Module 3: The Late Middle Ages, 1340–1523

By Jeppe Büchert Netterstrøm, PhD, Associate Professor, Aarhus University

The Late Middle Ages saw a decline in population and a transformation of rural society. Many died of plague, but those who survived enjoyed better living conditions. Trade and urban life began to flourish, and the burgher estate grew wealthy and self-assured. At the beginning of the period, Denmark had almost ceased to exist as an independent kingdom, but it was gradually re-established and became the dominant power in the Nordic region. At the same time, the kings strove to consolidate their power within Danish society. This led to violent conflicts with the nobility, but the social elites generally supported the formation of a strong central power. The Church remained an important player in society and in people’s minds, but it lost power to the king and the nobility. Laymen found new ways of practising religion, and access to knowledge and learning broadened. Towards the end of the period, King Christian II attempted to modernise society and build a strong state based on the economic power of the burghers, but the attempt failed. This module ends in 1523 with the fall of Christian II and the end of the Kalmar Union between the crowns of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

Watch Jeppe Büchert Netterstrøm explain the important developments which occurred during the period 1340-1523. The film is in Danish with English subtitles, and lasts about eight minutes. Click 'CC' and choose 'English' or 'Danish' subtitles.