Social Structure of Cities in the Middle Ages

Classified in History

Written at on English with a size of 4.43 KB.

What was the social structure of cities? As during all the Middle Ages, there were big differences among the population.

The Upper Classes

The upper classes were formed by two groups.

  • The upper nobility continued having their privileges, and some moved to the cities and lived in palaces.
  • A new social class emerged: the wealthy bourgeoisie. These were the rich merchants, bankers and leaders of the important guilds. This group normally formed the city government.

The Lower Classes

The lower classes were formed by the rest of the population.

  • The commoners formed the majority. There were small craftsmen, merchants and servants. They lived modestly.
  • The lower nobility also belonged to this group. As they didn't work and didn't possess any land, they were quite poor.
  • In towns there were also beggars and robbers; people without any job whose main activity was to survive.

Crises of the 14th Century

In the 14th century some factors provoked huge crises in Europe.

The Hundred Years' War

In the 14th century, England controlled many French lands, and they wanted the control of the French throne. There was a war between England and France for more than a hundred years. That cost many human losses and money. Besides the casualties, kings forced the peasants to join the war as soldiers, so they couldn't work the land. Few crops were produced.

The Population Crisis: The Black Death

There were famines and revolts that caused much misery in the population, but they were nothing compared to the huge plague that devastated Europe from 1346 to 1353: the Black Death. Around 35 million people died in Europe. This was more than a third of the total population.

This plague came from Asia. It was introduced in Europe by rats that came on boats. People didn't know that rats spread the disease. Rapidly all of Europe was infected by the disease. It was called the Black Death because if someone caught the illness, they got black marks on their skin. Then they had a fever and normally died in a few days.

Culture and Art

The Rise of the First Universities

In the High Middle Ages, education was opened up to many people, not simply the nobles and the clergy. Universitas is a Latin word for a corporation. Students and teachers at these new schools organized themselves into associations for protection and rights.

The subjects taught at the schools in the High Middle Ages were the seven liberal arts: grammar, astronomy, rhetoric (speech), logic, arithmetic, geometry and music. All classes were in Latin.

Characteristics of Gothic Art

  • Cathedrals were the most important art form.
  • Pointed arches and flying buttresses allowed taller structures.
  • Height and grandeur of churches were meant to bring eyes and thoughts up to God in Heaven.
  • Large stained glass windows made churches full of colour and light.
  • There was an emphasis on the decorative and the ornate.
  • Religion was the dominant theme in all art forms.
  • Realism became more important in the Late Gothic period, especially in painting.

Trade fairs: The fairs were places where merchants met to buy and sell products such as leather, fur, textiles or spices.
Cities: A place where many people live, with many houses, stores, businesses, etc., and which is bigger than a town.
Guilds: An association of men sharing the same interests, such as merchants or artisans, formed for mutual aid and protection and to maintain craft standards. Complete with book definition.
Bourgeoisie: The social class between the aristocracy or very wealthy and the working class, or proletariat. Complete with book definition.
Hundred Years' War: The series of wars fought intermittently between England and France from 1337–1453. Complete with book definition.
Black Death: A disease that killed an extremely large number of people in Europe and Asia in the 14th century. Complete with book definition.
Universities: From the Latin word Universitas, meaning 'corporation'. In Medieval Europe, they were recognized places of study open to students from all parts of the continent. Complete with book definition.
Gothic Art: The style of architecture prevalent in western Europe in the 12th–16th centuries, characterized by pointed arches, rib vaults, and flying buttresses, together with large stained glass win

Entradas relacionadas: