Christianity dominated the life of Europe for about a thousand years. The social order was entrenched, and everyones place in that world was divinely ordered. It was a stable system, but change was very slow and individualism was discouraged. For a thousand years the church decided what people would think, and feudal lords sat atop the social hierarchy. Almost without exception, peoples eyes were turned to God, to a redress of wrongs and rewards for faith after death. This was a largely an agricultural time with a barter economy. Trade existed, but the real center of life was within the fief. To call the period the "Dark Ages" isn't quite right, but it certainly wasn't dynamic.
Well, no again. This is the Will and Ariel Durant picutre, but it is in fact very innacurrate. There was a great upheavla in social order from the later 9th through the 14th centuries as more and more people left the manors and moved to towns. In addition, the growth of the guild system led to increased power of "burghers" compared to their rural conterparts. Monetary economy never really dissapeared.
What upset the stasis of Medieval life? During the late medieval period population was growing, and a number of changes were in the air. New ideas were beginning to form, but they never really took off.
The idea of a medieval "stasis" is also incorrect. A brief perusal of parish and court records from this period refelct continuous change.
Then a ship arrived in Sicily from the eastern mediterranean. The ship carried refugees from an advancing and militant Islam. Below the decks the ship also carried rats infested with plague carrying lice. The Black Death had arrived in Europe, and for several hundred years afterward the Plague would decimate Europe's population. First, in Italy and then along the various trade routes into northern Europe. The Black Death probably was actually several related diseases, but it had a very high mortality rate. In some communities upwards of 30-40% of the people died.
But the plague occured so late that giving it credit for change as you seem to do, raises more questions than it answers,a nd requires one to ignore the innovations of the 12th century, like the university system, and the re-introduction of aristotelianism.
When people die, they leave behind their worldly wealth and so some Europeans found themselves with much more disposable income than prior to the Plague.
Well, no. Price increases, famines, and peasant revolts actually led to a lower standard of living in the 14th century
Since life was precarious, many chose to focus their attention on the present rather than some life in heaven. Spend it now for wine, women and song, for tomorrow ye may die.
Again, this was nothing new. Proscriptions against luxuria
Many saw the Plague as God's punishment and believed that the world was coming to an end. Some became even more religious, but many more came to question a religion that had failed them.
The monolithic structure of medieval Christianity has been thoroughly dismissed. Read Peter Brown for a good look at religipn in later antiquity. For an overview of religion in the later middle ages, PEter BRown is also a good source.
Peasants who survived suddenly found that their labor was a valuable commodity, and feudal ties were loosened. Towns and cities began to grow as wealth from the countryside sought markets to purchase "luxury" items, and artisans turned their efforts to meet the neuvo-riche. Secular life was becoming a real alternative to the stagnation of the previous thousand years.
Again, this "innovation" really wasn't one. Urbanization began in the later 9th century.
This is the time that the printing press came on the scene, and literacy soared. Ideas could now be communicated to large audiences at great distances. One idea gave rise to another, and the pace of invention and change began to increase.
Yes, in the 15th century. Long after the events you have described above. The advent of priniting is important in the phenomenon of lay literacy.
The impact of ideas and luxury items brought back from the Cursades certainly whetted the European appetites. Ancient literature and science was rediscovered, or at any rate revalued. Texts long hidden in monasteries were suddenly in demand. At the court of Fredrick Barbarosa in Sicily foriegn scholars, both Jewish and Islamic formed one of the first "think tanks", and earned Freddy the hatred of the Pope.
Well, no. Taste for luxury items never abated, and therefore survived the downfall of the western Roman empire. As for Barabarossa's fights wiht the popoe, they were more political than ideological. I wonder if you are in fact referring to Frederick II's frequent ex-communications?
Ultimately a number of factors worked together to change forever the face of Europe. The Rennaisance in turn gave birth to Reformation, Counter-Reformation and hundreds of years of bloody religious war.
Except that the Reformation (and the now discounted idea of a "counter-reformation") was contiguous with the period commonly referred to as the renaissance.
In the 17th century we see the modern beginnings of the Scientific Method.
Nope. The "Scientific method" is based on aristotelian logic, and therefore was in wide use as early as the 12th century.
The cost of guns was so great that kings came to dominate the local aristocaracy, and often declared themselves independant of the Church.
The rise of absolutism has little to do with the cost of guns, and more to do with the consolidation of powers in France and England. As for independence from the church, secular and religious authority had clashed since the 8th century.
Out of the chaos came a middle-class, money economy that valued political and economic stability, and peace. By the end of the 18th century nationalism was well established in Britain and France.
History is a gas.
Again, this is the popular Durant inspired model, but it is unfortunately not supported by modern scholarship. this isn't meant to be a dig at you, but just a suggestion to do a little more research with more recent work.
Let me add the discalimer that I am a graduate student in medieval history, and work on the 14th and 15th century generally, with religious and intellectual history in specific.