This chapter deals with the vast territories east of the Elbe river, including Poland–Lithuania, the Czech lands, Brandenburg–Prussia, and Russia. There are two primary and interlocking themes, first the westernization of these lands, secondly, the origins and development of the ‘second serfdom’ in the agrarian East. Westernization of the agrarian East came largely through the introduction and expansion of the ‘Frankish agrarian system’, which began around 1200 with Western colonization east of the Elbe. Westernization was essentially a repetition of basic agrarian developments that had already taken place in much of north-west Europe in the period 600–1000 AD. One of the most important of these developments was manorialism, and the so-called ‘second serfdom’ in Eastern Europe was thus not a deviation from westernization, but rather an integral part of it.
The main developments in western European agrarian society and economy are surveyed at the outset in a regional analysis which stresses the degree of variety within quite small areas and by the same token the irrelevance of national boundaries. The survey considers employment and production beyond tillage and pastoralism: fishing, hunting, mining, or local crafts and manufacturing are treated as part of the rural economy. There follows a detailed thematic analysis which examines crop yields, credit, share-cropping, landholding, labour, and total factor productivity. The conclusion briefly takes up the debate over the transition from feudalism to capitalism, initiated by Robert Brenner, to argue that the regional variations in landholding and inheritance practices which might emerge from an initially similar environment, while casting doubt on aspects of Brenner’s general thesis, nevertheless were shaped as much by power or class relations as by natural endowment, ecology, or technological innovations.
T. K. Rabb
This chapter traces the revolution in style and taste that swept over the visual arts as a result of the movement we call the Renaissance. Not only was there a transformation in subject matter, which was almost entirely religious at our starting-point, around 1450, but also in style, in the status of the artist, in the types of art that were produced, in patronage, and in the market for paintings and engravings. To follow these changes, the period has been divided into four broad periods: 1350–1520, the age of the Renaissance; 1520–1600, the age of Mannerism; 1600–70, the age of Baroque; and 1670–1759, the age of Rococo. In each segment the main developments in painting, sculpture, and architecture are outlined; the principal figures are identified; and changes discussed.
R. Bin Wong
Many of early modern Europe’s connections to Asia were commercial in nature, in contrast to the colonial relations forged by Europeans in the Americas. This chapter considers the ways in which the connections that Europe had with Asia and the Americas provide a context for comparing the early modern political economies of China and Europe. Similarities and differences highlighted by this exercise help make clear both the dynamics of economic change common within both world regions as well as the character of their connections, illustrating important differences between them. The intellectual limitations of identifying historical parallels according to traits first observed in Europe is suggested by noting features of early modern Chinese political rule that are not observed in Europe until a later historical era. These topics illustrate various ways in which comparisons and connections to other world regions helps to place early modern Europe in a global history perspective.
Samuel K. Cohn, Jr
Divisions between Marxist and non-Marxist historians have fuelled debate of late medieval and early modern popular protest over the past fifty years. Yet, an underlying consensus has arisen with two broad forms of popular revolt, a ‘pre-modern’ (encompassing the Middle Ages to as late as the mid-nineteenth century) and a ‘modern’ one. Supposedly, high bread prices sparked the former, women filled their ranks, the leaders came from the elites and not the rank-and-file of peasants or artisans, their ideologies were primitive and backward looking, and these revolts ended in repression, not revolution. With modernity the characteristics changed. This chapter challenges this ‘pre-modern’/’modern’ divide, arguing that late medieval popular revolts differed profoundly from those of the early modern period across all of these characteristics. The changes depended on a growing gap in power between rulers and the ruled that had begun in places by the closing decades of the fourteenth century.
Mack P. Holt
‘Belief and its Limits’ outlines five major themes: (1) the transformation started by the Protestant and Catholic reformations of the sixteenth century that refashioned the way most people understood Christianity; (2) the slow emergence of peaceful co-existence among rival confessional churches after the violence of the Reformation that accompanied the disintegration of the Roman Church into dozens of different Christian churches; (3) the growing and protracted efforts of both church and state to control and regulate popular beliefs, practices, and behaviours, albeit with only limited success, with a particular focus on confessionalization, witchcraft beliefs, and printing; (4) the emergence of new ideas and belief systems by 1800 that historians have traditionally referred to as Enlightenment, that ultimately challenged the beliefs of the past; and (5) the continuation and even strengthening of belief in gender hierarchy and patriarchy in European cultures.
The article examines religious changes in Bohemia and Moravia from the age of Emperor Charles IV (1346–1378) through the first half of the seventeenth century. It begins by considering the vibrant ecclesiastical landscape in the generation before Hus. After reviewing the tumultuous events of the Hussite era, it evaluates both the radical and more conservative legacy of this movement with the development of the Utraquist Church and the Unity of Brethren. Entering the sixteenth century, the article analyzes the impact of Luther and Calvin on the Bohemian churches, the dynamics of confessional cooperation and conflict. The essay closes with an investigation of the early seventeenth century, events leading to the outbreak of the Thirty Years War, the re-Catholization of the region, the exile generation of John Comenius, and the survival of Protestant enclaves within the kingdom.
Valerie A. Kivelson
Like any human construct, Europe had to be imagined into being. It emerged gradually as an idea, a place, a people, and a culture, from its first appearance in ancient texts through its triumphalist self-assertion as Queen of Continents in the early modern era. This chapter opens with a chronological survey of ancient, medieval, and early modern understandings of Europe, and then turns to the difficulties posed by the blurry margins where Europe set itself apart from others. Oceans set clear boundaries around three sides of Europe, but establishing the eastern limits, especially in the region we now call Russia, raised persistent challenges. In a final section, the chapter explores some views from outside, from those who occupied grey zones of potential membership in the European club and from places definitively categorized as non-European.
David J. Collins S.J.
This chapter reviews major themes in the history of Western Christianity from the onset of the Western Schism (1378) to the opening of the Council of Trent (1345). Topics include late medieval reform movements, trends in lay religious belief and activity, the papacy and conciliarism, the dominant schools of philosophical and theological thought, heresy and orthodoxy, Renaissance humanism, the early Protestant Reformation and contemporaneous Catholic renewal, and the relationship between Church and state. The scope of the chapter encompasses developments within Western Christianity as well as in its relationship to Eastern Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, as well as its expansion into Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The chapter also considers the effects of general historiographical developments over the last century on church history, such as overarching trends within intellectual and institutional history on the one hand and social and cultural history on the other.
This chapter traces the development of European colonial societies in the extra-European world c. 1500–1800, chiefly in the Americas. It examines the factors affecting the growth and stabilization of those societies, including: the impact of disease; the establishment of coercive labour regimes; European interactions with indigenous peoples; the genesis of complex economies based on precious metals and agricultural commodities for export to Europe; and the formation of a creolized cultural life and identity. The chapter’s overarching theme is the transformation of European overseas settlements from mere dependent appendages of Europe into distinctive colonial societies with strong identities of their own, increasingly in conflict with the European states that governed them. Special attention is paid to the hybridity of colonial societies, which emerged from the sustained interactions between those of European, Amerindian, and African descent, as well as to the legal and cultural regimes discouraging such cross-cultural and inter-racial encounters.
This chapter places the Protestant Reformation in a global perspective in two ways, using methods and examining themes common in world history as a field. First, it compares the Reformation to other religious transformations that were occurring at roughly the same time, including the early development of Sikhism, reform movements within Chinese Confucianism, and the reinvigoration of Islam in the Songhay Empire by King Askia the Great. Second, it examines the spread of Protestant ideology and institutions in the increasingly interconnected early modern world, with the colonies of the Dutch East India Company and the missionary work of the Moravians serving as the primary examples of such cultural encounters. It argues that moving beyond Europe to adopt a broader spatial scale enhances our understanding of the religious dynamism of the period, which does not diminish the importance of the Protestant Reformation, but allows us to view it in new ways.
Janine Maegraith and Craig Muldrew
This chapter provides both a survey and a critical interpretation of the growing literature on material culture and consumption in early modern Europe, focusing on the experience of Italy, France, the Dutch Republic, the German lands, England, and to a certain extent east–central Europe. It looks at different approaches to the history of the rise of purchasing consumer goods on the market, and the changing nature of goods desired in light of the expansion of long distance and global trade. It stresses the importance of considering the meaning such goods had for consumers of differing wealth in different social contexts.
James S. Amelang
Town and country were closely linked in early modern Europe. While cities normally held the dominant hand in political and jurisdictional terms, their dependence on their hinterlands for food and immigrants made for a more balanced symbiosis. Several distinctive features marked town-country relations in Mediterranean Europe. The most important of these was the construction of small, regional quasi-states under the dominion of a capital city. This contado system thrived above all in northern Italy and central Spain, and played a key role in the transition from the later Middle Ages to the early modern period. It has also been one of the leading themes of a dynamic historiography which has made important recent advances in the study of daily life, material culture, and gender relations, especially from the perspective of microhistory.
The popular culture of early modern Europe is best conceptualized as ‘the cultures of peoples’ because of the continent’s diversity. Historians of popular culture have explored the interdisciplinary territory between history and anthropology, art history, literary theory, gender, and cognitive studies. Few fields have been more transformed by the methodological and theoretical shifts of the history profession. Such inquiries have overturned generalizations about the dependence of popular culture on elite culture, the monolithic nature of popular culture, and the supposed shortcomings of its religious practices. Attention to popular culture has revealed the impact of ordinary people on state development, the porous boundaries between learned and popular knowledge, and the selective appropriation of elite culture for popular purposes. This chapter assesses current dilemmas in the field, including contemporary confusion between microhistory and micronarratives and the potential pitfalls of seeking a contemporary audience for the study of popular cultures.
This chapter surveys the history of medicine and health from the middle of the fourteenth century through the mid-eighteenth century. It discusses major points in that history: diseases and their impact in early modern Europe; the generation and distribution of medical knowledge including education and training; medical practice in all its form; medical institutions; and the health of the people. The chapter emphasizes the variety of medical practice and contextualizes medicine within the larger society. The various sections draw on the most recent historical scholarship, especially in the fields of the social and cultural history of medicine. While canonical medical events, such as the discovery of the pulmonary circulation of the blood are thoroughly treated, the chapter also emphasizes the breadth of medical practices, the number of medical practitioners of all types, and the varieties of medical training that pertained in the early modern world.
When seeking to capture how religion shapes lay people’s expectations, a focus on formal theology and on ecclesiastical structures can leave much unexplained. Three concepts animated Renaissance Catholics’ understandings of reality, God’s purposes, and their own obligations: Real Presence, Immediate Accountability, and Divine Rhythms in Time and Space. The Catholic Church developed through later centuries along the lines of three broad movements of early modernity: the evolutions from Moving to Fixed, from Local to Universal, and from Action to Intention. Catholicism remained fully a creature of its times as it adopted these new emphases, some shared by Protestants and others emerging through the processes of globalization. The changes arose from and reinforce new institutional orderings traceable through political and social institutions generally. They were less the top-down impositions of an authoritative body, than the cultural evolution of a social institution which retained considerable internal variety of thought and worship.
This chapter traces major trends in economic and social history during recent decades. Grand narratives of a transition from feudalism to capitalism that described early modern societies as stagnant and prone to Malthusian crises have given way to analyses of episodic dynamism and social transformations. Expansion in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries turned into stagnation or contraction in the seventeenth and renewed expansion in the eighteenth century. Yet, despite the common trend, regional divergence between southern and eastern Europe on the one hand and northwestern Europe on the other increased over time. In explaining this variance attention has shifted towards a new culture of consumption and diverse productive formations to explain why people became more ‘industrious’, and why households consumed more varied and sometimes exotic products. These processes began in the northwestern Europe but slowly extended elsewhere.
What did Protestants need to know, and how were they given access to this knowledge? This chapter explores the spread of university and school education in Protestant areas during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, considering schools, their place in church orders, their curricula and their importance as models of good civic and godly order. Despite Luther’s pessimistic view of human reason, the article highlights the role of Protestant education in inspiring new approaches to the natural world: Melanchthon, amongst others, saw study of the natural world as leading the observer to God. The rise of Jesuit education indicates that early modern Catholic education was being restructured according to similar principles. Across Western Europe, education was intended to support the divinely imposed civic order, and to train young people to be good citizens who would contribute to a “godly society”.
Paul Dover and Hamish Scott
This chapter charts the emergence of diplomacy in its modern sense—the peaceful and continuous management of relations between states—during the early modern centuries. It was brought about by two central changes: one functional, the other geographical. The principal roles of an ambassador were providing information, representing his ruler, and conducting negotiations, and these were all established by the sixteenth century. Initially the first two were more important than the third, but by the second half of the period examined the conduct of negotiations had become the most important dimension of a diplomat’s role. The second transformation was an extension of the network of diplomacy, from its origins in the Italian peninsula to Western Europe and—by the eighteenth century—to Eastern Europe as well. These changes were not linear in nature, but collectively they created the diplomatic system and culture which prevailed until the First World War.
This chapter begins by outlining the ways in which ‘Enlightenment’ has been constructed, by contemporaries, philosophers, and historians. Historical study of Enlightenment only began in earnest in the second half of the twentieth century, but developed rapidly from the 1970s, expanding its scope geographically, socially, and intellectually. Since 1989 there has been a reaction against the multiplication of ‘Enlightenments’, as historians have become anxious to defend the Enlightenment’s ‘modernity’. This chapter, however, resists the equation of Enlightenment with modernity, arguing that historical reconstruction of Europe’s Enlightenment should be grounded in its eighteenth-century contexts. Successive sections are devoted to re-assessing its contributions to the critique of religion and the defence of toleration, to the understanding of human nature, society and political economy, and to the growth of a ‘public sphere’ and the formation of ‘public opinion’. The conclusion is that there was no high road from Enlightenment to Revolution.