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Early Modern Europe

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Emerging from the medieval period, the life of Europeans was drastically shifting. One of the key characteristics of European life, beginning in the late 15th century, was the challenge to various authorities and traditions that had generally been accepted and respected in medieval times. The changes in religion and the economy are two excellent examples of the challenges faced by the Europeans during this time period.

The fracturing of Christendom completely transformed religion in early modern Europe. Beginning in the 15th century, religion increasingly became less important in the life of Europeans. It was no longer the center towns and communities and no longer brought the people together. The Protestant Reformation, led by men such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, completely altered many people’s view on Christianity. The church was accused of being corrupt and misleading. Luther believed in the idea that salvation could only be achieved be faith in God, and Calvin went as far as saying God already knew who would be saved and who would not. The beliefs that Calvin and Luther preached challenged the authority and beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church. The people of Europe heard the ideas of Luther and Calvin and began to question the church’s authority and their way of life.

The cultural glue that Christendom once provided was washed away. The church went in several different directions. There was no religious common identity, the new beliefs promoted pluralism. Also, there was an equality of all believers; clergy were no longer seen as superior to the laity. The new ideas put a strong emphasis on the individual, no one stood between the believer and God. The new faith was very personal and inward and focused on the individual conscience of the believer.

The most significant effect that the reformation brought was the shift of power between the church and the monarchy. Kings were now more powerful than the church and this promoted the growth of strong secular and centralized states. Monarchs had a reason to rally their people together and promote nationalism and patriotism. The king was now seen as sovereign and he was the central power of his state.

This attitude adjustment brought about change in other aspects of life as well. The economy of Europe was drastically transformed. Europeans wanted to go out into the world, master his surroundings and make more money. From this arose capitalism and the Commercial Revolution. Over seas exploration resulted in new lands, trade routes, and markets that brought more and more money into Europe. Europeans found new trade routes in which they could buy goods directly from Asia and not have to go through the Arab world that raised the prices. The started establishing colonies and opened up new markets in the new world.

Europeans now began to focus on ways to buy cheaply and sell expensively. Lords searched for more efficient ways of making money off of their lands. They started to enclose their lands,



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