Each of the english monarchs had grown more and more power. William tightened the iron fist by creating feudalism 2. 0, the domesday book, and built plenty of castles. Henry I followed suit, establishing the exchequer and creating traveling judges to try courts, then Henry II, started a 12 man jury and allowed nobles to buy their way out of becoming a knight. So when Henry II died and left his son, John, to the throne, it seemed natural that the king’s power would continue to grow… well not exactly this time (sorry King John). Nobody really liked King John.
He was always trying to increase taxes, including illegal church taxes and noble’s taxes, and inevitably lost most of England’s french land (AU REVOIR JOHNNY). Usually, the monarch (in this case John) would elect the Archbishop of Canterbury, but the bishops wanted a say in who was chosen. The bishops and the monks decided to elected their own candidate for archbishop, and as any power hungry king would be, King John was mad. King John sent his choice for archbishop, John de grey. Pope innocent III decided that both options were not good, and recommended that Stephen King becomes the archbishop instead.
The monks joined sides with the pope and teamed up against king John. John would not compromise and exiled the monks, which made the pope very mad, so he proceeded to excommunicate king John in 1209, and place an interdict on England in 1208. All the people of England were cut off from the church, and it wasn’t even their fault. They could no longer get married, have a proper burial, and could not receive the sacraments to go to heaven. Finally, king John gave in to the church, and his excommunication, and England’s interdict was lifted, but for a cost.
King John had to pay a large sum of money annually to the pope. In order to pay for this large amount of money going to the pope, John needed to tax. He had lost the land in France, but that would be a vital place to collect taxes from, so in order to conquer that land, he needed to raise taxes. Basically, king John was taxing so he could conquer land and tax more. He did this by increasing the amount of money nobles had to pay to avoid being Knights, he created an income tax, he taxed churches for using land, and by doing so, he increased taxes that a king never should increase.
As you can guess everyone was pretty fed up with king johns corrupt ways. The barons joined together and marched to London in rebellion. The ple of London hated the king so much, that they willfully let the unruly group of rebels into London. On June 15th 1215 the barons forced John to sign the Manga Carta. Manga Carta means “The Great Charter”. The Manga Carta was an agreement that, “protected the rights and liberties of the nobles and the “ordinary” people of England”(Magna Carta). This document decreased the Kings power and redistributed power throughout the pyramid.
The four main points of the Magna Carta talked about 1) how the king could not raise or lower taxes without consent of the Great Council, 2) the king was not allowed to take property without paying for it 3) everyone had the right to a free trial and finally 4) the king had to follow the law. Two major things came out of the Magna Carta, the growth of parliament and the creation of common law. In the 1260’s, a powerful man named Simon de Montfort created the Great Council, to balance out the king.
Nobles, Knights and even peasants could join the great council. This gave power to people like peasants, who had never had a say before. The second advancement the arose from the Magna Carta was the common law. It was called the Common Law because it was common or the same for all people. The Common Law was considered a “living law”, because it fluctuated with the time period. Overall the Magna Carta shook up the feudal system. The system had been so intact for so long due to the iron fist that William and the array for Henrys ruled with.
The Magna Carta distributed some well needed power to each class and took away the immense power of the king. The crusades were a sequence of holy wars with the intention for Christians to regain control of the holy land, unfortunately though, the crusades did not go as the Christians planned. “A Crusade is a mission or quest for something that you STRONGLY believe in”(Pont. Point). In this case, the thing that was strongly believed in, was the Christians need to be in control of Jerusalem.
Unfortunately though, Jerusalem, aka the holy land, was considered religiously significant by three groups, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The first crusade lasted three years. It all began when the Eastern Orthodox Byzantines asked for help from the Roman Catholics from the west to defend off the Seljuk Turks. After pleading to the west for help, the east plastered propaganda in all the churches to rile up the Christians, and it worked. “all Feudal Social Classes had an increased devotion to Christianity”(Pont. Point). Christian faith and unity skyrocketed.
Suddenly, everyone wanted to jump in on the cause, not only because the pope said that anyone who died fighting had a free ticket to heaven, or an indulgence, (i’m sure criminals and even people who had been excommunicated were siked for this) but because there was an opportunity to gain wealth for some, (such as spoils of war) and for others, such as serfs and peasants, it was an opportunity for a great adventure, to finally leave the village that they had been enclosed in their whole lives. The goal of the first crusade was to take control of Jerusalem and Antioch.
Crusaders from France and Italy marched to Antioch, defeated the Turks, then with a much smaller army, continued on to Jerusalem. Upon making it to the holy land, the crusaders drew out mass executions of Muslims, and during the siege of Jerusalem in 1099 the crusaders massacred the population of Jerusalem. The Christians won this time, but this victory won’t last long. As result of the first crusade, trade expanded and cultural diffusion began, due to Christians and Muslims living together. All this while the muslims were slowly regaining power.
Over time some Muslims began to take back lands that had been captured by the Christians. By 1146 the Turks had unified their forces”(Pont. Point). After the muslims rose up and took over part of Jerusalem, Bernard of Clairvaux, King Louis VII, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Pope Eugene III all decided it was time for the second crusade. Two armies led by Louis VII and King Conrad III headed towards Anatolia and were defeated. Instead of going back to Jerusalem to defend, they went to Damascus and were defeated again, in 1189 they returned and inevitably, lost the second crusade.
The third and fourth crusade resulted in more of the usual, failure. The third crusade was resolved with a treaty, explaining that Christian pilgrims could visit jerusalem as long as they were unarmed, but the Muslims still remained in control of Jerusalem. “In September 1192, Richard and Saladin signed a peace treaty that reestablished the Kingdom of Jerusalem (though without the city of Jerusalem) and ended the Third Crusade”(Crusades). For the fourth crusade, pope innocent III planned on attacking Jerusalem through Egypt, but instead in 1204, they conquered Constantinople.
Although the crusades were kind of let down for Christians, some people still benefited from them. The king, for example, was positively affected by the crusades. These holy wars allowed the king to receive more power. When the nobles left for battle, more often than not, they sold their land. Kings could buy this land, and more land=more power. As well as benefiting off the nobles, Kings benefited by the boost in trade. If their village because a trade hub, they could tax the incoming and outgoing goods, and make more money.
On the other hand, the crusades were not as good for nobles. When they sold their land prior to heading off for battle, they were faced with a troubling conflict if they returned; no where to go. Their status would be degraded without the land and they would be forced to rebuild their life. For nobles who didn’t leave, it didn’t get much better. Lords had to increase peasants pay, because they were needed more, considering there were less peasants. Like the nobles, Knights did not benefit from the crusades. The invention of the crossbow degraded the status of the knight.
Crossbows required very little effort, meaning almost anyone could use one. All the intense training knights went through was wasted, for an army would much rather hire cheap stupid people to fire a crossbow, than expensive skilled ones, if skill isn’t much of a factor. Lastly the crusades positively affected peasants. Peasants and serfs had the chance to leave their village for the first time, to us this may not seem like a big deal, but for someone who had been enclosed in their village for their whole existence, the idea of an adventure was very appealing.
The remaining peasants that did not go to fight would receive increased pay, because their skills would be more sought after and finally, because of the sudden growth in trade, peasants could become merchants, make money, and climb the social pyramid. During the Middle Ages, trade practically vanished due to roads in terrible condition, shortages of money, and dangerous barbarians. The lack of trade wasn’t really a worry for people then though, considering that the manors were self sufficient and produced any goods necessary to live, this economic system was called manorialism.
All the new established routes carved by the crusaders made a great base to begin trade once again and for the first time since the fall of the Roman Empire, trade was resurrected. Due to the crusades, and the cultural diffusion that came with it, trade kick started back up. Crusaders brought luxury goods from Asia and the Arabian peninsula back to Europe. Eventually, merchants needed a more formal place to trade and took their goods to large cities and villages, because of this, both villages and towns grew simultaneously. Manorialism and feudalism were practically wiped out, not right away but slowly.
Trade boomed in places like Italy, because they were by the sea. The revival of trade and growth of towns directly benefited the monarchs. Growing trade was great for kings because it meant they would tax the incoming and outgoing goods and make more MONEY. Aside from money, the middle class favored the king because he protected trade. This was good for the king because he ultimately had more support and power over his people if they liked him. For nobles though, it wasn’t as great. Since the middle class favored the king, the middle class was no longer as loyal to the nobles.
People began to move out of manors to towns and villages for better economic opportunities, so the nobles power in manors substantially decreased and eventually led to the fall of manorialism, people no longer needed to have self sufficient manors, they could instead trade and buy goods from all around the world. Trade didn’t really affect knights, unless the knights started buying diamonds from Asia to decorate their armor or something. And for peasants trade and growth of villages was GREAT! they could become merchants or work in guilds to increase their social rank to middle class, and make some money.
Being part of the middle class meant more control for peasants, and less control for nobles, but hey, if your a peasant, that doesn’t sound so bad right? The Black Death, or the plague, occurred between 1347-1351. Mostly because of the fact that trade had been revived, and people in the Middle Ages were pretty gross, (“It was not unusual for people to go for months and months without changing clothes or taking a bath”(Ponticelli). ) the plague spread really fast, and really far. Most people believed that the plague was started in Central Asia, and was spread along the Silk Road by fleas and rats.
The rodents that lived on merchant ships most likely brought the disease into Europe on these trading boats. The plague was a terrible disease “Plague causes fever and a painful swelling of the lymph glands called buboes, which is how it gets its name. The disease also causes spots on the skin that are red at first and then turn black”(The Black Death: Bubonic Plague). Rashes, headaches and chills were also common. On average, 5-7 days after the first symptoms were noticed, the victim would die (The Black Death).
So many people lived in fear and even died because of this disease, including an estimated 800 people a day in France (Nelson). Often times whole villages were destroyed by the plague, leaving not a single person left. Because of the plague, the populations in Europe and Asia significantly decreased “China’s population was reduced by nearly 22″(Ponticelli), and 24 million people died in Europe. Many believed that the plague was a punishment from God, others thought that fleeing to the country side would save them. Some blamed cats and dogs, and so they killed those animals, and others thought it was the jews fault (The Black Death).
The fall of feudalism can be blamed on the rapid decline of population, for all the workers were dying and manors were evacuated in hope of escaping the disease. The bustling trade brought by the crusades diminished, and all around, the plague caused chaos. Because trade and population decreased rapidly, the monarch had less people to tax. He couldn’t tax incoming goods because… well… there were not any, and there were far fewer people to tax, considering about 1/3 of Europe’s population died because of this disease! For nobles, it wasn’t any better. Many nobles died and since nobles were the minority, there were barley any left.
This decreased the nobles power, and handed some to the peasants. For knights, theoretically, the Black Death would impact the military. Less people meant less soldiers, making the surviving Knights jobs very difficult. Although peasants were obviously negatively affected by the Black Death, (no one wants to get the Black Death) they were also positively affected by the disaster. The peasants that did not die during the plague were in high demand. The need for laborers increased due to the decrease of population. Peasants could demand for more money and rights, and even travel to new cities for better opportunities.