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Development Of Modern Western Civilization

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Development of Society

In the beginning of our course of study, around the Iron Age, agrarian village societies began to emerge throughout Europe. Although they left few examples of what they looked like, they did leave evidence that their culture valued war, and was strongly oriented toward horses. Centuries later, when Rome had already conquered most of Europe west of the Rhine, the Roman Empire absorbed the Iron Age agrarian village cultures and began introducing them to Roman influences: language, law, military traditions, and religion. All of this led to transculturation and cultural hybridity, as the agrarian villages began to accept Roman culture. In 410, the Visigoths sacked Rome. The former Roman lands experience a collapse of trade and the infrastructure created and sustained by the Roman Empire virtually disappears. With only vestiges of the Roman empire such as roads, theaters, and baths scattered throughout the European landscape, most of Europe reverts back to the agrarian villages.

Formation and Worldwide Diffusion of European Political and Economic Systems

With the retrogression of European society into small agrarian villages after the fall of Rome, the Roman empire is no longer the prominent military power in the region. This leads to increased warfare, and from this emerges the system of feudalism where war captains were the leaders. These warriors would eventually establish themselves as Kings and Barons. Another dominant aspect of Medieval life was the legacy of the Roman empire: the Christian church. During this time period, Christianity was the central cornerstone to European society; various elements of Christianity were woven into nearly every facet of daily life. The economies, relationships with friends and family, and peoples’ diets were all governed by Christian ideals. It is not long before these agrarian villages swell in population, which leads to new growth in technology, as well as more extensive trade systems. At the end of the Middle Ages, villagers began to expand their commercial activity, and produced many more staple goods such as dried fish and woolen textiles. This leads to the development of small burgs focused on artisans and merchants, which transformed the agrarian village societies into Republican commercial towns.

The economies of many towns also flourished with the regular visits of Christians on pilgrimages to see the shrines and relics of Saints. This provided a steady stream of tourists, and towns began to spring up at the crossroads of these pilgrimage routes, primarily those to see Santiago de Compostella in Spain. In Champagne, where three major rivers come together, the elites began the Champagne Trade Fairs. These soon became the most important commercial markets during the Middle Ages in Europe. Not only did they facilitate commercial activity, they reintroduced goods such as sugar, spices, and silks to northern Europe. These small markets paved the way for the increased trade that partially led to the Renaissance.

Foundations of The Renaissance

With the rise in popularity of the Champagne Fairs, a new class begins to develop across Europe that does not fit into the rest of feudal society. The large new population of merchants and artisans, the Bourgeoisie, are above the peasantry, but they are not warriors, church leaders, or nobility. Led by the commercial states of Italy, principally Venice, Florence, and Genoa, this new class expands with the increased outside contacts with Asia through the Silk Road. This increased trade not only reintroduced high-demand, high-prestige goods such as sugar to European markets, but also brought new ideas from the East. By blazing new trade routes into the east, traders allowed sugar, spices, Indian cotton, and Chinese silks to become available to Europeans. Aside from the material goods, these trade routes also brought many technological advances and contact with lost ancient learning back to Europe. Additionally, the routes enabled the spread of Buddhism and Islam, and introduced Europeans to Islamic banking practices such as checks and double entry accounting. Spain, which was part of the Muslim world from about 711-1150, was the only European country with access to these advances in science and mathematics. Spain was the predominant country producing advanced goods, crafting the finest weapons and armor in the city of Toledo. Also in this city were the Toledo Translators, who translated Islamic manuscripts into vernacular, which were then usually translated into Latin.

Assessing Significance

The Italian merchants, however, were not the only patrons of long-distance commerce. The Mongols, who were nomadic raiders, facilitated many types of exchange, including the infamous plague, and are credited with being the first to develop and use passports. Through this long-distance trading, the Chinese knowledge of papermaking, printing with movable type, and gun powder were brought to Europe. Gun powder would eventually be used in cannons, which placed a significant importance on artillery officers in



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