14th Century – 7 Historical Events that happened in the 14th Century

Check out the article below to learn about 7 historical events that took place during the 14th Century. From disease to world leaders, to climate, to war and many other things, learn what changed in the 14th Century!

The Black Death – The disease that killed half of Europe.

Miniature by Pierart dou Tielt illustrating the Tractatus quartus bu Gilles li Muisit (Tournai, c. 1353). The people of Tournai bury victims of the Black Death in the 14th century.
Citizens of Tournai bury victims of the Black Death, c. 1353.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Something happened in the Gobi Desert early in the 14th century. It could have been the seeds of God’s wrath; it could have been the beginning of the end of the World; it was probably some transmutation of the bacterium Yersinia Pestis that infected rats, who in turn bit and infected humans in the region. 

Poor hygiene and cramped living conditions allowed this Plague to spread unremittingly from east to west, killing between 30-40 million people between 1347-1352. One example of this destruction can be observed in Cairo, a city ten times the size of London during this period, and the Islamic capital of the World. It was the largest city west of China and a third of the population perished to the Black Death. Cairo never returned to the glory of this era. 

Mansa Musa – The richest man in history walked the Earth.

The richest person of the 14th Century, Mansa Musa on Catalan Atlas Sheet 6
Mansa Musa.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

It appears no man or woman could ever surpass the obscene wealth accumulated by Jeff Bezos today. But what if we were to tell you that a man who walked the hot, dry plains of Mali over 700 years ago had an estimated net worth of over 400 billion dollars. Mansa Musa was the ninth king of Mali, at a time when his kingdom was the most prosperous on the planet. While the Black Death ravaged Europe and Asia, Mansa Musa was building an empire through the humble trade of salt and gold.

He quietly built his fortune over ten years before a famed Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 (with an entourage of 60,000 men) solidified his status as the most extravagantly wealthy man the world had ever seen. 

Timur the conqueror.

Timur feasts in the environs of Samarkand.“Zafar-nama”. Samarkand
Timur having a feast in the gardens of Samarkand.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The self-proclaimed ‘Sword of Islam’ and military strategist Timur was the last of the great nomadic conquerors. Despite his bloodline professing otherwise, he claimed to be the successor of Genghis Khan and showed furious wrath to match his infamous icon. During his pillaging of Baghdad, 90,000 men were beheaded, and their skulls were used to build towers. He killed well over 100,000 people during his raiding of Delhi and could be considered one of the most brutal, yet ingenious military leaders of all time. He died of a cold in 1405. 

The Little Ice Age Began. 

At the start of the 14th century, global temperatures dropped by around 2°C. In a world still held back by a lack of technological progression at the end of the Middle Ages, this was life-changing. Throw in a devastating plague, countless military conquests throughout Europe and extremely high levels of global poverty and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. 

There are several reasons suggested to be the cause of this ‘little ice age’, but the effects were categorical. Rivers and lakes froze across Europe, preventing travel and restricting the general water supply. Grain harvests, which the population relied so heavily upon, were totally disrupted, causing a natural shift out of serfdom for many. 

1381 Peasant’s Revolt

Richard II meeting with the rebels of the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 in the 14th Century.
King Richard II of England meeting with the rebels of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Led by Wat Tyler and inspired by the sermons of travelling preacher John Ball, here we have one of the first conscious acts of rebellion in England from oppressed peasants. 14th century England was a powder keg of tension. The Black Death decimated the British labour force and taxes were consistently rising so that the wealthy could finance the Hundred Years’ War. The government was weakened by the general malaise that came with the plague and the peasants took advantage of this. 

The revolt lasted around two weeks and order was restored. Despite its’ short lifespan, the revolt could be seen as a success, as many of Wat Tyler’s demands were met over the following years. 

The Hundred Years’ War

A miniature of the battle from Jean Froissart's Chronicles showing the Battle of Sluys during the 14th century Hundred Years War
The Battle of Sluys during the Hundred Years’ War, 1340.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This long and bloody series of conflicts between France and Britain began in 1337 and ended over a century later, in 1453, with a French victory. It was a war fought by the rich, in the interests of the rich. Titles, honour and political power were at stake as Edward the third declared the Kingdom of France was rightfully his to take claim. Alliances were formed, taxes were raised, and a series of battles, both on land and at sea, began. 

The end of the Knights Templar 

The Knights Templar was a Christian organisation set up to protect pilgrims travelling through Muslim nations on their way to holy sites. It was established in 1118 and had strong support from the pope. Members of the organisation swore an oath to live a stoic life of poverty and abstinence but grew so much in popularity that they had their own bank, as well as a fleet of ships.

This cult-like Christian organisation came to an end in 1303, when consistent military defeats by Muslim armies forced them back into Western Europe. In the following years, many of the knights were rounded up and executed under false charges. Pope Clement V then broke up the Knights Templar in 1312.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out our other 7 Historical Events that happened in different centuries!

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