- Europe was just beginning to emerge from the medieval period.
- Historians define the medieval period from 410 CE (the fall of Rome) to the beginning of the Renaissance (c.1450 CE)
- Western Europe was a myriad of small states.
- Ancient Roman laws were mixed with local practices.
- Most states were ruled by absolute monarchs.
- Most countries borders were ill-defined. There was a lack of political & social cohesion.
- All of Western Europe was Catholic & under the influence of the Pope (viewed by Catholics as their God’s representative on Earth), who ruled Rome & central Italy.
- Society was dominated by religion. There had been several unsuccessful Crusades (holy wars) to expel Muslims from the holy city of Jerusalem.
BUSINESS & TECHNOLOGY
- Business & technology were primitive.
- Most commerce was conducted on a local level.
- Europe was suffering economically, with decreasing land productivity & falling tax revenues. Many agricultural workers began to move to cities in search of work.
- Science & technology were beginning to be revolutionized by the rediscovery of the inventions of the Greeks & Romans from over a millennium before 1500.
- Western Europe was technologically backward compared to China & the Middle East.
EUROPE IN 1500
- Europe was ready for widespread change.
- With the rapid urbanization that occurred in the late fifteenth century, a new merchant class was emerging in society, having harnessed the ideas & advances of a new movement: The Renaissance.