Late Middle Ages, 1340-1536

Late Middle Ages, 1340-1536

Introduction

The watershed that marks the transition from the High to Late Middle Ages is the great plague epidemic, the Black Death, which struck Europe in 1347-52. This, along with the many future epidemics, would have significant consequences for the following development of society. Most importantly, the dues the peasants had to pay to the landowners dropped, and almost all farm holdings were reorganised into middle-sized family holdings. The peasants who survived the plague would live under improved conditions.

During the following 100 years, the influence that the royal power had in society strengthened once more, and at the end of the 1300s, the now powerful Crown would spread its influence to Norway and Sweden in connection with the birth of the Kalmar union. In 1439, there was a turning point when the Council of the Realm definitively established itself as the representative of the wealthiest clergymen and noble landowners, and demanded greatly increased influence on the ruling of the country. Despite many disputes between landowners and the Crown in Denmark and especially in Sweden, the central power continued to strengthen. Furthermore, in connection with the Reformation in 1536, the Crown succeeded in placing the church and its property under what from this point forward can be referred to as the state.

The Reformation meant a rupture with the Catholic Church under the leadership of the Pope, and with that the end of the cultural conformity that had resulted from the influence of the multinational, Catholic Church on medieval Europe.