The question is based on the accompanying documents. The documents have been edited for the purpose of the exercise.
Question: Evaluate the extent to which outside forces affected the decline of urban areas from 600 to1450.
Your response should:
• Have a historically defensible thesis/claim that establishes a line of reasoning
• Describe a broader historical context relevant to the question
• Use evidence from at least six documents to support the argument in response to the prompt
• Use at least one additional piece of specific historical evidence (beyond what is found in the documents) relevant to the argument about the prompt
• For at least three documents, explains how or why the document’s point of view, purpose, historical situation, and/or audience is relevant to the argument
• Demonstrates a complex understanding of the historical development that is the focus of the prompt, using evidence to corroborate, qualify, or modify an argument that addresses the question
The Danish pirates having made a long sea-voyage (for they had sailed between Spain and Africa) entered the Rhone, where they pillaged many cities and monasteries and established themselves on the island called Camargue. . . . They devastated everything before them as far as the city of Valence. Then, after ravaging all these regions, they returned to the island where they had fixed their habitation. Thence they went on toward Italy, capturing and plundering Pisa and other cities.
Source: Account of Viking raids, written by palace officials of French King Louis the Pious, ca. ninth century.
The battle raged throughout the day, so that the Temple was covered with their blood. When the pagans had been overcome, our men seized great numbers, both men and women, either killing them or keeping them captive, as they wished. On the roof of the Temple a great number of pagans of both sexes had assembled, and these were taken under the protection of Tancred and Gaston of Beert. Afterward, the army scattered throughout the city and took possession of the gold and silver, the horses and mules, and the houses filled with goods of all kinds.
Source: Passage from Deeds of the Franks, a Christian crusader’s account of the capture of Jerusalem during the First Crusade, ca. 1100.
In the year of our Lord 1315, apart from the other hardships with which England was afflicted, hunger grew in the land. . . . Meat and eggs began to run out, capons and fowl could hardly be found, animals died of pest, swine could not be fed because of the excessive price of fodder. A quarter of wheat or beans or peas sold for twenty shillings [In 1313 a quarter of wheat sold for five shillings.], barley for a mark, and oats for ten shillings. . . . The land was so oppressed with want that when the king came to St. Albans on the feast of St. Laurence [August 10] it was hardly possible to find bread on sale to supply his immediate household. . . . Bread did not have its usual nourishing power and strength because the grain was not nourished by the warmth of summer sunshine. Hence those who ate it, even in large quantities, were hungry again after a little while. There can be no doubt that the poor wasted away when even the rich were constantly hungry. . . . Entering the city we consider “them that are consumed with famine” when we see the poor and needy, crushed with hunger, lying stiff and dead in the wards and streets. . . . Four pennies worth of coarse bread was not enough to feed a common man for one day. The usual kinds of meat, suitable for eating, were too scarce; horse meat was precious; plump dogs were stolen. And, according to many reports, men and women in many places secretly ate their own children.
Source: From the Annals of the Famine of 1315, by John of Trokelowe, a Benedictine monk and chronicler.
For these were a people who emerged from the confines of China, and attacked the cities of Turkestan, like Kashghar and Balasaghun, and thence advanced on the cities of Transoxiana, such as Samarqand, Bukhara and the like, taking possession of them, and treating their inhabitants in such wise as we shall mention; and of them one division then passed on into Khurasan, until they had made an end of taking possession, and destroying, and slaying, and plundering, and thence passing on to Ray, Hamadan, and the Highlands, and the cities contained therein, even to the limits of Iraq, whence they marched on the towns of Adharbayjan and Arraniyya, destroying them and slaying most of their inhabitants, of whom none escaped save a small remnant; and all this in less than a year; this is a thing whereof the like has not been heard. And when they had finished with Adharbayjan and Arraniyya, they passed on to Darband-i-Shirwan, and occupied its cities, none of which escaped save the fortress wherein was their King; wherefore they passed by it to the countries of the Lan and the Lakiz and the various nationalities which dwell in that region, and plundered, slew, and destroyed them to the full. And thence they made their way to the lands of Qipchaq, who are the most numerous of the Turks, and slew all such as withstood them, while the survivors fled to the fords and mountain-tops, and abandoned their country, which these Tatars overran. All this they did in the briefest space of time, remaining only for so long as their march required and no more.
Source: Account of the Mongol invasions, from Ibn al-Athir, Arab historian and scholar, ca. 1220.
I went to Horns and found that the plague had already struck there; about 300 persons died on the day of my arrival. I went to Damascus and arrived on a Thursday; the people had been fasting for three days. . . . The number of deaths among them had risen to 2400 a day. . . . Then we went to Gaza and found most of it deserted because of the number that had died. . . . The qadi told me that only a quarter of the 80 notaries there were left and that the number of deaths had risen to 1100 a day. . . . Then I went to Cairo and was told that during the plague the number of deaths rose to 21,000 a day. I found that all the shaykhs I had known were dead. May God Most High have mercy upon them!
Source: Account of bubonic plague in Damascus, from Ibn Battuta, Arab traveler, 1348.
Civilization both in the East and the West was visited by a destructive plague which devastated nations and caused populations to vanish. It swallowed up many of the good things of civilization and wiped them out. It overtook the dynasties at the time of their senility, when they had reached the limit of their duration. It lessened their power and curtailed their influence. It weakened their authority. Their situation approached the point of annihilation and dissolution. Civilization decreased with the decrease of mankind. Cities and buildings were laid waste, roads and way-signs were obliterated, settlements and mansions became empty, dynasties and tribes grew weak. The entire inhabited world changed. The East, it seems, was similarly visited, though in accordance with and in proportion to [the East’s more affluent] civilization. It was as if the voice of existence in the world had called out for oblivion and restriction, and the world responded to its call.
Source: Account of the Black Death in Tunis, from Ibn Khaldun, 1347–1348.
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