Spain's Centuries of Crisis: 1300-1474

By Teofilo F. Ruiz | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
Medieval Spain in the Late
Middle Ages
Society and Economy

Years of Crises

A series of disasters befell all of the medieval European kingdoms during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Climatic changes led to shorter and wetter summers and colder winters – the so-called mini-Ice Age – which compounded the problems created by structural crises, excessive taxation, the high cost of endemic warfare, overpopulation (in some areas of Europe), peasant and urban rebellions, and plague. Local and regional contexts, however, often shaped the course of each of these individual crises. The plague, to give just one example, was the same illness everywhere, but how individuals and authorities reacted to its onslaught differed from place to place. The Black Death’s long-term consequences also depended on a whole host of circumstances. We know, for example, that in Siena the population of the city was renewed within a short period of time by intense migration from the countryside. In England and Castile, many of the villages wiped out by the plague and by other factors such as famine or violence were never repopulated, and these “lost villages” disappeared from history.


The Spanish Realms

The story or stories to be told throughout this book always unfolded within the context of long-term structural crises – in the plural because it was the conjunction of different types of crises that made the period so difficult – and against the backdrop of dramatic and cataclysmic events sweeping the

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