HIST 204 Lecture Outline (Spring 2015 – Week 12)

Week 12




Dies irae (Day of Wrath), 13th cent. (3:31 min.):

Deus miserere (God Have Mercy), Old Hispanic prayers and responses sung before the funeral service (4:14 min.):

Corvus Corax, “Saltatio mortis” (Totentanz, or Dance of Death, 3:53 min.):

From “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975):

Monks (acting like flagellants): “Pie Jesu domine” (1:37 min.):
“Bring out your dead!” (1:56):

Steeleye Span, “The Shaking of the Sheets” (1989; 4:12 min.):

Major health crises of 14th century: Great Famine (1315-22) and Black Death (1347-49)

Distinctions drawn between:

  • medicine (physic) and surgery
  • licensed (learned or university-trained) physicians and surgeons, and unlicensed healers (including midwives, bone-setters, tooth-pullers, barbers, folk healers, and quacks)

The four humors:

  • blood (hot and moist)
  • phlegm (cold and moist)
  • yellow bile (hot and dry)
  • black bile (cold and dry)

Diagnostic aids included:

  • pulse
  • urine (color, sediment, smell, taste)
  • stool
  • general appearance (especially of eyes, lips, tongue, hair, skin, etc.)
  • other symptoms (swellings, pain, weakness, faintness, blurred vision, hearing problems, dizzyness, sweating, etc.)

Astrological influence on health

Remedies for illness included:

  • bloodletting
  • purging (with emetics and laxatives)
  • medicinal baths and vapor-baths
  • adjustment to diet and daily regimen
  • medicines
  • prayer

Hospitals (for poor only):

Click to see some 14th-century manuscripts on plague, medicine, and surgery

Some responses to the Black Death:

Some effects of the Black Death in Europe:

  • Death of one-third to one-half of the population in 1347-49
  • Recurring episodes of pestilence until 18th cent.; population in decline or stagnant until 16th cent. (click for grafitti from Ashwell church, Herts., 1361)
  • Rise in real wages and fall in land and food prices (until 16th cent.)
  • Changes in farming patterns on large estates, e.g., renting out of demesne, or conversion from arable to pastoral farming
  • Gradual eradication of serfdom (except in Eastern Europe)
  • Development of rural industries (espcially textile production)
  • Rise in peasant and artisanal standard of living (until 16th cent.)
  • Expansion of ecclesiastical property ownership
  • Peasant and artisanal revolts (e.g., French Jacquerie, 1358; Florentine Ciompi Rebellion, 1378; and English Peasants’ Revolt, 1381)
  • Rise of lay participation in civic and religious leadership
  • Attempts to use law or statute to prohibit rise of wages and luxurious dress or food to non-elites

Online readings:

John de Trokelowe, Annales: Famine of 1315

Marchione di Coppo Stefani, The Florentine Chronicle (1370s-1380s): the plague in Florence, 1348

The plague in England, 1348-9:

The ecomomic effects of the Plague in England, 1348-51:

the Ordinance of Labourers (1349) http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/seth/ordinance-labourers.asp
the Statute of Labourers (1351) http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/seth/statute-labourers.asp




Tarantella alia clausula” (2:45 min.):

Dolce amoroso foco” (2:13 min.):

15th-century music (see first two of five videos):

Arts and letters:

One post-Black Death artistic genre emphasized the inevitability and horrors of death

Expansion of universities and schools, including schools that offered training in business subjects

Rise of vernacular literature, by authors including:

Rise of humanist education, based on classical languages, literature, and arts, and led by Italian scholar Francesco Petrarch

Revival of realistic portraiture and of classicizing art and architecture


Rise of humanism, celebrating human potential (e.g., in Pico della Mirandola‘s essay, On the Dignity of Man)

Destruction of the Thomistic synthesis of revelation and reason (led by English Franciscan William of Ockham) led to concepts of:
  • Faith unfettered by logic
  • Scientific inquiry unfettered by faith

The new technologies:

Paper: Spread to Europe in 10th cent. from China via Islamic world; paper production, using linen rags, began in Christian Europe in 13th cent.
Horizontal loom: First appeared in Europe in 11th cent.; mechanized in 12th cent. (probably from Chinese model)
Windmills: Vertical or “post” windmills were a European invention; they are first mentioned c. 1185 in England
Magnetic compass: Invented in China (first mentioned in 1st cent. AD); reached Europe in 12th cent.
Spectacles: Invented in Florence in 1285 or a few years later. These were convex lenses, of help only to the far-sighted. Concave lenses of use to the near-sighted were developed in the 16th century.
Gunpowder weapons: Gunpowder was invented in China; cannon were first used in Europe in the 1320s, and underwent rapid development thereafter. (Click to see replica of a small bronze Swedish cannon, 1326, (wt: 9.07 kg; length: 300 mm); a wrought-iron German bombarde with stone cannon balls, 1377; and the Scottish bombarde “Mons Meg,” early 15th cent.)
Printing press: Press with movable type was invented in Germany in the 1450s. By 1500, more than 40,000 different titles had been published by more than 1,000 printers, for a total of 8-10 million copies.