A. Monarchs, Nobles, and the Clergy
1. Thirteenth century European states were ruled by weak monarchs
whose power was limited by their modest treasuries, the regional
nobility, the independent towns, and the church.
2. Two changes in weaponry began to undermine the utility—and
therefore the economic position—of the noble knights. These two
innovations were the armor-piercing crossbow and the development of
3. King Philip the Fair of France reduced the power of the church
when he arrested the pope and had a new (French) one installed at
Avignon, but monarchs still faced resistance, particularly from their
stronger vassals. In England, the Norman conquest of 1066 had
consolidated and centralized royal power, but the kings continued to
find their power limited by the pope and by the English nobles, who
force the king to recognize their hereditary rights as defined in the
4. Monarchs and nobles often entered into marriage alliances. One
effect of these alliances was to produce wars over the inheritance of
far-flung territories. In the long term, these wars strengthened the
authority of monarchs and led to the establishment of territorial
B. The Hundred Years War, 1337–1453
1. The Hundred Years War pitted France against England, whose King
Edward III claimed the French throne in 1337. The war was fought with
the new military technology: crossbows, longbows, pikes (for pulling
knights off their horses) and firearms, including an improved cannon.
2. The French, whose superior cannon destroyed the castles of the
English and their allies, finally defeated the English. The war left the
French monarchy in a stronger position than before.
C. New Monarchies in France and England
1. The new monarchies that emerged after the Hundred Years War had
stronger central governments, more stable national boundaries, and
stronger representative institutions. Both the English and the French
monarchs consolidated their control over their nobles.
2. The advent of new military technology—cannon and hand-held
firearms—meant that the castle and the knight were outdated. The new
monarchs depended on professional standing armies of bowmen, pikemen,
musketeers, and artillery units.
3. The new monarchs had to find new sources of revenue to pay for
these standing armies. In order to raise money, the new monarchs taxed
land, merchants, and the church.
4. By the end of the fifteenth century, there had been a shift in
power away from the nobility and the church and toward the monarchs.
This process was not complete, however, and monarchs were still hemmed
in by the nobles, the church, and by new parliamentary institutions: the
Parliament in England and the Estates General in France.
D. Iberian Unification
1. Spain and Portugal emerged as strong centralized states through a
process of marriage alliances, mergers, warfare, and the reconquest of
the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslims. Reconquest offered the nobility
large landed estates upon which they could grow rich without having to
2. The reconquest took place over a period of several centuries, but
picked up after the Christians put the Muslims on the defensive with a
victory in 1212.
3. Portugal became completely established in 1249. In 1415, the
Portuguese captured the Moroccan port of Ceuta, which gave them access
to the trans-Saharan trade.
4. On the Iberian Peninsula, Castile and Aragon were united in 1469
and the Muslims driven out of their last Iberian stronghold (Granada) in
1492. Spain then expelled all Jews and Muslims from its territory;
Portugal also expelled its Jewish population.