The Calamitous Fourteenth Century

  1. A Time of Cold and Plague

    1. The Little Ice Age

      1. A time of global cooling begins in 1200s, effecting Artic region first

      2. Temperate and tropic regions begin to cool in the 1300s

      3. Northern regions become noticeably cooler

      4. Rainfall decreases globally

      5. Crops decline everywhere

        1. poor harvests and shrinking pasturelands contribute to Mongol decline

        2. famine conditions emerge in many places

        3. urban centers in North America abandoned or relocated

        4. Norse colony in Greenland declines; will disappear in 1400s

    2. The Great Plagues

      1. Most of Eurasia and North Africa hit with plagues starting in 1320s

      2. Cold, famine, and increased traffic under Mongol rule probably contributed to spread of disease

      3. Bubonic/pneumonic plague seems to have been the main culprit, but other diseases may have been involved

      4. The plague spreads

        1. seems to have started in China in 1320s

        2. spreads across central Asia in 1330s

        3. reaches Middle East in 1340s

        4. hits Europe in 1347-48; here it is known as the "Black Death"

      5. Severe mortality rates

        1. perhaps 1/3 of the Chinese population dies; some regions reported 2/3 mortality rates

        2. between 1/3 and 1/2 of the European population dies; some areas see mortality rates of 70%

        3. brings a temporary halt to what had been a rapid expansion of European population and economy after 1000 CE

        4. similar impacts seen in China and North Africa

      6. Never quite goes away - periodic smaller outbreaks over next few centuries recorded in China and Europe

  2. Impact

    1. Morally demoralizing

    2. Seen as curse of God in many Christian and Islamic communities

      1. Encourages an increase in pilgrimages and acts of penance

      2. Will also encourage a questioning of religious practices and contributes to rise of Protestantism in Europe

    3. Scapegoats sought

      1. Anti-Semitism increases in Europe, as Jews are blamed for the disease

      2. Millenarianism spreads

        1. peasant rebellions break out in Europe. often inspired by belief that God would soon destroy the rich usher in new age of riches for all

        2. in China in the 1350s, peasants rebel on belief that a new Buddha would begin a golden age and give the power over the elites\

    4. Some winners among the survivors

      1. Serfdom declines and even disappears in many parts of Europe, mainly in the West

        1. as workforce dies off, many nobles try initially to enforce tighter control over their peasants

        2. these efforts often trigger peasant uprisings

        3. law of supply and demand will ultimately force nobility to offer better terms

      2. Increased social mobility for many survivors, as jobs left vacant, land left empty, powerful families wiped out by plague

      3. Agricultural production increases as much land is left fallow for a time, allowing for soil recovery

      4. Unaffected by plague, Mali in West Africa increases its wealth compared to plague infested trading partners in Middle East and Europe

    5. Mongol decline opens opportunities for others

      1. Delhi Sultanate expands power (then loses it when plague hits)

      2. On Java, Majapahit expands as regional power as Mongol power retreats

      3. In Russia, decline of Mongols allows for emergence of strong Russian state

      4. Ottoman Turks emerge in Anatolia as Mongols retreat

      5. In Japan, retreat of Mongols means less reason for unity

        1. Emperor Godaigo's efforts to assert power thwarted the warlord Ashikaga Takauji, who becomes Shogun in 1335

        2. only holds loose power over competing regional warlords (called daimyos)

        3. in the ensuing period of political turbulence, Zen Buddhism become popular

          1. brought by Chinese monks who escaped Mongols

          2. emphasized discipline, self denial, willingness to die

          3. fit well with the culture of warrior classes that now dominated Japan