2015/2016 Summer Assignment



Directions: Complete each part of the summer assignment for the first day of school. It will be most beneficial to do each step in order and to not rush, so don’t procrastinate. Seriously, don’t save it for the last day of summer. Good luck!


Part 1: McKay, A History of Western Society, Chapter 12: The Crisis of the Later Middle Ages; 1300-1450

àRead pages 338 to 371 in your text, and take notes. There will be a test on this chapter within the first week of school.


Your ability to read and understand this text will be crucial to your success in this class. Please consider the following:

ü  Your notes should be thoughtfully detailed and effectively concise. In other words, taking note of every detail will be a waste of your time. As you read, take note of the main ideas the text is conveying, along with a few pieces of supporting evidence. You will never remember everything; don’t take note of everything.

ü  The book identifies around 12-15 key terms per chapter. Be sure to take note of these terms, and be able to place them in proper context.

ü  Each chapter includes maps, images, charts, and various inserts highlighting certain things. THESE ARE PART OF THE CHAPTER AS WELL. The authors dedicated entire pages to these topics because they’re worthy of entire pages. Don’t treat these as pages you get to skip.

ü  Take notes in outline form. Unorganized notes aren’t worth taking. If you’re comfortable with your own style - stick with it. If not, below is an outline of the first page of the chapter to use as a guide: 

Chapter 12: The Crisis of the Later Middle Ages; 1300-1450

1)      Prelude to Disaster

a)      Early 14th century: climate changeàlower food productionàeconomic & social disaster

b)      Climate Change & Famine

i)        1000-1300: warmer climate than usualàvitality of High Middle Ages

ii)      1300-1450: “little ice age” ruined wheat/oat/hay crops

(1)   The Great Famine: 1315-1322, northern Europe, interpreted as biblical at the time

(2)   Cattle/sheep diseasesàincrease cost of foodstuffsàreduced caloric intakeàsusceptibility to disease & lower productivity/outputàhigher prices (circular)

c)      Social Consequences


Part 2: Richard Wunderli’s Peasant Fires: The Drummer of Niklashausen

àYou must purchase a copy of Wunderli’s book ($3.00 used on Amazon), read it, and complete the following assignment:


Peasant Fires tells the story of Hans Behem, a southern German peasant who, in the late 15th century, claimed to have been visited by the Virgin Mary, and ultimately attracted tens of thousands of pilgrims to the small village of Niklashausen. While Behem’s story is interesting, you should use this book more as an introduction to early modern Europe, where our course begins. To that end, please complete the following as you read:


Create a list of references from the text which can be used to identify the religious, political, social, and economic character of 15th century Germany. Your list should be made up of at least five references for each of the four institutions identified above, and be spread throughout the book. Each reference should include:

1.      Page number(s)

2.      A brief description of your reference

3.      Identification of how this reference illustrates the religious, political, social, or economic institutions of 15th century Germany.

*This should be completed in note form. Content should be your focus. See the example on the backside of this page.



·         Page 2

·         Niklashausen experiences a particularly difficult winter.

o   Hans & other peasants feared the “hungry time of Lent”

§  Starvation; people & herd animals

·         Peasant such as Hans felt the difficult winter and forthcoming struggle were a direct result of God’s wrath

o   Religion dominated the thoughts of 15th century Germany

o   It was believed that God was directly responsible for happenings on Earth

o   God was understood as wrathful, and Germans in the 15th century felt they were deserving of God’s wrath.


·         Page 8

·         Niklashausen belonged to “three separate jurisdictions.”

o   Secular jurisdiction: Grafshaft County, ruled by Count Johann III of Werthiem.

o   Spiritual jurisdiction: Archbishopric of Mainz, ruled by the Archbishop of Mainz

o   Hans personally fell under the authority of the bishop of Wurzburg

·         Political power in 15th century Germany was decentralized, and divided between secular and religious authorities.


Michael Forcucci,
Jun 5, 2015, 5:40 AM