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==Europe in the 14th century==
The 14th century was in many ways a time of disaster and, darkness. It was marked by terrible wars, famines and of course the Black Death, the most lethal pandemic, known in European history. However, despite
these, and even as a result of these disasters there were dramatic changes in European societies. There was an increase in long distance trade and urbanisation and feudal society began to break down in many areas. The Catholic Church was dominant, and it influenced every aspect of life in Europe. However, it was corrupt and worldly and was riven by disputes. This all was leading many to adopt a more secular view of the world and to reconsider key beliefs such as the imperfectability of humanity. The most advanced area of Europe at this time was Italy. It was a patch-work of city-states which had become centres of trade and industry. The peninsula was also heir of the Roman Empire and the wealthy urban elite increasingly became interested in the classical world. This led to dramatic cultural changes and new ways of looking at the world and novel ways of artistic expression, that soon spread beyond Italy by the 15th century.
==The life and works of Petrarch==