The Medieval Industrial Revolution Essay, Research Paper
The Medieval Industrial Revolution covers a period in time from the tenth to fourteenth centuries. The power station of the time was the water wheel. There were two basic types of drive systems for the water wheel: water falling from above or the current pushing against the paddles at the bottom. This invention was the catalyst for many types of production from grain mills to beer making. This technology was primarily used by churchmen since they had the knowledge to operate it. The farmers were leased time in exchange for goods. The development of towns and cities logically occurred around the power source, the river or stream. Since the churchmen had control of the technology, acceptance was positive and trade was flourishing. The Fairs were where bartering took place and exchange rates were developed due to the different countries currencies. Prosperity was everywhere and the content population grew. As always nature has a way of creating a balance, this came in the form of a Little Ice Age. Weather patterns became erratic and the grain harvests eventually failed resulting in famine.
A second balancing event occurred next, The Plague. Carried by fleas from Caffa, a Genoese colony on the Black Sea. The result of an ill fated battle technique of the Mongols against the Genoese. Death was everywhere and the Fairs were no more. By the middle of the fifteenth century the population of Europe was half what it had been a hundred years before, and the common graves stretched for miles from every town and village. After The Plague had ended those who were left inherited the wealth of those who succumbed to the flea, especially the church. In addition, to forget the terrible times they had survived, spending on extravagant items became the norm in all levels of society.
But the textile industry gave the great connection for paper by way of the loom and spinning wheel. These two inventions allowed for the creation of more textile goods and the one that is directly connected to paper is underwear or bloomers made of linen. The former bone collector during plague times became the bone and rag collector. This large surplus of raw material for paper, linen, was quickly utilized, as parchment was extremely expensive. The next obstacle to overcome was the timely process of copying texts by hand. Thus, the printing press was invented. The Chinese had been using the same technique, but since their language consisted of thousands of characters this was impractical. But the German language only had twenty-three letters. The reason for German was the inventor was German, Johann Gansfleisch, a.k.a. Gutenberg, due to his mother s family name. His skill with metalworking aided him in coming up with a uniform, moveable type system that would last.
The printing press allowed the spread of information more easily. Human contact was not necessary now in order to learn how to do something. This was the first type of books that were printed. The next modification on the printing process was not so much in the process, but the type of books produced. Venice was the home of Aldus Manutius, who realized in order to make the most money he had to keep the books inexpensive. The result was the world s first pocket books, The Aldine Editions.
The Catholic Church realized with this new spread of information their authority was beginning to come into question. The saying knowledge is power, surely crossed their minds. As a result, they became the censor of the day and accepted no challenges to their ideology. The Church verified all printing, which led to the saying if it is in print, it has to be true.
Even with this censorship, occult practices were often the medical norm of the day. Astrology played a vital role in not only medicine, but in planting of the crops as well. The astrologer and astronomer were considered one in the same, both credible scientists. In astrology, the heavens were divided into twelve equal parts, zodiac, and these parts dealt with a particular region of the body. The planting cycles were controlled by the phases of the moon. How ironic that the Catholic Church burned suspected witches at the stake, yet astrology, palmistry, and numerology were accepted as science.
It was this irony which gave rise to the medical philosophy that your internal state was related to the four main external forces. The four basic humours were blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. These were associated with worldly substances: blood with heat, phlegm with cold, yellow bile with dry, and black bile with wet. In addition these associations were taken to an elemental plane: Fire and summer (heat), Water and winter (cold), Air and spring (dry), and Earth and autumn (wet). This formed the basis of medical
treatment of the time. But with new medical knowledge soon to be discovered, the division of astrology and astronomy were not far behind.
The invention of the clock also came about primarily because of the Catholic Church. Prayer was mandatory and specific times were set aside for prayer. If you were not at a given location at your designated time for prayer, it most often meant death. Thus, the water clock, clepsydra, was born. Most likely due to the inconvenience of the sun dial on cloudy days. However, during The Little Ice Age, water clocks would not have been very reliable since water freezes at thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit. To alleviate this problem, the mechanical clock was a necessity. Not in the sense of the measurement of hours, but to measure the signs of the zodiac, phases of the moon, position of the sun, rising and setting of the constellations, and certain dates. This was important for the feast days celebrated by the Catholic Church. Consequently this invention was soon to regulate all aspects of human life, giving birth to time management and the stresses associated with it.
Another prime invention was the chimney. The chimney allowed for different architecture as more stories could be built on homes with the ability to heat them. This led to more privacy and the isolation of the social classes. The Catholic Church scorned the activities that accompanied this newly discovered privacy in one s bedchambers. The manner in which the rooms were decorated also changed. Tapestries were draped on every wall and even on most tables. More games and leisure activities were enjoyed and hot baths were a common luxury. The improved hygiene led to better manners at the dinner table and the tightly knit, agriculturally based feudal world had gone up the chimney. A building boom soon followed due to the prosperity following The Plague, and more glass was being used in these buildings. This is evident in Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, England, Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall.
With all of these new technologies and philosophies, the impact on the culture was profound. If we are to understand where we as a society are headed, we must examine the impact the discoveries of the past presented to the citizens of the Middle Ages. Only then can we arm ourselves against the pitfalls of those who have come before us.
Burke, James. Connections. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1978.