Heir of Black Falcon wrote:England was backwater until the 17th? What medieval period are you looking at? It had a representative body that gave voice to some people that was the birth in many ways to modern democracies of the western world. The Magna Carta, which gives most of the western world the basis of judgment by peers and actually needing evidence to arrest someone. It also was one of the more peaceful of places to live, some places in the Midlands have little to no conflict on large scale for hundreds of years.
England also had some of the most active traders in Europe trading with all Europe and even the surrounding regions to Europe.
In the late medieval period every major power in some way shape or form takes aspects of English military systems, in particular the longbow/warbow.
In total wealth and population they were behind France, The Holy Roman Empire but this is not true individually or as far as what of this the king of these places could employ. The Holy Roman Empire in little ways was really unified and the Emperors and Lords fought themselves more than others. Few Emperors there had the power to do much besides maintain themselves as they fought rivals. In France this is true during much of the period with places such as Brittany and the SW largely free of the King's power.
From the conquest England was largely centralized and kings were able to use a great deal of control of population and wealth, increasingly tied to parliament and its desires. Per capital English nobles were actually some of the more wealthy during the High and Late Periods. If you compare an average noble from France to England the transition is a good fifth more (See Bruce Campbells economic development of the medieval period for more info- not army of darkness Bruce Campbell by the way).
Some of the most well known and highly regarded intellectuals of the Earl, High and Late Medieval Period were English.... so why are they backwater?
Truth is they each have strength and weakness. These groups of the medieval periods are the keystones of the period of colonization and exploration of the next few hundred years that gives rise to periods of the West promoting its interests all over the world.
Advances metal working and weaponry, ship building, technology by the 14th and 15th centuries Europe is becoming a power to be reckoned with on the world scene. This enables them to basically take over trade across the seas of much of the old and new worlds.
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