Detailed Timeline of
Europe’s Darkest Days (1240 –
Famines, Plagues, Mongol Invasions,
Loss of the Holy Land
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History Interactive Map
Mongol Conquest of the Kumans
(1241): The Golden Horde brings the end
of the Turkic empire of the Kumans. The Turkic Kumans would remain part
of the Mongol Empire for centuries, representing the majority of the
population. By the time the Mongol Empire comes to an end by 1502, the
Mongols had been assimilated into the Turkic population in the region.
(Timeline Continued Below)
Mongol Rule of Russia
(1241-45): Most of the Rus people from
the former Kievan Rus are conquered by the Mongol Empire (gray shaded
area), which originated in Mongolia, expanding into Eastern Europe. The
Mongols capture multitudes of Slavs, selling them into Asia as slaves.
Ukrainians participate in Mongol
raids of Poland and Hungary, gaining territory as a Mongol vassal state.
Why Golden Horde able to
Dominate Eastern Europe.
As a nomadic people, the Mongols were forced west
from their central Asian home territory due to unusually dry weather.
They were highly dependent upon trade, and as agriculture suffered in
Asia, they moved west to greener pastures.
Superior Military Technology. A result of exposure to various
methods, thanks to their nomadic lifestyle. This included superior
horsemanship skills and superior bows.
Strengthening Numbers. They were also effective at increasing
their ranks as they passed through conquered territories, since they
forced defeated peoples to join and fight with them or die. They would
slaughter all defeated peoples that would not go along with them.
Therefore, they were a frightening power by the time they entered the
gateway to Europe through Southern Russia. The Rus people were submitted
to their rule, but with a fair amount of autonomy, although steep taxes
& tribute were extracted.
Learned Diplomacy. They had also grown to dominate the northern
trade route from Europe to Asia, contributing greatly to their wealth
and sophistication, as they became learned in other aspects besides just
military, including science and government philosophies, which enhanced
their ability to diplomatically appease conquered peoples.
Europe’s Weakened Condition. Their timing was also fortunate, as
their arrival coincided with the Black Death plague, severely weakening
all of Europe. It may have been the Mongols that actually introduced the
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Note: Last of the Nomadic/Barbaric
The Mongol Golden Horde would be the last nomadic people to run
roughshod over Europe, as nations continue to consolidate, improving
defenses. Nomadic migrations and raids had beset Europe since days of
Roman Empire. Mongols devastated Europe, conquering large parts of
Eastern Europe and passing along the cataclysmic Black Death.
Swedish Conquests of Finland
(1250): Sweden launches crusades
against the Finnish people (modern Finland), sanctioned by the pope due
to the region’s rebellion against the church’s authority. Sweden
conquers much of the Finnish territory, incorporating these lands into
Establishment of Grand Duchy of
Lithuania (1253 – 1350): The first
officially unified Lithuanian government (a consolidation of Baltic
tribes). As the independent German Teutonic Knights captured Balt lands
along the Baltic Sea, the Balt sphere of power shifts deeper inland,
swallowing former Kievan Rus peoples and lands.
Greeks Reconquest of Byzantine
(1261): Greeks reconquer Constantinople
from the pope-backed Latin Empire, but damage is done, as Byzantine is
already in an irreversible decline.
Greenland is settled and added to the
Kingdom of Norway (1261).
Iceland is also settled and added to
the Kingdom of Norway (1262).
Balearic Islands Conquered by Hispania
Christians from Muslims (1262):
Balearic Islands conquered by Christian Kingdom of Aragon.
Seedlings of Democracy in England
(1265): England gives Europe its first
elected parliament (De Montfort’s Parliament), although only a small
minority are given a voice. Nonetheless, it serves as the forerunner to
truly democratic forms of government that slowly take root throughout
Europe in the centuries to follow, especially Western Europe. The
democratic movement is led by England in particular.
Angevin (French County) Conquers Sicily
from Holy Roman Empire (1266): Charles
of Anjou (province of France) is invited by the pope to capture the
Kingdom of Sicily from the Germans, due to the pope’s bitter feud with
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Dawn of Hapsburg Rule in Austria
(1278): Hapsburgs become ruling family
of Austria, which would last 640 years, vastly expanding their territory
and power during that time, eventually becoming the Holy Roman Emperors.
Hungary Gives Territory to Serbia
(1282): As dowry for dynastic marriage,
Hungary gives a large chunk of territory (modern Northern Serbia) to the
monarch of Serbia.
(1282): Sicily successfully rebels
against the French (Angevins) with help from “Hispania” Aragon Kingdom,
separating Sicily from the mainland. The mainland became known as the
Kingdom of Naples. The Kingdom of Sicily was ruled by relatives of King
of Aragon, making it friendly with Aragon.
English Conquest of Wales
(1283): Edward I of England has a
with the King of Wales, providing impetus to conquer
all of Wales. Wales falls under English control, but ruled as a separate
political entity with some autonomy. It is forced to pay taxes to
England, operate under English oversight, serve English foreign policy,
etc. Welsh would stage several revolts throughout 14th century, but
would ultimately be defeated in each case, remaining under English
control for most part throughout the rest of time, eventually being
fully integrated into England in 1535, then later Great Britain and the
End of Crusader States
(1291): Kingdoms and Counties
established in the Middle East by crusading Christian armies are
reconquered by Muslims, aided by divisions amongst Christian crusader
Old Swiss Confederacy
(1291): Provinces in modern Switzerland
break away from Habsburg rule, forming the Old Swiss Confederacy, a
collection of affiliated “cantons” (provinces). It is the forerunner to
the modern nation of Switzerland. They remain loosely associated with
the Holy Roman Empire.
English Conquest of Scotland
(1293): England invades & conquers
Scotland (Kingdom of Alba). The Scottish Wars of Independence begin
almost immediately. Scotland gains independence from England in 1328,
but is reconquered in 1337.
Hispania Kingdom Conquers Corsica &
Sardinia from Muslims (1296-97): The
two large Mediterranean islands are conquered by Aragon, conquests which
are sanctioned by the Pope in Rome.
Note: Beginning of England’s Rise.
England begins to establish itself as super power, expanding into
Scotland, and imposing its will upon France. Serves as a forbearance of
things to come, where England would eventually rise to the position as
the premiere European & world power.
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Ottoman Conquests of Asia Minor
(1299-1350): After their birth in 1299,
the Ottoman Turks (small Muslim emirate just east of Byzantine) began
capturing Byzantine territories, nearly driving them completely out of
Asia Minor (modern Turkey) by 1350.
Beginning of Ottoman Empire
(1299): Osman I (after whom the Turkic
empire was named) begins to capture small territory in western Anatolia.
The Ottomans would then enlarge territory throughout western Anatolia,
taking territory from other Turkic tribes and the Byzantines. They
proceeded to form a government that enabled religious and ethnic
minorities to manage their own affairs with partial autonomy, which
would be a key to the growth of the empire, as the Ottoman Turks proved
adept at taking diverse peoples and unifying them under one banner/cause
(Islam). This is also how they succeeded in their conquests, by
attracting nomadic warriors in the region (including Turkish tribes with
a nomadic history and remnants of the Mongols in the region) under the
ideology of Holy War against non-believers (Byzantines, Christians). It
was preached that it was their duty (and glory) to fight against the
infidels. Plus, those joining the Ottoman banner were handsomely awarded
with spoils from the wealthy Byzantine cities they conquered. Bursa
would be captured in 1326, serving as the capital, and the rest of
Byzantine Anatolia (modern Turkey) was conquered soon after (around
1330). By the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire would cover most of
Southeast Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
Balt Lands Conquered Germans
(1308): German Duchy of Bradenburg
expands to the east, conquering the Balts in this territory in the name
of Christianity, taking possession of their lands. The future German
Kingdom of “Prussia” would be named after the Balt tribe that inhabited
Poland Loses Territory to German
Teutonic Knights (1308): The Teutonic
Knights were hired by a Polish Duke to reclaim territory captured by the
German (Holy Roman Empire) principality of Brandenburg. When the Duke
failed to pay the knights, they purchased rights from Brandenburg, and
assumed control of the Polish “corridor” to the Baltic Sea. This cuts
Poland off from the sea access, giving the knightly order a land bridge
to the rest of the Holy Roman Empire. Therefore, it was able to better
protect their territorial possessions. Poland would continue to wage war
against the Teutonic Knights until 1343, in an attempt to recapture the
(1309): Papal office comes under control of France, even
moving to France.
(1315-1317): Unusually bad weather in the spring of 1315
resulted in mass crop failures throughout Europe. It was the most severe
of a multitude of famines that struck throughout Europe during the 14th
century, causing the death of several million. It also resulting in high
levels of criminal activity, murder, disease and even cannibalism. On
the other hand, wars were interrupted. Harsh weather in a time when
population numbers had exploded was the main cause, as crops failed, and
the large populations could no longer be sustained.
(Timeline Continued Below)
Wallachia Independence from Hungary
(1330): Romanians east of Hungary
revolt, breaking away from Hungary to form the Kingdom of Wallachia.
Beginning of Hundred Years’ War Between
England and France (1337): England
invaded Scotland again (as it is a French ally), ending its
independence. France initiates the war when it uses this as an
opportunity to capture England’s possession of Gascony, located in the
SW corner of France.
Buffer Territory Established by Hungary
(1342): With weakening of Tatar
(Turkish/Horde) rule in modern Moldova, Hungary sends force to establish
buffer against nomadic warriors from the east, conquering the region.
Territory Purchased by German Teutonic
Knights from Danish (1346): Danish sell
rebellious province of Estonia (northern half of modern Estonia) to
Teutonic Knights. It had proven to be more trouble to the Danish than
what it was worth to them.
Black Death (Bubonic Plague) Hits
Europe (1347): It killed an estimated
75 million, roughly half the European population. The majority of deaths
occurred between 1347 and 1351. In the southern regions such as Italy
and southern France, the percentage was probably higher (up to 80%),
while lower in the north. Black Death was caused by a bacterium found in
rats in Central Asia. It was introduced to the Arab and European worlds
by invading Mongols. Mongols introduced it directly through Eastern
Europe through invasion, while southern Europe was infected from
interaction with Arabs and Mongols in coastal areas, through trade and
conflict. From these points of contact, it spread throughout Europe.
Europeans were especially vulnerable, due to overpopulation, along with
a series of famines in the early 14th century, resulting in a dense
population with weakened immune systems. Large cities were inflicted
even greater, due to denser populations and unsanitary conditions which
were typical. Black Death would continue to reoccur in Europe, although
on a much smaller scale, until disappearing completely in the 19th
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Social Consequences of Black
Increased Persecution of the Jews. Jews were often targeted,
since people were at a loss to explain the plague. Entire Jewish
settlements were exterminated in some cases. Ethnic hatred was the
underlying factor, flared by these frustrating times. Comparatively
fewer Jews perished, so it was seen by many as a Jewish conspiracy, or a
curse from God for allowing Jews into their lands. In reality, Jewish
settlements were typically isolated, and Jews typically possessed better
hygiene, due to religious practices. However, this was not understood at
the time, since micro-organisms were yet to be discovered.
Peasant Revolts. Due to the inability of governments to solve the
plague, peasant revolts became common. Monarchs & nobles compounded
matters by instituting wage controls, despite the fact that wages should
have increased due to a shortage of labor supply.
Papal Authority Weakens. The Church was powerless to stop the
plague, since viruses were not yet understood by humanity. Black Death
was seen as a curse instead. Promises and predictions were unfulfilled,
while prayers and devotion to the church did nothing to even slow the
rampant disease and death. This contributed to philosophical questioning
and critical analysis of life, and the world.
Lower-Class Leverage & Enlightenment. During the initial years,
when the death toll was at its worst, it was commonly believed that the
world was literally coming to and end. This is very understandable, as
modern people would feel the same way if half the population died over
the course of a few years. However, survivors and their posterity would
go on to actually thrive in the post-Black Death world, serving as a
stark reminder that life marches on. Peasants would eventually benefit
from higher wages due to the labor supply shortage. It would play a part
in the Renaissance and Enlightenment, as people would dare question and
challenge sacred institutions such as the Church and the King. People
would seek academic knowledge in place of superstition, which proved
useless during the plague.
Poland Conquers Galacia from Ukrainians
(1349): Poles conquer Galicia from the
Ukrainians, ending their sovereignty as an independent principality.
Note: France Regains Territory from Holy
Roman Empire. France brings various counties back under the French
crown, consolidating historical “France Proper”.
Note: Muslim Kingdom Minimized in Hispania.
The Christian Kingdoms continue to chip away at the Muslim Kingdom of
Granada. Yet, Granada continues to cooperate with northern kingdoms, as
it is hopelessly overpowered, and exists only at their mercy.
Renaissance (1350 – 1505)
Previous: Christian Crusades (1050 – 1240)
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