History of Western Europe

Western Europeans created governmental and civil institutions that shaped the ways in which people lived, the values by which they viewed themselves and the world, and their place in the world. They conquered, settled, and ruled an enormous portion of Earth’s land mass, leaving a lasting mark on both culture and the environment in many places that are still inhabited by European descendants. They also fought numerous wars with each other and other peoples in a wide variety of theaters around the globe, changing the course of history and shaping modern international relations.

The Renaissance and Reformation introduced new values and ideas that changed Europe’s way of life. It was a time of great scientific and artistic accomplishments, including the invention of printing, Leonardo da Vinci’s art, and Michelangelo’s sculpture. It was also a period of religious and political turmoil, with the rise of Protestantism as an alternative to Catholicism and the crusades against Muslim kingdoms in the Middle East.

After 1450, the old ideal that Europe constituted a unified Christendom was weakened by the growth of sovereign states. These asserted a monopoly over law and the management of all institutions, including the church. War became more costly and technologically sophisticated, as Europeans extended their empires throughout the world. These developments shifted the balance of power in Europe and affected diplomatic and military affairs.

Europeans developed a sense of national identity and forged relationships among peoples and cultures across the continent. They identified with emerging nationstates, such as Spain under King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel, imperial dynasties, such as the Habsburg Holy Roman Empire, and monarchies, such as Louis XIV of France and Peter the Great of Russia.

The Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries influenced government, religion, and cultural life. It stressed the value of reason over blind faith and superstition. It also brought changes to European values, as reflected in the ideas of people such as Voltaire and Locke.

In the 19th century, new technologies drove industrial growth, transforming Europe’s economy and society. As a result, economic, social, and cultural issues arose that shaped Europeans’ attitudes toward democracy and war, the role of government in society, and family life.

After the catastrophe of two world wars, Europeans returned to the idea of a unified Europe embodied this time in secular institutions rather than in a resurgent Christendom or any particular religion. They also adopted a set of common social values, creating a welfare state that provided support for families and choices in reproduction and promoted public education and health care.

Similar Posts