Traditions and Encounters, AP Edition (Bentley), 5th Edition

Chapter 23: The Transformation of Europe


This chapter presents the dramatic transformation of Europe between 1500 and 1800 from a sub-region of Eurasia to a dynamic global powerhouse. Internal changes enabled the nations of western Europe, in particular, to assume preeminence. This transformation occurred simultaneously and on multiple levels. The chapter also considers state-building and social and economic change in Russia under Peter I and Catherine II.

  • Religious transformation: The Protestant Reformation, launched by Martin Luther in 1517 in Germany, successfully challenged the monopoly of the Roman Catholic church on western Christendom. The printing press, recently introduced to Europe from China, advanced the ideas and texts of the Reformation throughout Europe.
  • Political transformation: Powerful nation-states evolved with the resources and institutions to advance national interests abroad. At the same time, two models for political order emerged, represented by the absolutist monarchies of France and Spain and the constitutional monarchies of England and the Netherlands.
  • Economic transformation: The emergence of capitalism is evident in changes to the structures of banking, finance, and manufacturing. Adam Smith advocated a free market economy, with prices and wages determined through competition.
  • Intellectual transformation: New technologies and new scientific discoveries of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries fueled debate about the nature of the universe and called into question the authority of the church in such matters. This discussion eventually led to the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, an intellectual movement that raised important questions about the nature of humanity, religion, and political authority.
Traditions & Encounters, 5e
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