Marco Polo By: Peter Lanzon
One of the world’s greatest explorers was Marco Polo. Known for his travels to China, the book he wrote about his expeditions, The Travels of Marco Polo, and his sharing of Asian spices, marked him as a great influence in the 13th century and beyond.
Italy was not tranquil in the 13th century. Famine spread across Europe because of poor harvests. Crops failed because of seasonal floods. In the winter of 1315-1316, the peasants ate the seeds before they could sell them because they were so hungry. Since there was no seed, there were no crops to make seeds the next year.
Another reason for crop failure was the Little Ice Age that began in Europe, in about 1350. The agricultural output declined and several famines resulted in the next few years.
The 13th century was an age of fresh endeavour and high maturity in philosophy, theology, and art. People consider it as the high point of medieval civilization. Pope Innocent III brought in the revival of religious life and culture in the period. He was one of the youngest and most spirited popes to hold the throne of St. Peter. As pope, Innocent helped guide other European rulers and expanded the control of the popes before and after him.
Many believe that women had no rights during the 1200s. Even though men dominated them, they were often treated well. Noble women lived luxuriously and when chivalry was finally introduced, men began to respect them. Men treated women based on their social rank.
Nobility lived a very posh life. They wore very bright clothing made out of silk. Men wore trousers with a long coat. Women wore loose gowns with long tight sleeves and a small belt. Both men and women wore pointed-toe shoes and jewelry.
As a serf child in Italy, they woke up in a small, windowless, clay house very early in the morning to go collect eggs or grab twigs and sticks for firewood.
As they grew into a teenager, they woke up in the same, one room, small house. But, being bigger and able to do more laborious work, they chopped firewood and weed the garden. They took care of the animals, by shearing the sheep and milking the cows.
Then as a woman, she cared for the smaller animals, spun wool into clothes for the rest of her family, and cooked for her husband and kids. Mostly she made bread out of barley, millet, oats, and flour. As a man, he lived in the house that he grew up in. Not much has changed, but then they clear land plots, plow those plots, plant seeds, and care for large animals.
In addition to the labor that the serf paid, they had to also pay certain taxes and fees. The land that the serfs used determined how high the taxes were. The serfs usually paid taxes in the form of wheat rather than cash. The best of the wheat from the serf’s harvest often went to the landlord. Hunting wild game on their lord’s property was illegal.
When a serf died, their family paid taxes to the lord as a form of labor relief for that serf. Any young woman who wanted to marry...