History of Europe
The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of written records. During the Neolithic era and the time of the Indo-European migrations, Europe saw human inflows from east and southeast and subsequent important cultural and material exchange. The period known as classical antiquity began with the emergence of the city-states of ancient Greece. Later, the Roman Empire came to dominate the entire Mediterranean basin. The fall of the Roman Empire in AD 476 traditionally marks the start of the Middle Ages. Beginning in the 14th century a Renaissance of knowledge
challenged traditional doctrines in science and theology. Simultaneously, the Protestant Reformation set up Protestant churches primarily in Germany, Scandinavia and England. After 1800, the Industrial Revolution brought prosperity to Britain and Western Europe. The main European
powers set up colonies in most of the Americas and Africa, and parts of Asia. In the 20th century, World War I and World War II resulted in massive numbers of deaths. The Cold War dominated European geo-politics from 1947 to 1989. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, European countries grew closer together. Overview During the Neolithic era and the time of the Indo-European migrations Europe saw massive migrations from east and southeast which also brought agriculture, new technologies, and the Indo-European languages, primarily through the areas of the Balkan peninsula and the Black sea region. Some of the best-known civilizations of the late prehistoric Europe were the Minoan and the Mycenaean, which flourished during the Bronze Age until they collapsed in a short period of time around 1200 BC.
The period known as classical antiquity began with the emergence of the city-states of Ancient Greece. After ultimately checking the Persian advance in Europe through the Greco-Persian Wars in the 5th century BC, Greek influence reached its zenith under the expansive empire of Alexander the Great, spreading throughout Asia, Africa, and other parts of Europe. The Thracians, their powerful Odrysian kingdom, distinct culture and architecture were long present in Southeast Europe. The Roman Empire came to dominate the entire Mediterranean basin. By 300 AD the Roman Empire was divided into the Western and Eastern empires. During the 4th and 5th centuries, the Germanic peoples of Northern Europe, pressed by the Huns, grew in strength and led repeated attacks that resulted in the Fall of the Western Roman Empire. The Western empire's collapse in AD
476 traditionally marks the end of the classical period and the start of the Middle Ages. In Western Europe, Germanic peoples became more powerful in the remnants of the former Western Roman Empire and established kingdoms and empires of their own. Of all of the Germanic peoples, the Franks would rise to a position of hegemony over Western Europe, the Frankish Empire reaching its peak under Charlemagne around 800. This empire was later divided into several parts; West Francia would evolve into the Kingdom of France, while East Francia would evolve into the Holy Roman Empire, a precursor to modern Germany and Italy. The
British Isles were the site of several large-scale migrations. The Byzantine Empire – the eastern part of the Roman Empire, with its capital Constantinople, survived for the next 1000 years. During most of its existence, the empire was the most dominant empire, also most powerful economic, cultural, and military force in Europe. The powerful and long lived Bulgarian Empire was its main competitor in the region of Southeast Europe for centuries. Byzantine art, architecture, political dominance, and Bulgarian cultural and linguistic achievements left great legacy in Orthodox and Slavic Europe and beyond through the Middle Ages to this day. The Viking Age, a period of migrations of Scandinavian peoples, occurred from the late 8th century to the middle 11th century. The Normans, descendants of the Vikings who settled
in Northern France, had a significant impact on many parts of Europe, from the Norman conquest of England to Sicily. The Rus' people founded Kievan Rus', which evolved into Russia. After 1000 the Crusades were a series of religiously motivated military expeditions originally intended to bring the Levant back under Christian rule. The Crusaders opened trade routes which enabled the merchant republics of Genoa and Venice to become major economic powers. The Reconquista, a related movement, worked to reconquer Iberia for Christendom. Eastern Europe in the High Middle Ages was dominated by the rise and fall of the Mongol Empire. Led by Genghis Khan, the Mongols were a group of steppe nomads who established a
decentralized empire which, at its height, extended from China in the east to the Black and Baltic Seas in Europe. As Mongol power waned towards the Late Middle Ages, the Grand Duchy of Moscow rose to become the strongest of the numerous Russian principalities and republics and would grow into the Tsardom of Russia in 1547. The Late Middle Ages represented a period of upheaval in Europe. The epidemic known as the Black Death and an associated
famine caused demographic catastrophe in Europe as the population plummeted. Dynastic struggles and wars of conquest kept many of the states of Europe at war for much of the period. In Scandinavia, the Kalmar Union dominated the political landscape, while England fought with Scotland in the Wars of Scottish Independence and with France in the Hundred Years' War.
In Central Europe, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth became a large territorial empire, while the Holy Roman Empire, which was an elective monarchy, came to be dominated for centuries by the House of Habsburg. Russia continued to expand southward and eastward into former Mongol lands. In the Balkans, the Ottoman Empire overran Byzantine lands, culminating in the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, which historians mark as the end of the Middle Ages. Beginning in the 14th century in Florence and later spreading through Europe, a Renaissance of knowledge challenged traditional doctrines in science and theology. The rediscovery of
classical Greek and Roman knowledge had an enormous liberating effect on intellectuals. Simultaneously, the Protestant Reformation under German Martin Luther questioned Papal authority. Henry VIII seized control of the English Church and its lands. The European religious wars were fought between German and Spanish rulers. The Reconquista ended Muslim rule in Iberia. By the 1490s a series of oceanic explorations marked the Age of Discovery, establishing direct links with Africa, the Americas, and Asia. Religious
wars continued to be fought in Europe, until the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. The Spanish crown maintained its hegemony in Europe and was the leading power on the continent until the signing of the Treaty of the Pyrenees, which ended a conflict between Spain and France that had begun during the Thirty Years' War. An unprecedented series of major wars and political revolutions took place around Europe and the world in the period between 1610 and 1700. The Industrial Revolution began in Britain, based on coal, steam, and textile mills. Political change in continental Europe was spurred by the French Revolution under the motto liberté, égalité, fraternité. Napoleon Bonaparte
took control, made many reforms inside France, and transformed Western Europe. But his rise stimulated both nationalism and reaction and he was defeated in 1814–15 as the old royal conservatives returned to power. The period between 1815 and 1871 saw revolutionary attempts in much of Europe . They all failed however. As industrial work forces grew in Western Europe, socialism and trade union
activity developed. The last vestiges of serfdom were abolished in Russia in 1861. Greece and the other Balkan nations began a long slow road to independence from the Ottoman Empire, starting in the 1820s. Italy was unified in its Risorgimento in 1860. After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, Otto von Bismarck unified the German states into an empire that was politically and militarily dominant until 1914. Most of Europe scrambled for imperial colonies in Africa and Asia in the Age of Empire. Britain and France built the largest empires, while diplomats ensured there were no major wars in Europe, apart from the Crimean War of the 1850s. The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 was precipitated by the rise of nationalism in Southeastern Europe as the Great Powers took sides. The 1917 October Revolution led
the Russian Empire to become the world's first communist state, the Soviet Union. The Allies, led by Britain, France, and the United States, defeated the Central Powers, led by the German Empire and Austria-Hungary, in 1918. During the Paris Peace Conference the Big Four imposed their terms in a series of treaties, especially the Treaty of Versailles. The war's human and material devastation was unprecedented.
Germany lost its overseas empire and several provinces, had to pay large reparations, and was humiliated by the victors. They in turn had large debts to the United States. The 1920s were prosperous until 1929 when the Great Depression broke out, which led to the collapse of democracy in many European states. The Nazi regime under Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, rearmed Germany, and along with Mussolini's Italy sought to assert themselves on the continent. Other nations, who had not taken to the attractions of fascism, sought
to avoid conflict. They set boundaries of appeasement, which Hitler continually ignored. The Second World War began. The war ended with the defeat of the Axis powers but the threat of more conflict was recognised before the war's end. Many from the US were suspicious
of how the USSR would treat the peace – in the USSR there was paranoia at US forces in Europe. Eastern Front/Western Front meetings among leaders in Yalta proved inconclusive. In the closing months of the war there was a race to the finish. The territories liberated from the Nazis by troops from the USSR found they had exchanged fascism for socialism. The USSR , however, would not leave those territories for forty years. The USSR claimed they needed buffer states between them and the nascent NATO. In the west, the term Iron
Curtain entered the language. The United States launched the Marshall Plan from 1948 to 1951 and NATO from 1949, and rebuilt industrial economies that all were thriving by the 1950s. France and West Germany took the lead in forming the European Economic Community, which eventually became the European Union . Secularization saw the weakening of Protestant and Catholic churches across most of Europe, except where they were symbols of reaction, as in Poland. The Counter-Revolutions of 1989 brought an end to both Soviet hegemony and socialism in Eastern Europe, the resulting capitalist restoration engendering economic and social devastation for the people. Germany was reunited, Europe's integration deepened, and both NATO
and the EU expanded to the east. The EU came under increasing pressure because of the worldwide recession after 2008. Prehistory of Europe Homo erectus migrated from Africa to Europe before the emergence of modern humans. Homo erectus georgicus, which lived roughly 1.8 million years ago in Georgia, is the earliest hominid to have been discovered in Europe.
Lézignan-la-Cèbe in France, Orce in Spain, Monte Poggiolo in Italy and Kozarnika in Bulgaria are among the oldest Palaeolithic sites in Europe. The earliest appearance of anatomically modern people in Europe has been dated to 35,000 BC, usually referred to as the Cro-Magnon. The earliest sites in Europe are Riparo Mochi , Geissenklösterle , and Isturitz . Some locally developed transitional cultures use clearly Upper Palaeolithic technologies at very early dates. Nevertheless, the definitive advance of these technologies is made by the Aurignacian culture.
The origins of this culture can be located in the Levant and Hungary . By 35,000 BC, the Aurignacian culture and its technology had extended through most of Europe. The last Neanderthals seem to have been forced to retreat during this process to the southern half of the Iberian Peninsula. Around 29,000 BC a new technology/culture appeared in the western region of Europe: the Gravettian. This technology/culture has been theorised to have come with migrations of people from the Balkans . Around 16,000 BC, Europe witnessed the appearance of a new culture, known as Magdalenian, possibly rooted in the old Gravettian. This culture soon superseded the Solutrean area and the
Gravettian of mainly France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Ukraine. The Hamburg culture prevailed in Northern Europe in the 14th and the 13th millennium BC as the Creswellian did shortly after in the British Islands. Around 12,500 BC, the Würm glaciation ended. Slowly, through the following millennia, temperatures and sea levels rose, changing the environment of prehistoric people. Nevertheless, Magdalenian culture persisted until c. 10,000 BC, when it quickly evolved into two microlithist cultures: Azilian , in Spain and southern France, and then Sauveterrian, in southern France and Tardenoisian in Central Europe, while in Northern Europe the Lyngby complex succeeded the Hamburg culture with the influence of the Federmesser group as well. Evidence of permanent settlement dates from the 8th millennium BC in the Balkans. The Indo-European migrations started at around c. 4200 BC. through the areas of the Black
sea and the Balkan peninsula in East and Southeast Europe. In the next 3000 years the Indo-European languages expanded through Europe. In Varna Necropolis – a burial site from 4569 to 4340 BC and one of the most important archaeological sites in world prehistory, was found the oldest gold treasure in the world. Recently discovered golden artifacts in another site in Bulgaria near Durankulak appear to be 7,000 years old. The Neolithic reached Central Europe in the 6th millennium BC and parts of Northern Europe in the 5th and 4th millenniums BC. Ancient Europe
Minoans and Mycenae 2000–1100 BC The first well-known literate civilization in Europe was that of the Minoans. The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately the 27th century BC to the 15th century BC. It was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of the British archaeologist Arthur Evans. Will Durant referred to it as "the first link in the European chain".
The Minoans were replaced by the Mycenaean civilization which flourished during the period roughly between 1600 BC, when Helladic culture in mainland Greece was transformed under influences from Minoan Crete, and 1100 BC. The major Mycenaean cities were Mycenae and Tiryns in Argolis, Pylos in Messenia, Athens in Attica, Thebes and Orchomenus in Boeotia, and Iolkos in Thessaly. In Crete, the Mycenaeans occupied Knossos. Mycenaean settlement sites also appeared in Epirus, Macedonia, on islands in the Aegean Sea, on the coast of Asia Minor, the Levant, Cyprus and Italy. Mycenaean artefacts have been found well outside the limits of the Mycenean world. Quite unlike the Minoans, whose society benefited from trade, the Mycenaeans advanced through conquest. Mycenaean civilization was dominated by a warrior aristocracy. Around 1400 BC, the Mycenaeans extended their control to Crete, the center of the Minoan civilization, and adopted a form of the Minoan script to write their early form of Greek in Linear B.
The Mycenaean civilization perished with the collapse of Bronze-Age civilization on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The collapse is commonly attributed to the Dorian invasion, although other theories describing natural disasters and climate change have been advanced as well. Whatever the causes, the Mycenaean civilization had definitely disappeared after LH III C, when the sites of Mycenae and Tirynth were again destroyed and lost their importance. This end, during the last years of the 12th century BC, occurred
after a slow decline of the Mycenaean civilization, which lasted many years before dying out. The beginning of the 11th century BC opened a new context, that of the protogeometric, the beginning of the geometric period, the Greek Dark Ages of traditional historiography. Early antiquity period The Greeks and the Romans left a legacy in Europe which is evident in European languages, thought, visual arts and law. Ancient Greece was a collection of city-states, out of which the original form of democracy developed. Athens was the most powerful and developed city, and a cradle of learning from the time of Pericles. Citizens' forums debated and legislated policy of the state, and from here arose some of the most notable classical philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, the last of whom taught Alexander the Great.
Through his military campaigns, the king of the kingdom of Macedon, Alexander, spread Hellenistic culture and learning to the banks of the River Indus. Meanwhile, the Roman Republic strengthened through victory over Carthage in the Punic Wars. Greek wisdom passed into Roman institutions, as Athens itself was absorbed under the banner of the Senate and People of Rome . The Romans expanded their domains from Anatolia in the east to Britannia in the west. In 44 BC as it approached its height, its dictator Julius Caesar was murdered by senators in an attempt to restore the Republic. In the ensuing turmoil, Octavian usurped the reins of power and fought the Roman Senate. While
proclaiming the rebirth of the Republic, he had ushered in the transfer of the Roman state from a republic to an empire, the Roman Empire, which lasted for more than four centuries until the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Ancient Greece The Hellenic civilisation was a collection of city-states or poleis with different governments and cultures that achieved notable developments in government, philosophy, science, mathematics, politics, sports, theatre and music. The most powerful city-states were Athens, Sparta, Thebes, Corinth, and Syracuse. Athens
was a powerful Hellenic city-state and governed itself with an early form of direct democracy invented by Cleisthenes; the citizens of Athens voted on legislation and executive bills themselves. Athens was the home of Socrates, Plato, and the Platonic Academy. The Hellenic city-states established colonies on the shores of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean . By the late 6th century BC, all the Greek city states in Asia Minor had been incorporated into the Persian Empire, while the latter had made territorial gains in the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper as well. In the course of the 5th century BC, some of the
Greek city states attempted to overthrow Persian rule in the Ionian Revolt, which failed. This sparked the first Persian invasion of mainland Greece. At some point during the ensuing Greco-Persian Wars, namely during the Second Persian invasion of Greece, and precisely after the Battle of Thermopylae and the Battle of Artemisium, almost all of Greece to the north of the Isthmus of Corinth had been overrun by the Persians, but the Greek city states reached a decisive victory at the Battle of Plataea. With the end of the Greco-Persian wars, the Persians
were eventually decisively forced to withdraw from their territories in Europe. The Greco-Persian Wars and the victory of the Greek city states directly influenced the entire further course of European history and would set its further tone. Some Greek city-states formed the Delian League to continue fighting Persia, but Athens' position as leader of this league led Sparta to form the rival Peloponnesian League. The Peloponnesian Wars ensued, and the Peloponnesian League was victorious. Subsequently, discontent with Spartan hegemony led to the Corinthian War and the defeat of Sparta at the Battle of Leuctra. At the same time at the north ruled the Thracian Odrysian Kingdom between the
5th century BC and the 1st century AD. Hellenic infighting left Greek city states vulnerable, and Philip II of Macedon united the Greek city states under his control. The son of Philip II, known as Alexander the Great, invaded neighboring Persia, toppled and incorporated its domains, as well as invading Egypt and going as far off as India, increasing contact with people and cultures in these regions that marked the beginning of the Hellenistic period. After the death of Alexander, his empire split into multiple kingdoms ruled by his generals, the Diadochi. The Diadochi fought against each other in a series of conflicts called the Wars of the Diadochi. In the beginning of the 2nd century BC, only three major kingdoms remained: the Ptolemaic Egypt, the Seleucid Empire and Macedonia. These kingdoms spread
Greek culture to regions as far away as Bactria. Ancient Rome The Rise of Rome Much of Greek learning was assimilated by the nascent Roman state as it expanded outward from Italy, taking advantage of its enemies' inability to unite: the only challenge to Roman ascent came from the Phoenician colony of Carthage, and its defeats in the three Punic Wars marked the start of Roman hegemony. First governed by kings, then as a senatorial republic , Rome finally became an empire at the end of the 1st century BC, under Augustus and his authoritarian successors. The Roman Empire had its centre in the Mediterranean, controlling all the countries on its shores; the northern border was marked by the Rhine and Danube rivers. Under emperor Trajan the empire reached its maximum expansion, controlling approximately 5,900,000 km2 of land surface, including Italia, Gallia, Dalmatia, Aquitania, Britannia, Baetica, Hispania, Thrace, Macedonia, Greece, Moesia, Dacia, Pannonia, Egypt, Asia Minor, Cappadocia, Armenia, Caucasus, North Africa, Levant and parts of Mesopotamia. Pax Romana, a period of peace, civilisation and
an efficient centralised government in the subject territories ended in the 3rd century, when a series of civil wars undermined Rome's economic and social strength. In the 4th century, the emperors Diocletian and Constantine were able to slow down the process of decline by splitting the empire into a Western part with a capital in Rome and an Eastern part with the capital in Byzantium, or Constantinople . Whereas Diocletian severely persecuted Christianity, Constantine declared an official end to state-sponsored persecution of Christians in 313 with the Edict of Milan, thus setting the stage for the Church to become the state church of the Roman Empire in about 380. Decline of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire had been repeatedly attacked by invading armies from Northern Europe and in 476, Rome finally fell. Romulus Augustus, the last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire, surrendered to the Germanic King Odoacer.
The British historian Edward Gibbon argued in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire that the Romans had become decadent and had lost civic virtue. Gibbon said that the adoption of Christianity meant belief in a better life after death, and therefore made people lazy and indifferent to the present. "From the eighteenth century onward", Glen W. Bowersock has remarked, "we have been obsessed with the fall: it has been
valued as an archetype for every perceived decline, and, hence, as a symbol for our own fears." It remains one of the greatest historical questions, and has a tradition rich in scholarly interest. Some other notable dates are the Battle of Adrianople in 378, the death of Theodosius I in 395 , the crossing of the Rhine in 406 by Germanic tribes after the withdrawal of the legions to defend Italy against Alaric I, the death of Stilicho in 408, followed by the disintegration of the western legions, the death of Justinian I, the last Roman Emperor who tried to reconquer the west, in 565, and the coming of Islam after 632. Many scholars maintain that rather than a "fall", the changes can more accurately be described as a complex transformation. Over time many theories have been proposed on why the Empire fell, or whether indeed it fell at all.
Late Antiquity and Migration Period When Emperor Constantine had reconquered Rome under the banner of the cross in 312, he soon afterwards issued the Edict of Milan in 313 , declaring the legality of Christianity in the Roman Empire. In addition, Constantine officially shifted the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to the Greek town of Byzantium, which he renamed Nova Roma – it was later named Constantinople . Theodosius I, who had made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, would be the last emperor to preside over a united Roman Empire, until his death in 395. The empire was split into two-halves: the Western Roman Empire centred in Ravenna, and the Eastern Roman Empire centred in Constantinople. The Roman Empire was repeatedly attacked by Hunnic, Germanic, Slavic and other "barbarian" tribes , and in 476 finally the Western part fell to the Heruli chieftain Odoacer. Roman authority in the Western part of the
empire had collapsed, and a power vacuum left in the wake of this collapse; the central organization, institutions, laws and power of Rome had broken down, resulting in many areas being open to invasion by migrating tribes. Over time, feudalism and manorialism arose, two interlocking institutions that provided for division of land and labor, as well as a broad if uneven hierarchy of law and protection. These localised hierarchies were based on the bond of common people to the land on which they worked, and to a lord, who would provide and administer both local law to settle disputes among the peasants, as well as protection from outside invaders. Unlike under Roman rule, with its standard laws and military across the empire and its great bureaucracy to administer them and collect taxes, each lord was largely sovereign in his domain. A peasant's lot could vary greatly depending on the leadership skills and attitudes to justice of the lord toward his people.
Tithes or rents were paid to the lord, who in turn owed resources, and armed men in times of war, to his lord, perhaps a regional prince. However, the levels of hierarchy were varied over time and place. The western provinces soon were to be dominated by three great powers: first, the Franks in Francia 481–843 AD, which covered much of present France and Germany; second, the Visigothic kingdom 418–711 AD in the Iberian Peninsula ; and third, the Ostrogothic kingdom 493–553 AD in Italy and parts of the western Balkans The Ostrogoths were later replaced by the Kingdom of the Lombards 568–774 AD. These new powers of the west built upon the Roman
traditions until they evolved into a synthesis of Roman and Germanic cultures. Although these powers covered large territories, they did not have the great resources and bureaucracy of the Roman empire to control regions and localities. The ongoing invasions and boundary disputes usually meant a more risky and varying life than that under the empire. This meant that in general more power and responsibilities were left to local lords. On the other hand, it also meant more freedom, particularly in more remote areas. In Italy, Theodoric the Great began the cultural romanization of the new world he had constructed.
He made Ravenna a center of Romano-Greek culture of art and his court fostered a flowering of literature and philosophy in Latin. In Iberia, King Chindasuinth created the Visigothic Code. In the Eastern part the dominant state was the remaining Eastern Roman Empire. In the feudal system, new princes and kings arose, the most powerful of which was arguably the Frankish ruler Charlemagne. In 800, Charlemagne, reinforced by his massive territorial conquests, was crowned Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III, effectively solidifying his power in western Europe. Charlemagne's reign marked the beginning of a new Germanic Roman Empire
in the west, the Holy Roman Empire. Outside his borders, new forces were gathering. The Kievan Rus' were marking out their territory, a Great Moravia was growing, while the Angles and the Saxons were securing their borders. For the duration of the 6th century, the Eastern Roman Empire was embroiled in a series of deadly conflicts, first with the Persian Sassanid Empire , followed by the onslaught of the arising Islamic Caliphate . By 650, the provinces of Egypt, Palestine and Syria were lost to the Muslim forces, followed by Hispania and southern Italy in the 7th and 8th centuries . The Arab invasion from the east was stopped after the intervention of the Bulgarian Empire . Post-classical Europe The Middle Ages are commonly dated from the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century to the beginning of the early modern period in the 16th century, marked by the rise of nation states, the division of Western Christianity in the Reformation, the rise of humanism in the Italian Renaissance, and the beginnings of European overseas expansion which allowed for the Columbian Exchange.
Byzantium Many consider Emperor Constantine I to be the first "Byzantine Emperor". It was he who moved the imperial capital in 324 from Nicomedia to Byzantium, which re-founded as Constantinople, or Nova Roma . The city of Rome itself had not served as the capital since the reign of Diocletian . Some date the beginnings of the Empire to the reign of Theodosius I and Christianity's official supplanting of the pagan Roman religion, or following his death in 395, when the empire was split into two parts, with capitals in Rome and Constantinople. Others place it yet later in 476, when Romulus Augustulus, traditionally considered the last western Emperor, was deposed, thus leaving sole imperial authority with the emperor in the Greek East. Others point to the reorganisation
of the empire in the time of Heraclius when Latin titles and usages were officially replaced with Greek versions. In any case, the changeover was gradual and by 330, when Constantine inaugurated his new capital, the process of hellenization and increasing Christianisation was already under way. The Empire is generally considered to have ended after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. The Plague of Justinian was a pandemic that afflicted the
Byzantine Empire, including its capital Constantinople, in the years 541–542. It is estimated that the Plague of Justinian killed as many as 100 million people across the world. It caused Europe's population to drop by around 50% between 541 and 700. It also may have contributed to the success of the Muslim conquests. Early Middle Ages The Early Middle Ages span roughly five centuries from 500 to 1000. In the East and Southeast of Europe new dominant states formed: the Avar Khaganate , Old Great Bulgaria , the Khazar Khaganate and Danube Bulgaria were constantly rivaling the hegemony of the Byzantine Empire.
From the 7th century Byzantine history was greatly affected by the rise of Islam and the Caliphates. Muslim Arabs first invaded historically Roman territory under Abū Bakr, first Caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate, who entered Roman Syria and Roman Mesopotamia. As the Byzantines and neighboring Sasanids were severely weakened by the time, amongst the most important reason being the protracted, centuries-lasting and frequent Byzantine–Sasanian wars, which included the climactic Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628, under Umar, the second Caliph, the Muslims entirely toppled the Sasanid Persian Empire, and decisively conquered Syria and Mesopotamia, as well as Roman Palestine, Roman Egypt, and parts of Asia Minor and Roman North Africa. In the mid 7th century AD, following the Muslim conquest of Persia, Islam penetrated
into the Caucasus region, of which parts would later permanently become part of Russia. This trend, which included the conquests by the invading Muslim forces and by that the spread of Islam as well continued under Umar's successors and under the Umayyad Caliphate, which conquered the rest of Mediterranean North Africa and most of the Iberian Peninsula. Over the next centuries Muslim forces were able to take further European territory, including Cyprus, Malta, Crete, and Sicily and parts of southern Italy. The Muslim conquest of Hispania began when the Moors invaded the Christian Visigothic kingdom of Hispania in the year 711, under the Berber general Tariq ibn Ziyad. They landed at Gibraltar on 30 April and worked their way northward. Tariq's forces were joined the next year by those of his Arab superior, Musa ibn Nusair. During the eight-year campaign
most of the Iberian Peninsula was brought under Muslim rule – save for small areas in the northwest and largely Basque regions in the Pyrenees. In 711, Visigothic Hispania was very weakened because it was immersed in a serious internal crisis caused by a war of succession to the throne involving two Visigoth suitors. The Muslims took advantage of the crisis within the Hispano-Visigothic society to carry out their conquests. This
territory, under the Arab name Al-Andalus, became part of the expanding Umayyad empire. The second siege of Constantinople ended unsuccessfully after the intervention of Tervel of Bulgaria and weakened the Umayyad dynasty and reduced their prestige. In 722 Don Pelayo, a nobleman of Visigothic origin, formed an army of 300 Astur soldiers, to confront Munuza's Muslim troops. In the battle of Covadonga, the Astures defeated the Arab-Moors, who decided to retire. The Christian victory marked the beginning of the Reconquista and the establishment of the Kingdom of Asturias, whose first sovereign was Don Pelayo. The conquerors intended to continue their expansion in Europe and move northeast across the Pyrenees, but were defeated by the Frankish leader Charles Martel at the Battle of Poitiers in 732. The Umayyads were overthrown in 750 by the 'Abbāsids, and, in 756, the Umayyads established an independent emirate in the Iberian Peninsula.
Feudal Christendom The Holy Roman Empire emerged around 800, as Charlemagne, King of the Franks and part of the Carolingian dynasty, was crowned by the pope as emperor. His empire based in modern France, the Low Countries and Germany expanded into modern Hungary, Italy, Bohemia, Lower Saxony and Spain. He and his father received substantial help from an alliance with the Pope, who wanted help against the Lombards. His death marked the beginning of the end of the dynasty, which collapsed entirely by 888. The fragmentation of power led to semiautonomy in the region, and has been defined as a critical starting point for the formation of states in Europe. To the east, Bulgaria was established in 681 and became the first Slavic country. The powerful
Bulgarian Empire was the main rival of Byzantium for control of the Balkans for centuries and from the 9th century became the cultural centre of Slavic Europe. The Empire created the Cyrillic script during the 9th century AD, at the Preslav Literary School, and experienced the Golden Age of Bulgarian cultural prosperity during the reign of emperor Simeon I the Great . Two states, Great Moravia and Kievan Rus', emerged among the Slavic peoples respectively in the 9th century. In the late 9th and 10th centuries, northern and western Europe felt the burgeoning power and influence of the Vikings who raided, traded, conquered and settled swiftly and efficiently with their advanced seagoing vessels such as the longships. The Vikings had left
a cultural influence on the Anglo-Saxons and Franks as well as the Scots. The Hungarians pillaged mainland Europe, the Pechenegs raided Bulgaria, Rus States and the Arab states. In the 10th century independent kingdoms were established in Central Europe including Poland and the newly settled Kingdom of Hungary. The kingdom of Croatia also appeared in the Balkans. The subsequent period, ending around 1000, saw the further growth of feudalism,
which weakened the Holy Roman Empire. In eastern Europe, Volga Bulgaria became an Islamic state in 921, after Almış I converted to Islam under the missionary efforts of Ahmad ibn Fadlan. Slavery in the early medieval period had mostly died out in western Europe by about the year 1000 AD, replaced by serfdom. It lingered longer in England and in peripheral areas linked to the Muslim world, where slavery continued to flourish. Church rules suppressed slavery of Christians. Most historians argue the transition was quite abrupt around 1000,
but some see a gradual transition from about 300 to 1000. High Middle Ages The slumber of the Dark Ages was shaken by a renewed crisis in the Church. In 1054, the East–West Schism, an insoluble split, occurred between the two remaining Christian seats in Rome and Constantinople . The High Middle Ages of the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries show a rapidly increasing population of Europe, which caused great social and political change from the preceding era. By 1250, the robust population increase greatly benefited the economy, reaching levels it would not see again in some areas until the 19th century. From about the year 1000 onwards, Western Europe saw the last of the barbarian invasions and became more politically organized. The Vikings had settled in Britain, Ireland, France
and elsewhere, whilst Norse Christian kingdoms were developing in their Scandinavian homelands. The Magyars had ceased their expansion in the 10th century, and by the year 1000, the Roman Catholic Apostolic Kingdom of Hungary was recognised in central Europe. With the brief exception of the Mongol invasions, major barbarian incursions ceased.
Bulgarian sovereignty was reestablished with the anti-Byzantine uprising of the Bulgarians and Vlachs in 1185. The crusaders invaded the Byzantine empire, captured Constantinople in 1204 and established their Latin Empire. Kaloyan of Bulgaria defeated Baldwin I, Latin emperor of Constantinople, in the Battle of Adrianople on 14 April 1205. The reign of Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria led to maximum territorial expansion and that of Ivan Alexander of Bulgaria to a Second Golden Age of Bulgarian culture. The Byzantine Empire was fully reestablished in 1261.
In the 11th century, populations north of the Alps began to settle new lands, some of which had reverted to wilderness after the end of the Roman Empire. In what is known as the "great clearances", vast forests and marshes of Europe were cleared and cultivated. At the same time settlements moved beyond the traditional boundaries of the Frankish Empire to new frontiers in Europe, beyond the Elbe river, tripling the size of Germany in the process. Crusaders founded European colonies in the Levant, the majority of the Iberian Peninsula was conquered from the Muslims, and the Normans colonised southern Italy, all part of the major population increase and resettlement pattern. The High Middle Ages produced many different forms of intellectual, spiritual and artistic works. The most famous are the great cathedrals as expressions of Gothic architecture, which
evolved from Romanesque architecture. This age saw the rise of modern nation-states in Western Europe and the ascent of the famous Italian city-states, such as Florence and Venice. The influential popes of the Catholic Church called volunteer armies from across Europe to a series of Crusades against the Seljuq Turks, who occupied the Holy Land. The rediscovery of the works of Aristotle led Thomas Aquinas and other thinkers to develop the philosophy of Scholasticism.
A divided church The Great Schism between the Western and Eastern Christian Churches was sparked in 1054 by Pope Leo IX asserting authority over three of the seats in the Pentarchy, in Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria. Since the mid-8th century, the Byzantine Empire's borders had been shrinking in the face of Islamic expansion. Antioch had been wrested back into Byzantine control by 1045, but the resurgent power of the Roman successors in the West claimed a right and a duty for the lost seats in Asia and Africa. Pope Leo sparked a further dispute by defending the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed which the West had adopted customarily. The Orthodox today state that the XXVIIIth Canon of the Council of Chalcedon explicitly proclaimed the equality of the Bishops of Rome and Constantinople. The Orthodox also state that the Bishop of Rome has authority only over his own diocese and does not have any authority outside his diocese. There were
other less significant catalysts for the Schism however, including variance over liturgy. The Schism of Roman Catholic and Orthodox followed centuries of estrangement between the Latin and Greek worlds. Holy wars After the East–West Schism, Western Christianity was adopted by the newly created kingdoms of Central Europe: Poland, Hungary and Bohemia. The Roman Catholic Church developed as a major power, leading to conflicts between the Pope and Emperor. The geographic reach of the Roman Catholic Church expanded enormously due to the conversions of pagan kings , the Christian Reconquista of Al-Andalus, and the crusades. Most of Europe was Roman Catholic in the 15th century.
Early signs of the rebirth of civilization in western Europe began to appear in the 11th century as trade started again in Italy, leading to the economic and cultural growth of independent city-states such as Venice and Florence; at the same time, nation-states began to take form in places such as France, England, Spain, and Portugal, although the process of their formation actually took several centuries. These new nation-states began writing in their own cultural vernaculars, instead of the traditional Latin. Notable figures of this movement would include Dante Alighieri and Christine de Pizan , the former writing in Italian, and the latter, although an Italian , relocated to France, writing in French. Elsewhere, the Holy Roman Empire, essentially based in Germany and Italy, further fragmented into a myriad of feudal principalities or small city states, whose subjection to the emperor was only formal. The 14th century, when the Mongol Empire came to power, is often called the Age of the Mongols. Mongol armies expanded westward under the command of Batu Khan. Their western conquests
included almost all of Russia , and the Kipchak-Cuman Confederation. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Poland managed to remain sovereign states. Mongolian records indicate that Batu Khan was planning a complete conquest of the remaining European powers, beginning with a winter attack on Austria, Italy and Germany, when he was recalled to Mongolia upon the death of Great Khan Ögedei. Most historians believe only his death prevented the complete conquest of Europe. The areas of Eastern Europe and most of Central Asia that were under direct Mongol rule became known as the Golden Horde. Under Uzbeg Khan, Islam became the official religion of the region in the early 14th century. The invading Mongols, together with their mostly Turkic
subjects, were known as Tatars. In Russia, the Tatars ruled the various states of the Rus' through vassalage for over 300 years. In the Northern Europe, Konrad of Masovia gave Chelmno to the Teutonic Knights in 1226 as a base for a Crusade against the Old Prussians and Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Livonian Brothers of the Sword were defeated by the Lithuanians, so in 1237 Gregory IX merged the remainder of the order into the Teutonic Order as the Livonian Order. By the middle of the century, the Teutonic Knights completed
their conquest of the Prussians before conquering and converting the Lithuanians in the subsequent decades. The order also came into conflict with the Eastern Orthodox Church of the Pskov and Novgorod Republics. In 1240 the Orthodox Novgorod army defeated the Catholic Swedes in the Battle of the Neva, and, two years later, they defeated the Livonian Order in the Battle on the Ice. The Union of Krewo in 1386, bringing two major changes in the history of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania: conversion to Catholicism and establishment of a dynastic union between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland marked both the greatest territorial expansion of the Grand Duchy and the defeat of the Teutonic Knights in the Battle of Grunwald in 1410. Late Middle Ages The Late Middle Ages spanned the 14th and early 15th centuries. Around 1300, centuries of European prosperity and growth came to a halt. A series of famines and plagues, such as the Great Famine of 1315–1317 and the
Black Death, killed people in a matter of days, reducing the population of some areas by half as many survivors fled. Kishlansky reports: The Black Death touched every aspect of life, hastening a process of social, economic, and cultural transformation already underway.... Fields were abandoned, workplaces stood idle, international trade was suspended. Traditional bonds of kinship, village, and even religion
were broken amid the horrors of death, flight, and failed expectations. "People cared no more for dead men than we care for dead goats," wrote one survivor. Depopulation caused labor to become scarcer; the survivors were better paid and peasants could drop some of the burdens of feudalism. There was also social unrest; France and England experienced serious peasant risings including the Jacquerie and the Peasants' Revolt. At the same time, the unity of the Catholic Church was shattered by the Great Schism. Collectively
these events have been called the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages. Beginning in the 14th century, the Baltic Sea became one of the most important trade routes. The Hanseatic League, an alliance of trading cities, facilitated the absorption of vast areas of Poland, Lithuania, and Livonia into trade with other European countries. This fed the growth of powerful states in this part of Europe including Poland-Lithuania, Hungary, Bohemia, and Muscovy later on. The conventional end of the Middle Ages is usually associated with the fall of the city of Constantinople and of the Byzantine Empire to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. The Turks made the city the capital of their Ottoman Empire, which lasted
until 1922 and included Egypt, Syria, and most of the Balkans. The Ottoman wars in Europe, also sometimes referred to as the Turkish wars, marked an essential part of the history of the continent as a whole. A key 15th-century development was the advent of the movable type of printing press circa 1439 in Mainz, building upon the impetus provided by the prior introduction of paper from China via the Arabs in the High Middle Ages. Paper was already readily available in Europe by the late 14th century. While forms of moveable type of printing press had been already used in China and Korea, the technique was singularly successful in Europe given the small number of characters of the Latin alphabet, massively reducing costs of book production. The adoption
of the technology across the continent at dazzling speed for the remaining part of the 15th century would usher a revolution and by 1500 over 200 cities in Europe had presses that printed between 8 and 20 million books. Homicide rates plunge over 800 years At the local level, levels of violence were extremely high by modern standards in medieval and early modern Europe. Typically, small groups would battle their neighbors, using the farm tools at hand such as knives, sickles, hammers and axes. Mayhem and death were deliberate. The vast majority of people lived in rural
areas. Cities were few, and small in size, but their concentration of population was conducive to violence. Long-term studies of places such as Amsterdam, Stockholm, Venice and Zurich show the same trends as rural areas. Across Europe, homicide trends show a steady long-term decline. Regional differences were small, except that Italy's decline was later
and slower. From approximately 1200 AD through 1800 AD, homicide rates from violent local episodes declined by a factor of ten, from approximately 32 deaths per 100 000 people to 3.2 per 100 000. In the 20th century the homicide rate fell to 1.4 per 100 000. Police forces seldom existed outside the cities; prisons only became common after 1800. Before then harsh penalties were imposed for homicide but they proved ineffective at controlling or reducing the insults to honor that precipitated most of the violence. The decline does not correlate with economics. Most historians attribute the trend in homicides to a steady
increase in self-control of the sort promoted by Protestantism, and necessitated by schools and factories. Historian Manuel Eisner has summarized the patterns from over 300 historical studies. Early Modern Europe The Early Modern period spans the centuries between the Middle Ages and the Industrial Revolution, roughly from 1500 to 1800, or from the discovery of the New World in 1492 to the French Revolution in 1789. The period is characterised by the rise to importance of science and increasingly rapid technological progress, secularised civic politics and the nation state. Capitalist economies began their
rise. The early modern period also saw the rise and dominance of the economic theory of mercantilism. As such, the early modern period represents the decline and eventual disappearance, in much of the European sphere, of feudalism, serfdom and the power of the Catholic Church. The period includes the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, the disastrous Thirty Years' War, the European colonisation of the Americas and the European witch-hunts. Renaissance Despite these crises, the 14th century was also a time of great progress within the arts and sciences. A renewed interest in ancient Greek and Roman led to the Italian Renaissance.
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that profoundly affected European intellectual life in the early modern period. Beginning in Italy, and spreading to the north, west and middle Europe during a cultural lag of some two and a half centuries, its influence affected literature, philosophy, art, politics, science, history, religion, and other aspects of intellectual inquiry. The Italian Petrarch , deemed the first full-blooded Humanist, wrote in the 1330s: "I am alive now, yet I would rather have been born in another time." He was enthusiastic about Greek and Roman antiquity. In the 15th and 16th centuries the continuing enthusiasm for the ancients was reinforced by the feeling that the inherited culture was dissolving and here was a storehouse of ideas and attitudes with which to rebuild. Matteo Palmieri wrote in the 1430s: "Now indeed may every thoughtful spirit thank god that it has been permitted to him to be born in a new age." The renaissance was born: a new age where learning was very
important. The Renaissance was inspired by the growth in the study of Latin and Greek texts and the admiration of the Greco-Roman era as a golden age. This prompted many artists and writers to begin drawing from Roman and Greek examples for their works, but there was also much innovation in this period, especially by multi-faceted artists such as Leonardo da Vinci. The Humanists saw their repossession of a great past as a Renaissance – a rebirth of civilization itself. Important political precedents were also set in this period. Niccolò Machiavelli's political
writing in The Prince influenced later absolutism and realpolitik. Also important were the many patrons who ruled states and used the artistry of the Renaissance as a sign of their power. In all, the Renaissance could be viewed as an attempt by intellectuals to study and improve the secular and worldly, both through the revival of ideas from antiquity and through novel approaches to thought – the immediate past being too "Gothic" in language, thought and sensibility. Exploration and trade Toward the end of the period, an era of discovery began. The growth of the Ottoman Empire, culminating in the fall of Constantinople in 1453, cut
off trading possibilities with the east. Western Europe was forced to discover new trading routes, as happened with Columbus' travel to the Americas in 1492, and Vasco da Gama's circumnavigation of India and Africa in 1498. The numerous wars did not prevent European states from exploring and conquering wide portions of the world, from Africa to Asia and the newly discovered Americas. In the 15th century, Portugal led the way in geographical exploration along the coast of Africa in search of a maritime route to India, followed by Spain near the close of the 15th century, dividing their exploration of the world according to the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. They
were the first states to set up colonies in America and European trading posts along the shores of Africa and Asia, establishing the first direct European diplomatic contacts with Southeast Asian states in 1511, China in 1513 and Japan in 1542. In 1552, Russian tsar Ivan the Terrible conquered two major Tatar khanates, the Khanate of Kazan and the Astrakhan Khanate. The Yermak's voyage of 1580 led to the annexation of the Tatar Siberian Khanate into Russia, and the Russians would soon after conquer the rest of Siberia, steadily expanding to the east and south over the next centuries. Oceanic explorations soon followed
by France, England and the Netherlands, who explored the Portuguese and Spanish trade routes into the Pacific Ocean, reaching Australia in 1606 and New Zealand in 1642. Reformation With the development of the printing press, new ideas spread throughout Europe and challenged traditional doctrines in science and theology. Simultaneously, the Protestant Reformation under German Martin Luther questioned Papal authority. The most common dating of the Reformation begins in 1517, when Luther published The Ninety-Five Theses, and concludes in 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia that ended years of European religious wars. During this period corruption in the Catholic Church led to a sharp backlash in the Protestant Reformation. It gained many followers especially among princes and kings seeking a stronger state by ending the influence of the Catholic Church. Figures other than Martin Luther began
to emerge as well like John Calvin whose Calvinism had influence in many countries and King Henry VIII of England who broke away from the Catholic Church in England and set up the Anglican Church; his daughter Queen Elizabeth finished the organization of the church. These religious divisions brought on a wave of wars inspired and driven by religion but also by the ambitious monarchs in Western Europe who were becoming more centralized and powerful. The Protestant Reformation also led to a strong reform movement in the Catholic Church called the Counter-Reformation, which aimed to reduce corruption as well as to improve and strengthen Catholic dogma. Two important groups in the Catholic Church who emerged from this movement
were the Jesuits, who helped keep Spain, Portugal, Poland, and other European countries within the Catholic fold, and the Oratorians of Saint Philip Neri, who ministered to the faithful in Rome, restoring their confidence in the Church of Jesus Christ that subsisted substantially in the Church of Rome. Still, the Catholic Church was somewhat weakened by the Reformation, portions of Europe were no longer under its sway and kings in the remaining Catholic countries began to take control of the church institutions within their kingdoms. Unlike many European countries, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and Hungary were more tolerant. While still enforcing the predominance of Catholicism, they continued to allow the large religious minorities to maintain their faiths, traditions and customs. The Polish–Lithuanian
Commonwealth became divided among Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, Jews and a small Muslim population. Another development was the idea of 'European superiority'. The ideal of civilization was taken over from the ancient Greeks and Romans: Discipline, education and living in the city were required to make people civilized; Europeans and non-Europeans were judged for their civility, and Europe regarded itself as superior to other continents. There was a movement by some such as Montaigne that regarded the non-Europeans as a better, more natural and primitive people. Post services were founded all over Europe, which allowed a humanistic interconnected network of intellectuals across Europe, despite religious divisions. However, the Roman Catholic Church banned many leading scientific works;
this led to an intellectual advantage for Protestant countries, where the banning of books was regionally organised. Francis Bacon and other advocates of science tried to create unity in Europe by focusing on the unity in nature.1 In the 15th century, at the end of the Middle Ages, powerful sovereign states were appearing, built by the New Monarchs who were centralising power in France, England, and Spain. On the other hand, the Parliament
in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth grew in power, taking legislative rights from the Polish king. The new state power was contested by parliaments in other countries especially England. New kinds of states emerged which were co-operation agreements among territorial rulers, cities, farmer republics and knights. Mercantilism and colonial expansion The Iberian states were able to dominate colonial activity in the 16th century. The Portuguese forged the first global empire in the 15th and 16th century, whilst during the 16th century and the first half of the 17th century, the Spanish under the crown of Castile became the most powerful global empire in the world. This dominance was increasingly challenged by British, French, and the short-lived Dutch and Swedish colonial efforts of the 17th and 18th centuries. New forms of trade and expanding horizons made new forms of government, law
and economics necessary. Colonial expansion continued in the following centuries . Spain had control of a large part of North America, all of Central America and a great part of South America, the Caribbean and the Philippines; Britain took the whole of Australia and New Zealand, most of India, and large parts of Africa and North America; France held parts of Canada and India , Indochina, large parts of Africa and the Caribbean islands; the Netherlands gained the East Indies and islands in the Caribbean; Portugal obtained Brazil and several territories in Africa and Asia; and later, powers such as Germany, Belgium, Italy and Russia acquired further colonies. This expansion helped the economy of the countries owning them. Trade flourished, because of
the minor stability of the empires. By the late 16th century, American silver accounted for one-fifth of Spain's total budget. The French colony of Saint-Domingue was one of richest European colonies in the 18th century, operating on a plantation economy fueled by slave labor. During the period of French rule, cash crops produced in Saint-Domingue comprised
thirty percent of total French trade while its sugar exports represented forty percent of the Atlantic market. Crisis of the 17th century The 17th century was an era of crisis. Many historians have rejected the idea, while others promote it as an invaluable insight into the warfare, politics, economics, and even art. The Thirty Years' War focused attention on the massive horrors that wars could bring to entire populations. The 1640s in particular saw more state breakdowns around the world than any previous or subsequent period. The
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the largest state in Europe, temporarily disappeared. In addition, there were secessions and upheavals in several parts of the Spanish empire, the world's first global empire. In Britain the entire Stuart monarchy rebelled. Political insurgency and a spate of popular revolts seldom equalled shook the foundations of most states in Europe and Asia. More wars took place around the world in the mid-17th century than in almost any other period of recorded history. The crises spread far beyond Europe – for example Ming China, the most populous state in the world, collapsed. Across the Northern Hemisphere, the mid-17th century experienced almost unprecedented death rates.
Geoffrey Parker, a British historian, suggests that environmental factors may have been in part to blame, especially global cooling. Age of Absolutism The "absolute" rule of powerful monarchs such as Louis XIV , Peter the Great , Maria Theresa and Frederick the Great , produced powerful centralized states, with strong armies and powerful bureaucracies, all under the control of the king. Throughout the early part of this period, capitalism was replacing feudalism as the principal form of economic organisation, at least in the western half of Europe. The expanding colonial frontiers resulted in a Commercial Revolution. The period is noted for the rise of modern science and the application of its findings to technological improvements, which animated the Industrial Revolution after 1750.
The Reformation had profound effects on the unity of Europe. Not only were nations divided one from another by their religious orientation, but some states were torn apart internally by religious strife, avidly fostered by their external enemies. France suffered this fate in the 16th century in the series of conflicts known as the French Wars of Religion, which ended in the triumph of the Bourbon Dynasty. England avoided this fate for a while and settled down under Elizabeth I to a moderate Anglicanism. Much of modern-day Germany was made up of numerous small sovereign states under the theoretical framework of the Holy Roman Empire, which was further divided along internally drawn sectarian lines. The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth is notable in this time for its religious indifference and a general immunity to the horrors of European religious strife.
Thirty Years' War 1618–1648 The Thirty Years' War was fought between 1618 and 1648, across Germany and neighbouring areas, and involved most of the major European powers except England and Russia. Beginning as a religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Bohemia, it quickly developed into a general war involving Catholics versus Protestants for the most part. The major impact of the war, in which mercenary armies were extensively used, was the devastation of entire regions scavenged bare by the foraging armies. Episodes of widespread famine and disease, and the breakup of family life, devastated the population of the German states and, to a lesser extent, the Low Countries, the Crown of Bohemia and northern parts of Italy, while bankrupting many of the regional powers involved.
Between one-fourth and one-third of the German population perished from direct military causes or from disease and starvation, as well as postponed births. After the Peace of Westphalia, which ended the war in favour of nations deciding their own religious allegiance, absolutism became the norm of the continent, while parts of Europe experimented with constitutions foreshadowed by the English Civil War and particularly the Glorious Revolution. European military conflict did not cease, but had less disruptive effects on the lives of Europeans. In the advanced northwest, the Enlightenment gave a philosophical underpinning to the new outlook, and the continued spread of literacy, made possible by the printing press, created new secular forces in thought. From the Union of Krewo central and eastern Europe was dominated by Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In the 16th and 17th centuries Central and Eastern Europe
was an arena of conflict for domination of the continent between Sweden, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Ottoman Empire. This period saw a gradual decline of these three powers which were eventually replaced by new enlightened absolutist monarchies: Russia, Prussia and Austria . By the turn of the 19th century they had become new powers, having divided Poland between themselves, with Sweden and Turkey having experienced substantial territorial losses to Russia and Austria respectively as well as pauperisation. War of the Spanish Succession The War of the Spanish Succession was a major war with France opposed by a coalition of England, the Netherlands, the Habsburg Monarchy, and Prussia. Duke o