History 104A, November 4: Learning the Hard Way!
We're going to talk about the agricultural growth in medieval
Europe in what's called the high middle ages. Basically from 1347 we
saw a dramatic growth in food production and population and health and
life expectancy. But of course 1347 devastated much of that growth.
What happened in 1347? The so called black plague, the bubonic plague
that was caused by?
THE PROFESSOR: It wasn't caused by rats.
A The fleas on the rats.
THE PROFESSOR: The fleas on the rats. And that plague was to be
intermittent in Europe until the end of the 17th century. And the
reason it disappeared finally, we're not exactly sure. The black rat
that was the host for the fleas began to be replaced by a brown rat
where the fleas didn't live very well on. And it helped supposedly to
wipe out the continuous rebirth or reappearance of the plague. We
still see bubonic plague sometimes -- there was a case a few years ago
found in Yosemite. It appears, but today at least we have means of
treating within limitations or finding it and getting rid of it
So our period of time in a sense -- well, I got start dealing
with the growth economically and the tremendous increase in
agricultural production that came with the so called high middle ages.
And that also meant learning and the knowledge of education to the
extent that the 1100 period, the 12th century is known as the 12th
century renaissance, the renaissance being a rebirth. Of course it's
never really a full rebirth. We're talking about the culture,
learning, knowledge, trade. So the 12th century is seen as the first
of a renaissance period. Of course the fourth century begins the era
that we historically call the renaissance. The waning of the middle
ages begins after 1347. And as I say, there was not only the
devastation that came about there from the plague, but the tremendous
warfare, including the 100 years war that began to basically
exterminate the population in Europe, some areas two-thirds of the
I did promise you an exam question for Wednesday's exam. I do
want to distribute this. However, I may need to do some explanation.
Candidly, I just could not come up with the wording I wanted. I kept
changing it and changing it and changing it. Maybe I should at least
try and explain it. The picture of the ship there is probably a
little after our period, in fact, maybe a lot after. I was looking
for something that sort of fit the question in my clip art. This sort
of did it. We got enough? Any extras? Okay. The first millennium
CE. Give me a translation of this making sure we all understand those
first words? What does that say in plain English?
A The first 1,000 years in the common era.
THE PROFESSOR: Of the common era, yeah. In other words, after
what Christians call the birth of Christ saw the emergence of complex
societies throughout much of the world. Again, I pulled this stuff
out of basically the chapters in the textbook and to a large extent,
it applies to seven and eight.
What is in a sense meant by when the textbook author uses the
term "complex societies"? If you recall, since I see a lot of blank
stares, the authors basically refer to complex societies synonymously
as civilization. So in a sense, this is the high advancement of
civilization is what they're referring to. And I put in throughout
much of the world that included migration, movement, trade, and the
spread of belief systems, excluding Europe, because that's western
civilization and the other two questions that I make up will deal with
Using specific examples, describe these defining events. This
probably should be the defining event. These works, defining events
and the formation of these complex societies. So as I say, obviously
we're dealing with other areas of the world as they begin to expand
into more advanced civilizations, probably would have worded it that
way, but I wanted to use closer to the wording of the book so that
when you were looking in the book, you could locate certain concepts
that came out of the Earth and its peoples.
Questions about the question? Any of you need clarifications? I
know it's going to take a little thought for those of you who chose to
do it. I think about one-third of you, somewhere between a quarter
and a third took the take-home question last time. Some of you
planned to until you saw my other questions and decided they were
easier, I think.
A Pretty much.
THE PROFESSOR: Don't promise that this time. As I say, since
the questions that I give you to take home are more complex because
you have the resources, I think that's only fair to sort of make the
ones that are given in class a little more, a little clearer or a
little more specific. Questions on this question? All right. If you
have any after you read it, you still have Monday to ask it, so read
through it. If anything arises during the weekend, don't hesitate.
If you've got a question, you can rest assure that five or six other
people have the same but their afraid to ask it because they don't
want the look dumb or whatever. If you're going to bend down in front
of me you have to go way down because I'm so short.
Okay, then let's pick up where I left off a few minutes go
before -- the period again that we're going to touch on deals with the
topic universal truths. And if you look at your outline, again, the
topic's going to deal with disruption and renewal, revealed knowledge,
faith and reason, guilded and the crusading spirit. There's a lot
there actually, and we'll see how far we can go with it. Before
getting into the crusades, let's deal with the development of the era
And in a sense, what we're seeing during this era is a
redevelopment of, as I said, agriculture, wealth -- we're beginning to
see capitalism expanding. It's not formal. But by the end of the
medieval period, we're moving into the era known a as bullionism where
power rests in gold and silver that extends into mercantilism, where
nations believe that they will get their wealth from the
manufacturing, selling things, and they use colonies for raw
materials. And finally, into capitalism where individuals begin to
profit if they can produce things that people are willing to buy. But
certain elements of capitalism also begin to appear during this era,
including banking systems and bookkeeping and accounting to make it
perhaps a more profitable era in and of itself.
Tied of course to capitalism in a way is the rise of cities. The
cities are going to move from entities that are controlled by the
church as in the early medieval period. And the beginning of the high
medieval period, you see the center of the city as the cathedral,
specifically the Gothic cathedral represents this high middle ages.
One of my professors once described it as the hand of God coming down
and holding people in. In a sense, it really does create the image
because the Gothic cathedral is different from the Romanesque. In
Romanesque, they're solid and built strong and round, thick walls and
in part they reflect that expansion that existed in Europe with the
invasion of the Norsemen, the earlier Germanic tribal invasions and of
course the expansion into parts of southern Europe. The Gothic
cathedral is light, the stained glass windows, and they take hundreds
of years to build. And that's why in some cases they're very
different in different sections of the cathedrals themselves. Because
different architects are involved in their construction, but their
high ceiling, arches that bring you up towards the heavens. And
they're built often in a crucifix basilica kind of pattern. So again,
the earlier part of the period, the center of the community is the
By the 14th century, the cities are now going to be surrounded,
are going to surround the guild houses, the guild buildings. And in
the center of the guild buildings which are in a sense the craftsman
organizations, the skilled worker organizations, in the center of
those are the city halls. The city hall now becomes the center of the
city where the burghermeister, the burgher being the businessmen, the
bourgeoisie that are emerging, the emerging entrepreneurs. The
burghermeister is the mayor. And now, we're beginning to see
something coming out of the 13th century, the tower with the clock on
it. And so the center of the city looks like building five over here
with our clock tower right in the center of the community, very much
reflective I think of, in a sense, that late medieval architecture.
The emergence of cities becomes a vital area. And the reason
they can emerge out of the manner system is because the invaders of
Europe, those dastardly Vikings, Norsemen, Muslims, Germanic peoples
settle down. They become basically rather than migrating, they settle
in various areas. And so cities begin to move back to the waterways.
The waterways are no longer threats. And of course trade resumes with
the people. Part of the reason for the wealth of capitalism
developing is, we're now beginning to see the fairs and development of
fairs where goods and services are trades where people from all over
come to sell their wares or to buy objects. Trading fairs are on the
water. They start out for short periods of time, once or twice a
year; but as the population increases, the fairs are there in a
permanent basis. Of course many of you have visited the renaissance
fair. I'm not sure if people go to the renaissance fair as often
anymore now that it's up in Fairfax or something. How many of you
have been to the renaissance fair? Years ago when it was up in
Novato, almost all my students used to go. It was a thing to do. I
guess they had to move it out of there, quote/unquote, black forest.
Something else that came with the expansion of the cities that
we're going to talk about when we go into it a little further is in a
sense freedom. It's not only that a serf can live in the city for a
year and a day and be declared a freeman from being unfree, but the
cities themselves, different from anywhere else in the world, are
actually independent units now. They're like the ancient Greek city
states. How do they become independent? Because what's happening is
that the merchants who are producing these cities, if you will, the
town halls the merchant buildings.
The burgers have wealth. And the kings begin to realize that
with that wealth, if they had some way to get it, they could hire
professional soldiers. They didn't to have rely on obligations
through feudalism. And they do that by giving the burghers in the
city contracts, in a sense, charters. These charters give them
freedom to run their own community in return for wealth given to the
king. Now, the king could take all the money if he wanted, but then
the money would be gone and so would the entrepreneur. You would tax
them out of business. What you had was a deal. You have to freedom
to do what you want. You can run the city however you want, just
produce a certain amount of wealth for me each year. So rather than
40 days and 40 nights of service, what we now have is a payment. Call
it a bribe or whatever you want, but it was a payment for a charter.
That charter, that contract provided the wealth of the new emerging
king to go take over power from the nobles. And this new merchant
class slowly created an aggressive economic system that we know as
Also developing, especially in the high middle ages, is the
technological development. Some of it was known by the Romans but
wasn't used. As I made the point before, the Romans used slave labor.
They didn't need the technology. So what we began to see was the use
of windmills, water mills, technology that came forth for the
production of goods and services but a different form of technology as
well. The heavy plow that could break the lands, frozen land in
northern Europe, to be able to produce, break down the soil so things
could be planted. That technology played a role. Of course later in
the medieval era, the development of the sailing ships with the rudder
to direct them. And of course early in the medieval period, the use
of the compass came in to direct people into getting a little off from
going around the coast and having to stay close to land. And of
course also from the Arab world, the astrolabe, the ability to be able
to read latitude as sailors went out to sea. Of course, as I
indicated, the mechanical clock. And now we had a sense of time. And
a sense of time had a lot to do with some of the change in Europe that
deal with when things are done, how they're done, and we'll get into
that at another point.
With the expansion of the cities, with the expansion of wealth,
we see a greater element of secularization. Secularization means
worldliness, moving away to some extent from religious domination. A
full separation of church and state, but a separation of church and
nature, meaning that now, it was possible to study theology separately
from the physical world around us, which opened the door to not only
agricultural advances and technological advances, but the foundation
from these, of what's going to be known as science, experimentation.
Rational interpretation are going to come about through certain
religious scholars as well because they're separating the world of the
heavens from the nature and the world that we live in. And that
really is, in a sense, a form of secularization.
We're seeing the expansion of new political institutions that I
spoke about or alluded to. We're moving from that world of the feudal
rulers, the lords, the vassals, the knights in shining armor, if you
will, to a different world where you now have kings who have
professional armies and they bring in large numbers of people who do
not need armor, if you will, because -- for example in England, the
development of the longbow where the common soldier becomes important
in battle, not just the knight with the horse. And there is a
territorial expansion as well.
Europe begins to expand throughout much of the world beginning
with -- and in contact with the rest of the world. And I didn't
mention this. The climate changes as well. It is said that the
reason the Norsemen or Vikings, if you will, the Danes can get to
Iceland, Greenland, and the Americas is because the area has become
warmer. There's a greater ability to move. And so there's an
expansion out and a settlement into north Europe. And with that, the
missionaries appear. And by the 12th century, northern Europe becomes
Christian as well. A new intellectual development I alluded to
earlier which brings in that beginnings of science, so we're going to
go back to the early years of that development and talk about the
conflict between faith and reason and the attempt to bring together
faith and reason. So these are some of the themes that we're going to
deal with. They include, if you will, as I define it, by the end of
the medieval period, the death of the unicorn. The unicorn symbolized
the Catholic church. It symbolized the unity, the purity, the honesty
of one world government. And the enemy, the natural enemy of the
unicorn was the lion. The lion dealt with his own selfish control,
his own selfish pride, if you will, the pride being the women
lionesses who protected his territory in a sense. We now see the
emergence of nation states, each creating their own religion in some
ways coming out of that era. The unicorns reflecting the one horn of
Christ, reflecting the goodness of one faith. And during the medieval
period, unicorn horns were worth a fortune. They used to break them
down into little powders and sell them to people to cure disease and
to help you get to heaven. I know many of out are saying, unicorns,
did they really exist? Of course we know the unicorn song and most of
us think that Noah forget the unicorn.
A No, sing it.
THE PROFESSOR: No. I can't remember the words basically. It
was done by --
A The Clancey Brothers.
THE PROFESSOR: It was written by Shell Silverstein, the guy who
did a couple of books you probably read when you were probably kids.
What was the name of the book? This is not bringing back anything?
A Keep talking. It sounds familiar.
THE PROFESSOR: He started out as a cartoonist for Playboy and
then he went on from there to doing some music and he wrote a number
of children's books.
A In Napoleon's castle in Italy, he had a big stature of a unicorn.
THE PROFESSOR: Well, in a sense, the unicorn was symbolizing a
unity that Napoleon was attempting to create by bringing back total
control from the little lions or the nations making everyone pure like
the French, ha ha. The way the unicorn could gets caught for the sale
of their horns by these wicker hunters is that they would find a pure
woman, that is to say, a virgin. They would sit her down under a tree
in the nude and the unicorn would approach because of respect and
purity. But if the woman turned out not to be pure, the unicorn would
get angry and run her through with his horn. Now, you say what
happened to the unicorns? Well, I think it's pretty obvious. They
can't get anybody to trap them today. Sorry.
Also, dealing as long as we are with heraldry and mythology, the
symbol of pegasus raises a symbol. Some of you remember the flying
horse that came from the head of the medusa when Perseus slew the
medusa. Remember medusa had all of those little snake hairs and
Perseus reflected his shield and so she cut off her own head and out
of that flew a beautiful white horse who flew away. Men can do all
sorts of things, and you can even kill the medusa if you will.
All right. Let's go back and let's move into the realm of
education as well. We had some small renaissance periods, progress,
knowledge, and learning. We mentioned one earlier, the Careligeon.
We identified that during the Charlomaine period, from 800 on, we saw
a birth of schools even though Charlomaine himself was illiterate. We
saw the beautiful calligraphy and the illuminated manuscripts and a
number of schools opening to deal with the liberal arts on that area.
And with that, it expands into the 9th century. We mentioned the
Ottoman renaissance there. But it's in the 11th century that we begin
to see through a conflict, the real expansion of learning and
questioning that's going to lead us into the 13th century era of
scholasticism. And this is a battle that occurs between two groups
known as the nominalists and the rationalists, nominalists and
rationalists. The nominalists were basically, if you will,
Aristotelian. The rationalists were more Platonism, Plato. I did
deal a little about Aristotle and Plato earlier, so we'll sort of
expand on it.
The first of a nominalists -- and by the way, rationalists in
several terms would be directed towards faith. By rationalists here,
we're dealing with people who have faith and learning and knowledge is
revealed by God through authority, through the church fathers. And
you do not question that authority because those church fathers know
better because the knowledge has been revealed to them directly by
God; versus the nominalists who are more leaning towards rational
interpretation, even though they're not called rationalists because
they're looking at more of the particulars. They're examining through
inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning meaning examining through
the particulars to come to a conclusion.
Deductive reasoning refers to taking a theorem, an idea, a
priority from its wording itself and coming to a conclusion from the
words. Accepting by faith what truth is and rationally, logically,
deriving further truth from the original truth. And education
basically is going to be expanding on that sort of rationalist
concept. People are taught and continue to be taught in the middle
ages how to use logic rather than investigative knowledge.
The first of the nominalists is a man named Roscellinus,
R-O-S-C-E-L-L-I-N-U-S. He lived from 1050 to 1125 CE. And he
questions the whole issue of universals. The issue is, is there an
individual thing as an apple or do we have this idea of an apple that
let's us know it's an apple? In other words, is there a general
apple? Or is there just a specific particular apple? Do we have
knowledge of this universal apple and therefore we know an apple
because it's been revealed to us? Or do we know apples because we
examine all the different species of apples? Can an apple exist apart
from these particular apples? Or do the apple concept only exist
because we've examined particular apples? Is the concept of an apple
is a thing or is it above the universe? Roscellinus argued that the
universals concepts themselves are nothing but names. They are
nothing more than sounds. He refused to recognize the existence of a
universal. And this certainly seemed to question the existence of
God. Were we created in God's image or do we know God because we
examine ourselves and look for the perfect in us and therefore create
a thing that does not exist called God? Hell of an argument in the
12th, 11th, and 12th century when you think about it. And it almost
seems to separate into three Gods: Father, son, and holy spirit. How
can they both be one? It makes so sense.
Well, a very famous -- A-N-S-E-L-M. Who was the abbe of Beck and
later became the arch bishop of Canterbury. What country?
THE PROFESSOR: Denounced Roscellinus because he felt that
Roscellinus was directly opposed to the fathers of the church and to
revealed truth. Anselm said, I do not seek to know that I may
believe, but I believe so that I may know. So we don't search
knowledge; we believe and knowledge comes to us. Roscellinus, under
the threat of burning at the stake, recanted some of his views, copped
out I guess.
However, the individual whose best known in a sense for the
nominalist's thesis and who continues to come down in history is a man
called Abelard, A-B-E-L-A-R-D. And of course we also -- many times
historically we see the famous love story, one of those unrequited
love tales between Abelard and Heloise, H-E-L-O-I-S-E. Anybody know
the story of Abelard and Heloise? Abelard was born at the end of the
11th century and died at the middle of the 12th century, 1079 to 1142,
not that you need to know them, but I'm throwing them at you. As a
young man, he was a brilliant scholar, brilliant memorization scholar,
not in a sense of research, but memorizing the books of St. Augustine,
et cetera, and would propound and discuss and deal with the church
fathers. And because of that, at a very young age, in his early
twenties, he was recognized as a teacher under the cathedral in Paris
at Notre Dame, which began the development of the educational system
of the university -- but before it became bound within four walls,
what generally happened is, people who were renounced would hold
classes. He would stand on a street corner in warm weather and they
would lecture to the throng, to the crowd which would then give them
money. Or in cooler weather, they would rent an apartment and invite
in students. Now obviously education was mainly directed towards the
men, but every now and then some women would sneak into the crowd and
many groupies to the rock singers of their age. And among a groupie
to Abelard was a young 16-year-old woman named Heloise. And Abelard
made the dastardly mistake that teachers should know better, he slept
with his student. They later got married secretly because marriages
had to be approved. She was only 16. He was in his early 20s,
statutory rape, et cetera. Parents found out. Heloise's father, his
uncle, his brother, her brother waylaid Abelard one night and
castrated him. He hampered in him in a lot of different ways to say
the least. When you're a dynamic speaker and your voice changes and
you start talking like this, it kills your lecture. Sorry about that.
I couldn't resist. Obviously it ruined his ability to marry. He was
a priest. He wasn't supposed to marry anyway. Heloise went off to a
convent, a nunnery -- get thee to a nunnery -- and Abelard continued
his writings, his philosophizing. They communicated throughout life,
wrote back and forth. They may have seen each other once later on in
life, if the movie has any accuracy to it. I don't know. The fact is
that the love letters between the two and his own writings about his
suffering without her reflect that unrequited love, love for afar.
For 40 years that love continued yet they were not together. They
were not married. So why the hell do we need same sex marriage? Why
the hell do we even need marriage? Keep it from afar? Of course we
would have no population left, I guess. Sorry. Playing with the
That story is one side and the one that's well-known mainly
because Abelard was such a trouble maker, a free thinker. His famous
book SIC ET NON -- translated from the Latin: Yes or no. You know
folks, now that he finally arrives --
A Jessica told me we don't have class today.
THE PROFESSOR: You listened to Jessica? Don't go anywhere
because I've got something to tell you. I'm going to put the exam off
until Friday of next week. The reason is I don't --
A Friday is a holiday.
THE PROFESSOR: Here?
A Veterans day.
THE PROFESSOR: We're off at Ohlone? I didn't know we were off.
I don't like holidays.
THE PROFESSOR: All right. The exam is put off until Monday.
You get a weekend to study. That means you don't get the exams back
right away. I have too much material I want to cover here with my
stories. I'll finish it up. It's only right. The exam will be
Monday, November 14th. Thanks for cluing me in.