During the centuries of conflict and unrest, Western Europe history has been shaped by numerous factors. For centuries, Europe was dominated by the Roman Empire, which had a profound effect on the development of the region. However, the Roman Empire weakened during the Late Antiquity. Eventually, the Eastern Roman Empire flourished, and the Western Roman Empire broke apart.
As a result, the European economies began to suffer domestically and abroad. Inequality also emerged. As the economy began to strain, people could no longer accept inequality. They began to demand better living standards and political rights. These ideals were furthered by the ideas of enlightenment. The enlightenment period saw a revival of political thought and the emergence of theories on natural rights. These theories helped to develop better Europe.
In the Middle Ages, few people could read or write. They lived in a sex-dominated society that saw wealth accumulated by the privileged few. Women also fought for political and employment rights.
The Roman Empire had a profound effect on Western Europe history, but the division between the East and the West exacerbated the cultural divide. The Orthodox Church ruled Eastern Europe, while the Catholic Church dominated Western Europe. In the seventeenth century, the Catholics and Protestants fought a long, violent conflict. It was during this period that many European political institutions began to reform.
In the 18th century, capitalism became the dominant economic system. This new economic system relied on inexpensive waged labor and a currency-based market. Unskilled laborers replaced skilled artisans. In this time, cities like Paris and London grew rapidly. During the period, many new cities were established, including Cluny, which became a center of learning.
The rise of capitalism also sparked a new period of urbanization. The cities began to develop large-scale building, and new guilds and labor organizations began to form. This was the period when Europe began to develop a new system of administrative units. These bureaucracies helped to reinforce political power.
By the mid-eighteenth century, the Roman Catholic Church had established a powerful hold on Western Europe. The Great Schism, or the split of the Christian church into Eastern and Western Christianity, further enhanced the cultural distinction between the two regions. The Byzantine Empire, which had been a center of the Eastern Orthodox Church, fell to the Muslim Ottoman Empire. After this time, Europeans began to feel that their unified continent needed to be unified. The European statesmen began to seek ways to unify their countries and prevent further wars. The Great War, also known as World War I, began in 1914. The ensuing war cost nearly eight million European lives and cost 30 million lives in the rest of the world.
The Second World War also created turmoil in Europe. The Europeans began to feel that they had lost their way, and that they needed to unite in order to restore the continent’s strength. A number of European statesmen tried to unite their countries on the basis of equality. They also sought to civilize international relations by introducing common rules. In addition, they sought to match the economic influence of new superpowers.