Q. 1. Throw light on the influence of the Church on medieval European society.
Ans. The Church had great influence on the society of medieval Europe. It brought significant changes in Europeans’ old beliefs in magic and folk traditions.
(i) Christ’s birthday is celebrated on 25 December. It replaced an old pre-Roman festival whose date was calculated with the help of solar calendar.
(ii) Easter is the symbol of cruxifixion of Christ and his rising from the dead. But the date of Easter is not a fixed one because it replaced an older festival to celebrate the coming of spring after a long winter, dated by the lunar calendar. Traditionally, on this day, people of each village visited their village lands. They even continued to do so, even with the coming of Christianity, but they called the village ‘parish’ (the area under the supervision of one priest).
(iii) Holy days (holidays) were welcomed by the over-worked peasants because they were not required to do work on that day. These holy days were meant for prayers, but generally, people spent most part of that day having fun and feasting.
(iv) Pilgrimage was an important part of the life of Christian. Many people went on long journeys to big Churches or to shrines of martyrs.
Q.2. Examine the technological changes that occurred in Europe by the eleventh century. Also discuss the effects of these changes.
Ans. By the eleventh century, Europe saw several technological changes in the fields of agriculture and land use. These changes were as follows:
(i) Cultivators started to use heavy iron tipped ploughs and mould boards. It made possible for these ploughs to dig much deeper and for mould-boards to turn the top soil properly. It helped in the better utilisation of nutrients of soil.
(ii) Change came in the method of harnessing animals to the plough. The shoulder-harness came into use instead of the neck-harness. This method enabled the animals to exert more power.
(iii) Horses were shed with iron horse-shoes. It prevented foot decay.
(iv) Use of wind and water energy for agriculture increased.
(v) For milling corn and pressing grapes, more water-powered and wind-powered mills were set up all over Europe.
(vi) A two-field system of land use was changed into a three field system. In this system, peasants could use a field for two years out of three if they planted it with one crop in autumn and other crop in spring one and a half year later. It means that farmers could divide their land into three parts. Wheat or rye could be planted by them in one part for human consumption. The second could be used to raise peas, beans and lentils in spring for human use. Oats and barley could be raised in second part for the horses. The third part lay fallow. Each year they used to rotate the use among the three fields.
Effects. (i) Food production from each unit of land uses increased almost immediately. Food availability also doubled with this.
(ii) People began to make greater use of plants like peas and beans. It provided more vegetable proteins in the diet of the average European. It also proved a better source of fodder for their animals.
(iii) Technological changes provided better opportunities to cultivators. Now it became possible for them to produce more food from less land. By the thirteenth century, the average size of farm of a peasant reduced to 20–30 acres from about 100 acres. Less holdings could be cultivated more efficiently and less labour was also required for this. It gave the peasants time for other activities.
Q.3. What were the effects of expansion of agriculture in medieval Europe?
Ans. There occurred a number of changes in agricultural technology and land use in medieval Europe. These changes led to the expansion of agriculture which cast the following effects in medieval Europe :
(i) Europe witnessed a high growth in population. In 1000 CE, its population was about 42 million which stood at 62 million around 1200 CE and 73 million in 1300 CE.
(ii) Expansion in agriculture provided better food to people. The meaning of better food for people was a longer life span. By the thirteenth century, the average age of an average European increased upto 10 years as compared to 8th century. Women and girls had shorter span of life as compared to men because men used to eat better food.
(iii) With the fall of Roman Empire, its towns had become deserted and ruined. But from the eleventh century, towns began to grow because of expansion of agriculture and growth of population. A place was required for the peasants where they could sell their surplus grains and where they could buy tools and cloth. This need helped in the emergence of periodic fairs and small marketing centres. Town like features were developed in these centres like a Church, a town square, roads where merchants built homes and shops, an office where administrators of the town could meet. At other places, towns grew around large castles, large churches or around bishops’ estates. New opportunities of employment were offered by towns. Control of lords decreased as well.
Q. 4. Explain the factors which slowed the down Europe’s economic expansion by the early fourteenth century. What were its consequences ?
Ans. Europe’s economic expansion slowed down by the early fourteenth century because of the following factors:
(i) Changes in Climatic Conditions : By the end of the thirteenth century, the warm of the previous 300 years of northern Europe had been replaced by the bitterly cold summers. Seasons for growing crops were reduced atleast by a month. On higher altitudes, it became almost impossible to grow crops. Many agricultural farms were destroyed by storms and oceanic flooding. As a result, government’s income, in taxes, was reduced.
(ii) Intensive Ploughing : The favourable climate before the thirteenth century had converted many forests and pastures into agricultural land. But the soil was exhausted with intensive agriculture despite the practice of the three field rotation of crops. It happened because of lack of proper soil conservation. Number of cattle was also reduced due to short of pastures.
(iii) Shortage of Metal Money : Output from the silver mines in Austria and Serbia was reduced which resulted in the severe shortage of metal money. Consequently, trade was hit. This shortage of silver forced the government to reduce the silver content of the currency. The government started to mix cheaper metals in the silver to make coinage.
(iv) Bubonic Plague Infection : Trade expanded in the 13th and 14th centuries. Ships carrying goods from far off countries started arriving in European parts. Rats came along with the ships. These rats were carrying deadly bubonic plague infection. As a result, Western Europe was greatly affected by this infection between 1347 and 1350. The epidemic killed 20% of the people of the whole of Europe. At some places, number of the dead was as much as 40% of the population. Cities were the hardest hit. The plague affected infants, the young and the elderly. Many other minor episodes of the plague also took place in the 1360s and the 1370s. As a result, the population of Europe reduced to 45 million in 1400 CE from 73 million in 1300 CE.
(i) The epidemic combined with the economic crisis caused great social dislocation.
(ii) Major shortage of labour occurred with depopulation.
(iii) Serious imbalances were created between agriculture and manufacturing.
(iv) There were very few buyers available due to which prices of agricultural goods dropped.
(v) Wage rates increased because of rise in demand for labour.
Q.5. How did powerful new states (nation states) emerge in medieval Europe? Why were these states resisted by the aristocracy?
Ans. In medieval Europe, changes also came in political field as well as in social process. In fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries, European kings consolidated their financial and military power. They became absolute rulers. These absolute rulers included Louis XI in France, Maximilian in Austria, Henry VII in England and Isabella and Ferdinand in Spain. They organised standing armies, a permanent bureaucracy and national taxation system. The Spanish and Portuguese rulers began to play a role in Europe’s expansion overseas. Reasons for the Emergence of New States: Following were the reasons for the emergence of powerful new states:
(i) Social Changes : The twelfth and the thirteen centuries had witnessed several social changes. Feudal system of lordship and vassalage were dissolved and rate of economic growth slowed down. It gave the kings an opportunity to increase their control over nobles and general masses. The system of feudal levies for the armies was dispensed by the rulers. Instead they introduced professionally trained infantry equipped with guns and seige artillery under their direct control. Thus, the kings had become so powerful that the aristocracies could not dare to resist them.
(ii) Increase in Taxes : Kings got enough revenue by increasing taxes. It helped them to support large armies. With the help of the armies they defended and expanded their frontiers. It also made it easy for them to overcome internal resistance to royal authority.
Resistance by Aristocracy : The powerful new states faced a heavy resistance by aristocracy. The question of taxation was the basis of all types of resistance to the new states. Rebellions occurred in England in 1497, 1536, 1547, 1549 and 1553 CE and were suppressed. In France, Louis XI fought a long struggle against princes and dukes. Lesser nobles were generally members of local assemblies and they also resisted royal usurpation of their powers. The religious wars of France in 16th century were a part of competition between royal privileges and regional liberties.