chapter  10
The eleventh-century reforms
Pages 15

The fourteenth century witnessed famine, plague, warfare, social violence, economic contraction, religious anxiety and other threats to the survival of Christendom. Things were so bad that historians have labelled the fourteenth century an extended period of 'crisis'. The subtitle of Barbara Tuchman's popular book, A Distant Mirror, even called the fourteenth century 'calamitous'. Since the year 1000, three centuries of growth had transformed the demographic, economic, cultural and religious landscape of Europe. Everything in 1300 was on a bigger scale. Christendom had many more human beings, and had added more territory in the east, the north and the south. Sophisticated institutions, including the papal monarchy, bishoprics, international religious orders, universities, guilds and especially the network of parishes, effectively structured the lives of Christendom's inhabitants. Although the majority of people lived from farming and herding, a lively regional and international trade sustained hundreds of cities, which housed a prosperous and assertive merchant class and a large working class.