rather sketchy in many areas. Granted the middle ages was not a friendly time to live, but like most eras, it did have positive things which Daileader particularly points out. This was refreshing, since so many presentations that I've heard emphasize only how dark and cruel this time was. I look forward to hearing these lectures a second time to emphasize my learning experience. In general, these remarks can be applied as well to the Early Middle Ages and the High Middle Ages, which I enjoyed equally as well.
Date published: 2009-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Daileader is, I think, one of the best lecturers here to be found. A great deal can be learned from this course, as well as from any of his on the Middle Ages. His presentation is pleasant to listen to, explanations never hard to understand, each story is detailed enough, and his narrative is very smooth and easy to follow. I am more than satisfied!
Date published: 2009-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting course! Just like the first two parts in the Middle Ages trilogy courses, this part is excellent as well. Dr. Daileader is an outstanding and brilliant professor who knows the material very well. I recommend purchasing the dvd format for all three of these Middle Ages courses because they contain excellent graphics that really help you comprehend all of the material.
Date published: 2009-01-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from History of the Middle Ages on the Comedy Channel! Philip Daileader is an accessible and entertaining lecturer, one that we all wish we had in college. In fact his dry and ironic wit honestly reminds me of a stand up routine on the Comedy Channel at times! I mean this in a good way, of course. He does not overwhelm in quantity or pace like others can, and before you know it, the comedic element of his presentation, has you intensely interested in the subject matter at hand. He has that ability to lecture on well known topics, but present them in interesting, new ways. He can include subjects that are less discussed to make it seem really fascinating overall. I appreciate that talent very much because I just imagine how difficult it can be to consistently perform like that over such a wide range of historical material. This course does seem to be similar to his previous two on the middle ages, in a fairly basic chronological approach. It seemed like he was trying to enhance that standard approach in the first lecture of this course, by discussing three significant scholars and how their views on the period boundaries of the middle ages and early modernity were located. That is, when did the middle ages end, and modernity begin? The idea was to see which one of the three scholars would be most accurate? We wait for twenty two lectures without hardly any mention of them after that initial lecture, only to get the statement that they all agreed on the existence of a boundary. Yet this had already been stated in that first lecture, so it seems like the relevant question was near to being totally ignored. Philip's personal view of that period boundary between the middle ages and modernity, is however, quite fascinating. He candidly explains his own theory that elements of the middle ages extended quite late, into the 1800s. This likely goes against most scholarly themes, but like he stated in the first lecture, that may be due to the overemphasis on change itself for commercial purposes. So he is giving us his unbiased, scholarly opinion and backs it up with more evidence than any lecture in the course. This makes the first and last lectures very different than the twenty two in between them. How I wish that all were at that high and interactive a level. I had hoped to see more of an emphasis on contextual presentations that included references to the change in how scholars viewed the middle ages over time. The "Renaissance debate" in Kenneth Bartlett's course sounded fascinating in this respect, where he depicted "the revolt of the medievalists." We can all only hope for more courses from Philip Daileader, perhaps on a subject that focuses on his personal expertise, now that he has covered the early, high, and late middle ages?
Date published: 2009-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from breath and depth of 1300-1500 I had thought that nobody could present the Late Middle Ages better than Dr. Ruiz in his course on Medieval Europe: Crisis and Renewal. Dr. Daileader sure comes close. He gives enough detail in his lectures to not be tedious, and the various lecture topics keeps the course moving forward. I recommend all three of his courses, but I was especially impressed with this one.
Date published: 2009-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The conclusion of a splendid trilogy Prof Daileader's trilogy on the Middle Ages are among the very finest classes that TCC offers. While I found the Early course to be the best of the three, this course on the transition to modernity was a very strong second.
Date published: 2009-01-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Finishes off the Middle Age Trilogy Magnificantly I listened to this course after the other Middle Ages Courses from Professor Daileader. They were all excellent. The professor has great skill at making entertaining lectures of subjects such as The Black Death and Gunpowder. This lecture course is thoughly recommended.
Date published: 2008-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The professor always has a good sense of humor and does a good job of teaching his subject. You learn things about medieval history taking this class that are great for passing on to friends at parties such as why we spell the word "knight" the way we do. The subject being taught is very broad and this course is great at getting an overall feel of what was happening during this time period.
Date published: 2008-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Yet another excellent course Yet another excellent middle ages course by this prof. Fascinating, enjoyable, well organized and presented, etc., etc.
Date published: 2008-12-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof Daileader starts off a little stiffly but by lecture 3 his dry humor had completely taken me in. The course is excellent overall- esp the last few lectures.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent and well presented material.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Daileader gave just enough information to hold my interest.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Another great course by this professor on Middle Ages
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Any history buff will love this course and anyone else will wonder why they didn't major in history
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Late Middle Ages- excellent review course, broad scope, well researched, excellently delivered.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Daileader may be the very best in you excellent stable of superstar teachers.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof. Daileader is a gifted teacher who organizes and presents large amounts of material with clarity, wit and creativity. if he teaches a 4th course, we will buy it!
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The triology ends on a high note. The best of his courses by far.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from visual quality of DVD's varied dramatically. The image changed from perfect to snow filled.
Date published: 2008-10-17
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