The beginnings of modern Europe have been traced to the second half of the fifteenth century, particularly to events like the capture of Constantinople and geographical discoveries. Since then Europe has occupied the central stage in world history, relegating Asia to the background. The period chosen in the book is 1450-1815, which marks an important transition in European history. It was during this period that Europe shed it medieval character. Events of momentous consequences took place during this period.
The first chapter provides an effective introduction and emphasises that Europe, during the period under study, retained some of its original (i.e. medieval) characteristics despite undergoing changes. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Roman Catholic Church became its natural successor. It maintained unity of all Christians living in Europe but not for long. Disputes between Charlamagne and the Pope as to who was supreme arose when the Pope excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople. Charlamagne became the temporal head of western Christendom. His alliance with the Pope to free the Church caused the birth of the Holy Roman Empire. With the advance of Napoleon in 1806, the Roman Empire became extinct and the people of western and central Europe came under the spell of feudalism. Then came the medieval economy, setting up of universities, scientific inventions and political developments with the Ottoman Turks ruling at Constantinople.
Chapter 2 vividly portrays the expansion of Europe and colonial possessions, with Christian missionaries setting out to spread their religion by setting up refined education systems.
The next two chapters on Renaissance and Reformation explain the winds of change blowing over Europe to bring about intellectual and religious ferment. Chapters 5 and 6 trace the rise of nation-states, such as England and Spain. The Renaissance was an intellectual movement under which the best features of classical civilisations of Greece and Rome were adopted. Humanism became integral to it, eulogising ?the natural, the human and the sensual? instead of what was ascetical, supernatural and theological. Reformation saw the decline of the Catholic Church, of papacy and rise to nationalism. This marked the birth of Protestantism bringing about a clash between Catholicism and Protestantism.
Religious unrest in Europe dominates the theme of Chapters 7 and 8, finally concluding with the signing of the treaty of Westpahlia. Chapter 18 describes the industrial revolution in England, inaugurating a new era. The remaining chapters deal with political revolutions in England, America and France, the rise and fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna, where the first major attempt was made by European statesmen to establish an international organisation for maintenance of peace and security. The Big Four (Russia, Austria, Prussia and Britain) established the Concert of Europe which offered protection to its rulers for revolt and revolution. It is in the Concert of Europe that we see the germ of the League of Nations which was established in the early part of the nineteenth century.
This book is meant essentially for students of history and contains a number of maps to enable them to understand geographical locations and situations better.
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