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14 th Century Timelines Episode Four: Century of the Scythe (1300 -1400) http: //www. cnn. com/SPECIALS/1999 /millennium/learning/timelines/
The Larger Fourteenth-Century World Context For many living in the Eurasian world, the 14 th century was a dismal period marked by severe weather, disease, starvation, war, and death. The first gunpowder weapons were brought into Europe as early as 1323. Their first use in a European battle was in 1346 at the Battle of Crecy, where the firing of cannons did little more than scare the horses. Eventually Europeans replaced wood and bronze cannons with ones made of cast iron, a durable metal that could withstand gunpowder explosions.
The Plague Bacterial strains of the plague had survived from previous outbreaks as endemic diseases in Central Asia. Infected fleas, snuggling in rodent fur, traveled with caravan cargoes strapped to the backs of camels. Where caravans stopped, fleas infected humans. Disease decimated the Mongol army and nomadic traders. The plague arrived in China, where people were already suffering from drought, famine, war, earthquakes, and floods. (A Chinese census recorded a population of 123 million in 1200; a census of the same territory in 1393 recorded a population of only 65 million. )
The Plague The plague spread to India. To the north and west panicked Kurds tried unsuccessfully to escape by retreating to their mountain enclaves. The famed Mamluk warriors, victorious in battle against the Mongols, isolated themselves in their Egyptian fortresses only to be shattered by the plague. Estimates of Egyptian losses climbed to one-third of the population. Rats transported the dreaded disease from port to port in ship cargoes too. Fearful travelers boarded a Geonese ship for Messina hoping to escape the plague in the Crimea; they unwittingly brought the plague to Europe.
The Plague Some Europeans suspected that the disease was caused by infection; others blamed the Jews. Two thousand Jews in Strausbourg and 600 in Brussels were slaughtered. Meanwhile, the Chinese became suspicious of foreign Muslims. By the end of the century, a conservative Neoconfucianist Ming dynasty had replaced the Yuan Dynasty of the Mongols. Gradually the plague subsided, although periodic outbreaks of the disease would continue until people adopted new habits of personal hygiene and controlled the rat population.
Islands of Prosperity Curiously, some places managed to escape. While Venice, Genoa, and Florence suffered outbreaks of the plague, Milan was spared. South of the Sahara, Mali was untouched. But Malians were faced with different sort of problem. They lived in a warm, tropical climate where they had gold but little salt. Salt was a necessity in such a climate, so blocks of salt were transported from Saharan mines to be swapped for gold. The gold was transported north, minted into coins, and became a basis for trade between merchants from Cairo and Europe to southwest Asia and India.
Islands of Prosperity At times there was too much gold in circulation. Mansa Musa, the ruler of Mali, caused an inflationary spiral in prices as he lavishly spent African gold in Cairo on his pilgrimage to Mecca. Islands in the Indian Ocean, like the eastern Javan kingdom of Majapahit, also escaped the plague. Javans of Southeast Asia continued to prosper because their location between the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean was key to the lucrative spice trade. Their rich cultural tradition represented a synthesis of Indian, Chinese, and native traditions.
Indian Ocean Trade During this century the Mongol Empire disintegrated. Merchants shipped their wares through the Indian Ocean rather than risk disruptions overland. The Indian Ocean was the most important trade route in the world by 1400. Highly prized luxury goods like pearls, gold, gems, silks, and spices were transported, along with staples like grain, timber, cotton textiles, and pepper. Trade tended to split into two shipping areas: the eastern half of the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, and the western half with the Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf, and Red Sea.
Indian Ocean Trade Muslims transported goods through western waters to India where cargo was transferred to Chinese junks bound for ports in southeast Asia and the Orient. Muslim sailors used astrolabes to locate their position at sea. For the most part, Indian Ocean trade was multi-ethnic, decentralized, and co-operative, with Muslims taking the lead.
Chinese Junks Chinese junks were the largest, most technologically advanced ships of the period. The era’s equivalent to modern ocean liners, junks carried as many as 1000 passengers and a thousand tons of cargo. A privileged passenger could sleep in one of the hundred private cabins. Junks were divided into water tight compartments below the deck for safety. Sailors used a huge stern post rudder to steer, and were aided by currents and monsoon winds that filled the bamboo sails. The Chinese compass guided the way.
The Americas In the Americas, Aztecs moved into the valley of Mexico in 1326. They were able to reclaim marshy islands in Lake Texcoco as their territory. In this unpromising environment, they built their own gardens by scooping up rich mud from swamp lands or the bottom of the lake, which they dumped on floating woven mats anchored in place. These became the raised fields and floating gardens that supplied Aztecs their food. Each year they renewed the soil with a fresh supply of rich mud from the lake. Aztecs began the construction of their capital Tenochtitlan in the lake, which was connected by causeways to the mainland.
Conclusion On the one hand, the 14 th century was like other periods in world history when large numbers of people suffered and died in a series of cataclysmic events. These upheavals led to labor shortages and changes in the social structure in Europe. In Asia, they led to the decimation of the Mongol army and the overthrow of the Mongol Dynasty in China at the end of the century. On the other hand, many people not only lived unaffected by the caevents of the century, they flourished. By the 15 th century, outbreaks of the plague begin to subside, populations recovered, and commerce expanded.
Ibn Battuta 1304 - 1377 In 1325 Ibn Battuta left Morocco for a pilgrimage to Mecca. Three decades and 75, 000 miles later, medieval Islam's most extraordinary traveler had covered nearly the entire Muslim world. For the sheer adventure of it, Battuta traipsed from Spain to the east coast of China. An invaluable picture of the 14 th century, his book, Travels, is one of the greatest peripatetic tales of all time. –
Ibn Khaldun 1332 - 1406 Shuttling between both Mediterranean coasts, Tunisian diplomat Ibn Khaldun may qualify as the 14 th century's most frequent flee-er; he was surely one of its most brilliant minds. In and out of favor, and prison, he scrutinized human nature. When he wrote a history of the Muslim world, his stunning array of ideas included the importance of a group's social cohesion in attaining its goals, as well as history's cyclical nature. Five centuries later historian Arnold Toynbee described Khaldun's pioneering work as "undoubtedly the greatest of its kind that has ever yet been created by any mind in any time or place. "
EGYPT - Summary Cairo was one center particularly hardhit by disaster. At ten times the size of Paris or London, Cairo was one of the greatest cities in the world. But it lost 20, 000 people a day to a mysterious and devastating disease called the Black Death.
The bubonic plague was a pest-borne bacterial infection, which originated in Central Asia and spread along the flourishing trade routes both to the East and West. Christendom was especially hard hit. People struggled to understand why the disease had struck. Many looked for scapegoats. Jews were massacred and heretics burned.
But when people noticed that the Jews and heretics were also dying, they began to blame themselves instead, recognizing the plague as a scourge sent by God. China, the Islamic world, and Christendom were all held back from expansion while the disease ran its course.
MALI - Summary Beyond the reach of the Black Death, other cultures flourished. In West Africa, where the great Sahara desert provided a barrier against disease spread from the north, the empire of Mali was busy trading its abundant gold for essentials such as salt.
An Islamic traveler from Tangier named Ibn Battuta wrote at length about what he saw in the empire of Mali. The mosques, libraries, and schools of the region's cities were gathering places for Muslim intellectuals and became comfortably familiar to him. Ibn Battuta was particularly impressed by the humility of King Mansa Musa's subjects and their devotion to the Islamic faith.
Among the Mongols, all men rode horses; by contrast, in Mansa Musa's army only a tiny elite of professional soldiers rode. The skill of these cavalry units enabled Mansa Musa to dominate large swathes of the desert and grasslands of west Africa.
The gold that provided him with the means to support such a huge empire became well known as far away as Europe. It was said that when he went on pilgrimages to Mecca, his extravagances upset the economies of the towns he visited.
UZBEKISTAN - Summary In Central Asia, another empire was able to flourish. A nomadic conqueror, known as Timur, laid siege to vast swathes of territory. He began life as a sheep rustler, then rose to become a leader of armies. Claiming Mongol descent, he aspired to rival Genghis Khan.
But as a convert to Islam, he also saw himself as a champion of the faith. Using terror and slaughter, he created an empire that stretched from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean. He used his gathered wealth to build extraordinary monuments in Samarkand Bukhara, inside present -day Uzbekistan.
Timur's ambitions seemed to know no limits. Almost blind and too weak to walk, he set off on one last campaign to conquer China. But he died before the invasion could begin - and his empire did not survive his death. Timur's memory lives on among the people of Uzbekistan, who hail him as a national hero and a symbol of might.
INDONESIA - Summary Across the Indian Ocean, at the heart of the world's busiest trade routes, lay the island of Java, home to the kingdom of Majapahit. The regular monsoon winds of the Indian Ocean had helped sailors move East and West across the water for millennia.
For half the year the winds blew in one direction and for the other half in the opposite direction. In between, ships idled in ports waiting to take off again. The main island of Indonesia, Java, was one such stopover point. It was also an important provider of specialized woods, spices, and rice.
Much of Java's culture had its roots in India. Buddhism and Hinduism had mixed with local Javanese traditions to create hybrid faiths. Some of the traditions that originated in the 14 th century are kept alive on a large island to the east of Java, called Bali.
Here they tell the story of Hayan Wuruk, one of the kingdom's greatest leaders. Like others in this century, he had ambitions to create a huge empire stretching to China and India. But for the most part he was content to simply receive visitors from afar, offering them grand feasts and displays. The island flourished under his rule.
ENGLAND - Summary Back in Christendom, things were going from bad to worse. Not only were the people afflicted with the plague, but temperatures were plunging. A mini-ice age had struck. Icebergs floated farther south, and the northern seas grew treacherous.
Marginal lands to the north were deserted and crops everywhere failed to grow. The poor suffered the most. What little food there was became astronomically expensive. Turning to their rulers for help, the poor were rewarded with oppressive laws and harsh taxes.
Peasants across Europe began to challenge their rulers - rebellions erupted. The poor sought justice and equality, but their demands were largely refused. In the next century, some would decide to seek properity beyond the bounds of Christendom, across the oceans.
History of Britain 5. King Death 1348 – 1500 This is the story of the Black Death - a squalid disease that killed within a week and a national trauma that utterly transformed Britain. The class of survivors created a country of higher wages and peasants with a determined sense of their own worth, farmers and traders who formed the backbone of the Peasants' Revolt. Richard II's attempts to quell the revolt sealed his fate as his crown is seized by Henry Bolingbroke, whose descendants pitched England into twenty years of the Wars of the Roses.
14 th Century Segments Egypt Mali Uzbekistan Indonesia England History of Britain
14 th Century Legacies European deaths from famine, the plague, and wars led to labor shortages, disruptions within the leadership of institutions like the Church, and changes in class structure. This change set the stage for later changes of the 15 th and 16 th centuries. Scandinavians ended colonization efforts in Iceland North America. The Americas would be rediscovered. As Mongol power disintegrated, overland trade became more sporadic without Mongol protection. Shipping replaced overland caravans. Europeans excluded from this exchange were motivated to seek new routes to the east in the 15 th century. Successful revolts against the Mongols led to a new centralization of authority defended by a land based military in Korea, Japan, China, Iran, and Russia.