back to Scriptorium

Notes on Fourteenth-Century History

I. The Hundred Years War (1337-1453)
A. Beginnings
  1. England, 1327: Edward III becomes king
  2. France, 1328: Philippe VI (de Valois) ignores better claim of Edward of England, ascends throne
  3. 1337: Edward claims French throne, war begins
B. Major Battles
  1. Crécy, 26 Aug. 1346: English bowmen defeat a far superior force led by Philippe VI; French losses (ca. 11,000, incl. 1,200 knights) exceed entire English army.
  2. Poitiers, 19 Sept. 1356: 6,000 English under Edward the Black Prince vs. 20,500 French under King Jean II; bowmen throw French chivalry into confusion, English mounted flanks converge, 4,500 French killed, King Jean and his sons captured. English losses light.
  3. Agincourt, 25 Oct. 1415: 5,700 English (mostly archers) under Henry V defeat 25,000 French under the Constable d'Albret; French losses exceed 8,000; English: 400.

II. The Black Death
A. Chronology
  1. Begins in Sicily, October 1347
  2. Reaches France, January 1348; rages in Paris until 1349
  3. Reaches England, August 1348, continues until early 1350
  4. Recurrences: 1360, 1369
B. Death Toll
  1. European total estimated at 1/3 of population, or ca. 20,000,000
  2. Cities worst hit: Avignon 50% (ca. 25,000), Paris 50% (50,000), London 1/3 (ca. 18,000), Siena, Venice 2/3, Hamburg, Bremen 3/5.
  3. Countryside: 200,000 villages wiped out in Europe
C. Social Consequences
  1. Economic: inflation, shortage of labor, peasant strikes, Statute of Laborers 1351; later, rebellions (Italy: Ciompi 1378, France: Jacquerie 1358, England: Wat Tyler 1381)
  2. Behavioral: lawlessness, debauchery, despair, obsession with death (Danse macabre)

III. Papal Schism (1378-1417)
A. The Avignon Papacy
  1. 1303: King Philippe IV of France abducts Pope Boniface VIII, who dies
  2. 1305: Pope Clement V, French, installed in Avignon, beginning what Petrarch would call the "Babylonian Captivity"
B.The Return to Rome and Onset of Schism
  1. 1367: Pope Urban V returns to Rome, meets resistance; returns to Avignon 1370, dies
  2. Gregory XI goes to Rome Jan. 1377, also meets resistance; dies there March 1378
  3. 9 Apr. 1378: Cardinals elect Urban VI (Roman); he's not to their liking so:
  4. 20 Sept. they elect Clement VII (Robert of Geneva), who heads for Avignon
  5. Battle lines: England for Urban, France for Clement; all others play hard to get.

IV. Chaucer's political career
A. Diplomatic service
  1. 1367: first royal mission abroad
  2. 1372-'73, 1378: missions to Italy
B. Royal Functionary
  1. 1374: Appointed to Customhouse
  2. 1376-'77: on "king's secret business" in France
  3. 1381: Royal marriage negotiations in France
  4. 1385-'86: Member of peace commission in Kent
  5. 1386: end of Customs post; elected "Knight of Shire" from Kent
  6. 1388: Survives Appellants, Merciless Parliament (Thomas Usk does not...)
  7. 1393-'98: favor of both Richard II, Henry of Derby
  8. Richard II deposed, accession of Henry IV; Ch's grants renewed, increased

Appendix: Fourteenth-Century Kings

England: France: