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Summary of European History From Renaissance to Present A sharp break with medieval values and institutions a new awareness of the individual an awakened interest in the material world and nature and a recovery of the cultural heritage of ancient Greece and Romethese were once understood to be the major achievements of the Renaissance Today every particular of this formula is under suspicion if not altogether repudiated Nevertheless the term Renaissance remains a widely recognized label for the multifaceted period between the heyday of medieval universalism as embodied in the Papacy and Holy Roman Empire and the convulsions and sweeping transformations of the 17th century It was a period of vigorous economic expansion This expansion in turn played a major role in the many other transformationssocial political and culturalof the early modern age The bonds of commerce within Europe tightened and the wheels of commerce spun ever faster The great geographic discoveries then in process were integrating Europe into a world economic system New commodities many of them imported from recently discovered lands enriched material life Not only trade but also the production of goods increased as a result of new ways of organizing production Merchants entrepreneurs and bankers accumulated and manipulated capital in unprecedented volume Most historians locate in the 16th century the beginning or at least the maturing of Western capitalism By the 17th century there was already a tradition and awareness of Europe a reality stronger than that of an area bounded by sea mountains grassy plains steppes or deserts where Europe clearly ended and Asia began In the two centuries before the French Revolution and the triumph of nationalism as a divisive force Europe exhibited a greater degree of unity than appeared on the mosaic of its political surface With appreciation of the separate interests went diplomatic legal and religious concerns which involved states in common action and contributed to the popular notion of a single Europe Developments
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