This final chapter from “The Medieval Machine” discusses the various reasons as to why what we now call the Middle Ages went into such a dramatic decline in a short amount of time. The first half talks about the multitude of cults, famines, epidemics, economic depressions and popular uprisings which over the course of roughly 150 years completely dismantle civilizations around Europe. The most notable result of all these factors would be the immense loss of human life that occurred over time. In the mid-14th century alone, having already endured various famines across the continent, Europe suffered a loss of anywhere from 35 to 40% of its population due to the spread of the Black Death.
The second half of this chapter takes a turn, and argues that above all else, war caused the final blow to the true collapse of the Medieval world in Europe and elsewhere. Across Europe during the declining portion of the Middle Ages, wars were being rages so frequently that for 100 years, generations of children born in France never experienced a peaceful existence. Over time with the introduction of gunpowder-based weapons, civil technological development became stagnant until the modern industrial revolution while military technological development continued well beyond the Medieval Era.
What Gimpel is trying to relay is that while so many other contributing factors led to the sudden decline of Medieval civilization, the overarching theme that never went away was the tendency to fight constant wars. Yes, while the Black Plague may have caused European progress to go dormant until the Renaissance period, it’s most dangerous epidemic, the need to fight each other, would remain a prominent issue for centuries to come.
Written by: Giuseppe Vitale
Word count: 279
If you would like to know more about the details and impact the Great Famines of the early 14th century or the Black Death had on Medieval Europe, feel free to check out the informative website below.
Speaking of the Black Death, the CDC unsurprisingly has vastly information on the disease, its history, symptoms, and modern outbreaks of it if you are interested.