High Middle Ages,

During the High Middle Ages, Europe experienced an industrial as well as an agricultural boom, and the Church played an important role in amalgamating all the activities.  Small towns had been developed, as the feudal system in Europe began fall.  Christianity, the church and the Crusaders, played a major role on the economic and the military activities of Europe.  There was also a huge amount of intellectual progress as universities across Europe began to be developed.  Science and philosophy were the main subjects of interest.  The Arabs tended to influence the activities of Europe during that era.  The period around 1000 to 1300 AD is termed as the ‘High Middle ages’.  Petrarch played an important role in defining the Middle Ages in Europe (ULB; Infoplease, 2007 & The Teaching Company, 2007).

From Henri Pirenne’s work, a difference between urban lifestyle and rural lifestyle had been identified in Europe.  During the High Middle Ages, the people migrated to towns in search of jobs.  The urban quarters relied on the rural quarters for the supply of food, and people often invested hugely in rural property for agricultural purposes (ULB).

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Marx and Malthusia conducted a lot of research to describe the rural life of medieval Europe.  The urban sector during the medieval period began to develop economically, and this had an impact upon the rural sector.  Cities and towns in urban Europe had economic, political and cultural control.  People often migrated to the urban areas in search of jobs.  Markets were often developed in the urban areas, which were economic centers.  People from different parts began to migrate to the urban centers to trade their products.  These centers slowly began to be developed further and people began to accumulate for cultural purposes.  Frequently, urban centers began to be developed along rivers and waterways, as they seemed to be a mean of cheap form of transportation.  Towns also seemed to be the interest of kings and princes, as they felt that they should be using the urban areas as centers for political control.  Roads began to be developed so that it could supplement the access from the rural areas.  The rivers also supplied water to the urban areas.  Soon, it became important for the town planners to manage space in the urban areas.  Towns began to expand, so as to compensate for the migration of people to the urban areas.  In several parts of Europe, Banks and commercial establishments began to be developed in order to support urban life (ULB & The Teaching Company, 2007).

In the some of the rural areas or Europe, the peasants were having a lower standard of living due to the Feudal system prevalent.  During several periods, there were drought situation in parts of Europe leading to poor harvest and subsequent starvation.  About 15 % of the population perished due to this reason.  In several parts of Europe, the economic activity prevalent in the urban areas could not be supported by the rural productivity.  Due to this, the markets and the urban life also began to suffer.  Many people shifted their occupancy from agricultural activities to industrial activities.  Many countries soon developed in the field of textiles (University of Calgary, 1997 && The Teaching Company, 2007).

Another problem that affected the people of the Middle Age was from plague, which was also known as ‘the Black Death’ during that period.  Both communities, including urban and rural suffered immensely from the disease.  In rural areas, many laborers were lost, and landowners suffered immensely.  Hence, the wages for employing workers was higher.  This resulted in higher costs of grains an agricultural products.  On the other hand, the urban communities were slightly better equipped to handle the plague epidemic.  Although, many people died from the disease, the communities recovered faster compared to the rural community.  As more and more people from rural areas migrated to urban areas, the problem of shortage of labor was relatively less (University of Calgary, 1997).


Daileader, P. (2007), High Middle Ages, Retrieved on August 13, 2007, from The Teaching Company Web site: http://www.teach12.com/ttcx/coursedesclong2.aspx?cid=869&

Info Please (2005), The High Middle Ages, Retrieved on August 13, 2007, from Info Please Web site: http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/history/A0859627.html

University of Brussels – IUAP V/10 – Urban Society in the Low Countries

(Late Middle Ages – 16th Century), Retrieved on August 13, 2007, from ULB Web site: http://www.ulb.ac.be/philo/urbs/pages/research.pdf

University of Calgary (1997), Economy, Retrieved on August 13, 2007, from UOC Web site: http://www.ucalgary.ca/applied_history/tutor/endmiddle/FRAMES/econframe.html