• 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)

POLITICS

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  • 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.

RELIGION

  • 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.

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