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Chapter 17: The Transformation of the West: 1450-1750

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Natasha Beemon

on 22 January 2014

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Transcript of Chapter 17: The Transformation of the West: 1450-1750

The First Big Changes: Culture and Commerce, 1450-1650
Francesco Petrarch was one of the first Europeans to typify the new spirit of the Renaissance.
The Italian Renaissance after an abortive start in the 1300s, took shape in the 1400s. Humanism, the intellectual basis of the movement, looked to ancient Greece and Rome for inspiration. Humanity, particularly in a secular setting was the focus of artistic and intellectual endeavor.
The Northern Renaissance, starting some time after the Italian, but also spurred by merchant wealth, took its own direction. It focused on the perfection of man in a Christian context with extraordinary writers such as Shakespeare and Rabelais. Monarchy experienced a period of cultural and political dynamism.
Communication was deeply changed by the adoption of the printing press in the 1400s. In a different sphere, the enduring European-style family become prevalent, based on the nuclear family.
The Protestant Reformation, begun by Martin Luther, reshaped the religious, then the political, map of Europe. Reformers promoted public education, particularly in Calvinist areas. The role of the Catholic Church was curtailed. However, responding to the Reformation, the Catholic Church finally acquiesced to the the attempts of its members to reform itself.
Religious strife both led to and inflamed growing nationalist conflicts. The Thirty Years War between Spain and the Holy Roman Empire was fought over religious and nationalist issues. In England, the Civil War was fought over religion, the extent of parliamentary control, and royal claims to sovereignty. While the religious conflicts that afflicted Europe were resolved, the balance of political power had been seriously upset. Social changes also resulted, with some improvement in women's roles.
An influx of gold and silver from Latin America, and markets that grew as colonization advanced, transformed the European economy. Commercial agriculture became the rule in Europe. Material wealth for the average European greatly increased.
Others were hurt by economic change, notably the emerging proletariat. Popular uprisings were common in the 1600s, often leading to calls for a greater political voice. At the same time, persecution of witches burst out, fueled by fear and hatred on the part of the dispossessed poor.
Science and Politics: The Next Phase of Change
The impact of the Scientific Revolution spread beyond its immediate sphere, deeply transforming all areas of thought in Europe.
Copernicus discovered, or possibly passed on, the heliocentric theory, revolutionizing the western view of the cosmos. Regardless of how he developed his theory, it had an immense influence on scientific studies.
The work of Copernicus was furthered by Kepler's planetary observations, and Galileo's research using the telescope. Broad, fundamental work done by Descartes and Newton established the scientific approach to knowledge. Scientific studies became popular , and influenced the philosophy known as Deism. According to Locke, everything could be known through the sense, with the use of reason.
Led by France, monarchy entered a new phase: Absolutism. Larger bureaucracies and elaborate court ritual raised monarchs to new heights. Central European monarchs followed the French model, their power strengthened by the defeat of the Turks. At the same time ideas of the sovereignty of the people developed. In Britain and the Netherlands, representative law-making bodies limited the power of monarchs.
The West by 1750
Political forms crystallized around 1750, with few important developments. Only Prussian under Frederick the Great showed any dynamism, improving agricultural and expanding religious toleration.
The Enlightenment, the spread of the Scientific Revolution to all areas of intellectual endeavor, took hold in the 18th century. With great faith in the goodness and capacity of humanity, and the power of the human intellect, Enlightenment thinkers set out to fix the world. The movement took place in salons, in coffee houses, in lecture halls, and was promoted by the growth of scholarly journals.
Consumer demand for imported products influenced colonization. Agriculture developed with improved drainage and the importation of New World crops. manufacturing, fueled by capitalism and employing large numbers of workers, increasingly drove the economy.
Developments in commerce, the economy, and political forms were largely independent, but together they transformed the West.
Chapter 17: The Transformation of the West: 1450-1750
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