Social and Political Breakdown in the Late Middle Ages (1300-1527)

The Hundred Years' War (1337-1453) and The Black Death


The Hundred Years' War (1337-1453)

England Under Edward III

1327 - 1377

Edward ended shipments of wool from England to Flanders. Why did this matter? Flanders was a region of France with an economy based upon cloth manufacturing, with no wool Flanders could manufacture no cloth. The rich merchants of Flanders, who were suffering the most from the embargo, rallied the commoners to revel against the French government.

Charles IV Dies

1 February 1328

Charles IV was the king of France, he was also the last son (and therefore last heir) of the French King Philip the Fair. Who should inherit the throne of France?

New Ruler of France

1 February 1328

The English king Edward III was the grandson of the French king Philip the Fair, who was the father of the Charles IV. When Charles IV died in 1328, Edward was only 15 years old and was considered too young to inherit the throne of France (even though he was the closest blood relative to Charles IV). The cousin of Charles IV, Philip VI of Valois, was chosen to continue the family dynasty in France. When Edward becomes older, will he try and assert his rightful place on the throne of France?

French Weakness

1337 - 1415

The early part of the war saw France be paradoxically defeated at numerous battles by England. France had three distinct advantages over England: population (3x), wealth and geographical knowledge. What caused France to flounder was internal social and political disunity…France was still attempting to centralize its government and move away from the feudal style of governance. England had already made this transition.

Flanders align with England


Flanders also acknowledges Edward III as king of both England and France.

Bay of Sluys

23 June 1340

England defeats French fleet.
The English were pushed back, however, from conquering any land in France.

Invasion of Normandy and capture of Calais


Edward and his English military forces landed on the beaches of Normandy and won continuous battles against the French. At the battle of Crecy, the English seized the city of Calais.

Black Death Truce


Exhaustion and the onset of the Black Death forced both sides to agree to a truce.

Estates General


With France being unorganized and not centrally governed, France's wealth that initially acted in their favor began to quickly run out. In desperation to fund the war, France borrowed money from Italian bankers which angered the citizens of France and increased the already present internal fissures. The Estates Generals was a council comprised of both commoners and nobles aimed at securing the funds France had left and to gather more for the future. They agreed to increase taxes for the king, but these counselors also took advantage of their power and created even deeper territorial separation.



The Estate General, unlike the Magna Carta in England, was comprised of a largely divided privileged class and proved to be an ineffective governing body. The Jacquerie is the term associate with a group of peasant uprisings ("bloody rebellions") across France in the year 1358. These revolts were quickly put down by the nobles.

France is Reunited

1360 - 1377

Beginning in 1360 France began a military campaign to push back the English, the goal was to acquire the regions of France that were overtaken by England in the Peace of Bretigny. By the time of Edward III's death in 1377, the English had been beaten all the way to the coastal region of Bordeaux.

Peace of Bretigny

9 May 1360

Forced upon France by England. The treaty ended any submission for Edward III under the French king, it also reverted any English territory in France back to Edward's control. The french also agreed to pay the 3 million gold crown ransom for King John the Good's release. Do you think this separation France would work? What would happen to the regions that bordered the regions with English territories?

Reign of Richard II (British Weakness)

1377 - 1399

Richard II (r. 1377-1399)

English Peasant Revolt

June 1381

Similar to the French Jacquerie, the commoner and artisan classes revolted against the nobles. It was quickly put down but the effects of this revolution spread across England…ie. the country was now divided just as France was before.

Region of Burgundy


Henry V of England (r. 1413-1422) took advantage of internal stratification in France created from the rise of power/influence from the duchy of Burgundy. Henry led an invasion of Normandy, while this was happening, Burgundy sat back and let France be invaded since they were in fact rivals of a French centralized government. After the English victory at Agincourt on 25 October 1415, Burgundy realized that once England beat France they would then turn their attention to Burgundy. Burgundy joined the French resistance, but in September of 1419 this alliance was shattered with the assignation of the Duke of Burgundy. The son of the Duke (heir), joined the English in hopes of avenging his father's death.

Treaty of Troyes


With Burgundy now aligned with England, France was an easy target. The Treaty of Troyes disinherited (made the king of France step down) and in his replacement was the English king Henry V.

Death of Henry VI and Charles VI


The ex-King of France Charles VI and the current king of both France and England Henry V dies only months apart in 1422. Henry V's son, Henry VI, was proclaimed king of England and France in 1422.

Charles VII


With the appointment of Henry VI as king of England and France, the son of the previous king of France went into seclusion in Bourges. This young Frenchman, with the help of Joan of Arc, would soon become a key player in the Hundred Years War.

France beats England at Orleans


Joan took fresh French troops to Orleans where an exhausted English force defended the city. The English were quickly beaten and Joan went on to win numerous other battles. Was it her military expertise or was it the renewed sense of nationalism that she created which helped France push back England?

Joan of Arc

March 1429

Joan of Arc, a peasant from Domremy, approached the secluded Charles VII claiming that she had been appointed by God to reclaim the city of Orleans in France from England's control.

Charles VII reinstated as King of France

July 1429

Joan of Arc Captured

May 1430

Charles VII quickly forgot his hero Joan of Arc. She was captured by the Burgundians (the region of France aligned with England still) in May of 1430, after weeks of interrogation she was assassinated on 30 May 1431.

Region of Burgundy


The duke of Burgundy, once fighting against France in order to redeem the assassination of his father, made peace with Charles VII and unified France.

End of War


With all this fighting, England only held onto a small portion of land on the coast of France near Calais.

- Devastated France, but created a sense of French nationalism…it also sped up Frances transition from a feudal monarchy to a centralized state.
- Burgundy becomes an European power
- England discovers that with Europe in constant flux, it makes most sense to create their own cloth manufacturing. Rather than selling the row materials only.

The Black Death (Bubonic Plague)

Crop Failure (famine)

1315 - 1317

Beginning even before the fourteenth century, agricultural advancements allowed for more robust harvests. With a great amount of food available to population of Europe boomed in the centuries preceding the 1300s. With the boom in food came a population spike. From 1315-1317 there was a major crop failure across Europe and the now doubled population of Europe demanded food that did not exist. The most densely populated areas, urban towns and cities, were hit the hardest because they had to spread the little food they had across a greater number of people.

Black Death Strikes


The plague entered Europe possibly through the island of Sicily, where fleas that were on rats that were on board trade ships from the East (Black Sea) spread onto humans across the continent of Europe (throughout the continental port cities of Venice, Genoa, Pisa).

Death Toll and Consequences

Approx. 1400

Two-fifths of Europe's population had died. A full recover would not become a reality until the sixteenth century.
- Shrunken labor supply, ie. those farmers and artisans who stayed alive could demand more money
- Decline in value of the large estates of nobility