Early modern Europe

Early modern Europe

The early modern period is a term used by historians to refer to the period in Western Europe and its first colonies which spans the three centuries between the Middle Ages and the Industrial Revolution. The early modern period is characterized by the rise to importance of science and increasingly rapid technological progress, secularized civic politics and the nation state. Capitalist economies began their rise, beginning in northern Italian republics such as Genoa. The early modern period also saw the rise and dominance of the economic theory of mercantilism. As such, the early modern period represents the decline and eventual disappearance, in much of the European sphere, of feudalism, serfdom and the power of the Catholic Church.

The period includes the Protestant Reformation, the disastrous Thirty Years' War, the European colonization of the Americas and the peak of the European witch-hunt phenomenon.

Early Modern, historically speaking, refers to Western European history from 1501 (after the widely accepted end of the Late Middle Ages; the transition period was the 15th century) to either 1750 or circa 1790—1800 by which ever Epoch is favored by a school of scholars defining the period—which in many cases of Periodization, differs as well within a discipline such as Art, Philosophy, or History.


The beginning of Modern Period or Modern Era being defined by the epoch events chosen as the beginning of the modern era —by some as from mid-18th century with the epoch being the "Industrial Revolution" in England, or by others from the "French Revolution and the following Napoleonic Wars", which reshaped Europe and European thought.

Regardless of Epochs selected, the Early Modern period includes the European Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, and the Age of Enlightenment—the end of Early Modern and the end of Age of Enlightenment both correspond to the new European nationalism that arose around 1800 as the Napoleonic Wars waxed. In the broadest sense, this period is characterized by the rise of science and technological progress, the secularization of politics, and the diminution of the absolute authority of the Roman Catholic Church as well as the lessening of the influence of all faiths upon national governments. Of most fundamental importance, people in the modern era began to think of themselves as part of an national polity, not just as a person living on some lord's estate in Greater Europe. Prior to this change in mindset, most people did not know or much care about politics—which was the province of the kings and nobility and their mercenary armies—but the new era, after the huge citizen armies fielded during the early days of post-revolution France brought about French victories against the reactionary forces trying to restore the French monarchy resulted in national armies and subsequently national mindsets and the rise of nationalism itself. In the modern era, people just didn't live in a place, but thereafter "now lived in a place that was part of a larger state with whom they now identified and with whom they had common cause and vested interests." The days of a town belonging to this heir or that in petty princedoms was over and the day of strong national governments was unavoidable in the decades of war.

The beginning of the early modern period is not clear-cut, but is generally accepted to be in the late 15th century or early 16th century. Significant dates in this transitional phase from medieval to early modern Europe can be noted:

* 1447: The invention of the first European movable type printing process by Johannes Gutenberg, a device that fundamentally changed the circulation of information. Movable type, which allowed individual characters to be arranged to form words and which is an invention separate from the printing press, had also been invented in, but not known outside of, China.
* 1453: The conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans signalled the end of the Byzantine empire; the Battle of Castillon concluded the Hundred Years War.
* 1485
** England
**: The last Plantagenet king, Richard III, was killed at Bosworth and the medieval civil wars of aristocratic factions gave way to early modern Tudor monarchy, in the person of Henry VII.
* 1492
** Spain
**: The first documented European voyage to the Americas by the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus; the end of the Reconquista, with the final expulsion of the Moors from the Iberian Peninsula; the Spanish government expels the Jews.
* 1494
** France
** Italy
**: French king Charles VIII invaded Italy, drastically altering the status quo and beginning a series of wars which would punctuate the Italian Renaissance.
* 1513: First formulation of modern politics with the publication of Machiavelli's "The Prince".
* 1517: The Reformation begins with Martin Luther nailing his ninety-five theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany.
* 1545: The Council of Trent marks the end of the medieval Roman Catholic Church.

The end date of the early modern period is variously associated with the Industrial Revolution, which began in Britain in about 1750, or the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789, which drastically transformed the state of European politics and ushered in the Napoleonic Era and modern Europe.

The role of nobles in the Feudal System had yielded to the notion of the Divine Right of Kings during the Middle Ages (in fact, this consolidation of power from the land-owning nobles to the titular monarchs was one of the most prominent themes of the Middle Ages). Among the most notable political changes included the abolition of serfdom and the crystallization of kingdoms into nation-states. Perhaps even more significantly, with the advent of the Reformation, the notion of Christendom as a unified political entity was destroyed. Many kings and rulers used this radical shift in the understanding of the world to further consolidate their sovereignty over their territories. For instance, many of the Germanic states (as well as English Reformation) converted to Protestantism in an attempt to slip out of the grasp of the Pope.

The intellectual developments of the period included the creation of the economic theory of mercantilism and the publication of enduringly influential works of political and social philosophy, such as Machiavelli's "The Prince" (1513) and Thomas More's "Utopia" (1515).

Elizabethan period

This period refers to England 1558–1603. The Elizabethan Era is the period associated with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558–1603) and is often considered to be a golden age in English history. It was the height of the English Renaissance, and saw the flowering of English literature and poetry. This was also the time during which Elizabethan theatre grew. William Shakespeare, among others, composed plays that broke away from England's past style of plays. It was an age of expansion and exploration abroad. At home the Protestant Reformation was established and successfully defended against the Catholic powers of the Continent.


This period refers to 16th century Europe. The Protestant Reformation was a movement in the 16th century to reform the Catholic Church in Western Europe. The Reformation was started by Martin Luther with his 95 Theses on the practice of indulgences. In late October of 1517 he posted these theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, commonly used to post notices to the University community. In November he mailed them to various religious authorities of the day. The reformation ended in division and the establishment of new institutions. The four most important traditions to emerge directly from the reformation were the Lutheran tradition, the Reformed (Calvinist, Presbyterian) tradition, the Anabaptist tradition, and the Anglican tradition. Subsequent Protestant traditions generally trace their roots back to these initial four schools of the reformation. It also led to the Catholic or Counter Reformation within the Roman Catholic Church through a variety of new spiritual movements, reforms of religious communities, the founding of seminaries, the clarification of Catholic theology as well as structural changes in the institution of the Church.

Age of Enlightenment

This period refers to 18th century Europe. The Age of Enlightenment refers to the 18th century in European philosophy, and is often thought of as part of a period which includes the Age of Reason. The term also more specifically refers to a historical intellectual movement, "The Enlightenment". This movement advocated rationality as a means to establish an authoritative system of aesthetics, ethics, and logic. The intellectual leaders of this movement regarded themselves as a courageous elite, and regarded their purpose as one of leading the world toward progress and out of a long period of doubtful tradition, full of irrationality, superstition, and tyranny, which they believed began during a historical period they called the "Dark Ages". This movement also provided a framework for the American and French Revolutions, the Latin American independence movement, and the Polish Constitution of May 3, and also led to the rise of liberalism and the birth of socialism and communism.Fact|date=May 2008 It is matched by the high baroque and classical eras in music, and the neo-classical period in the arts, and receives contemporary application in the unity of science movement which includes logical positivism.

Difference between 'early modern' and the Renaissance

The expression "early modern" is sometimes, and incorrectly, used as a substitute for the term Renaissance. However, "Renaissance" is properly used in relation to a diverse series of cultural developments; which occurred over several hundred years in many different parts of Europe—especially central and northern Italy—and span the transition from late Medieval civilization and the opening of the early modern period.

The term early modern is most often applied to Europe, and its overseas empire. However, in Japan, the Edo period from 1590 to 1868 is also sometimes referred to as the early modern period.

Political powers

* Ottoman Empire
* Habsburg Spain
* Habsburg Monarchy
* Kingdom of Portugal
* Dutch Republic
* Early Modern Britain
* Early Modern France
* Early Modern Italy
* Early Modern Romania
* Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
* Kingdom of Hungary

ee also

* Renaissance
* Early Modern English
* Early Modern warfare
* Periodization
* Tokugawa period - the period of Japanese history often called "early modern".

Further reading

*cite book|last=Rice|first=Eugene, F., Jr.|title=The Foundations of Early Modern Europe: 1460-1559|year=1970|publisher=W.W. Norton & Co.|authorlink=Eugene F. Rice, Jr.

External links

* [http://www.uni-mannheim.de/mateo/camenaref/cmh/cmhint.html Discussion of the medieval/modern transition from the introduction to the pioneering "Cambridge Modern History" (1903)]
* [http://www.rensoc.org.uk/ Society for Renaissance Studies]

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