Changes in Medieval Society

Trace new developments in medieval society, and explain how these changes led to the decline of the feudal system.

Changes In Medieval Society: Weapons and Warfare

The most immediately obvious change is the development of gunpowder. This created changes first in fortifications, for the early cannons were almost exclusively used in siege warfare. This did not directly touch on the role of knights. Indeed, much of the change in fortifications had to do more with how cities were fortified rather than how castles were fortified.

Gunpowder directly affected knights in two phases. The first was the development of field artillery in the late 1400s. This was mainly used against infantry, but as knights still sometimes dismounted to charge on foot, it could apply to them as well. The second, more serious, development was that of handguns. These effected a dramatic change because they made armor not only vulnerable but actually burdensome. Within a fairly short period of time, the mounted warrior took off his armor and became the mobile, unarmored cavalry officer of early modern times, relying on sabre and pistol rather than on lance and sword.

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Aquinas and Medieval Philosophy
in the 1200s, scholar Thomas Aquinas stated that religious truths could be proved by logical argument. aquinas and his scholars were known as scholastics. their teachings influenced the ideas of western Europeans, especially the English and the French. they began to develop democratic institutions and traditions.
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++A Growing Food Supply

Europe not only had a huge revival of learning but also created better ways of expanding agriculture. They discovered new ways of cultivating in order to increase the food supply. The population was growing as well as the food supply. They tried not to waste any land and to take advantage of the weather and the soil.

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They also changed their method of farming into horsepower. They used to use oxen before because oxen were easier to keep and horses needed food. But the big difference between using oxen and horses was that a team of horses could plow three times as much land as oxen could.

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Europeans also started to use the method of three-field system. The three-field system was very effective and it was what kept the growing Europe population in control. It consisted of three fields and two were harvested while the other was kept resting for a year. This means that they would never have lack of food or crops.

Urban Life Flourishes:

Between the years 1000 and 1150, Western Europe’s population rose about 28% from 30 million to 42 million. The town’s flourished and expanded however compared to cities as great as Constantinople they were unsophisticated. Paris, the largest city in Europe at the time, had only about 60,000 people. Most cities and towns only had about 1,500 to 2,500 people. Nonetheless they had become a powerful force that changed Europe.

Trade and Towns-

The resurgence of trade in the middle ages was greatly due to geography. Rivers served as natural highways in which goods could be transported in, so ports and quaint cities sprung up about everywhere near a river and at crossroads. As trade grew so did the towns which attracted many people with its bustling excitement and all its glory. There was a catch, as there always is for something that sounds all but too good. City inhabitants had to live in cramped up place with narrow streets and waste lying about. Since back then there were no sewers people fancied throwing their mulch on the street in front of their houses. Most people never bathed and they lacked fresh air, light, and clean water in their homes. Houses were built out of wood with thatched roofs so they were a constant fire hazard. However, it was a small price to pay for what they truly got in return which were the social and economical opportunities these cities offered.

Another reason people chose to pursue lives in the city was to escape the harsh conditions of the life in a manor. Being legally tied to their lord’s land didn’t stop desperate serf’s who ran away. Serfs became free after living in a city for a year and a day. After leaving the manor behind, serfs made better lives for themselves in towns and cities.

Merchant Class Shifts the Social Order

As you know a social order was formed which consisted of first noble, then clergy and last peasants. But there was a problem, merchants and craftspeople did not took part on this social order. This cause a lot of trouble because if they didn't fit in the social order, then they had to pay many taxes and tolls that they wouldnt pay if they were on the social order, and they didn't have rights, so this really started a problem.

This lead the burghers who were the merchant-class town dwellers to reveal and ask for their part in social order and for their privileges and rights. This was negated by their feudal lords because they didnt like the idea of merchants and craftspeople taking part on the social order. Because the feudal lords negated them their privileges, they decided to do it in the bad way, and they forced their landowners to give them their rights and privileges. They were succesfull at this and they were brought to the social order which helped them in many aspects because know they had rights and they didnt have to pay certain tolls that they used to pay.

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The Guilds

During the 1100's CE, merchants, artists, bankers, and other professionals grouped themselves together in a business associations called guilds. The bankers belonged to the bankers guild. The bakers belonged to the bakers guild. And so on.

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Purpose of the Guilds: The purpose of the guilds was to keep each member's territory exclusive. If you were a baker, your guild promised you a certain amount of space before another baker could build a shop. As well, if your shop burned down, the guild would care for you and your family. Guilds also arranged social occasions and festivals for its members.

Requirements for Guild Membership: In exchange, guilds had strict rules that you, as a guild member, had to follows. Rules included:
•Price Control: The guild decided on the price of each item. All bakers, for example, changed the same price for a loaf of bread, the price set by the guild.
•Wage Control: All workers had to be paid the same, so that the best workers could not be enticed away with better wages somewhere else.
•Quality Control: Everyone had to satisfy the quality standards set by their respective guild. No one was allowed to sell shoddy goods.
•Advertising Control: No guild member could advertise their wares. The guilds wanted people to think that all wares offered the same quality, no matter what shop sold them.

Commercial Revolution

The expansion of trade and business that transformed European economics during the 16th and 17th centuries was such a big influence in Europe which they then called it the Commercial Revolution. This development created a new desire for trade, and trade expanded in the second half of the middle Ages. This means that the increased availability of trade goods and new ways of doing business changed life and life in Europe.

Fairs and Trade

Fairs and Trade took a big part in Europe, in which most trade took place in towns. Clothing was the most common trade items. However there were other items like bacon, salt, honey, cheese, wine, leather, dyes, knives, and ropes. Trade routes spread across Europe from Flanders to Italy, and many other places.

Peasants from nearby manor traveled to towns in fairs days, hauling items to trade. These fairs made people want to go because they were usually during religious festival in which people were usually in town. Increased business at markets and fairs made merchants willing to take chances on buying merchandise that they could sell at a profit.

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Business and Banking

As merchants' and traders' demands increased, they needed to carry large amounts of money, to exchange many types of currencies. The merchants that enterprise found new ways to solve these problems. They did things like replacing the ways of exchanging bills with coins, or credit letters in order to not carrying all that money and this made trading much more easier. Merchants were now looking for more ways of production and making money, by purchasing products from distant places. This often meant they needed to borrow money, but their Christian ways did not allow them to do so, because it's a sin, a sin called usury. Yet, over time, the Church loosened up this rule and allowed Christians to enter the banking business. From then on, banking was very important for them.

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The Three-Field System

Around A.D. 800, some villages began to organize their lands into three fields instead of two. Two of the fields were planted and the other lay fallow (resting) for a year. Under this new three-field system, farmers could grow crops on the two-thirds of their land each year, not just on half of it. As a result, food production increased. Villagers had more to eat. Well-fed people, especially children, could better resist disease and live longer, and as a result the European population grew dramatically.

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The Use of Gunpowder

Gunpowder directly affected knights in two phases. The first was the development of field artillery in the late 1400s. This was mainly used against infantry, but as knights still sometimes dismounted to charge on foot, it could apply to them as well. The second, more serious, development was that of handguns. These effected a dramatic change because they made armor not only vulnerable but actually burdensome. Within a fairly short period of time, the mounted warrior took off his armor and became the mobile, unarmored cavalry officer of early modern times, relying on sabre and pistol rather than on lance and sword.

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The Revival of Learning

When the Europeans had contact with the Byzantines and Muslims during the Crusades widened them intellectually. This brought a lot of learning to them, which was really helpful since they lacked it. They came in contact with great works of Greek philosophers. The Byzantine and Muslim libraries had copies from all the books that had been written since the Roman Empire. These were unavailable to Europeans since they had been destroyed between the fall of Rome and the invasions of Western Europe.

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The Muslim Connection

Christian scholars went to Muslim libraries in Spain to read great Greek works. They couldn’t read them because they just knew a little bit of Latin. They got Jewish scholars to translate the Arabic versions into Latin. Europeans acquired information about science, philosophy, law, mathematics. Crusaders brought information about Muslim ships, navigation, and weapons.

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