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Changes and Continuities Over Time in Europe from 1450-1900

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The region of Western Europe has undergone many shifts in their political, economic, and social structures throughout the centuries. Through centuries of searching for their identity, Western Europe emerged as a world power with their unique cultural and economical identity. From the 1450s to the 1900s, the economic structures shifted from once based purely on bullion to an industrialized economy while their colonial and imperial systems continued to play a role in their economy; the cultural structures shifted from religious to scientific base while art remained an important part of the European culture.

The European economy experienced a major change in their structure from one that was entirely based on silver and gold bullion to one that revolved around mercantilism and industrialization. This shift, caused by the industrial revolution, helped Europe to become a dominant world power. In pre-industrial Europe, the world trade centered around the exchange of goods for bullion. In order to play a role in the world trade market, Europeans traded their bullion for goods such as coffee and spices with Asia. With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, European nations began to focus on the acquisition of raw materials that they could transform into finished products.

These goods allowed Europe to become active members in the trade market instead of relying on bullion from South America. Industrial Europe became a world power in the global economy through their profits from their new tradable goods. This status created a new social order through the world of dependent nations that Europe relied on for raw materials while they relied on Europe for economic stability. These dependent nations- like India, Java, and the African colonies- became reliant on Europe education and their military to guarantee financial stability in the future.

Though the European economy saw a shift in key structures of their economy, colonization continued to play a key role in their economy. What started off a ports and small markets for European goods, the European colonies turned into a massive trade network. These colonies provided the European nations with the raw materials needed for Europe to play an important role in global trade. For example, pre-industrial Spain and Portugal relied on bullion from South America in order to trade for valuable goods. Industrial England relied on India’s rubber, along with other material goods, to play a role in the trading. What started off as colonization shifted to imperialism when European nations saw the need for a profit, but their economic relationships with the colonies remained the same. These colonies supplied raw materials and markets for European goods in order to help secure the global standing of nations like England, Spain, France, and Germany.

The Western European nations also saw a shift in their cultural structure from 1450-1900. The industrial revolution led to a change in the culture of Europe from one based on religion to a more secular culture based in science and leisure. Pre-industrial Europe was a time of the Protestant and Catholic reformations. These reformations brought religion into the common peoples’ lives. The scientific revolution brought about a more rational train of thought for the common people of Europe. Improvements in medicine and technology brought about an age of reason that conflicted with religious doctrine. Darwin’s “Origin of Species” brought about a cultural change in the field of science and in common practice. People used Darwin’s theory of evolution to justify the invasion of African nations, Europeans thought that they were the dominant species that had become greater than the uncivilized nations that they conquered through survival of the fittest. The industrial revolution also brought around a culture of leisure that wasn’t found in 15th century Europe. Because of advances in technology, people had time to enjoy activities like team sports, live performances, and new inventions like the bicycle.

Though Europe culture had massive changes between 1450 and 1900, art remained an important aspect of their culture. The 1400s saw the Renaissance period in Europe. Great thinkers abandoned previous thinking to explore new artistic movements. The Renaissance brought about a period of secular thought where artists focused on love and the idea of humanism. Artists also began producing literature in the vernacular speech to bring the arts closer to the common person. Industrial Europe saw a similar shift in the artistic movement through the Romanticism movement. Artists focused on the daily aspects of common people to bring the art closer to them. The Romanticism artists focused on themes like passion and love and the minds of people rather than their outward appearances.

Like the Renaissance writers, authors like Charles Dickens focused on the human thought process through a modern interpretation of humanism. The industrial age also saw a greater shift towards secular thought and an abandonment of religion playing a key factor in art and technology. From 1450 to 1900 European nations saw a great shift in their social, political, cultural, and economical structures. The industrial revolution brought about a great change in their cultural and economic systems in Western Europe such as a shift to an imperial market and culture driven by scientific reasoning and passionate art. These shifts in the culture allowed key elements such a colonization and a passion for the arts to remain in Europe. The shift in these structures allowed for European nations to create a unique and strong identity that allowed them to remain top world powers.

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