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
 |  Average 44 minutes each
  • 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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Medieval Europe: Crisis and Renewal is rated 4.1 out of 5 by 43.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Solid and engaging overview I have about 35 courses that I've listened to and by far this professor is one of the best in terms of delivery. He speaks a little fast for some of my friends who have listened with me, but I actually find that beneficial because he covers more material in the same time. He also clearly knows his material inside and out and it never feels like he's reading from a script. I'm not saying he would make a math course engaging for me, but as a student of history and European history moreso, this is a must have. I'm definitely looking forward to his other courses!
Date published: 2016-11-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fine Alternative View of the Late Middle Ages audio download version Professor Ruiz covers some of the same time span as in his course "The Other 1492", but with minor exceptions, none of the same material. And those exceptions, such as discussions of the Catholic Monarchs, are presented with a different slant. I listened to this course during the same time as I watched Professor Daileader's "Late Middle Ages". To be sure, Dr. Daileader has the advantage of 20 years in TC technology, but even so, I loved Dr. Ruiz's course that took a very different view of the 14th and 15th centuries. For sure there are some differences in analysis and emphasis between Daileader and Ruiz, something that one both hopes for and expects. Professor Ruiz focuses on the various crises during the late middle ages, such as the Black Death and how these and advances in technologies and changes in society led to the eventual, gradual emergence of the Renaissance. I particularly liked his emphasis and the time spent on how each event during this time period and how the way society was structured affected the large part of the population. In this I did not at all mind his occasional use such modern terms as the proletariat. Many lecturers use anachronistic, modern terms to help lay people (such as myself) understand a different time and place better. As an aside, those reviewers who have objected to the use of the occasional Marxist term or perspective says much more about their prejudice than it does about Dr. Ruiz. Perhaps it is where I live, but I had no problem at all with his accent. Plus it gave his occasional foray into low-key humor a bit more charm. Highly Recommended
Date published: 2016-08-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Behind the medieval curtain Audio download These lectures cover the transitional period between the late Middle Ages and Early Modern Times, or about 1300 to 1500...give or take. There are many lecture sets that cover this time span (and more) that are very, very good (Drs Dialeader, Harl, Armstrong and Paxton) and I strongly recommend each and every one of them (especially after winning a significant lottery). this pretty much colours my review of the good Professor Teo Ruiz's 'Crisis and Renewal', so those of you considering purchasing this set should be forewarned, this set is a bit different, but nonetheless fascinating and informative. If you're worried about Teo's accent...don't, because it's a non-issue. It's not like the help line for computer problems with Microsoft. In fact, I like it and am thinking about adopting it as my own. Prof Ruiz's lectures look more closely at the reasons for transitioning into modern time, not just from the standard political causes/reasons (who begat whom...who killed whom...or what was the pope's opinion of the current monarch in France). He examines the situation of the common man (90–95 percent of the population)...mostly his dismal lot in life...dealing with abysmal poverty, pestilence and popular, as well as unpopular, rebellions, not mention not being able to get a decent cup of joe. It was not a great time to live for those who weren't in the upper 1%. I'll not get into many details (there are some really good reviews here), but just express my take-aways that y'all might find helpful. 1) Religion, specifically the Catholic Church, between 1300 and 1500 is beginning to lose some of it's absolute influence with the general population. The general belief in magic, and the increases in scientific curiosity is strangely hand-in-hand...leading to more acceptance of secularism. You can see the seeds of the protestant movements. The increasing secularism, however, didn't really impact the widespread misogyny that was so well established at this time, though "The Canterbury Tales" did shake things up a bit. Literacy: With scientific advances (as slow as they were to trickle-down to the masses) came technological innovations, notably the invention of the printing press and the beginning of increasing availability of books. In 1300 literacy levels are quite low, barely 10%. By 1500 advances in literacy, though not meteoric, would lead to a general rise in curiosity and awareness about what the world was like beyond your view of the hind-end of their favorite ox. Now you could learn about classical philosophers...Aristotle, Socrates and Plato, while dreaming of exchanging the ox for a horse. New technology: Warfare changed during this time period...the world of knightly battles gave way to the long bow (wielded by peasant grunts), which gave way to cannon...Lancelot had not a chance any more. Technology brought advances to ship-building, sailing and navigation, thereby increasing the chances of finally getting a tasty meal (spice trade allusion), as well as that cup of joe (or perhaps some decent tea), long-distance trade (and exploration ) was born...and with it: Capitalism. These are my conclusions and take-aways...maybe a little loosely stated, but basically true. These lectures drill-down a little deeper into the regular bad they had it in 1300, and how times were getting ready to change (big time) in 1500. The course is dated (20 years old), but a good one and I do recommend it and the other two sets from Teo as well. It's often an sale and coupons are easily had. .
Date published: 2016-08-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Midieval Europe Review I previously purchased The Terror of History course also presented by Prof. Ruiz. That course was on DVD and was a video course. I purchased this current course in audio which I downloaded. The course is old having been released in 1996. The content of the course was great and Prof. Ruiz is excellent. The quality of the audio, however, was poor. Prof. Ruiz does have a noticeable accent, however it was not a problem in the prior course. I don't believe that it is a problem in this course. There is just something lacking in the audio. There is often background noise that sounds like street traffic. Often the audio seems muffled. I have played lessons on my iPod with noise cancelling headset, on my PC with quality speakers, on my home theater -- all with similar results -- the sound is subpar. I would recommend the course, if the audio problem were resolved.
Date published: 2016-02-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Medieval Europe: Crisis and Renewal This is a somewhat older course that was offered at a discount. I am not a strong history buff but I found this lecture series very interesting, especially as it discusses the life of both the average peasant and the wealthy in the medieval period. The professor has a good pace for his presentation and was easy to listen to. I would recommend this to both those interested in history and this period in history, and to those interested in science in that this period of time set the stage for later scientific progress.
Date published: 2016-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very well done - liked it a lot This course, besides being totally timely, was one of the more well-presented courses, more like a TV series than the usual guy-behind-a-lectern. The use of visual elements, animations, etc., are crucial to understanding something like this, and this course used them very effectively. Plus, at 12 lectures, it's short & sweet, yet spends just enough time covering the background needed to discuss Higgs. The level of sophistication was just challenging enough to be interesting but followable (at least for me). The coursebook was appropriate, with quite a few graphics included (but no glossary).. I find Dr. Carroll an excellent lecturer; I have several of his series. I wouldn't at all mind if he were asked to do a series specifically on quantum field theory.
Date published: 2016-01-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from 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’.
Date published: 2015-10-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Disaster, Disease and Death! This is my favorite of Teofilo Ruiz’s three courses for the Teaching Company. Medieval Europe: Crisis and Renewal has a simple four-part structure. The first part examines Europe in 1300 on the eve of the great crises of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the second the great crises themselves, the third late medieval society, and the fourth late medieval culture. Medieval Europe was a place with sharp social distinctions (in theory) between those who fought (the horseback aristocracy), those who worked (peasants and craftsmen), and those who prayed (the secular and regular clergy). The overwhelmingly mass of Christians were orthodox, respecting a Pope-governed church that provided salvation, order and scholarship. Commerce and town growth had already been under way for three centuries. The merchant class stood at the top of urban society, while craftsmen organized guilds to protect their economic and social position. After 1300 four great crises devastated Christian Europe. The first was a series of famines in Western Europe. The peasants had run out of marginal land to bring into production, and had no way to increase productivity, so when endless rains ruined crops in 1315-17, there was mass starvation. Malnutrition among survivors may have made them more susceptible to the Black Death thirty years later. The second crisis was the outbreak of the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) between England and France. The war kept France in disorder and discredited old-style aristocratic warfare, and eventually guns arrived on European battlefields. The third crisis was the Black Death, which killed a third of Europe’s population and put upward pressure on wages. The fourth was popular rebellion, in France, Florence, England, as some peasants and townsmen raged against inequality. There was also a fifth crisis, in which the reputation of the papacy declined during the Babylonian Captivity in Avignon (1307-78) and the papal schism (1378-1414). Important trends came out of this terrible period. Royal power gained at the expense of church and nobility; Ruiz uses 15th century Castile as a case study. Dissident clergy and lay people increasingly gravitated toward heretical movements, the best known ones under the leadership of John Wycliffe and John Hus, who pointed the way toward the Reformation. Though knights and ladies remained popular in literature, the idealization of highborn women increasingly gave way to misogyny (woman-hatred) that fed witch hunts that became common in the new “persecuting society” that also went after Jews and lepers. It was also during this time that Portuguese explorers found their way around Africa to the Indian Ocean and Columbus inadvertently discovered America for Spain and then began its brutal conquest. And of course this was also the era of the Italian Renaissance, of humanism, and the invention of printing. I’m only sorry that this course is available only as an audio download, not video. There is a little overlap with his other two courses, The Other 1492 and The Terror of History, but I would not let that stop you from buying this one.
Date published: 2015-09-02
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