HIST 204 Lecture Outline (Spring 2023 – Week 15)

HIST 204


Diversity and Dynamism in Late Medieval Culture, c. 1300-1500, and The New Technologies



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

“Dolce amoroso foco” (2:13 min.):

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


The Print Workshop in the 15th Century (Cambridge University Library; 5:02 min.):


Arts and letters:

Some Black Death artistic genres emphasized the inevitability and horrors of death, such as cadaver or “transi” tombs

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. (Click here to see imprint of spectacles in a medieval book.)
Gunpowder weapons: Gunpowder was invented in China; cannon were first used in Europe in the 1320s, and underwent rapid development thereafter. (Click to see small bronze Swedish cannon, 1326 (found at Loshult), (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.


NO CLASS TODAY. Instead, Athena and I will be holding extended office hours in our offices during the usual class time. Feel free to drop by (Holton 320) to talk about the class, or about history, or about UWM’s History major. We’d be delighted to see you!